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Taman Negara - July 15, 2022

LETTERS: I just returned from a nice four-day trip to Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan, Pahang. Kudos to Mutiara Resort, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Tourism Malaysia, which are responsible for overseeing the resort, park maintenance and international promotions. Being a regular visitor (more than 30 visits) since 1989, I was happy to see many new visitors from Italy, Denmark and Arabic nations in addition to the regular Germans, Australians and Dutch.

This shows that we have interesting sights in Taman Negara to attract new entrants. What was disappointing, though, was the lack of maintenance of facilities. The boardwalks to the Canopy Walk are in bad shape and need immediate repairs. Safety should not be compromised.

The 20-minute trek to Lubok Simpon, my favourite swimming and picnic spot, involved a messy and disjointed boardwalk which no one wanted to use. The monkeys are also a menace at the Park HQ. Perhilitan personnel need to address this issue swiftly. The hides to view animals at night are also not well maintained. The usual excuse is lack of funds. Perhaps the relevant agencies need to study how our northern and southern neighbours maintain their famous parks diligently.

I am sure with better leadership and regular maintenance, more funding will pour in. Agencies, including Perhilitan, need to be more aggressive in maintaining safety and promoting tourism. The resort's services have improved and Tourism Malaysia has attracted diverse international tourists, so Perhilitan also needs to play a more assertive and holistic role to bring in more tourists.

On the budget hotels in Kuala Tahan, the local district council must ensure that the minimum standards are met with standard operating procedures put in place. Unsightly and abandoned units in or near the town centre must be removed.

We should be aware that first impressions last!

Source: NST

JOM! GO: Sungai Lembing, a place where time takes a slower pace - July 14, 2022

One of the last-standing miners, who worked in the world's largest and deepest tin mines in its time, recalls his time as a shaft driver in the tunnels of Sungai Lembing. "IF you fool around, you'd lose your limbs. You have to stand straight up like you're standing for the national anthem. If you put your hand out, you'd lose your hand. Your leg out, you'd lose one leg, and your head out, you'd die," says Pak Tam without blinking.

There is no sign of amusement in his seasoned deadpan face, but the audience to whom he's speaking tonight at the compound of Muzium Sungai Lembing, some 42km from Kuantan, giggle and chuckle.

"But seriously, going into the lift in the tight mining shaft was not a joyride. I couldn't see the goings-on in the shaft as I sat at the top and controlled the lift according to the signals given," says Pak Tam.

The 73-year-old was one of 40 shaft drivers, as the British company Pahang Consolidated Company Limited called it, who were employed to serve over 2,500 miners in what was said to be the world's largest and deepest tin mines in its time. "All I needed to do was to listen carefully to the bell signals made underground. Different signals had different meanings. Three pulls meant miners were in the bucket, another two pulls meant they were going down and if it was followed by another 10 pulls, that meant they're going 1,000 feet down," he says, adding that each 1,000 feet (304m) stops at a floor of tunnels. At this point, the audience is dead silent, probably trying to imagine the exact length of 1,000 feet. All I can hear is the soft sound of raindrops on the canvas of the marquee tent. Once in a while, I hear the croaks of frogs.

Despite the wet and cold weather, Muzium Sungai Lembing goes ahead with the barbeque dinner that is set at a small open area next to its main building. The dinner, and the talk by Pak Tam, is one of the highlights organised for a group of media and travel companies from Kuala Lumpur that is on a familiarisation trip. The rain has somewhat dampened my appetite for the grilled meats, but my heart is all set to meet Pak Tam and listen to his stories, especially when museum manager Peterson Augustine Jadan hinted that he is one of the last-standing miners who is still residing in Sungai Lembing.

THE HEYDAY

"So, can you imagine how deep 1,000 feet is? And that is not even the deepest shaft I had driven at," continues Pak Tam, breaking the silence. Though his personal record stands at 426m (1,400 feet), the Sungai Lembing mine had tunnels located between 610m and 700m underground.The tunnels, he says, if combined, would reach 200 miles (322km). That is the driving distance from Kuala Lumpur to Bukit Mertajam in Penang on the North-South Expressway! "Down there, the tunnels and the shafts looked like a cross section of an ant nest. If your job didn't require you to be down there, no one wanted to be there on purpose. It was a different world down there," says Pak Tam.

In this labyrinth of tunnels, there were three underground mines named Myah, Taibeto and Gagak. At a depth of 700m, Myah was the deepest, beating the height of the world's second tallest skyscraper, Merdeka 118, that stands at 678m in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. All these numbers give the collective mines of Sungai Lembing the title of the largest and deepest tin mine, and the second richest tin deposit in the world, with a record of about 13 million metric tonnes of tin ore over its 100 years of operation.

Tin was not the only mineral Sungai Lembing had. There were others too, which included gold. Thanks to its wealth of natural resources, the town was nicknamed the El Dorado of the East. "That made Sungai Lembing the richest town in Pahang. We had our own cinema, a duty-free shop, a petrol station and even a hospital," says Pak Tam.

Record has it that the cinema in Sungai Lembing was the first in Asia, and the hospital and duty-free shop were the first in Pahang. As the saying goes "even great successes come to a natural end", the mines of Sungai Lembing pulled the brakes on its operations in 1986 when global demand and prices of tin dropped.

 

NEW DAWN

"Tomorrow, make sure they take you guys to one of the tunnels upstream," says Pak Tam as he bids us farewell when we board our bus back to our resort, located less than 10 minutes from the museum. Earlier, I was told the unique Tunnel Tour that takes visitors into the tunnel on a real mining locomotive has been taken out of the itinerary due to bad weather. "The one Pak Tam mentioned is a collection of three tunnels at a slope that are set a few metres apart from each other, which are visible even from the road," Jadan says.

"But, nevertheless, you'll get the feel of what Pak Tam told us tonight from those tunnels," he concludes. Interestingly, Pak Tam has been quite a star of Sungai Lembing, giving talks to visitors of Muzium Sungai Lembing, especially those taking up the museum's organised tours. The museum, opened in 2001 when the state government decided to revitalise the town as its heritage tourism attraction, is like a beacon of light for the folk of Sungai Lembing, especially after the bustling place turned into a ghost town following the downfall of the tin mining industry. Converted from the mine manager's residence, the museum houses a massive collection of artefacts, from mining equipment to uniform, right down to colonial furniture and tableware. There are dioramas that give a better understanding of how Sungai Lembing mines operated back then. Black-and-white pictures of the town's glory days help too. They "give" faces to the stories Pak Tam told. As the champion to the town's title of "Heritage tourism attraction", the museum has developed an interactive tour at a surprisingly minimal fee for group visits.

This fun treasure hunt-like game gets group members scouring each room and section in the museum to look for answers. "This way, visitors get to learn more about the mines in a fun and exciting way," Jadan says.

TUNNELS AND BEYOND

The rain continues to shower Sungai Lembing throughout the night till dawn. The first item on our itinerary on the second day is catching the sunrise at Sunrise Hill. Judging by the looks of it, we may have to give the sunrise a miss. However, our organiser is quick to act. Instead of a picnic breakfast with a sunrise view, we get to enjoy our packed nasi lemak and hot black coffee at the veranda outside our rooms as we wait for the rain to subside.

Thankfully, it's not a long wait. Still hopeful for a good view, our group hops into three modified four-wheel-drive vehicles amid light drizzle. With makeshift benches on their cargo beds, these pickup trucks look like they have been extensively carrying passengers instead of goods. The rugged transfer puzzles me as the hill with a dazzling sunrise view that I know, and had been to, is located behind the town police station, which can be reached even on foot or with a two-wheeler. "No, this is a different hill located slightly out of the town's limit and there's a bit of off-road adventure to get there," says one of the drivers.

As our convoy crosses Sungai Kenau, the river that runs through Sungai Lembing, passing through a massive Chinese graveyard, it all comes back to me. I've taken this route before — to Rainbow Waterfall, which requires an hour's ride on a 4x4 and a 45-minute moderate hike a long, long time ago. A lot has changed since then. There is a nice number of impressive-looking lodgings dotting along the narrow road, but these lines of resorts and chalets stop the moment the road enters the forested area. Here's a fun fact: there is no river named Sungai Lembing in the area. There are two local legends from which the town got its name. One is based on a ruler who saw a vision of a spear (or lembing) in the river and another is based on an incident of a deer escaping a spear thrown by an Orang Asli by jumping over the river. Okay, back to Sunrise Hill. After a slow but bumpy 15-minute 4x4 ride, we reach its peak. It's a flattened top with a viewing deck at its edge facing rolling hills that go as far as the eye can see. There is also a "Sunrise Hill" sign, mimicking the famous Hollywood sign, and a couple of toilets. Thanks to the cold start, the morning view has a carpet of clouds rolling slowly over the hilltops, exposing a landscape of thick, untouched forest.

Done with the supposed sunrise view, the convoy takes a longer route back to town with quick stops at two popular picnic spots: the shaded bank of cascading Sungai Jin and the Pasir Puteri sand bank beside Sungai Kenau. The last item on our itinerary is Kolong Pahat, the three tunnels dotting the hillside almost at the tail-end of the town's main road. Since we have to pass through the town, the convoy stops right next to the town's one and only petrol station for photos. And the town doesn't disappoint. Its rustic setting and the laidback pace, at any angle and corner, are Instagram-worthy.

Finally, our tour ends at its climax. Not only do we get to see what Pak Tam told us last night, but we also get to step inside the tunnel, though just a metre away from the entrance. "Now, imagine how those miners chiselled these tunnels. It's hard work but we had a good life then," says Pak Tam, who joins us at Kolong Pahat, as he runs his hand across the rugged tunnel wall.

Source: NST

Berjaya Tioman Resort has reopened with a fresh new look - June 2, 2022

The Berjaya Tioman Resort on Tioman Island in Pahang reopened on April 25, 2022, following an upscale renovation. The more than 50-year-old luxury resort has been closed since June 15, 2020, to allow for renovations to revitalise its rooms and facilities. The property is managed by Berjaya Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of the Berjaya Corp Group of Companies, and features exclusive chalet-style lodging and an 18-hole international golf course across 210 acres of tropical rainforests.

According to resort manager Simon Tan, Berjaya Tioman Resort is currently offering an "Infinite Getaway" experience that allows guests to enjoy a hassle-free island vacation starting at RM1,275 nett per person, based on twin sharing. It includes two nights' accommodation, a complimentary shuttle from Tekek Jetty to the resort, and a welcome hygiene kit. Highlights of the package include daily unlimited breakfast, lunch, and dinner and an unlimited supply of selected alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

There are also limited-time benefits such as one-time kayak use and free bicycle rental. Tan said that the refurbishment and daily unlimited inclusions of meals, beverages, and activities add value for guests looking for a getaway. The "Infinite Getaway" experience was specifically designed to make guests feel happy and relaxed.

"With unlimited inclusions, guests can take in the beauty of Tioman Island and enjoy to their hearts' content," he said in a statement. The resort also offers thrilling activities such as snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, ATV rides, and jungle trekking. Golfers will enjoy teeing off on the resort's picturesque 18-hole course. After eating, drinking, and playing, guests are invited to rejuvenate and pamper themselves at the Taaras Spa. "We are happy to welcome our guest back to rediscover this tropical paradise and experience the next level of holiday with unlimited inclusions. We guarantee you it's going to be a fresh and exciting holiday experience in Tioman," Tan said.

Source - NST

Consent of late Sudirman's family vital to rebuild house, says state tourism exco - June 20, 2022

TEMERLOH: Plans to restore the neglected house where legendary entertainer, the late Datuk Sudirman Arshad, grew up at Kampung Tok Embun near Mentakab here can only materialise if his family gives the "green light". State Tourism, Culture and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said the family will have to step forward and give their consent before the authorities can initiate any plans to rebuild the structure.

"It is a private property, so only if his (Sudirman) family gives their consent can the state government or Pahang Museum make plans to turn it into a gallery or museum. "We cannot act on our own as it involves a set of procedures. "If the family comes forward and agrees (to hand over the house), then maybe the Museum department can look at how we can preserve it and turn it into an attraction. This is concerning land ownership and legality," he said. Various quarters have urged the federal and Pahang governments to repair and preserve the house as an appreciation to Sudirman who brought fame to the country and state as a performer.

The house is now only left with its concrete staircase with the wooden floor, walls and roof missing. The structure is located about 100m from Jalan Temerloh-Mentakab and surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees. Meanwhile, Sharkar said work had begun to set up a museum in Temerloh to highlight the life and contributions of several prominent individuals who were born here including the late Sudirman. "An old government building will be refurbished and named as Museum Temerloh. Several individuals, including former writer and nationalist Pak Sako (Ishak Muhammad), former menteri besar Tan Sri Yahya (Mohd Seth) and Sudirman, will be featured at the museum.

"The museum will provide visitors with information about the history of Temerloh town, past prominent leaders, famous individuals and other relevant information," he said.

Source: NST

#JOM! GO: Fab five of Malaysian turtle sites - May 23, 2022

AWARENESS days are very useful in educating people about important issues confronting society. Every year on May 23, the world celebrates World Turtle Day and it's a day when we can all focus on the plight of global turtle populations. Awareness days also help focus attention on everyone's role in protecting such habitats with one very obvious contribution we can all make is to reduce plastic consumption and dispose of it appropriately as plastic is a major killer of turtles. While turtle egg sales are banned in Malaysia, the eggs are still taken from some nests and illegally sold in some coastal wet markets.

With so many beaches and islands, it comes as no surprise that Malaysia is an important marine turtle habitat and there are several locations to visit to learn more, see turtles and even get involved in some valuable volunteer programs. Check out these five fabulous turtle sites in Malaysia.

PANTAI CHERATING, PAHANG

Leatherback, Olive-Ridley, Green and Hawksbill Turtles are known to visit the soft sands adjoining Club Med Resort, north of Cherating in Pahang. This Cherating Turtle Project is operated by the Department of Fisheries and is open daily except for Monday from 9.30am to 4.30pm and there is an entrance fee. The centre has a static display and some young turtles but more interaction with the turtles is possible for guests staying at the adjoining Club Med property.

PULAU TIOMAN, PAHANG

Juara Turtle Project on Tioman's east coast is a turtle conservation non-governmental organisation that works closely with the Department of Fisheries and Marine Parks to protect turtles and their eggs and marine habitat. Volunteers can assist with patrols, clean-ups and educational activities. A visitors' centre provides information on sea turtles and the programme. Visitors can also watch the release of recently-hatched baby turtles. Turtles also visit Tioman's main beaches like Nipah and Paya as well as Tulai Island. Visitors can travel to Juara year-round but the November to February monsoon is best avoided.

PULAU PERHENTIAN, TERENGGANU

The Perhentian Turtle Project operates on both islands of the Perhentians (Besar and Kecil) as an initiative of Fuze Ecoteer Outdoors Activities. Activities began in 2015 and the team works with authorities from marine parks and fisheries to complement their activities in protecting turtles in the waters around the islands. Interested visitors can volunteer to participate in kayak surveys, awareness programmes and beach patrols to monitor turtle activities and protect turtle habitats. They operate an adopt-a-turtle programme and fund-raising activities too.

TALANG SATANG NATIONAL PARK, SARAWAK

Life on Satang Besar Island moves at such a slow pace that it is measured by the speed of turtles. Talang Satang National Park is home to endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles and limited and basic accommodation enables just a handful of ecotourists to visit at any one time. Visitors can help the rangers manage the conservation programme including a hatchery where the eggs incubate for 50 days, safely protected from predators. Turtles lay their eggs in the soft sands with the egg-laying process taking several hours and each turtle lays about 100 eggs.

TURTLE ISLAND PARK, SABAH

Located one hour off Sandakan in northeast Sabah, this marine park comprises three islands that are turtle protection reserves. While Green and Hawksbill Turtles lay eggs on all the islands, Selingan is the focus for ecotourism with basic park accommodation, a hatchery, a cafeteria and an information centre. Just one operator conducts 24-hour tours in conjunction with Sabah Parks leaving in the morning and returning the next with an overnight stay on the island.

Source: NST

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