Saturday, March 31, 2007

Experience the Sape Master in Sarawak

It’s Visit Malaysia Year, so why not experience an Orang Ulu longhouse stay in Sarawak and learn to play their lute.

I wake up, and think I have died and gone to heaven. Long rays of light shine above me, breaking into a woven, starry pattern. The bamboo walls of my room glow a soft amber. A choir of frogs punctuate the otherwise silent morning.

Sound of music: Mathew Ngau Jau makes sape and teaches how to play the instrument.
A few moments later, a rhythmic chipping sound breaks my trance. The sape man has gone to work.

I am in Singai, in a longhouse built by Sape Master Mathew Ngau Jau, 54, and his wife, Candy Ak Biron, 56. The longhouse is 45 minutes from Kuching – if you know the way.

Otherwise, follow all roads leading to Bau town and be on the lookout for a Orang Ulu longboat on the right side of the road, which indicates the junction to the longhouse.

I arrived the previous afternoon and was put right to work learning how to play the sape. The sape is an Orang Ulu instrument originally attributed to the Kenyah and Kayan tribes. Spanning over four feet, the sape is about the same length as a guitar but weighs twice as much. The instrument is classified as a lute and has three or four strings. Just about every advertisement you hear on Sarawak carries the haunting sound of the sape.

Mathew tells me that you can’t simply make up a tune for the sape. The songs played on the sape today are all passed down the generations. Some are for ceremonial dances. Some have lyrics that tell stories.

To learn these songs is to learn the Orang Ulu culture and to get glimpse into their ancient traditions. The song Leiling, for example, tells the story of a traveller who is welcomed warmly to a longhouse. After a day of celebration, the traveller leaves his newfound friends, and the longhouse folk wish him safety on his journey across the rivers. There is a hint of sadness, as the traveller and the Orang Ulu may never meet each other again.

The best sape is made of Adau wood, and there is a romantic Orang Ulu story associated with this.

It is said that a long time ago there was a pair of passionate lovers. One day, the girl became ill, and her condition worsened despite treatment. Her lover was distraught. One night, the girl had a dream in which she heard beautiful Sape music coming from Adau trees. When she woke up, she told her lover, and he immediately set out to the forest and carved a sape from Adau wood. The girl recovered.

Since then the sape has been considered a magical instrument and used by Orang Ulu shamans in healing rituals.

The earliest sape used a creeper called Iman for strings.The strong and fibrous veins emitted a range of low tones. It was only with the coming of the British that the Orang Ulu got ideas for metal strings.

British bicycle brake cables, and later telephone cables started to go missing. The Orang Ulu discovered that the metal “strings” were durable and emitted higher tones. The sape strings today are made from metal fishing lines, bought from local grocery stores.

Unlike the guitar strings, which go progressively from the low keys to the high keys, the sape strings alternate between high and low. The frets also differ from string to string. I learnt that playing the sape boils down to understanding the basic tune. Beyond that, each individual player lends his own flavour on the song.

While learning the basic tune is easy enough with a good ear and little practice, tapping and sliding are a little more experimental. My attempt at a tune sounded nothing like Mathew’s rendition.

The designs found on the sape are from a variety of Orang Ulu motives. Unlike the tribal ceremonial shield, which essentially portrays angry motifs, a sape’s motif is determined solely by the sape maker himself. Orang Ulu design is largely drawn from its portrayal of the “tree of life”, with nature-inspired creepers reflected in overlapping curves in different directions.

You need about two days to get the hang of playing each sape tune. Mastering the taps and slides would take another few days – and trust me, you’d want to. Mathew tells me that it’s up to the student. Some people are able to pick up the instrument in just a matter of hours. Mathew says some Orang Ulu send their children to him for lessons so they can play the sape in their longhouses. He also accepts students from other tribes, Peninsular Malaysia and even foreigners.

I found sape playing to be immensely addictive. The music emitted from the instrument has a deep echo to it. The player enters a semi-trance with the sounds vibrating from one’s fingertips. The listener, on the other hand, breaks into a dance.

Perhaps it is befitting that the first song I learnt was Datun Julut, about the flight of the hornbill, soaring high into the sky, beautiful, majestic and endangered.

Right notes

To experience a traditional Orang Ulu and Bidayuh homestay, contact Mathew and Candy at:

Uma Laduk Lan-e Tuyang (Longhouse for true friends)
Kampung Atas Singai, 94000 Bau, Sarawak
Tel: (082) 374419
Tel: (013) 8203365 Mathew Ngau Jau
Tel: (019) 8749384 Candy Ak Biron

The home-stay experience cost RM20 per night inclusive of breakfast. Traditional Bidayuh lunch and dinner are available upon request. Cultural activities such as sape playing, wood bark painting and learning traditional dances can be arranged according to your preference. Other activities such as mountain climbing and visits to nearby caves can also be organised.

Source : STAR
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Jonker Street also Spells Food in Malacca

Tourists and locals will definitely not want to miss having a walk along Jonker Street, which is famous for its distinct Chinese’s cultural flavour.

Apart from its night market, one can savour many authentic local foods at Jonker Street as well.

Aromatic: Ng Yeow Beng dishing out fried radish cake for the people at Jonker Street.
One should start his food journey from the Taiwan fruit candy stick stall behind the stage near the main entrance to Jonker Street.

Hawker Choon Mee Fah, 60, cuts various fruits into small pieces and strings them into a stick, before dipping it into winter melon flavoured sugar water.

Next to it is the famous Hong Kong curry fish ball. Aromatic and spicy curry to go with sweet and fresh homemade fish balls, prepared by Low Chee Kok, 28.

If you are not into spicy food, then opt for glutinous rice with finely crushed peanuts, called “Mua Chi” (RM1.50 per serving).

Bok Lik Chek, 74, has been selling “Mua Chi” for the six years since the start of Jonker Street.

Going fast: Hee Song Nooi preparing a stick of “dim sum” for tourist Ivan Cheong. The “dim sum” at Jonker Street is one of the cheapest in Malacca as you can buy four “dim sum” for only RM1.50.
You will hear people shouting “four for RM1.50” as you walk ahead. Hee Song Nooi, 44, will hand you a long toothpick to select four of your favourite “dim sum”.

Steamed minced pork in delicate skin, piping hot from the steaming stove; it is definitely worth the RM1.50.

Who can forget the famous Nyonya pineapple tarts? Buy freshly made tarts straight from the oven from Goh Kiat Ka, 45, who has been in buisness for more than seven years.

Hakka dish, yam coins (RM2 per serving) is next on the menu. Ho Siew Eng, 36, will cook them for you when you place your order.

If you want to have a decent dinner meal, head to Jonker Dessert, the museum cafe.

The menu includes Nyonya Asam Laksa, Baba Laksa, Nyonya Rendang, dumplings and many more.

Do not forget to try their signature chendol that comes with superbly thick, sweet and authentic gula melaka.

Geographer Cafe is the best place to have your daily dose of beer with your friends. With live bands performing, the atmosphere at Jonker Street is marvellous.

not forget: Try out the Hakka dish, yam coins, prepared by Ho Siew Eng.
You can also order fried radish cake from Ng Yeow Beng, 34, whose stall is just right outside Geographer Cafe, to go along with that glass of chilled beer.

There is also Limau Cafe that serves beverages such as coffee, tea, milk shakes, lassi and fruit juices and snacks like sandwiches, pastas, spaghettis and toasted bread.

Near Limau Cafe, you will find Choo Tian Chai, 61, busy preparing spring rolls or pohpiahs, which is a hit among locals and tourists.

As you venture further, you will definitely get attracted to the aromatic BBQ squid stall operated by Eng Boon Ang, 55, or the Apom Balik stall where you can opt for a filling of peanuts, sweet corn or a mixture of both, with a starting price of 60 sen.

Among all Chinese traders in Jonker Street, you will definitely not miss out the food stall that sells vegetarian vadai, masala vadai and other South Indian finger foods.

After all the food, a glass of herbal tea from Tok Yoke Leong, 63, will quench your thirst and “cool” your body.

Tok also serves herbal eggs which she prepares in the late afternoon.

You should have reached the end of Jonker Street by now.

Isn't Jonker Street a one-stop location for you to savour all the best food that you want to try in Malacca?

Source : STAR
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Gurney Drive smelly and dirty

The scenic Gurney Drive used to be the pride and joy of many Penangites.

However, unsightly mudflats and the putrid stench of sludge and rotting garbage now greet joggers and visitors at one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations.

Businessman S. Madhavan, 32, said he used to enjoy the view at the promenade.

Harsh habitat: Dead ‘balitong’ (a type of shellfish) washed up along the Gurney Drive promenade.
“I remember swimming here when I was young. This is one joy I can never share with my son because the water is so dirty and muddy now.

“The state has focused much of its efforts in upgrading roads and building five-star hotels and malls at Gurney Drive but the most important attraction – the seafront – has been neglected,” he said.

Pensioner S.C. Chuah, 73, concurred: “I have been visiting the promenade regularly to meet up with other senior citizens for the past 30 years.

“The smell is terrible. The state should do something about the mudflat problem.”

According to a 70-year-old fisherman who only wanted to be known as Tan, the income of fishermen in the area had dropped drastically from about RM1,600 to RM700 per month.

“We used to go out to sea at 8am but nowadays, we can only go at noon because we need the high tide to get the boats out of the mudflat,” he said, adding that the problem started about six years ago when the reclamation project in Tanjung Tokong started.

“When the developers were collecting sand for the reclamation project, a lot of mud was sucked up together with the sand. The mud sediment has gotten worse in the last two years. Now, the mudflat stretches about 60m into the water. The beach is all but gone.

“We used to be able to collect cockles and clams to supplement our income but not anymore. There’s mud everywhere,” Tan said, adding that no one has bothered to clean up the garbage that washed ashore.

Horrible sight: Sludge, rubbish and mudflats have spoiled the previously scenic Gurney Drive.
Universiti Sains Malaysia marine biology deputy dean Prof Zulfigar Yasin said the increased amount of sediment in the water could affect marine life.

“Also, food residue and drain water flowing from nearby homes raise nutrients in the water and cause the jellyfish population to increase,” he said.

Source : STAR
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Chinese Tourists Lured by our Sand from Pulau Redang

JERANTUT-BASED Tahan Holidays Sdn Bhd managing director C. C. Yong showed several Chinese a bottle of fine sand from Pulau Redang by way of introducing Malaysian islands to visitors at the World Travel Fair 2007 in Shanghai held from March 22 to 25.

Yong had collected sand and shells from Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian Besar, Pulau Lang Tengah, Pulau Kapas and Jara Beach.

“I regularly visit Pulau Redang. I wanted to see for myself whether the island is polluted. I just came back and am convinced that it is still beautiful and the corals are still there,” he said.

Yong was happy that most operators had been cooperative in maintaining the cleanliness of the beaches on Pulau Redang as many foreign tourists, including the Chinese, love our beaches and tropical weather.

Tourism Malaysia in Shanghai is aware of the increasing number of Chinese tourists visiting our beaches and is now working with local Chinese travel agencies in the city to sell packages to places like Cherating, Langkawi, Terengganu and Sabah.

“To the Chinese, especially those from Shanghai, the sea is a novelty.

“They like to visit Malaysia for our islands. We now see a lot of wedding and honeymoon packages to Malaysia,” said consul-general Jamal Hassan.

He said Malaysia has many tourist attractions to offer, and that the free independent travellers (FIT) market had to be catered for as well.

The number of outbound Chinese tourists has been rising since 1997, as the Chinese become more affluent.

According to the fair’s organiser, the Chinese spent more than US$16bil (RM55.2bil) on travel, with more than 30 million people opting for overseas destinations.

Last year, in Shanghai alone, 33 local travel agencies organised tour packages for about 583,000 tourists, an increase of 13.2% compared with 2005.

If the World Tourism Organisation’s forecast is anything to go by, the number of outbound Chinese tourists will reach 100 million, and the total travelling expenditure US$100bil (RM345bil), if each person spends an average of US$1,000 (RM3,450).

Selangor saw the arrival of 495,539 Chinese tourists last year – an increase of 54.5% compared with the previous year. In January this year, the state received 36,004 Chinese tourists and the Chinese market ranked second after Singapore, said Selangor Tourism Action Council planning and development manager Yuhaini Yusoff.

She was in Shanghai with Selangor economic planning unit executive officer Noorul Ashikin Mohd Din to promote education and health tourism.

Tahan Holidays is vigorously promoting Taman Negara in Pahang.

“We started providing packages to Taman Negara in 1996,” Yong said.

“The ecosystem there is balanced, it is seven times the size of Singapore, and has been protected from day one.”

Malaysia International Aerospace Adventure (MIA) 2007, which will be held from June 5 to Aug 7 at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, was also introduced to visitors at the fair.

MIA organiser Best Venue Sdn Bhd manager Koid Li Yee said the aerospace event had been well promoted in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Germany and the company was now looking for Chinese travel agencies to promote the event.

“We expect a million attendees, locals as well as visitors from all over the world. MIA is like a theme park where visitors can learn about aerospace while having fun,” she said.

Tourism Malaysia is now participating in the Guangzhou International Travel Fair. It is also sponsoring Shanghai-based QiLin FC, whose young footballers will wear jerseys with the Visit Malaysia 2007 logo.

Source : STAR
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Officers ticked off by Tourism Minister for Judging Tourists

Immigration officers who look down on tourists who are not well dressed have come under fire from Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

He said one's physical appearance should not be used to determine a person's intention or personality.

“Immigration officers form the frontline of the country. This is why they must be educated to refrain from adopting such perceptions,” he told reporters after a courtesy call on North Sumatra Governor Rudolf M. Pardede here on Thursday.

Tengku Adnan is here as part of the Visit Malaysia 2007 roadshow which will also include Bandar Aceh.

He was referring to a recent case where several people from Medan who were seeking medical treatment in Penang were denied entry into Malaysia because they were shabbily clothed and unable to converse properly.

“Many from Medan and other countries regularly go to Malaysia for medical treatment because we have the expertise and facilities.”

He said his ministry would be having talks with the Immigration Department on the matter.

Tengku Adnan said 1.3 million tourists from Medan visited Malaysia last year and the ministry was aiming to surpass the two million mark this year.

He also said that only Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Malacca and Genting Highlands were popular with North Sumatran tourists while other states were neglected.

As such, he said, talks were being held with tourist agencies here to promote all states in Malaysia.

Source : STAR
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Sarawak handicraft face stiff competition from Kalimantan-made products

Nearly half of the handicraft sold here is sourced from Kalimantan, a study revealed.

State Planning Unit Industry, Tourism and Commerce Department principal assistant director Mohd Sa’aid Atoi said Sarawak handicraft faced strong competition from cheaper yet similar Kalimantan products.

He was presenting a paper on the findings of a recent Sarawak handicraft industry development study at a handicraft industry development workshop at the Sarawak Tourism Complex here.

The event was organised by Sarawak Craft Council as one of the activities for Handicraft Week.

The study was to analyse the sustainability and competitiveness of the state handicraft industry to produce a development plan to provide direction and guidelines for a more coordinated development of the industry to ensure its dynamic growth up to 2015.

Sa’aid said the study also found that local handicraft producers lacked market accessibility because they do not have links to mainstream traders.

“They lack basic raw material management and access to working capital. Handicraft production is part time and the producers work as individuals,” he added.

Source : STAR
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Little Things to Delight the Heart at Grand Blue Wave Hotel

DID you know that dim sum means “little things to delight the heart” or “touching the heart”, and refers to food which comes in small portions on small plates?

Tung Yuen Chinese Restaurant in Grand BlueWave Hotel Shah Alam is promoting a new a la carte halal dim sum menu that offers both traditional favourites and fusion-style items.

Delightful: Tung Yuen Chinese Restaurant Dim Sum Chef Chong Lim Fong with some of his tantalising dim sum creations.
Available since Feb 1, the restaurant’s bite-sized delicacies of meat, seafood and vegetables come wrapped in a thin coating of dough and are either steamed or deep fried.

There are more than 30 items on its menu, including tantalising steamed dim sum like Spicy Sauce Prawn Wonton, Steamed Shark’s Fin Soup in Dumpling, Steamed Treasure Bag and Steamed Crystal Prawn Dumpling.

“The Steamed Treasure Bag features a filling made from chicken, celery, black mushroom and preserved vegetables. These ingredients are wrapped in beancurd skin and tied with a stalk of spring onion,” said dim sum chef Chong Lim Fong.

Fusion: Deep Fried Flower Dumpling with Mint Salad Sauce.
He recommended the Yam Paste Prawn Roll with Salted Egg Yolk and Cheese, Deep Fried Prawn Dumpling with Mayonnaise Sauce and Steamed Shark’s Fin Dumpling.

“For the Prawn Roll dish, we wrap a mixture of salted egg yolk and cheese around grass prawn, followed by yam paste, before we deep fry the prawn.

“To create the filling for the Steamed Shark’s Fin Dumpling, we use ingredients like prawn, shark’s fin, black fungus, coriander leaves and carrot. We also use carrot juice to colour the dumpling’s dough skin.”

Chef Chong added that all the dim sum were wrapped in homemade dough skin made by his team.

“We can create about 60 pieces of dumpling skin from each batch of dough made with 150g of wheat flour and 75g of potato starch.”

Diners who want to sample something unique can try the fusion-style dishes like Deep Fried Flower Dumpling with Mint Salad Sauce, Coffee Cheese Bun with Chocolate Chip and Egg Tart with Chocolate Chips.

“We use normal bun dough for the Coffee Cheese Bun, but we add coffee flavour to the dough and stuff it with a cream cheese and cheddar cheese filling.

“We add in some chocolate chips to give it a sweet flavour. The cream cheese will also be used in our mooncakes for the Lantern Festival later this year.”

Those who want something sweet for dessert can try the Chilled Lemon Jelly with Longan or Jackfruit Sago with Coconut Milk.

Bite-sized treat: Steamed Treasure Bag.
There is also the slightly bitter Ginseng Roots Jelly with Sea Coconut and Red Dates, a cooling dessert that makes a refreshing drink on a hot day.

“We double-boil some ginseng roots in water. Half of them are used to create the dessert’s jelly, the other half the drink. The sea coconut and red dates are added when the dessert is almost ready,” said Chong.

The 42-year-old has been with the hotel for three years, and has 17 years’ experience as a dim sum chef.

“A person who creates dim sum needs to have a lot of skill. It’s an art itself. I enjoy drawing, so I often draw my ideas on paper and translate that into my dim sum creations.”

Go east: Enjoy a tantalising dim sum lunch at Tung Yuen Chinese Restaurant, Grand BlueWave Hotel Shah Alam.
Tung Yuen Chinese Restaurant also offers a wide selection of fine tea to accompany the meal.

The dim sum is served daily for lunch. Prices of the dim sum range from RM7.50 to RM24 a dish.

In conjunction with Grand BlueWave Hotel Shah Alam’s seventh anniversary, Tung Yuen Chinese Restaurant is offering a 30% discount on its a la carte menu for lunch and dinner from April 1 to 7.

  • TUNG YUEN CHINESE RESTAURANT, Level 1, Grand BlueWave Hotel Shah Alam, Persiaran Perbandaran, Seksyen 14, Shah Alam (Tel: 03-5511 8811 ext 2616). Lunch hours: Mon to Fri (11.30am-2.30pm); Sat, Sun and public holidays (10am-2.30pm).

  • Source : STAR
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    Five women arrested at Hotel for Prostitution

    FIVE women, including four foreigners, were arrested for suspected prostitution at a hotel in Bukit Mertajam.

    Central Seberang Prai OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Anil Shah Abdullah said police raided the hotel about 12.10am yesterday following a tip-off.

    He said three teams led by Chief Insp Phang Meng Tuck arrested an Indonesian, a Cam-bodian, two Chinese and a local after checking six rooms on different floors at the hotel, adding that among the items seized were condoms and lubricants.

    He said police also detained two men in their 30s who were believed to be pimps.

    Meanwhile, ACP Mohd Anil Shah said police are looking for Tan Che Kheng (IC no: 860712-35-5003) whose last known address was Jalan Lenggong Jelutong, George Town, to assist police in the investigation.

    Source : STAR
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    'Transplant tourism' on rise due to donor shortages

    GENEVA - "Transplant tourism" is on the rise because organ donations are not keeping up with growing demand, especially for kidneys, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.

    The United Nations agency said it was concerned about a rise in cases where people in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and the Philippines were persuaded to sell their body parts to outsiders, mostly through a broker.

    The practice has increased over the past decade, said Luc Noel of the WHO's health technology and pharmaceuticals unit.

    "We believe 5 to 10 percent of all kidneys transplanted were in 2005 transplanted in this setting," he told a news conference in Geneva, home to the WHO's headquarters.

    Transplantation is increasingly regarded as the best solution to end-stage organ failure, according to the WHO.

    Jeremy Chapman, a physician at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, said medical advances in transplantation surgery have resulted in surging demand from those needing new kidneys, livers, hearts, corneas and bone marrow.

    Long waiting lists for organs from cadavers have caused frustrated patients to look overseas for new sources, he said.

    "The wealthy, in search of their own survival, will sometimes seek organs from the poor," Chapman said after experts convened by the WHO recommended stricter organ donation and transplantation rules to confront the practice.

    Farhat Moazam of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Karachi, Pakistan, said increasing numbers were travelling to her country to buy kidneys.

    "There are villages that are in the poorer parts of Pakistan where as many as 40 to 50 percent of the population of the village we know only has one kidney," Moazam told the briefing.

    She said donors are often promised as much as 150,000 rupees ($2,500) for an organ but may only get a fraction of that after brokers' fees and associated medical costs are paid.

    It is possible for healthy individuals to donate organs and tissues which they can live without, such as a kidney, part of the liver, blood or bone marrow. Living donations regularly take place in developed countries, most often between relatives.

    Noel said many of those who sell their organs and tissues do not receive adequate follow-up medical care, increasing their health risks.

    Source : STAR
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    Friday, March 30, 2007

    Tourism can Soar with Birds

    KUALA TERENGGANU: It’s time the tourism industry cast an eagle eye on the northern frontier to promote bird-watching.

    While Taman Negara, Pahang, and Fraser’s Hill are popular havens for bird watchers, several spots in the northern states have equally good potential for such activities.

    These places include Ulu Muda, Pedu and Langkawi, all in Kedah, Kenyir in Terengganu, the Belum-Temenggor forest complex in Perak, and the Kuala Muda-Teluk Air Tawar coast near Butterworth.

    Malaysian Nature Society senior science officer Yeap Chin Aik said birding was one of the most important income-generators for Fraser’s Hill.

    A lot of tourists, especially foreigners, focus their efforts both on Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara.

    "But this does not mean that the northern states have no prospects.

    "In fact, these places have quite a good range of birds, some of which are unique to the areas.

    "These include the plain-pouched hornbill found in the Belum-Temmengor area," he said.

    Yeap said the hornbill, which is a globally threatened species, has been seen flying in large numbers during certain periods of the year, similar to the raptors that flew by Tanjung Tuan, Malacca, on the way to North Asia from Sumatra earlier this month.

    He suggested that the tourism industry follow the example of the Zululand Birding Route, a birding project in South Africa, which focuses on conserving birds and their habitats by promoting and developing birding tourism in the region.

    The route is currently managed by the Birdlife SA Rio Tinto Avitourism programme.

    To date, the birding route has trained more than 30 local guides, marketed the area nationally and internationally and was named as the finalist for the Smithsonian Institute’s sustainable tourism awards in 2003.

    Irshad Mobarak, director of the Natural History Expedition, an eco-tourism company based in Langkawi, shared the same sentiment.

    He said the company planned to bring more Japanese and European tourists to the northern areas.

    Irshad said there were easily over 200 species around the Kenyir Lake here.

    On a recent two-day excursion, he managed to spot 88 species.

    He said on average, a 10-day bird watching trip at Fraser’s Hill, the Kuala Selangor Nature Park or Taman Negara would allow tourists to see about 250 types of birds.

    "It is easy to observe birds, especially hornbills, in places like Kenyir.

    "I brought a travel agent from the United Kingdom with me on my last trip. He was impressed with what the northern states had to offer.

    "I hope the state governments realise the potential they have in their own backyard and do something about it," Irshad said.

    Source : NST
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    Front Desk are Disapperaing from Hotel Lobbies

    Something is disappearing from hotel lobbies across the Triangle: the imposing, impersonal front desk.

    Desks that resemble tables or podiums are replacing those long, marble barriers -- for decades the cold centerpiece of the American hotel lobby -- as more hotels experiment with new check-in procedures aimed at cutting down long lines and making guests feel more welcome. Consider:

    * Plans for a Hotel Indigo in Durham include a circular, low-to-the-ground front desk resembling an information desk at the mall.

    "If a front-desk person is checking someone in and they want to walk them to the elevator, they can do so very easily," said Natasha Gullett, an Indigo spokeswoman. In older hotels, clerks are "locked behind those front desks; they don't have that flexibility."

    * The region's first Aloft hotel, to be built near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, is to include a circular "free floating" front desk that also will offer more flexibility.

    * Durham's Wyndham hotel may be retrofitted with podium-like pods as part of a national redesign planned by the chain.

    * Lifestyle Hospitality, which plans a boutique hotel in Durham, wants to do away with the front desk altogether. Employees with electronic tablets will greet guests, sign them in and walk them to their rooms.

    "It's almost like walking into a private home, where the host approaches you," said Lifestyle CEO Steve Marx. "... You'd be crazy to think a traveler would not feel comforted or welcome by that."

    Technology is a big part of the front-desk evolution. For years, clerks were tethered to the desk answering phones, working the cash register or guarding keys.

    ... more

    Source : Ehotelier
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    Gas explosion kills one, injures 11 at Turk hotel

    ISTANBUL - A gas tank exploded in the kitchen of a five-star hotel at a popular Turkish holiday resort on Thursday, killing one person and injuring 11 others, a spokeswoman for the local governor said.

    The dead man was a hotel worker. A Russian tourist, a Norwegian holidaymaker and nine Turks were being treated in nearby hospitals for minor injuries, she said.

    The explosion ripped through the hotel kitchen at around 7.30 am (0430 GMT) in the resort of Belek in Antalya province, a popular holiday destination especially for German, British and Russian tourists.

    Source : STAR
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    Penang Bridge Marathon-tourism package to woo foreigners

    IN CONJUNCTION with Visit Malaysia 2007, the organisers of the Penang Bridge Marathon hope to woo more foreign participants into joining the scenic run.

    Penang Tourism and Envi- ronment Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said for- eigners could take advantage of the three-day-two-night Penang-marathon-cum-tourism package.

    Registration forms for the June 24 marathon have also been placed at Malaysia tour- ism offices overseas while the marathon packages are already being promoted through travel agents in Europe.

    At the same time, efforts are also being made to encourage more local participation.

    The organisers have targe- ted 18,000 participants for this year’s marathon, almost double the number of participants who signed up last year.

    Judging by the aggressive pro-motion drive and response so far, Teng said they were con- fident of achieving the targe- ted number.

    “Participants can register via the official website www.llmnet.,” he said at the launching of the website at Queensbay Mall on Tuesday.

    Teng added that more than 500 runners from Thailand had pledged to compete in the event. The organisers were also trying to woo more Singaporeans to join the marathon and had sought assistance from Singa-pore’s National Trade Union Con-gress (NTUC).

    The marathon is among 50 events lined up for VM2007.

    It offers a total prize mo- ney of RM120,000 compared with RM55,000 last year. The first 20 finishers will be selec- ted for the Singapore Marathon 2007.

    The top two runners will be sponsored by Adidas Malaysia Sdn Bhd to take part in a mara-thon in either London, Prague or Berlin.

    Early registrants will get a RM50 voucher (while stock lasts) from Adidas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

    The entry fee for the full ma-rathon is RM50 or US$50 for for-eign participants, half marathon (RM25, US$25), quarter mara-thon (RM15, US$15) and Fun Run (RM10, US$10). There are 11 categories.

    The marathon is open to any-one aged 13 and above. It is co-organised by the Malaysian Highway Authority, Penang Mu-nicipal Council, Tourism Minis-try, Universiti Sains Malaysia, state Youth and Sports Depart-ment, Penang Amateur Athlete Association and Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd.

    The Star is the official English newspaper while Nanyang Siang Pau and Tamil Nesan are the other official papers

    For enquiries, call 03-8737 3000, 03-8738 3195, 03-8738 3149, 04-6577911 or 04-6576 292.

    Source : STAR
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    Good News about Malaysia must break out beyond our own Shores

    PEPSI used to have an advertisement called the “Blind Test” where people were asked to take a sip of two undisclosed cola drinks and decide which they thought tasted better. Invariably, the advertisement showed that the public preferred Pepsi.

    The blind test campaign was carried out in every country where Pepsi was sold but the company wasn’t very successful in making a dent in the profits of Coca-Cola. Despite its better taste, consumers preferred the original red can.

    Here in Malaysia, Perodua had a similar problem when they launched the Kenari. It was called the Daihatsu Move everywhere else in the world and was a hit in Japan.

    Perodua did not expect the reaction of Malaysian car buyers who found the car a bit too boxy. Realising they had a good car on their hands, they still needed to convince Malaysians to give it a go.

    They tweaked the shape of the car a bit and came out with a Bahasa Malaysia tagline “Belum cuba belum tahu” (Never know if you don't try) and in English “A different point of view.”

    Amazingly, word soon spread and sales picked up. Buyers of the Kenari swear by their wheels.

    These two commercial stories show the importance of not only getting the message to consumers but also to change the warped perception of consumers.

    This got me thinking. If changing the shape of a car with the right tagline can work, then it should also work on many other things, including marketing a country to foreign investors.

    I am not suggesting that we change the size of Malaysia just to fool investors but, rather, alter their perception of our country.

    Having served in Hong Kong a few years ago, I can tell you that the expatriates' general perception of Malaysia there is that we are a spent force, no longer a forerunner in attracting investments.

    Meeting up with other nationalities, I find that I spend more time trying to explain that Malaysia is more than just the slogan Malaysia Truly Asia, a holiday destination.

    The past Tourism Malaysia advertisement was a runaway success in promoting the country and had changed the perception of many foreigners about our country.

    The Government should look hard at this campaign and see how it can be modified to attract foreign investors, too. The power of moving pictures should not be under-estimated.

    The United Arab Emirates seemed to have taken a leaf out of our Malaysia Truly Asia campaign. Take a look at the TV advertisement promoting Abu Dhabi. It has images of finishing touches being put on multi-billion dollar buildings and the slogan that Abu Dhabi welcomes you, plus a slew of statistics on the investments they had put in to develop the city.

    The fact is Abu Dhabi is geographically smack in the middle of two major conflicts – one between Israel and everyone else in West Asia, and the other the American invasion of Iraq.

    Looking at it logically, there should be a a reluctance on the part of tourists to visit the UAE as it is located so close to those two trouble spots; but then again it is a matter of perception.

    In the past few months, there had been no international magazine that had not written an article about Abu Dhabi intending to spend US$200bil (RM692.6bil) over the next 10 years to accelerate development there.

    Fortune, in its March 19 issue, had a seven-page article about the emirate, which it described as “the richest city in the world.” Such a PR tag is worth millions in terms of advertising dollars.

    If Abu Dhabi can talk about billions of dollars, so can Malaysia. Last year our trade figures crossed the RM1tril mark for the first time. Exports accounted for RM588.95bil, while imports totalled RM480.49bil.

    These points are not emphasised enough, at least not internationally. It is not adequate to just talk about these figures at home. Hundreds of billions of dollars are involved, and Fortune should be writing about it.

    How about the Iskandar Development Region (IDR)? The Government has announced fantastic incentives for foreign investors, but has the news reached the right audience?

    Some of the astounding points of the IDR are:

    ·FOREIGN direct investments worth a projected US$40bil (RM138.5bil) to be lured in the first seven years;

    ·MORE than RM4bil to be spent on infrastructure;

    ·CORPORATE tax exemption for qualified companies for 10 years;

    ·FOREIGN workers in the IDR will be able to import or purchase a duty-free car for their personal use; and

    ·COMPANIES will be free to employ foreign workers.

    These incentives are unmatched anywhere, and Malaysia better be on the cover of the next issue of Fortune magazine so that its message gets across to the right audience.

    One diplomat stationed in Singapore was among the many foreign VIPs invited to the launch of the IDR in November.

    “The entire proceeding was in Malay. I did not understand a word of what was said, but stayed on politely,” the diplomat said.

    One can only imagine the kind of report this envoy would have submitted to his head office.

    When told of the latest announcement, he acknowledged that he would have to re-submit a report to “clarify the situation.” I hope that he will give a correct perception of the project this time round.

    Just like millions of Malaysians, I am excited at the announcements by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but it is not enough that the good news stays on our shores. The Prime Minister has been farsighted in coming out with the incentives to ensure the success of the IDR, and it will not succeed without a change in the present perceptions about the country.

    The audience must receive the correct news and, if necessary, efforts must be made to present the good news into the right sizes so that the potential customer will feel confident, attracted and flattered.

    Promoting the country must be handled like any other marketing campaign. The target group must be made to feel good, and that is all a matter of perception.

    Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    Regatta Events to Draw More Tourists to Sarawak

    A new tourism package that will focus on promoting various regatta events in Sarawak will be launched soon to lure more domestic and foreign tourists to the Land of Hornbills in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY’07).

    Without revealing the details, Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) president Wee Hong Seng said the launch of the new package would hopefully attract certain segments of tourists to come to Sarawak.

    “We have various tourism products and the only thing to do now is for all the main players in the tourism industry to be creative in promoting the products available with the close cooperation of the Sarawak goverment,” he said.

    As such, Wee said that recently Sarawak launched its Experimental Education, Music, Adventure and Culture (EMAC) package in Singapore to woo more visitors from that island and next it would be the reggata events for different kinds of market segments.

    Asked on hitches faced by those directly involved in the tourism industry during the current VMY’07 campaign, he said that STF had taken the initiative to iron out problems related to air connectivity in Sarawak, particularly as regards to the rural air service.

    He said that the STF wanted the problem to be resolved as soon as possible to ensure Sarawak hit its target of 3.5 million foreign tourist arrivals for VMY’07.

    Previously, Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh was quoted as saying that the rural air service for the Miri-Mulu routes needed to be improved further to better promote the area that has been certified as a World Heritage site.

    Clearly voicing his unhappiness over the services that are being handled by Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), Wong said that Mulu, touted as the crown jewel of the Sarawak tourism industry, now suffered greatly due to the poor service.

    Meanwhile, the Taxi Owners Association of Sarawak (TOAS) has claimed that the VMY’07 has not benefited taxi drivers much.

    Its president Chris Yeo claimed that foreign tourists, especially those who came in large groups, preferred to travel around in buses chartered by local travel agencies.

    To make matters worse, he said that tour guides even picked up and sent tourists to the airports in the various cities in the state using their own cars.

    He said that visitors coming to Sarawak need not worry about the services offered by taxi operators in the state.

    “We have 24 hours radio call service, metered taxis and even introduced our own uniforms for the drivers. They have also been given a code of ethics to follow,” he added.

    Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    Stop Sending Singaporean Drivers To Jail

    Police summonses and the prospect of jail for drivers of Singapore cars with tinted glass will not encourage Singaporeans to visit Malaysia.

    Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk N. Paramaswaran said that Malaysia should not take unilateral action on tinted glass as the regulations in both countries were not the same.

    “Singapore cars will forever be wrong in Malaysia while we likewise will be forever wrong in Singapore.

    “Our enforcement agencies must ensure that our borders are secure but at the same time friendly. We should not give Singaporeans the impression that we are waiting to catch them (Singaporeans) as soon as they cross the border,” he told The Star.

    He was commenting on widespread news coverage and letters in the Singapore media over the past few days relating to cars with tinted glass.

    On March 11, a Singaporean sub-contractor, worried about car jacking, refused to let police impound his car for further checks over window tinting in Johor Baru. He was subsequently charged in court with obstructing justice and jailed a day.

    In February, a Singaporean logistics manager was issued a summons in Malacca for driving in a car that had dark windows.

    “I have written to the relevant agencies in Malaysian informing them about these problems, as such action can hurt tourism and even investment in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR),” Parameswaran said.

    He suggested that attempts be made to standardise the laws through discussions with Singapore and also with other countries, which have land borders with Malaysia.

    “Until such time, we should avoid taking unilateral action. It may only trigger Singapore to act likewise against Malaysian tinted cars.

    “Therefore, there is a need for some flexibility,” he said, adding that in his personal view, Malaysian enforcement agencies should not issue summonses to Singaporean cars, which conform to the island republic’s laws.

    Citing an example of flexibility, Param said that Singapore allowed Proton Perdana V6 cars to ply its roads though they did not conform to its strict regulations on smoke emissions.

    Johor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Hussin Ismail said he would leave it to senior officials from Kuala Lumpur to decide on the matter.

    On the latest incident in Johor Baru, he said: “My men were merely following the regulations and carrying out their duties.”

    Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    Local tour operators advised to link with foreign operators

    Local tour operators should establish links with foreign tour wholesalers if they want to expand their businesses, said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

    To do that, he said, they must build their creditability and capabilities to handle tours in a big way.

    They must also have the abilities to organise charter flights to bring in the tourists, Taib added when opening a tourism entrepreneurs’ development seminar at Holiday Inn Hotel here on Thursday.

    The event was organised by Sarawak state Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia and the newly formed Sarawak Bumiputra Tourism Entrepreneurs Association.

    Taib said the Land of the Hornbills now received more than three million foreign visitors a year.

    “We have the highest percentage of repeated visitors in Sarawak. Most tourists said they wanted to come back because the people here are so nice, friendly and sincere.

    "These are our assets. We have to preserve our friendliness and politness.”

    Taib said Sarawak offered tourism products which were different from other states, and that its unique attractions included the lush forests, caves and rivers besides the diversed cultural heritage of the various ethnic groups.

    “You(tour guides) must tell visitors of the history and backgrounds of the various tourist attractions, like this building was the palace of the White Rajahs,” he added.

    Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    100ml limit for liquids, aerosols and gels in hand luggage

    SEPANG: Liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) in airline passengers’ hand luggage will soon be limited to 100ml per item for all international flights departing from Malaysia.

    “LAGs carried in containers larger than 100ml will also not be acceptable, even if the container is only partially filled,” Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Kok Soo Chon told a press conference yesterday.

    He said these containers must be placed in a transparent resealable plastic bag of a maximum one-litre capacity and that the containers must fit comfortably within the transparent plastic bag, which should be completely sealed.

    Kok said the transparent plastic bag must be taken along by the passenger and presented to security personnel at the security checkpoint for separate X-ray screening.

    The restrictions came about after the International Civil Aviation Organisation recommended them to all its 190 member countries, including Malaysia, following a foiled plot which involved liquid explosives concealed in hand luggage on flights from London to the United States on Aug 9 last year.

    Kok said the announcement was to create awareness among passengers travelling on international flights so they would not find themselves in an awkward situation when reaching countries that had started to impose such restrictions.

    The Government would announce the implementation date later.

    “In the meantime, we are coordinating with the relevant agencies such as Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, airlines and retail shops to get them prepared,” he said.

    Kok said countries which had implemented such security restrictions include the United States, Britain, European Union nations, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

    Exemptions, however, would be given to those who were carrying infants with them. They would be able to bring baby formulae onboard.

    “However, the parents should only bring what is required throughout the journey and not anything more than that,” Kok said.

    Passengers on medication would also be allowed to bring a reasonable dosage with them onboard but they must prove that the drugs belonged to them by carrying the relevant documents, he said.

    He said passengers could still purchase LAGs from duty-free shops, located after security screening points in Malaysian airports, and bring them onboard but these items must be packed in a transparent and sealed plastic bag with receipts attached.

    “The date on the receipts must be the day of departure or transit and if the seal is broken, the purchased items will be confiscated,” he said.

    Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    Sunny Outlook for Singapore Hotel Industry

    Underpinned by buoyant tourism markets and the positive macroeconomic environment, major hotel markets across Asia, including Singapore, had a stellar year in 2006. Strong investor appetite for hotel assets in the region led to record levels of transaction activity with Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan emerging as the most favoured investment destinations.

    Smooth progress: Singapore has embarked swiftly on steps to diversify and strengthen its tourism offerings. Among them is the Singapore Flyer

    Last year also witnessed the successful listing of two pure lodging real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Singapore - the Ascott Residence Trust and CDL Hospitality Trust. Given the inherent capricious nature of the tourism/lodging industry, their successful listing and subsequent market performance signalled investors' confidence in the hospitality industry.

    With economic and tourism prospects expected to stay robust, hotels in Singapore and Asia can expect to enjoy further growth in 2007.

    Intense rivalry

    Singapore welcomed a record 9.7 million international visitors in 2006 and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is working towards a new high of 10.2 million visitors this year and ultimately 17 million arrivals by 2015.

    To achieve the targets, Singapore has to keep its tourism and hospitality industries competitive. Its efforts to revamp the tourism sector are essential in the light of the intense rivalry in the region: Hong Kong launched Disneyland in 2005; Beijing will host the Summer Olympics in 2008; Shanghai and Delhi will respectively host the World Expo and Commonwealth Games in 2010, while Macau is transforming into Asia's very own Las Vegas complete with integrated casino/entertainment facilities and world-class hotels.

    Many markets, including Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Bangkok, are also competing with Singapore for the lucrative MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) business. Additionally, emerging markets like Vietnam, Cambodia and India are fast becoming choice tourist destinations.

    Singapore has embarked swiftly on steps to diversify and strengthen its tourism offerings. The two upcoming integrated resorts with gaming elements - Marina Bay Sands will provide world-class MICE facilities, while Resorts World Sentosa will feature a Universal Studios theme park - cater to distinct yet complementary clientele.

    The construction of the Singapore Flyer and the remake of Sentosa are also progressing smoothly. The iconic VivoCity, with an eclectic mix of retail, entertainment and lifestyle concepts, including St James Power Station, as well as the revitalised Clarke Quay, has injected greater vibrancy into the local leisure scene.

    For the first time, Singapore may also host the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2008, the third-most watched sporting event in the world after the Olympics and World Cup.

    With travel becoming more accessible due to the growing popularity of low-cost carriers (LCCs), Singapore responded with its first budget terminal in 2006. The move is in line with the government's strategy to strengthen Singapore's position as an aviation hub and regional epicentre for the low cost airline network.

    In anticipation of an expanding and more diversified tourist profile, the government has released more hotel sites for development to supplement the existing hotel stock. Five land parcels were sold in 2006 under the Government Land Sales programme, with another eight hotel sites being placed on the reserve list for the first half of 2007 and at least another three more confirmed sites that include a hotel component.

    While the cost of travelling is decreasing, room rates are increasing which is likely to result in higher demand growth in the mid-scale hotel segment.

    Higher hotel rates

    Strong demand in the wake of limited supply has allowed hoteliers to raise rates in 2006 by an average 20 per cent on the year, sometimes at the expense of occupancy levels. Market conditions are expected to remain robust and when considered in combination with the limited new supply, average daily rates (ADR) has the potential to increase a further 10 to 15 per cent in 2007.

    A comparison of ADR across major five-star hotel markets in Asia showed that Hong Kong remained the rate leader in 2006, achieving an ADR of US$312. At US$148 Singapore's ADR is nearly half of that of Hong Kong. This suggests that there is further upside potential for room rates in Singapore, particularly considering the limited supply of new luxury grade hotels.

    Around 14,000 new rooms could be added to the market from 2007 onwards from new projects under construction/proposed (including the two integrated resorts) as well as the announced government hotel sites. The increase in room inventory will be easily absorbed by the additional demand the STB aims to attract - its 17 million visitor arrivals target for 2015 is almost 75 per cent higher than the 9.7 million achieved in 2006. The current stock of around 38,000 hotel rooms is already achieving an average occupancy in excess of 80 per cent, indicating strong underlying market demand. Within 2007, prominent completions include the 299-room St Regis and the 120-room Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa.

    The Singapore investment market reached a record for hotel transactions during 2006 with eight hotel-related transactions surpassing US$1.2 billion. Investors remain very bullish about hotel investments in Singapore with marketed assets attracting unparalleled interests.

    The upturn in hotel trading performance and overwhelmingly positive outlook are driving investor demand. Investors polled in Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels' Hotel Investor Sentiment Survey in December 2006 expressed strong optimism in the short and medium-term hotel trading performance of hotels in Singapore. In fact, investors are most upbeat about Singapore's hotel sector over the next 24 months outside of China and India.

    While regional players remain dominant, there is a growing presence of US, European and Middle Eastern investors who are looking to park their funds in Asia. Singapore is an attractive destination given its high market transparency, favourable business and investment environment, sound governance, low barriers to entry and stable political outlook.

    While the supply of hotel assets is expected to remain constrained in Singapore as they remain tightly held by local families, there are still opportunities to purchase both existing hotels and government hotel land sites in 2007. The crux is speed and timing as underlying demand for hotel assets/land remains strong. Reflecting their medium- to long-term confidence in Singapore's tourism and hotel industry, hotel assets/land placed in the market for sale in 2006 were quickly snapped up. In total, investors walked away with over $1.5 billion worth of investments in seven hotel-related transactions during 2006/early 2007 - a historic high.

    Bright days ahead

    Growing indifference towards threats of terrorism and avian flu in Asia, active intra-regional business exchanges, more affordable air travel fuelled by the proliferation of LCCs in Asia, and a generally more affluent population in the region will continue to be key contributing factors towards the sustained tourism growth in Asia, including Singapore. Other demand drivers include China and India's burgeoning outbound travel markets and high-yield travellers from Russia and the Middle East.

    In the medium to long term, the diversification of Singapore's tourism and accommodation product offerings will also enhance the industry's sustainability and competitiveness in the region, by providing visitors with an experience that is 'Uniquely Singapore'.

    Source : Ehotelier
    [tags : ]

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    JW Marriott's Floral Theme in Celebration of Spring

    SPRING is in the air at JW Marriott Hotel’s Shanghai Restaurant, which is serving 15 spring dishes – those made with ingredients harvested only in springtime and best savoured during this time of the year – until April 1.

    Spring in the air: The swanky Shanghai Restaurant at JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
    And, the floral theme has been adopted for this promotion, so each of the dishes either looks like flower, or has a flower as an ingredient to intensify the spring mood.

    The man behind the feast is master chef Wong Wing Yeuk from Shanghai.

    “Most of the ingredients are from China. Some are sourced locally – if they meet the required standard; otherwise, we will insist on getting them from China, no matter how expensive,” said Wong, who has been in the industry for 25 years.

    “The dishes we present are trendy and innovative, while at the same time retaining the characteristics of Shanghainese cuisine,” he added.

    According to him, the Chinese phrase “rich oil, red sauce” is used to describe the nature of Shanghainese dishes, which are often very oily and have sauces so concentrated that they are in crimson tones.

    “We have cut down on the amount of oil and condiments to cater to the health-conscious and the preferences of local diners,” he said.

    The Chilled Sliced Meat with Shrimp Roe and Jelly Fish is a good appetiser with which to start the meal. Not only is the dish sprinkled with crispy shrimp roe, it comes with a dip that is a special sauce made of the roe, which is at its freshest during springtime.

    Follow that with Braised Soup with Dried Scallop, Ham and Tofu that showcases the chef’s artistry. The tofu is cut into shreds as fine as toothpicks so that they ‘open’ up to look like flowers when boiled.

    Floral delights: (clockwise from bottom) Baked Assorted Nut Biscuit, Stuffed Lotus Roots with Osmanthus Chinese Wine and Beancurd Stuffed with Snow Pea and Scallop Paste.
    And, do take note of the only vegetable of this soup, which is young lotus leaves plucked as soon as the frozen lake thaws after winter.

    The Deep Fried Garoupa Fillets with Salt and Pepper is appealing in its presentation that looks like a bed of blooming chrysanthemums.

    The Beancurd Stuffed with Snow Pea and Scallop Paste resembles a large bloom, too. The pieces of tofu, cut to look like petals, are embedded in steamed egg and moistened with translucent dried scallop gravy.

    Master chef in action: Wong at work.
    Shanghai Braised Pork with Champagne Sauce is an East-meets-West item. “It is completely different from the normal braised pork that is cooked with black sauce. It derives its flavour from the champagne sauce and its colour from red rice,” Wong explained.

    Served with the small chunk of pork is a dainty heart-shaped piece of toast, which replaces the usual Chinese buns (man tou).

    The Dim Sum menu embraces spring, too. Baked Assorted Nut Biscuit is a traditional goodie, while Baked Minced Pork Pie and Steamed Dumpling with Mandarin Fish Paste are two modern creations that have become must-haves at many upmarket restaurants in Shanghai.

    The desserts, Stuffed Lotus Roots with Osmanthus Chinese Wine and Chilled Chrysanthemum Cake with Wolfberry Seeds, bring the spring celebration to a fitting finale, as they are time-honoured exquisite delights mentioned even in the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber.

    To ensure that patrons fully experience the joy of spring, the restaurant has arranged for the Huang Cheng Music Group to render modern and classical Chinese numbers throughout the promotion period.

  • SHANGHAI RESTAURANT, Level 1, JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 183 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2719 8288). Business hours: Monday-Saturday, noon-2.30pm (lunch) and 6.30pm-10.30pm (dinner); Sundays and public holidays, 10.30am-2.30pm (lunch) and 6.30pm-10.30pm (dinner). Non-halal.

  • Source : STAR
    [tags : ]

    Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Opens 50th Hotel- the Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou

    Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific's leading luxury hotel group, celebrated the grand opening of its 50th hotel - the Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou - the newest international luxury hotel to open in this thriving metropolis in more than a decade. More than 400 VIP guests gathered to commemorate the landmark occasion, including acclaimed Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.


    Actress Zhang Ziyi (Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and hotel General Manager Robert Bormes toast to the grand opening of Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou.

    The hotel is strategically located adjacent to the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre, home to the world-renowned, twice-yearly Canton Fair and slated to become the second largest exhibition center in the world. Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou is in the heart of the new Guangzhou business district, overlooking the Pearl River, the third longest waterway in China. Of the city's deluxe hotels, the Shangri-La offers the shortest drive to the Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport, a 30 minute drive away.

    The 704-room hotel offers the largest guestrooms in the city with a minimum size of 42 square meters (452 square feet) and up to 305 square meters for suites (3,283 square feet). Shangri-La is the newest landmark on the city skyline; at 36 floors it is Guangzhou's tallest hotel.

    The 108-room, six-floor Horizon Club, includes the most expansive executive lounge in the city, with panoramic views, personalized check-in, complimentary breakfast buffet, all day refreshments and afternoon and evening cocktails with canapes.

    Hotel grounds provide an oasis of 5,800 square meters (62,438 square feet) of landscaped gardens, including a free-form swimming pool, private putting green, walking paths and a 2,000-square-meter (21,530-square-foot) lawn area for open-air events and functions.

    Eight dining and entertainment venues include WOK TOO Cafe, serving international cuisine from an exhibition kitchen in a Macanese theme setting. Summer Palace, Shangri-La's signature Chinese restaurant, serves fine Cantonese cuisine and offers 18 private dining rooms, many with Pearl River views. The popular Nadaman Japanese restaurant opens its first South China restaurant at the hotel. Italian casual fare is offered at il Forno and a traditional and fusion Thai menu in coolThai. Resident Japanese, Italian and Thai chefs ensure authentic cuisines. Dining choices are supplemented by the Lobby Lounge, Lift Bar and Poolside Bar & Grill.


    (left to right) Mr. Giovanni Angelini, chief executive officer and managing director of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Ms Zhang Ziyi, actress, Mr. Edward Kouk, chairman of Shangri-La Asia, Mr. Zhu Xiaodan, secretary of Guangzhou Municipal Committee, Mr. Robert Kouk, chairman of Kerry Group, Mr. Zhang Guangning, mayor of Guangzhou Municipality, Mr. Hong Siu Kong, deputy chairman of Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou and Mr. Zhu Zhenzhong, chairman of National People's Consultative Committee of Guangzhou.

    CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La ' Shangri-La's signature spa brand is inspired by the legend of Shangri-La in the Lost Horizon novel, offering treatments and therapies based on Chinese and Himalayan wellbeing rituals and traditions. Treatment rooms are the largest in Guangzhou at up to 70 square meters (754 square feet) and provide a spa within a spa environment, complete with private bathroom, dressing room, relaxation area, shower and bathing facilities. Eight of the 11 treatment rooms include infinity baths with healing color therapy.

    Health Club facilities include a gym, aerobics rooms, two open-air tennis courts and the city's largest indoor swimming pool.

    The opening of Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou heralds the largest portfolio of meeting and banquet space of any Shangri-La hotel, with two ballrooms, eight function rooms, an auditorium, three VIP greeting rooms and a bridal room, totaling 6,000 square meters (64,590 square feet). The 2,240-square-meter (24,113-square-foot), pillar-less Pearl River Grand Ballroom is the largest in Guangzhou and for the Shangri-La group.

    Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific's leading luxury hotel group, currently manages 50 hotels under the five-star Shangri-La and four-star Traders brands, with a rooms inventory of over 24,000. The group has over 40 projects under development in Canada, mainland China, France, India, Japan, Macau, Maldives,

    Philippines, Qatar, Seychelles, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and

    the United States. For more information and reservations, please contact a travel professional or access the website at .

    Source : EHotelier
    [tags : ]

    3-Star Hotel Run by a University (Universiti Teknologi Mara)

    The hotel run by Universiti Teknologi Mara has its own unique challenges and advantages.

    IT’S neatly nestled at the foot of the hill that accommodates UTM’s main campus. With the travellers palms gracing its facade it, basically a wooden structure, this three-star hotel looks inviting. The hotel which was set up in 1992 housing 36 standard rooms, four suites and a banquet hall, and offering hotel foods at “unbeatable prices”, is little known outside Shah Alam.

    “That’s because the hotel, being part of a training institution, cannot advertise,” explained Azlan Supardi, the hotel’s general manager. In other words, the hotel serves as a training centre for third-year students from the university’s Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management. They do their three-month practical training under the supervision of the Human Resources Co-ordinator.

    “Whilst the management is qualified staff, including eight chefs, the housekeeping duties and the cuisine are basically handled by the students of the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management”, elaborates Azlan.

    At any one time, the hotel, which now boasts of an additional meeting rooms and a business centre, takes in about 40 trainees who spend between three and five months learning the business. The hotel has also opened its doors to trainees from other colleges such as Community College, the Johore Baru Polytechnics and the Pahang Iktisas Institute.

    What is more amazing is that so far the hotel has accommodated five deaf students from the Pasir Gudang, Special Polytechnics. They mainly handled housekeeping duties.

    Earlier two such students from the polytechnics were stationed to do kitchen duties. Azlan said that “they had to learn sign language to communicate. Otherwise communication was through writing.”

    Azlan sees the experience as a win-win situation. Those students gained knowledge and insight about the industry, and the others learnt sign language.

    “We’re not here to compete with the commercial hotel,” says Azlan.

    Being a training centre does have its advantages as it allows the hotel to experiment, for instance, with a variety of working concepts to ensure that students get great exposure and experience before they go into the working market.

    The students also get good training opportunity when they have to serve the royalty during the university’s convocations.

    The hotel can afford to have about six kitchens: the pastry, cold, butchery, coffeehouse, cafeteria, main, and chancellory kitchens.

    “For a three-star hotel, having six kitchens could have killed off any commercial hotel this size,” chuckles Azlan. As a training centre we have this luxury. The hotel also cooks for the cafetaria (which is only open after 6pm and located in front of the hotel), and the Chancellory.

    This is why the kitchen equipment eats into big a chunk of the RM500,000 annual grant given by the UiTM Board. The grant is also used to upgrade room concepts and finishings every five years while the menu is revised every six months.

    In line with the latest development, the kitchen now practices an open concept where customers can actually view the chefs at work. Anggerik coffeehouse, which can accommodate 70 people, has also been extended onto the balcony which overlooks a main road, although it is separated by a an elaborate wooden wall from the main cafe.

    “Customers enjoy the open concept as they like the view outdoors,” says Azlan who believes that the upgrading exercises have helped the hotel “break even”.

    The hotel does not only boast peaceful surroundings but the gastronomic delights are all nett-priced and therefore reasonable.

    “They’re certainly not hotel prices,” quips Azlan. The most popular dish at the coffeehouse, which is open from 7am to 11pm, is the Trio bbq lamb chop. It costs RM19.90, and the Char Koay Teow Pulau Mutiara’ costs RM7.90.

    The irresistible ABC topped with ice-cream costs RM4.90. The most expensive dish is probably the sizzling dazzling beef steak which costs RM$22.90.

    Although the hotel cannot advertise its services, it does carry out marketing exercises through the issuance of promotion pamphlets as part of its marketing programme for students.

    “Students have seen the difference in the public response through the right marketing strategy,” adds Azlan, saying that a lot of the hotel promotions were done on a trial and error basis. Prior to the promotions, he says that their coffeehouse was only raking in RM500 per day, but after the exercise it was drawing in RM1,000 per shift.

    “We get feedback from our customers through the evaluation forms distributed,” quips the general manager. The hotel staff are taken to various hotels and restaurants every three months.

    The hotel has a 90 per cent occupancy rate during the university’s convocation period. The hotel is also keen on expanding its banquet room which can only accommodate 200 people. But such a constraint is not an obstacle for holding a wedding reception for 400 guests.

    “We opened up the Melati Grill to host the bride’s family,” Azlan said.

    His biggest challenge, says Azlan, is to balance the hotel’s role as a training centre with making it competitive enough so that the students will gain the “real hotel” experience.

    The only thing you won’t find in this hotel is a bar, live bands or a discotheque. But that’s understandable isn’t it. There are only four hotels in the world which are run by universities. The others are in Austria, Switzerland and the United States. UiTM Hotel was awarded the Golden Five Continents Award for Quality and Excellence from Paris and the Golden Award for Tourist Hotel and Catering Industry, both in 2005.

    What it offers

    Room Rates

    - Standard Rooms – RM100

    - Suites: Cempaka Teratai and Cempaka Kenanga – RM145; Anggerik Teratai – RM210

    Check out time is between noon and 1 pm.

    If guests check out six hours later (8pm) they will have to pay an additional charge of RM60.

    Guests checking out later than 8pm will have to pay an additional RM100.

    - Anggerik Coffeehouse Buffet Breakfast (7am-10.30am) – RM9.50

    - Buffet Lunch – RM20 per head

    - Buffet High Tea (Saturdays only) – RM20 per head

    - A la carte dinner begins at RM7.90

    - Steamboat dinner (Friday till Sunday) – RM15

    Source : NST
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    Cleanliness certificates for restaurants

    IN a move to boost the image of restaurants in the city, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) awarded 100 with cleanliness certificates. The certificates were recently presented to restaurants that met the standards for clean premises and hygienic practices.

    Ten among the 100 were awarded the cleanest certificate award for being tops in score.

    They are The Lotus Family Restaurant, Restoran Thai Corner, Restoran Pucuk Ubi, Kenny Rogers, Dragon-I Restaurant, Kerala Kottaram, San Francisco Steak House, Restoran Sri Melaka, D’Tandoor Restaurant Damansara Utama and Shogun Japanese Restaurant.

    PJ mayor Mohamad Roslan Sakiman said this was the first time the council was awarding certificates in recognition of clean restaurants.

    Among the cleanest: (From left) Doraisingam accepting the award from MBPJ councillor Wong Chee Yong and Roslan.
    “We are now a city and our restaurants need to project the right image, especially to tourists as this is Visit Malaysia Year 2007,” he said.

    ”The certificates are valid for a year, but this does not mean that the recipients are allowed to slacken in keeping their premises clean. If customers find that any of the certified restaurants are not up to standard, they can call the council and we will inspect the restaurant and revoke the certificate if the restaurant really is dirty.”

    Roslan said the certificate programme would also include roadside stalls next year although enforcement officers were also currently inspecting stalls.

    Lotus Group chief executive officer Datuk R. Doraisingam said the group emphasised on cleanliness and serving good healthy food at their restaurants and the recognition by MBPJ meant a lot to them.

    On another matter, Roslan said the council had appointed 10 officers tasked with inspecting business licences.

    “We are following the state directive to have officers just for inspecting licences because there are many businesses that do not renew their licences. This job was previously done by enforcement officers but we now have licence inspectors to do the job full time,” he said.

    Source : STAR
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    Fascinating Padi Festival at Kedah

    TRADITION came alive during the two-day Kedah Padi Festival held on the muddy padi fields at the foothills of Gunung Keriang.

    The weekend event, held in con-junction with the 79th birthday ce-lebration of Kedah Sultan Tuanku Abdul Halim Muad’zam Shah, attrac-ted thousands of people.

    The festival was earlier declared open by the Sultan who was accom-panied by the Sultanah, Tuanku Haminah Hamidun.

    Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the festival was held to showcase Kedah as the rice bowl of the country. It also gave tourists a glimpse of the traditional methods and tools used in the olden days to produce rice.

    Traditional technique:Participants taking part in a fish catching competition using bamboo traps.
    “Last year, we recorded 3.8 mil-lion tourists to Kedah, with over 2 million tourists visiting Langkawi. We want to promote the mainland as the premier destination for tou-rists in Visit Kedah Year 2008.

    “A total RM7mil will be spent to develop a 12ha tourist village with traditional houses to accommodate tourists,” he added.

    The festival got off to a colourful start with traditional, cultural and folk dances performed by the State Cultural Troupe.

    Interesting events included an anok race (anok refers to a cart used to transport padi from the fields), trapping fish using a bamboo cage, a padi pounding demonstration and duck catching competition.

    Briton Derek Brittain, 68, who had visited the country 12 times, said it was his first time at a padi festival and he found it fascinating. He had previously witnessed the Thaipusam festival and chingay performances.

    Source : STAR
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    Malaysians taking notice of Public Loos

    Dirty toilets may rank first among the top 10 complaints from tourists to Malaysia but Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew sees the bad publicity as a good sign.

    At least Malaysians had started to notice the state of the public toilets in the country, said Lau, who also heads the ministry’s national clean toilet campaign.

    “In the past, Malaysians did not even bother to talk or complain about dirty toilets,'' said Lau in response to a report on the ranking.

    The report quoted Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong Wie Kong describing the toilets as wet, dirty and smelly.

    Saying that he would not expect immediate drastic changes to the generally dirty public toilets, Lau pointed out that there was definitely improvement following the campaign.

    Last month, three restaurant associations – Malaysia Singapore
    Coffeeshop Proprietors Association, Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners General Association and Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association – pledged to provide cleaner and better-serviced toilets for customers.

    The three associations, with a total of 20,000 members, urged members to conduct basic repairs to their toilets as soon as possible, ensure toilets were in working order, clean and equipped with tissue paper and soap at all times, without imposing any charge for usage.

    Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting witnessed the signing of a memorandum of cooperation among the three parties.

    Lau also cautioned the owners of business premises that radical steps were being considered to ensure clean and functional toilets.

    Some local authorities had included clean toilets as one of the criteria for the renewal of licence for business premises and this might be extended to all the local authorities nationwide, he added.

    On how to tackle the issue of wet and dirty toilets, Lau said Malaysians needed to be educated on the proper usage of toilets, including the courtesy to leave a dry and clean toilet for the next user.

    Source : STAR
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