You’ve probably heard of Desaru, a beach destination in Johor that boasts of nice beaches and family-oriented resorts.
But tucked away at the edge of Desaru is a new development that’s expected to be the country’s latest premium travel destination. Desaru Coast is an integrated resort that houses three renowned hotel brands, a golf course, a retail outlet, a convention centre and a fun-filled waterpark.
At the moment, only The Els Club Desaru Coast and Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark are fully operational; Hard Rock Hotel is also open for business but parts of the property, including the kids’ centre, are not ready yet.
Developed by Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels, the other resorts at Desaru Coast are Westin, Anantara and One&Only, while the retail, dining and entertainment “village” is called Riverside.
Set against the backdrop of a fishing village, the waterpark covers about 10ha and is one of the biggest in the world. During a media visit recently, a walk around the property recorded a distance of 3km on a fitness app!
At full capacity, the park is able to take in as many as 12,000 guests. There are 20 different rides and slides located at five “splash zones” for children of different ages. Adventure Waterpark is home to the first water-coaster in South-East Asia, and has one of the biggest wave pools in the world.
If you’re hungry, just head to one of the five food and beverage outlets within the park, or fill up at one of the restaurants or cafes at the Riverside before making your way in. Those who stay at the Hard Rock Hotel can re-enter the park premises as many times as they wish in a day (if you opt for the special Adventure Waterpark packages, that is).
Some of the rides include Kraken’s Revenge, a water-coaster and flume ride with a 360˚ horizontal loop and a 27m drop; The Tempest, which comes with a 60m-diameter funnel; and the Swinging Ship, a dry ride that’s bound to bring out a few screams out of its passengers.
Riptide is one of the four giant water slides at the park.
Toddlers and babies are not left out either as they can still have a splashing time at the three age-appropriate play areas. Frankly, some adults would probably enjoy some of the fun slides at these areas too!
The park welcomes everyone and tries to accommodate the needs of many, including differently-abled people. Wheelchair access and accessible toilets can be found all over the place, while prayer rooms and baby changing rooms are also available.
Best of all, the park is a 100% smoke-free facility!
Safety is also a big concern for the park so over 100 lifeguards are stationed at every ride, beach and pool. Guests at the Tidal Wave Beach and 350m-long Penawar River are fitted with lifejackets; jackets are also available upon request at other areas.
Tidal Wave Beach is one of the biggest wave pools in the world.
Maintenance checks are done a few times daily while the water is filtered throughout the day, with the chlorine level automatically checked and adjusted. During rainy seasons, the park takes extra precautions.
“It’s a waterpark, so since most people will be wet anyway, there is no reason to stop them from having fun when it rains. All the rides will still work. However, as soon as we get notified of a storm, we will stop everything. You do not want to be out there when there is thunder and lightning!” said Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark general manager Jeff Jouett. He added that an early warning system is already in place for the area.
At the preview, park attendees welcomed guests with a lively dance performance (to the tune of Fun, Fun, Fun by the Beach Boys) at the entrance. This is probably to help put everyone – guests and staff – in a good mood even before stepping into the park.
“(The waterpark) was built with one vision in mind, and that is to be the perfect place for everyone to create fun and fond memories … We want everybody who comes here to have fun and to have a fun experience from the moment they arrive at the resort,” shared Jouett.
The park is open from 10am to 6pm daily, including on public holidays. Tickets start from RM90 and you can get them from the website (www.dcawp.com) or at the gate. Kids under three years old can enter for free. [...]
They told us that you’d have to get lost in this world to find yourself. I did exactly just that.
At 23, I couldn’t take the stress of life anymore. I was studying for a profession that I wasn’t sure I’d like; living to please parents and meet societal expectations. My heart was a dark void filled with emptiness.
Trapped and desperate, I could hang myself, or live on. Freedom was to chase my fascination of exotic places and wicked legends. I wanted to see for myself how different life could be.
Goth-inspired gloom for the dark days of depression that the reader left behind after she embarked on her solo travels. Taken in St Dunstan-in-the-East, London.
Eight years after my first major depressive episode in school, I was standing on a cliff looking down at the magnificent ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. The Peruvian summer sunlight, mingled with a billowing cool breeze, brushed my cheeks.
I was far from everyone and everything I knew, but learning to savour the sunsets and appreciating my own company.
My first solo travel experience was to Bulgaria, a small country wedged between Romania and Greece in Eastern Europe, opening out to the Black Sea. It was my final year of university, and I was so stressed out that graduating seemed impossible. The four walls of my bedroom and the tinier walls of the library cubicles imprisoned my soul. I had to go somewhere or go berserk in the rigid space.
The readers first solo trip as a rookie solo traveller in Bulgaria. It was a day trip from Sofia to the quaint town of Koprivishtitsa in the Balkan highlands when she was 22.
I had rented an Airbnb in central Sofia, in hopes of a better environment for conducive and uninterrupted studying. Rustic Sofia was cheap, and hosts a lot of eateries serving Bulgarian cuisine of savoury shropska salads, garlic yogurt zucchinis and barbecued meat. Speaking a bit of Bulgarian and exercising caution, I was surprised by the warm welcome from locals. I had a conversation with Bulgaria’s former environmental minister in a vegetarian restaurant.
On another occasion, a Bulgarian football manager sat down with me to practise his Mandarin.
Solo travel instilled in me a confidence I never knew I had. I started chatting with strangers on trains, hostel mates and tour buddies. Surprisingly, fellow travellers are always receptive to help out and make friends. By the end of the trip, I was able to chat with Chileans and joke with them in Spanish!
Interactions with people on the road also showed me different perspectives on things. On the train back to Cuzco from Machu Picchu, I met a 50-year-old American man who was taking his family all around the world. His kids “went” to school online. He wanted to show them that knowledge knows no boundaries.
In Bolivia, I met an inspiring 28-year-old German guy whose steadfastness in life went beyond his years.
I learned that age has no limitations. In Peru, I met a 64-year-old American man who left his home in Hawaii to backpack solo from Mexico to Bolivia, and beyond. He went up Machu Picchu on foot!
I was able to see the world through the eyes of various cultures too. It made me embrace different ideas and thoughts. There is not only one way to approach things.
I was determined to build my character, as well as fuel my wanderlust to truly see and experience this world. I crossed self-proclaimed independent territories like North Cyprus (Turkish side) and forlorn Soviet Transnistria (Moldova), cruised on the highest floating lake in the world (Lake Titicaca in Peru) at 4,500m above sea level and stayed with the indigenous Aymaran people in a village hut. I descended down a live mine in Potosi (Bolivia) and handed its miners dynamite bought from the market, rode horses alongside gauchos (Argenitinian cowboys) in the wild plains, gazed upon the stars in the Atacama Desert (Chile) and rode on an Amtrak train from San Francisco to Oregon, and then all the way Seattle.
Adventure fuels the empty soul. Solo travel made me alive not only by showing me the beauty of this world but by empowering me to see how far I could go. [...]
I am quite impressed by Malaysia’s tourism slogan, “Truly Asia”, as I think it is an appropriate description.
“Amazing Thailand” and “Incredible India” capture and hold people’s attention, while Ethiopia calls itself the “Land of Origins”. Egypt goes by “Where It All Begins” and Peru is the “Land of Incas”. And then there’s “All You Need is Ecuador!”
All these nice slogans are meant to introduce each country and its people to the world. However, some tourists may find that these slogans don’t really go with the actual reality of the countries they visit.
These days, when you walk on the streets of New York, London, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai or any major city in the world, the locals are made up of a mixed group of people. They are of different nationalities who have become part of the society. They play important roles in the nation.
Within Malaysia’s tourism industry, many foreigners work in the hospitality and F&B sectors. When tourists visit hawker stalls in Kuala Lumpur’s famous Jalan Alor, they would assume that the workers who serve them are locals when in fact they are more likely to be Burmese. Is this what Truly Asia really means?
The world has changed – it’s something that everyone thinks of all the time. Undeniably, the world is now a melting pot of cultures and societies. And the main reason for this change is simply the migration of people from one continent to another. For example, the nations in Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar are formed of immigrants from India, Borneo and Africa.
Usually, when we travel, we are interested in exploring the culture of the natives. Such as the Maori in New Zealand, Amis in Taiwan, Sami in Finland and Ainu in Japan. But in some places, the indigenous people have become minorities in their own country.
In countries like Australia, Britain and the United States, immigrant communities congregate in places like Chinatown, Italy street, Middle Eastern town or Little India. Behind these touristy streets are migrants who, despite having to adapt to the new culture, are also adamant in keeping their roots. Their architecture, food and lifestyle are some of the things that they are able to retain.
For example, many Chinese youth are considered the “banana generation” – “bananas” being people who are weak in their own mother tongue and culture. These are the people who have assimilated into the melting pot of multi-cultural community.
In recent years, the immigration policies in various countries have changed. For example, Singapore has accepted many migrants from mainland China. In Finland, there is a growth in the mixed-raced second generation due to marriages with Thais and Vietnamese. Australia, the US and Britain have started retaining foreign graduates from universities. Middle Eastern countries and Japan have attracted the migration of Indian IT experts.
The mass influx of migrants has made it hard to recognise who comes from where. When I boarded a taxi in Manhattan, New York, the driver was Tanzanian. When I sat in a coffee shop in Singapore, the waiter was from mainland China. When I visited Qatar, almost all the services were run by migrant workers from more than 30 countries. In Australia, as I walked on the streets in a big city, I felt as though I was in Singapore.
I feel as though so many countries have lost their local identity. In the course of our travels, we need to manage our expectations. Otherwise, we have to slot in an additional itinerary to visit a cultural village specifically built to showcase local culture. One of these famous spots is Ainu Village in Hokkaido, which the Japan tourism authority has billed quite aptly – “Endless Discoveries” !
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 119 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored two books. [...]
Ever wanted a cool T-shirt with pioneer Malaysian artist Anthony Lau’s classic Wild Bull (1962) stone sculpture printed on it? Try the National Art Gallery in KL, you will be surprised by its range of art-related apparel, exhibition catalogues, wall art, stationery, and more.
If you are lucky enough, there might still be stocks left of the limited edition set of stamps issued by Pos Malaysia to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Art Gallery this year.
And you keep hearing about Sabah printmaking collective Pangrok Sulap, but have no idea where to find its handmade woodcut prints. The well-curated Ilham Gallery gift shop is the place to sort you out.
Cartoonist Datuk Lat, we hear, is also quite a star at the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery museum shop, with an exclusive range of Lat merchandise available (sketchbooks to tote bags).
In so many ways, there is no reason to limit your holiday season shopping to mainstream malls. If art, culture and finding unique gifts are your thing, then these four museum and art gallery gift shops in KL might just be your new favourite hang-outs.
T-shirts by the National Art Gallery feature artworks from its permanent collection.
National Art Gallery gift shop bus (artgallery.gov.my)
The National Art Gallery (NAG) isn’t too conventional when it comes to gift shops. That’s a good thing. If you look right across the main entrance of NAG, you will spot a bright red bus parked on the kerb. This refurbished bus has been converted into the NAG gift shop, which opened late-2017.
This “shop-in-a-bus” is the perfect place to seek out an exclusive NAG gift for that hard-to-please friend or to find something to brighten your own home.
There is a range of T-shirts, postcards, bags, posters and mugs that feature art from the gallery’s permanent collection, with a focus on Malaysian artists, including Anthony Lau, Khairul Azmir Soob (who goes by Meme), Romli Mahmud and Tan Wei Kheng, among others.
If you missed out on past art exhibits at the NAG, don’t worry. The shelves on the bus are filled with NAG exhibition catalogues and special publications.
A limited edition set of six stamps, issued by Pos Malaysia, to mark NAG’s 60th anniversary is another highlight. The stamp series features artists Yee I-Lann, Mustafa Haji Ibrahim, Sharul Anuar Shaari, Dzulkifli Buyong, Mohd Sallehuddin and colonial-era British artist William Samwell.
What’s new this month? The gift shop aims to be more craft-centric, so expect a brand-new selection of ceramic products and craft items from the Young Art Entrepreneurs programme which has run throughout the year at NAG.
Ilham Gallery offers a lot of merchandise made in Malaysia. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon
Ilham Gallery gift shop (ilhamgallery.com)
The Ilham Gallery gift shop carries a thoughtful selection of artwork, ceramics, glass, jewellery, clothing, and more, made by diverse Malaysian artists, designers and artisans.
Its strong local flavour includes products that incorporate traditional craft such as weaving, and also other artistic techniques such as woodcut prints, sketching and jewellery-making.
This is one of the few places in KL where you can get baskets woven by the Lun Bawang women from the Ba’Kelalan highlands of Sarawak. Woven by hand, the baskets are fashioned out of plastic strips and trimmed with rattan harvested from the rainforests.
Colourful stools from The Malaysian Association of the Blind add some cheer to the collection. These stools are from the Malaysian Association of the Blind’s woodwork section, where the blind learn skills that can help them gain income.
Find gifts for any occasion, including puzzles, whimsical games and storybooks for children, and beautiful notecards.
Take your time to browse the collection of exhibition catalogues and books, including poetry, and titles on local history, and contemporary art. There is also an affordable, localised version of the Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960–1969) exhibition catalogue which is well worth the investigation.
Still, it is so much more than just gifts and souvenirs at the Ilham Gallery gift shop; it is also a place to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or to attend workshops.
On Dec 8, there will be a rubber stamp carving workshop held in conjunction with Christmas. Aimed at beginners, you will learn about stamp-making design principles, image transfer, carving tips and techniques.
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum & Art Gallery sells exhibition catalogues, art books and sketchbooks produced exclusively for its shop. Photo: Bank Negara Malaysia Museum & Art Gallery
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum & Art Gallery museum shop (museumbnm.gov.my)
The Seni Cetakan: Seni Sepanjang Zaman (The Art Of Printmaking: Lasting Impressions) exhibition at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery is definitely one of highlights of the year, and you can expect to pick up a series of collectibles from this exhibition.
Veteran artist Long Thien Shih’s Paris-era work Dead Souls Are Laughing At Us (etching, 1974) – on a tote bag or on a sketchbook – is most recommended.
From tote bags, mugs and sketchbooks produced exclusively for this museum shop. the Seni Cetakan exhibit did have loads of fun merchandise to reintroduce the masses to the cream of Malaysia’s printmakers.
Cartoonist Datuk Lat’s Bank Negara-related merchandise will also leave a smile on your face.
If you are looking for souvenirs that clearly have Bank Negara written all over it, you will be spoilt for choice with its keychains that take a page out of history books: the Five Charms keychains feature parts of banknotes, and come with an info card on how to identity real banknotes.
Elsewhere, the Balemark Series keychains are inspired by the copper coin currency issued in 1787 by the British after the empire set up a settlement in Penang. On one side is the Balemark of the British East India Company, and the other has an Ara [...]
Local travel tech startup LokaLocal is set to expand, with new funding from a South Korean venture capital firm recently.
BonAngels’ investment in the Selangor-based company marks its first venture in Malaysia.
This opportunity will accelerate LokaLocal’s growth through its ongoing development of a one-stop integrated tech solution, acquisition of meaningful products and regional expansion.
BonAngels chief executive officer Simon Seok-heun Kang is banking on LokaLocal’s unique position in the Malaysian travel scene.
“LokaLocal is a company that genuinely discovers local attractions and has the ability of forming them into tours. As the tourism industry grows, we believe content uniqueness would be much more important,” he said, adding that the company’s network would be a huge asset.
One of LokaLocal’s plans is to work alongside cultural space owners and event organisers. This will help promote Malaysia’s vibrant culture and art scene through digital opportunities. LokaLocal founder and chief executive officer Chin Yoon Khen said the funding will enable the startup to solidify its business.
“We can already see the growing interest in off-the-beaten-track experiences over mass tourism,” he said.
Established in 2016, LokaLocal is the largest experienced-based platform in Malaysia. It connects travellers to over 800 unique tours and workshops, while creating economic and social impact for 700 local hosts.
The company has since worked with Selangor and Perak state governments to unveil new experiences as part of the national initiative under VisitMalaysia 2020.
LokaLocal’s website (www.lokalocal.com) is expected to unveil a new look by early next year. [...]
Growing up in Malaysia, we’re probably used to our parents telling us to study and not “lepak”. The term is often used to describe the act of loitering or loafing around aimlessly.
Sounds like something only naughty kids would do, right? Not really, according to Airbnb.
In fact, the hospitality company is encouraging Malaysians to lepak in the country with various activities available on its platform. The community-driven business launched Airbnb Experiences in Malaysia in March this year and it has been picking up momentum. The platform boasts over 120 unique experiences today.
Airbnb public relations manager (South-East Asia) Elaine Toh says the reception from both travellers and hosts have been encouraging, prompting nationwide expansion for the programme.
“Since our launch earlier this year, we have expanded to the whole country. Now anyone throughout Malaysia can submit their Airbnb Experiences,” she says during a recent event in Hulu Langat, Selangor.
Introduced in 2016, Airbnb Experiences are handcrafted activities designed and led by local experts. The programme bills itself as offering unprecedented access and deep insights into communities and places that travellers wouldn’t otherwise come across.
How about learning how to dance the Zapin this weekend?
As part of the programme’s run in Malaysia, the company has launched the Live And Lepak campaign. It hopes to connect locals through common interests and help them rediscover their own backyard.
“There is this perception that when we lepak, we are not doing something productive. But we all like to lepak on weekends, why not do it while connecting with other locals?” Toh says.
The nationwide expansion of the programme is set to create a larger network of local experiences.
“The expansion will really allow international travellers to experience more of Malaysia in a magical way. Similarly for locals, they can check out new experiences too whether it’s a hen party or group travel,” she says.
Airbnb is paying you for your passion
Beyond creating a network of experiences, Airbnb is committed to creating new economic opportunities. Here’s where Airbnb Experiences comes in: It allows people to make some side income from their hobby. To do that, they are expanding beyond the accommodation business.
“If you don’t own an apartment, that’s fine. Why not chase your passion, do something that you like and also benefit from it and earn a little bit of money?” Toh says.
With Experiences, the goal is to connect hosts and guests together with local communities and entrepreneurs. At the same, it’s also about preserving the personalised human touch experience.
“At Airbnb, we see technology slowly displacing humans. But we want our technology and platform to really enable hosts so passion and hospitality will not be replaced by computers,” Toh explains.
Those into healthy living might want to check out a workshop on cooking raw and vegan food.
In a statement, Airbnb Experiences director (Asia Pacific) Parin Mehta says the company wants to promote tourism that is inclusive and sustainable.
“Malaysians are creative and passionate entrepreneurs, and Airbnb Experiences are a great way to unleash economic opportunity for people to monetise their passion and talents,” he says.
One such Experiences host leading this wave in Malaysia is Fuad Fahmy. The man organises a walking tour to some hidden gems within Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur.
Born and bred in the Malay enclave, Fuad had always wanted to showcase his village to travellers around the world. It is now a dream that has come true with the tours he conducts.
“I get to help travellers explore authentically and immerse themselves into a local area and culture. A place has a lot of stories to tell, and you will only find out when you (get to) know a local,” he says.
Fuad Fahmy, the fourth generation of Kampung Baru citizen wants to introduce the beauty of his home to more people through the walking tour he conducts.
Will Airbnb pay taxes in Malaysia?
The travel and tourism scene in Malaysia is booming. Airbnb recently announced a 99% year-on-year (y-o-y) growth in guest arrivals in Malaysia having welcomed more than two million guests in 2017. That makes Malaysia the fastest growing market for Airbnb in South-East Asia.
There are now 44,000 listings in Malaysia on Airbnb, marking an almost 60% y-o-y increase. But the company’s growth in the country is not without its fair share of criticism.
When the tourism tax was introduced last year, local hotel associations complained that Airbnb operators were exempted from the ruling. The tourism tax charges a flat rate of RM10 per room, per night on foreigners staying in hotels or registered private accommodations.
There are now 44,000 listings in Malaysia on Airbnb
Airbnb says it is having discussions with authorities such as the Finance Ministry, Royal Malaysian Customs Department and Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
In the near future, the company is mulling the implementation of Voluntary Collection Agreements (VCAs) to collect and remit tourist tax.
The VCA is a tool designed by Airbnb to collect taxes from its host and guest community and remit it on their behalf. This helps to facilitate a streamlined process and lighten the administrative burden for local and state governments, as well as Airbnb hosts.
So far, Airbnb has remitted more than US$510mil (RM2.14bil) in hotel and tourist taxes through agreements with more than 340 jurisdictions around the world.
Digital frontier for tourism
More recently, Airbnb signed a Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) with the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC), and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).
The collaboration with MPC will see Airbnb sharing relevant data and best practices to inform recommendations on short-term accommodation policy in Malaysia. The partnership with MDEC will focus on promoting digital in [...]
Some time in 1985, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was passing by Jalan Raja Chulan in Kuala Lumpur in a car when a beautiful neo-classical building caught his attention. That chance encounter would change the course of history forever – it prevented the building from being torn down.
Instead, Dr Mahathir proposed that the structure be conserved as a national heritage.
Take a walk down memory lane and check out some of the old phone models on display at the museum.
That building is the present Telekom Museum in KL today. Thanks to Dr Mahathir, the country’s telecommunications history and equipment are preserved in pristine conditions within this interactive museum.
Why you should go
Made of 1cm thick solid steel, this phone was made to withstand fire explosion and pressure.
Ever wondered what cellular phones looked like before the existence of flashy smartphones with 12-megapixel cameras and waterproof features? Then you might want to consider a visit here. Tucked all the way at the back of the ground floor is an exhibit of past cellular phones. Some of them come with battery packs the size of a mini luggage while others are as heavy as a brick!
The museum is a one-stop centre for visitors to learn all about the nation’s telecommunications history as well as the industry’s progress and development.
There is also the sheer excitement of being in a structure targeted by enemies of the state.
Built in 1928 as the Central Battery Telephone Exchange, the three-storey building was the model telephone exchange venue at that time.
“During the war, our enemies would target this building as an attack here would cripple telecommunications across the country,” our guide explains.
If that doesn’t send shudders down your spine, then perhaps knowledge that communication used to be done through drums and smoke will.
What to do
The museum is divided into various sections: Early Communications, The Birth of Telecommunications, The Era of Telecommunications and the MomenTM Gallery. Take your time and read the well-written and well-researched information on the panels.
On the second floor, visitors can try out high-speed broadband service as well as check out the gaming consoles. The museum also provides an interactive digital journey. All you need to do is scan a QR code and connect to the museum’s hotspot. This will open up additional interactive approach that might keep the younger ones hooked.
Other than that, just take your sweet time roaming around and checking out the various exhibits. They range from the evolution of morse code telegraph to digital technology.
Who will like it
Old telephone directories are displayed in the museum.
With the ease of our current smartphones, it’s easy to dismiss telecommunications as something that’s a given. For tech geeks, a trip here might be an eye-opening visit that uncovers the work that goes into the making of today’s latest gadgets.
Students might also learn a thing or two here. The museum has an educational package which allows you to stay overnight in the building. This package includes meals, sleeping bags, activities and access to KL Tower. It’s an option to consider for some well-rounded extracurricular activity.
This museum is walking distance from touristy sites like Bukit Bintang and Central Market.
The GOKL City Bus provides free bus service. Please ensure that you take the bus that is on the purple route.
For LRT users, Masjid Jamek is the closest station. Upon reaching the station, you need to look for the Raja Chulan exit.
Jalan Raja Chulan
50200, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2031 9966
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm [...]
Tune Hotel at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 has recently been refurbished to better serve guests and transit travellers.
The multi-functional, integrated public spaces have been redesigned to include a new restaurant, a bar and a library. Guestrooms have also been added to the new garden wing.
The look features Malaysian artists and their artwork. Marvin Chan used discarded airplane parts to create two site-specific sculptures: Stingray, a ceiling mounted piece made from an assemblage of aircraft antennas, and Sonic Boom, a sculpture made from old turbine blades.
“The sculptures were assembled from repurposed plane parts. They reflect how travel can change a person and how they see things,” Chan said. The hotel worked with Malaysian interior design firms All That Is Solid and Tropical Area.
The elegant lobby of the Tune Hotel at KLIA2.
The new restaurant, Makan, is a relaxed space with the ambience of a modern, contemporary cafe. Green foliage frame long communal tables that come with ample plug points, making it an ideal place to recharge and refuel after a long flight.
If Makan is the relaxed “older sister”, then Minum, the bar, is the cheeky little sister. Designed to evoke the atmosphere of backstreet watering holes in the city, Minum delivers with blinking neon signage, pool tables and foldable chairs.
Makan offers a wide range of Asian and Western cuisine, while Minum is a relaxing oasis that serves up tapas and a selection of drinks.
For the lobby and guestrooms, the signature Tune black-and-red theme was softened with a muted earthy palette of Corten steel, timber and rugs.
A Grab & Go convenience kiosk is also introduced to offer a selection of travel necessities, drinks and snacks.
There is a cosy, open-space library for business travellers to meet.
The new Garden Wing rooms are specially designed for the transit traveller, with an open-style wardrobe, minimalistic black-and-white colour palette, and smart TV that enables personal device casting.
The new Garden Wing Room.
Tune Hotels chief executive officer Mark Lankester said: “Part of our investment in the upgrading exercise is to cater to guests’ needs and that involved new room types and configurations. While the design and space vary, all the rooms come with what are non-negotiable standards: high-speed WiFi, five-star quality beds, hot power showers, great food and beverage, all wrapped up with great guest service.” [...]
You’d have to be like Indiana Jones and hack your way through a thick jungle if you want to find the rafflesia – and even then, this beautiful flower doesn’t just grow on trees, because it literally sprouts from the ground.
There is no such thing as a blooming season for the rafflesia, or even a designated area where you would find the flower. And even if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon one, it would probably disappear in a week!
In theory, this giant flower is said to be found in abundance in the rainforests of South-East Asia, but in reality, it can be quite elusive.
I have heard that rafflesias can be found at the Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve in Perak, a 117,000ha park on the northern shore of Temenggor Lake, one of the world’s oldest rainforests. But no one can tell me exactly where its location is because it is a tightly-guarded secret to keep away unwanted intruders.
Word has it that the flower can be found at the Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve in Sabah, but again there’s no guarantee you’ll actually see one if you visit.
Although challenging, it is not however, impossible to find the flower in bloom.
Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai at a farm in Sabah. Photo: Florence Teh
Rafflesias are parasites which grow on only one type of vine, and despite their beauty, they emit the smell of rotting meat to attract insects which pollinate the plant. The flower’s life span is short – it only stays alive for a week. That means anyone hoping to see the flower has to reach it quickly once they hear news of it flowering.
Poring, a tourist area in Sabah, located 40km away from the Kinabalu Park Office in the Ranau district, has earned a reputation for being the best place to view these flowers.
There are a few lucky land owners who have had rafflesias bloom in their backyard. Whenever these flowers start to bloom, the locals place announcement banners on the roadside to attract tourists.
Not too long ago, my colleague Muguntan Vanar, from Star Media Group’s Sabah bureau, gave me a call late one evening.
“If you want to see the rafflesia, I think you’d better fly over here immediately. It’s already Day Three and it will be gone soon. Go to Ranau or Kundasang, and look for Poring, you will be able to find them there. Good luck!” he said pretty dramatically.
Kundasang, located about 6km away from Kinabalu National Park and 12km from Ranau town, is renowned for its vegetable market which is open seven days a week. It offers the best views of majestic Mount Kinabalu, and is certainly one of the most beautiful places in Malaysia; its cool weather is similar to that of Cameron Highlands.
I’m 57 and I still hadn’t seen a rafflesia, which grows in our country’s own backyard. It has always been on my bucket list and I was eager to tick it off, so I decided to fly to Kota Kinabalu immediately, and began a three-hour adventure driving up the hilly route to Ranau at the break of dawn.
It was not difficult finding the farm in Poring as there was already a banner erected to announce the flower, and a small group of tourists was queuing up to pay the RM20 entrance fee, and to register themselves in a logbook.
Yes, for these lucky villagers, each time a flower blooms, this spells a little extra income!
Rafflesia is the biggest tropical flower in the world. Photo: Wong Chun Wai
We walked through what looked like a trail going to someone’s backyard orchard. It was a nice walk, and along the way, I saw fruit trees including durian and rambutan but there were no fruits as it was not the season.
Then up ahead, sheltered by tall trees and protected by a small fence, the rafflesia greeted us.
It was smaller than I had expected but nevertheless, it was not a disappointment, and we took turns taking photographs.
I could not tell if it was three days old or already dying, as my wife claimed, but I wasn’t going to let that spoil the occasion. I had come all the way to look at it, smell it and yes, take a selfie with this legendary flower of the Bornean jungles.
It didn’t look at all like the world’s heaviest flower. It can, after all, reach up to 10kg, and even 100cm in diameter, according to reports.
The rafflesia can reach up to 10kg, and even 100cm in diameter
Nonetheless, I was grateful and thankful that I had joined the ranks of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles – founder of Singapore, and the man who discovered the flower during an expedition in 1818.
It is said that rafflesia is one of the world’s rarest flowers for good reason: nearly perfect conditions must exist for a rafflesia to bloom.
“To make matters more difficult, rafflesia flowers are unisex and are usually found within range of the same sex. Insects not only have to carry pollen to another rafflesia, they must take it to the opposite sex and do so within the brief flowering window of three to five days,” according to travel writer Gregory Rodgers on online travel guide Trip Savvy.
The rafflesia takes six to nine months to go from bud to bloom, and then it dies in a week! So it is not just elusive, the rafflesia’s story is quite tragic, really.
Not satisfied with just one visit to that farm, I decided to look for another villager, who had also put up a banner to announce the arrival of the rafflesia. I showed him the pictures on my phone, and asked if his flower was as big, but the honest farmer said his could not match the one I had seen, and asked me to return in next few days.
He did not have the heart to rip me off, and I thought that was pretty decent of him.
All said, my trip had been worth it, as I can now say that I have seen this elusive flower. It is a pity if you, my fellow Malaysians, have not yet stepped foot in Sabah, which happens to be my favourite destination, next to my hometown of Penang. When you do go, I hope you get a chance to see the rare rafflesia for yourself. [...]