Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pulau Tioman The Great Destination

Vacation To Malaysia

Great Malaysia island destination: The beaches of Pulau Tioman

BY: Barbra Stuter

A close ferry ride away from hustle and bustle of civilization is a perfect tropical beach getaway with fantastic resorts, great snorkeling and superb beaches. Located about 20 miles off the east coast of Malaysia, the sparsely populated Pulau Tioman is covered with dense rainforest, surrounded by coral reefs and holds a special place in my memories – primarily for the variety of wildlife that I have run into there. While living in Singapore, this beautiful Malaysian island was one of my favorite places to go for a weekend getaway and an escape from the city.

Nearly every time I have visited Tioman, I have stayed at the Berjaya. You will find varying reviews of this resort, but I always found my stays there to be quite enjoyable. I like the Berjaya, primarily for its proximity to both the airport and the ferry dock, but also because Pulau Renggis is directly off shore from the property (more on that later). It is a close taxi ride to the night life in Salang Beach and it is also within walking distance of Kampung Telak where you can get some good local food and do a little shopping if that is your pleasure.

Pulau Renggis is the tiny island you can see off the shore of Tioman in my pictures, and is a fantastic place for snorkeling and diving. I have seen any number and variety of beautiful corals and colorful tropical fish out there, but the most memorable were black tip reef sharks and cuttle fish. Seeing the sharks was thrilling, but the cuttlefish might still be the most fantastic marine animal I have ever seen in Tioman or anywhere else. When I first saw it, it was a mottled brown color, and just cruising slowly through the water. As my diving partner pointed it out, it immediately dove to the sandy bottom. As it settled near the bottom, it immediately changed color to match the sand, which was nearly white. The color change happened as rapidly as flipping a light switch. As I continued towards it to get a closer look, it started flashing what looked like neon concentric blue circles all over its body, obviously designed to scare me off. Worried that I was distressing the animal, I moved away and it scuttled off. It was really, truly fantastic to see and something I will never forget. You can see a cuttlefish towards the end of this video taken out at Pulau Renggis.

The distance between Tioman and Pulau Renggis is swimmable, but you are crossing boat traffic so you have to be careful – and quick! You can also arrange a trip out there by long boat, but I have never managed to be on the boat for the return (ahem -pay attention to your time). Again, with flippers it is absolutely swimmable, so enjoy yourself and don’t worry.

The wildlife is just as amazing out of the water as well. On one of my first trips to Tioman I was sunning on a lounge chair and happened to spy a GIANT lizard hanging out by the fake waterfall cascading into the pool I was sunning by. This creature had to be 3’ long from nose to tail. I exclaimed to the waiter bringing me a frosty beverage “Oh My GOD! What is that?” His reply was… “A snack”. Apparently the monitor lizards are a local delicacy and I can only imagine that they must taste like chicken.

We also had the good fortune to see some beautiful flying fox bats as we were enjoying our evening libations under the trees by the beach. They swooped into the tree we were sitting under, and proceeded (upside down of course) to crawl all over the the tree looking for fruit. Very cool. I have also seen many Palm Civets, which are kind of a cross between a cat and a monkey, with big giant eyes and a long fluffy tail. At least I think that’s what they were.

Don’t let me forget the beaches of Tioman, for after all – that is why we came, right? The beaches have the fine sand required for sandcastle building, and it is sort of a well, sandy color. Not the blinding white of so many tropical islands. There can also be quite a bit of seaweed at times, season and tides depending. Tioman is an island completely surrounded by white coral reefs and crystal clear waters. This provides visitors with excellent snorkelling off any beach, including these below.

Salang Beach – the most popular due to its nightlife. Very crowded during high season.
Monkey Bay – the whitest sand and the best spot to jump off for diving or snorkeling.
Panuba – very quiet and exclusive with sparsely populated beaches.
Juara – on the east side of the island is largely untouched and your best spot for viewing wildlife. One of the many great hikes on the island is from Telek to Juara.

Tioman is easily accessible by ferry from either Singapore (4.5 hours) or Mersing on the Malaysian mainland (1 to 1.5 hours, depending on type of ferry). Berjaya air has daily flights to Tioman from Singapore’s Seltar airport and from Kuala Lumpur. I have made the trip both by sea and by air from Singapore, and I have to say the $100 plane fare was definitely worth saving four hours of travel by ferry.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Beauty and Fun Sibu Island's Resort

Vacation To Malaysia

MAGINE your tanned skin glistening under the scorching sun, beads of sweat trickling down your forehead; but you welcome the perspiration as it cools down your body.

You’ve worked hard to reach the pinnacle of success and you’re not going to let a little humidity dampen your spirit. You know only too well that you’ve got to do it all on this three-day, two-night vacation. So you soak in the sun as you take long walks on the sandy white beaches, ride the banana boat and swim in the deep blue sea.

This is no imaginary trip. Sibu Island Resort, Johor, will be whisking 10 lucky winners from The Star-Pizza Hut’s Newspaper-in-Education contest, to this privately-owned island off the east coast of Malaysia.

Teams clinching the top spot in the Mag Inc 2009 contest from the upper secondary and primary categories are in for an idyllic getaway after toiling hard on their three-page mini magazine entries on the theme of teenage angst.

Sibu Island Resort has opened its doors to the world with a fresh look, heralding a new dawn to island adventurers. The resort has had a masterful make-over — 121 timber chalets refurbished and upgraded to luxurious accommodation and land reclamation to provide three stretches of pristine beaches.

With the construction of its own water desalination plant, the resort now boasts a constant supply of clean, fresh water — the first project of its kind on any island in Malaysia.

The island is easily accessible from Johor Baru by road at only one-and-a-half hours’ drive. From the Tanjung Leman jetty, the trip to Sibu Island is but 20 minutes on a comfortable air-conditioned, 50-seater twin-hulled catamaran.

At the resort, students and teachers are promised an island-spiced holiday with an integrated experience. Their days will, no doubt, be filled to the brim with both active fun and laid-back indulgence, from dawn till dusk.

The resort’s 27 hectares (67 acres) of natural surroundings feature a myriad of activities that are designed to challenge the mind, strengthen the body and build cohesive bonds. Not only is the island a perfect safe haven from the hustle and bustle of the city, its environment is rife with team-building pursuits such as telematches, adventure games and obstacle course programmes.

If students cannot get enough of the sea and salt water in their hair, then there is scuba diving, wind surfing, jet skiing, boat cruising, canoeing, snorkelling, fishing and island hopping.

Plan to unwind from the sand and surf? Then, explore the island at your own pace and discover charming surprises in store. The grounds and gardens offer a tranquil backdrop for jungle-trekking, deer-feeding and spice gardening.

If it’s a more rigorous workout that you’re up for, then pump those arms and flex those muscles at The Gym, dance to aerobics or jog around the resort.

And nothing can sound a whole lot better than a soak at the sauna to soothe those sore muscles afterwards. Or else there is the wide range of therapies and massages to be checked out at The Tropical Holistic Spa.

The resort isn’t without its culinary versatility. Students and teachers will be treated to island fare that is designed to excite the discriminating Malaysian palate.

Options are aplenty as there are barbecues by the beach, diverse Malaysian specialities, theme night parties and more. The Selayar Restaurant and the open-terrace Lumba-Lumba Coffee House serve up specialised buffet selections all day long.

Rather sit by the beach for a picnic and strum your guitar? Then let them pack you a take-away picnic basket as you tuck in by the beach.

And if you want to tune in to some hip-swaying music, head to The Suji Lounge where entertainment thrives while the sun sets in the horizon.

So write away and pen your thoughts on issues surrounding teenage angst. Sibu Island Resort promises to be an amazing location for celebrating a win with teammates!
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Golf and Travel Vacation in Malaysia

Golf Vacation

This may surprise some golfers, but Malaysia is a country with a very developed golf product, home to more than 200 golf courses. The historic Royal Selangor Golf Club in the center of Kuala Lumpur dates back to the 19th century.

Today, golf courses are in just about every part of the country, especially around Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. To the north, the Genting Highlands, home to the country's only casino resort, has several golf courses. Some of Malaysia's most exotic clubs can also be found off the mainland, on the island of Borneo in the Sabah and Sarawak regions.

Most of Malaysia's golf courses are open to the public, and night play is common. Green fees are relatively cheap for westerners, as top courses range between 75-175 RM (plus golf cart). Caddies are available at all clubs and sometimes mandatory, though they only cost 10-25 RM. Gratuity is customary.

Many of the country's courses are cut through thick, rolling jungle. Older courses use a native "cow grass" that is thick and grainy. Newer courses, however, primarily use various Bermuda strains, Zoysia or Seashore Paspalum. Golf course architects who have built in Malaysia include Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Golf and Travel Vacation in Malaysia my suggestion

The Bunga Raya course at Saujana Golf & Country Club in Malaysia

Located just outside of Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur, Saujana Golf & Country Club is home to two of the country's best golf courses: The Palm and the Bunga Raya. And while the Palm cou

rse is a host to the European Tour's Maybank Malaysian Open, the Bunga Raya remains a very worthy follow-up.

... full article »

Orna Golf Club in Melaka, Malaysia

Orna Golf Club is a championship, 27-hole golf club in Melaka, Malaysia, about two hours south of Kuala Lumpur. It's a stern test designed by Pete

Dye's nephew, Andy Dye, who has an extensive p

ortfolio in Asia.

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Tiara Melaka Golf and Country Club in Malaysia: Melaka's toughest also among its best

You're in for one of Malaysia's top golf courses at Tiara Golf & Country Club, which is not only tough and well designed, but also kept in great condition. It's one of the top courses in the country and is on par with the 27-hole course at A'Famosa Resort as the best round in Melaka.

... full article »

A'Famosa in Melaka, Malaysia: Flashy resort boasts some seriously good golf courses

The A'Famosa Resort's 27 hole golf course in Malaysia boasts what they claim to be the most "unnerving approach shot in golf." But there's a lot more to this golf course than cheesy marketing ploys. Indeed, A'Famosa is among the finest rounds of golf in Malaysia.

.. full article »


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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shah Alam’s isle of birds

Vacation To Malaysia
By SALINA KHALID The Star Online

THE Antan Batura boat moves slowly from the jetty, cruising towards Pulau Undan.

Our eyes are fixed on the flock of birds perching on a tree top on the island.

With its yellow and orange long beaks, the beautiful birds have white bodies with black streaks on the side of its wings. They have pink and white tails. They are known as the Painted Storks.

It was a sight to behold as they moved gracefully. A few had twigs and grass clasped tightly in their beaks. They were nesting.

Somehow the presence of the cruise boat and its passengers did not seem to bother them. It was the continuous flicker of the cameraman’s shutter that caused them to fly away momentarily before coming back when they realised that the situation was safe.

A sharp cry from a child in a distant suddenly made us realise where we were.

Sultan Salahuddin Mosque or Blue Mosque in Sha...Image via Wikipedia

We were not on any isolated island, away from the hustle and bustle of the city - we were in Shah Alam. And that island is named Pulau Undan, one of the two islands found in the middle of the Shah Alam Lake. We were on a cruise boat touring the Shah Alam Lake.

Watching the Painted Storks is part of the itinerary of the boat cruise recently introduced at the lake that is located in the city centre, near Kompleks PKNS.

The cruise started from a jetty near Antan Batura Restaurant located in front of the Sirim building. It moved slowly, allowing everyone on board to enjoy the scenery around the lake.

Passengers were taken for a trip around the lake, with stops at the island which is also inhabited by peacocks, geese, ducks and variety of birds including waders like egrets and herons.

But the island is named Pulau Undan (Storks Island) because of the Painted Storks - the island’s main inhabitants.

The storks’ beautiful colour make them one of the favourite subjects to be captured on canvas and it is no wonder why they are named as such.

These birds, however, are not native to Malaysia. They were brought in from Sri Lanka in the 1960’s and being freshwater dependent, they survive better and have since then multiplied.

Those who have visited Zoo Negara might have seen them there.

Even at the zoo, these birds are not kept in an enclosure. They are free to fly around and have been spotted throughout the Klang Valley.

One such place that they call home is the Shah Alam Lake.

“A few dozens have made Pulau Undan their home and hopefully they will stay and become a permanent feature here.

“We do not interfere with their habitat and do not feed them as they find their food like fish and insects from the lake,” said MBSA’s public relations officer Shahrin Ahmad.

Soon the inhabitants will have another resident to share the island with. The city council is planning to introduce two pairs of spotted deer this month to lure more visitors.

The spotted deer, which are distinguished from the other species of deer which are raised for the meat, have a brown-reddish coat with white spots on its back. Its underparts are white.

“This lake and its features have potential to attract more visitors.”

A group of Singaporeans are scheduled to visit this month to view what the city has to offer. The city council is hopefull that they would promote the city and help bring in more visitors.

Shahrin added that offering the cruise was also part of efforts to provide healthy activities for the locals as well as tourists.

The cruise takes about half an hour around the man-made lake located at the city centre. During the ride, one can view the city’s landmark including the Kompleks PKNS, Sirim and Wet World water theme park.

The boat will pass the Laman Budaya, where regular cultural activities are being conducted on weekends, passing through the canal and under the bridge towards Tasik Tengah.

The Tasik Tengah (middle lake) has a more scenic view, This is where the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque or also known as Shah Alam Blue Mosque is located.

The boat stopped briefly to allow passengers to enjoy the scene and capture the images on their camera before moving on and passing by the floating restaurant and back to the jetty.

Shahrin said the boat service is available daily for a fee of RM5 for adults and RM3 for children between two and 12-years-old, The public can enjoy the service from 4pm to 7pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7pm on weekends.

The tickets are available at the jetty near the Antan Batura restaurant, infront of Sirim. The boat will move once it has a minimum of six people.

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Facing the future in Malaysia

Vacation To Malaysia

Night market vendors dickered over deals with locals. Kuala Lumpur's humid May heat - unabated even in late evening - generated sweat beads road-racing down my spine.

Beyond the Buddhas and joss sticks the casually dressed Malay caught my eye. "You like?" he asked indicating a small carving.

I smiled and declined. Unfazed, he nonchalantly flipped an ace from a deck of cards anchored in his right fist.

"Perhaps my brother read your cards?" he wheedled coyly.

Indicating a yellow table flanked by two palmistry symbols taped to the black door behind his stall, he assured me the price was right. Fifteen Ringgits (about $4). It was the second time in three days South East Asian soothsayers had offered to surf my future.

"Right!" I agreed.

Responding to a shrill whistle, the promised ’relative’ miraculously materialised from the depths of the alley.

Perched on a red stool, my future was cast in expertly dealt face cards emerging over the table top. My advancing years appeared to warrant more than one deck.

"Luck! Much, much luck!" A quizzical glance at me didn't delay dealing out my fate. "You got luck all round. Lots!" He sounded genuinely impressed. I was encouraged. Things were looking up. At last I'd made an investment that might pay dividends.

"You drink?" he suddenly demanded.

"Should I?" Giving the right answer seemed important.

"Alcohol? Spirits?" he clarified.

"Well - not a lot!" I hedged defensively.

"You drink red wine - warm red wine. No hard spirits," he instructed. Unaccountably I was relieved. "and champagne," he added as an afterthought. With my newly bestowed Malaysian luck I hoped this included the new five-star Spa fad of bathing in red wine. Before I could nail that down he transferred his attention to my grubby fist.

"Why you so stubborn?" He angrily prodded the beefy slice of palm below my thumb. "Who? Me?" Between my growing indignation, and K.L's close proximity to the equator I was beginning to glisten and glow. I wondered when my 15 Ringgits ran out.

Why you don't trust no one?" he demanded beginning to glare at me. "You stressed right out. Why you worry so much? Why you stressed? " Still gripping my hand he waited for an answer.

"Well, I worry about my kids." "Don't worry about the kids," he was briskly dismissive.

" business, I worry about that."

"Pay others to help," he tersely interrupted. "You not the only one that can do everything you know!" Oh... fine for you to say, I thought indignantly.

"Business no problem. Still money to be made. Don't worry." I perked up again.

"You play sports?" Without waiting for my answer he dismissed the very idea. "Forget it - you might break something."

Reaching for a paper and pen he wrote down three numbers, the months of the year, and sketched some circles and squares. "When you go home you change your office desk around. Put it to face south.. or east. Very important." My north-facing office housing my east-facing desk can accommodate three gnomes standing shoulder to shoulder. I recognized a challenge.

The numbers were lucky, he said; so was every month except June - which (he shrugged) wasn't really all that bad. Wear gray, blue or red, he instructed - and, flipping me a business card, he commanded, "don't forget to write." Whether he meant a best seller or a post card I wasn't sure, but I reckoned it was time to go. He handed me the paper and smiled. Later I turned it over. Spidery script on the back read: 'fiery, hot tempered, writer.' Wasn't that Hemmingway?

Fortunes and Feng Shui are phooey, of course. Although - come to think of it - I didn't tell him I was a journalist, a mysterious ailment interrupted my life June, and the office could do with some renovating. Would you pass the champagne?

If your fortune features Malaysia: Air Canada connects with Malaysian Airlines through Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur.

For more information on this truly Asian destination check Malaysia’s website at

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