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August 30, 2010 / maidinmalaysia

merdeka eve

and my five year old can sing Negaraku.

i remain an expat, and an outsider — listening to the tune, chiming in whenever he sings the words “raja kita” (those are the easiest for me to remember.)

but my India-born son , who went to his first school here in KL … can draw and colour the malaysian flag, can scream merdeka! and can sing the entire national anthem.


January 3, 2010 / maidinmalaysia

give time a break

father and son enjoy the beach and the togetherness

At 99 Rm Manikar Beach Resort is a steal.

In Labuan, we first stayed at Hotel Victoria, which is at the heart of the city. But cramped, with a tiny bathroom and a view of a noisy construction. It doesn’t feel like a holiday. Still it fit into our Rm 99 a day budget, and we spent a night there.

And when we drove down, we spotted the sprawling and luxurious Manikar Beach Resort. Very five star looking. Ample car park. Smiling and helpful staff. Rooms that were sea-facing and huge. A lovely breeze that was better than any air-conditioner. And breakfast on the house. Wow. How much, we asked? Fearing a three-digit number, that would burn a hole into even our next year’s travel budget.

Rm 99, said the receptionist.

the young smiling receptionist at the resort

We’ll take it.

And as we took our bags upto our room on the second floor, we began enjoying the resort much more. We first walked the beach.

the waters are shallow, and the waves are still at dawn

It’s surprising at how many hotel guests preferred to use the pool, rather than the beach. The massive blue pool was spilling over. Kids were shrieking and paddling. But the long-stretched out beach was almost empty.
And the sky looks a different colour every hour, I thought. And as if to greet us at this lovely island, we also saw a rainbow yonder.



We had a chat with one of the senior sales and marketing executives, Emullia Nubor.

Emullia Nubor

She is revved up about the upcoming events and activities. “We are going to organise an international dart tournament in May 2010. In January we are hosting an autoshow, in February we are having a “bridal fiesta” with bakers, florists and a fashion show witha difference,” she says.
This young woman told us about what are the unique facilities in the resort. “This is the only beach resort in Labuan,” she says. This is spread across 15 acres of land. “We offer our guests wifi to access internet. We have our Pantai Lounge, a restaurant and a beach bar. We have five function halls. We can do beach parties for upto 500 guests complete with a DJ spinning music. Our board room is the largest in Labuan.”

inside the resort the trees sway

for dining outside...

we ordered malaysia favourite beverage -- teh tarik

for dining indoors

the dinner buffet wears a xmas look

we saw a hotel staffer polishing the glassware until it gleamed

The Manikar Resort was earlier run by the Sheraton group. Several VIPs including former prime ministers and members of parliament prefer to stay here.

our baby happily plonks himself on the floor of our room

the view from our room on the second floor

a cosy balcony with a sit-out for two

Now the hotel has a spa, swimming pools, a beach soccer filed, a volley ball court and a penball field. Guests can also hire bicycles. Discounted Room rent is Rm 99 till April 15. And the rent for the suite is Rm 199. Presently the lift, telephone and television are not working, but the management is getting ready to iron out the kinks.

volley ball court

swimming pool

lights on at night

the pool is unusually empty. photo taken at dawn-break

time to give time a break

January 1, 2010 / maidinmalaysia

dataran labuan

my husband is sitting under a tree with our sleeping baby, while i set off to take photos

i almost thought i was back in KL. This place looks almost like the Xerox of Dataran Merdeka.

This is Dataran Labuan, the venue for major events and celebrations. While my husband sat under a Flame of the Forest, I took photos of the History Square. I saw a stone plaque to commemorate the handover of Labuan to the British.

December 30, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

the story of Labuan

The story of Labuan begins in 1775, I read aloud standing in the Labuan Museum. Our baby had drifted off peacefully to sleep. The airconditioning inside the museum was a welcome respite. And as the baby slept, I got drawn into the story of Labuan.

Apparently, the survivors of an attack on the British East India Company factory on Balambangan Island took refuge on Labuan.
Then the island was handed over to the British in 1846. Coal mining began in 1847.
In May 1879, the first Labuan’s postal stamp was issued. In 1891, a railway of about 10 milies was constructed.
In 1907 Labuan became a part of the Colony of “The Straits Settlements”.

In 1942, came one of the most darkest periods in Labuan’s history — The Japanese Army invaded Labuan. After around 3 years, the island was linerated by the Allied Forces and incorporated into the newly formed colony of north borneo.
In 1949, the construction of the Labuan’s international airport was begun.
In 1956 — Labuan was given the status as a tax-free port.
On 16 April 1984, Labuan was proclaimed as a Federal Territory,
And on October 1, 1990, Labuan was declared as an International Offshore Financial Centre.
The museum notes that the existence of a multi-racial society dates back to 1848. At this time, Chinese businessmen, coal miners, Indian traders, Sepoi army, Malays from the Straits Settlement all added variety to the composition of Labuan.

The museum has many pieces of history. There’s a samurai sword that was used during the Japanese occupation; several musical instruments that were played in the olden days are on display…there is a diorama of a water village that is very realistically done.

My favourite is up on on the firstfloor — the the lifelike wedding scenes …

December 29, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

some “nikon” moments

What I liked about Labuan town is :

1. people walk on its streets
2. its safe, (and nobody is forever warning you about snatch theft)

Labuan is so sunny though. It’s twice as hot as KL. You feel the sweat drippping into your clothes as you walk down the roads. And you think “ugh” This isn’t a holiday destination at all. Until you see the beach. After that life is bliss.

Labuan Town is bustling. People are crossing the roads. There are night market stalls being set up. The town is cosily small. And everyone seems to know or at least recognise everyone else.

These are some of the pictures that made Labuan unique in my eyes.

I saw two such pool rooms while we were walking in Labuan. And I took photos. Even in mid-day, people were playing. But what was very strange was that this place had no doors. It was nestled among a street of shops and restaurants. But it was open for tourists like me to gawk.

These three ladies at the Labuan Financial Park

Malls these days seem to be the domain of the uber cool and the ultra chic. I loved the sight of these three old women, chatting, laughing and watching the world go by, seated inside the Financial Park. My favourite “nikon” moment of the trip.

these men were fishing in what i thought was a very unlikely place. This was a stone’s throw away from the “feri terminal” and boats kept coming in to and fro. there were ships yonder. and these men were oblivious to the hustle of the world, and squatted and fished.

after travelling only on flights and trains all my life, its such an unusual sight to see a ferry put up its electronic signboard. The ferry is as professional as any airport — it has a flurry of travellers and backpackers, it has international duty-free shops, and plush-looking arrivals lounge. I am thinking “flight”, but really i took this photo to help me think “ship”

how quaint to see a giant mushroom on the road. it made me smile. an island that has a serious title like “federal territory”, an island that is a home to money-laden banks, and suddenly you spot this polka-dotted mushroom bang in the middle of the road. A town with a sense of humour, definitely.

KL has many “tamil” areas. Many shops have signboards in Tamil. But in Labuan, we found just this one. I was so glad, that i took a photo.

A neat nook nestled on a tree to hang up one’s basket. I took this photo near the Layang Layangan beach

I told you it is hot in Labuan and one of the ways to quench your thirst is this…

December 29, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

my 1 year old meets an ostrich

The tall and short of it is that my tiny baby met the tallest bird he ever saw at the birdpark in Labuan. My baby was pretty thrilled. The bird was pretty indifferent at the meeting.

We landed at the bird park almost at 5 p.m., and already one door was closed signalling that it was closing-time. We didnt have much time to look around. We ran through the aviaries — some places were smelling rather foul, i think because because of all the fowl present. Or perhaps it was the toilets…
We quickly saw the birds, the fountains, the play area … and it was time to leave.
The guidebook says that the birdpark is set amidst a lush rainforest and is home to 580 species of birds. I thought of fellow blogger covertop — she would be at home here. Apparently there are hornbills, mynas, herons, shamas and kingfishers here. I could identify only two — peacocks and the ostriches.

The bird park is open between 10 am to 5 pm daily — there are birdshows and birdfeedings at 11 am and 11 30 am respectively.
Entrace: Rm 3 adults and Rm 1 children

December 29, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

a book that reads like a blog

I am reading a book called “Little Footsteps” by Abang Yusuf Puteh, who was the State Secretary of Sarawak till 1985. This book was published in 1993.

The book covers his travels in 30 countries and records the writer’s candid impressions. I am immersed in this book, and I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Malaysia.

The writings are dated. Some entries are over thirty years old. And they give me a quaint, historical perspective on KL that one would get after a chat with an old-timer.

Here is a 1978 entry describing the birth of the coffeehouse. “The coffeehouse trend in KL was born in the Federal Hotel, and with a 24-hour service came into being in Malaysia. Then it spread like wildfire throughout the city and now most big hotels in the country have a coffee house.”
This is a 1980, rather poetic entry, written from the Hilton Hotel written at 6.30 a.m. The author’s room overlooks the KL Turf Club and it being a Sunday there is no traffic. “There is a ray of sunshine from the East arrowing its way through the morning mist, which is just beginning to lift. I love mist and dew, even fog, when they are set against the peace, transquility and quietness of the morning or evening.”
The author goes on to compare the view of the track to be as beautiful as “the work of a Chinese master” and soon the “beauty and peace evaporate with the mist and the invasion of the tropical sun with its heat.”

I loved reading this next entry, because it gave me an insight in the food habits of the Malaysians.
The Chinese never waste their food, he says. A group of chinese folk sit together and their table is laden with different dishes, and the “diners pick up small pieces of food from the bowls, almost niblling, but they do it quickly, They talk a lot in between picking up and popping the pieces of food into their mouths. The whole process is an art.”

He describes the Malays: ” A well-brought up Malay handles food with the greatest respect and care,” writes the author. And when a Malay belches after a meal it is a sign of appreciation. He says “Alhamdulillah” which means that he is grateful to God and his host for filling his stomach.

The author in his travels, he records the “quaint and the queer, the cute and the candid, the amusing and the amazing…”

I googled to find more about the author and his recent works. And I was very saddened to find that he recently passed away at age 74 after a long illness on November 9.