“It’s all about connecting people.There’s a large concentration of Filipino workers in Miri and we want people to easily connect with their families.” Says Ms Joy Caneba, Executive Vice President and COO of AirAsia Zest during the inaugural ceremony in Miri Airport of AirAsia Zest’s flight from Manila to Miri. A first in the country, the Miri route is also a good alternative entry point to nearby Brunei which is only 30 minutes away from the city. Personally, I am interested to the Miri destination as it is the jump-off to one of UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage Site, the Gunung Mulu National Park.
“From southern Palawan, it only takes about two hours by speedboat to the Northern tip of Sabah” I remember one of our host tell us delightedly. The Philippines is so close to Sabah that there is so much similarity in terms of culture and tradition. A large part of the inhabitants were trickled down from the southern archipelago of Mindanao when land bridges still exist explaining the prevalent resemblance from the traditions, clothing and even the language. In fact, the word “Sabah” for Malaysians, also refers to the same type of banana we call in the Philippines. In our visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village, a village in Kota Kinabalu showcasing 5 of the 32 ethnic groups populating Sabah, we got a good portrait of each tribes, showing the distinctness of their character.
“There is sea walking? I haven’t tried that yet!” I excitedly told my companions when I saw it in our itinerary. We were off to the Borneo Reef World, a pontoon just off the Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya, within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park area. What’s a pontoon? It’s a floating barge, used as docking support for boats and even sea planes. The Borneo Reef World Pontoon however is a new reef activity pontoon (months only since opening 3rd quarter of 2012) that aims to offer visitors a slew of water activities that showcases the richness of Kota Kinabalu’s marine life.
I remember how excited I was almost 8 years ago when I was finally going out of the country to travel for the first time. Kota Kinabalu was the first stamp on my newly acquired passport and I finally got to experience riding an airplane via AirAsia. It was so memorable as we climbed Mount Kinabalu then,enjoyed some islands and nature parks. A similar kind of excitement was brewing when I joined Zest Air’s inaugural flight to Kota Kinabalu last weekend. There was no climbing this time but I still recall the cold air and the somewhat hangover-state-of-mind while climbing the summit of Mt Kinabalu when I saw the mountain through my plane window. The rain-cloud draped city looks back like a familiar friend but noticeable is the aging state and a few constructions to perk up the city skyline. Off coast, the islands of Tunku Abdhul Rahman Park still looks pristine. I immediately recognized Manukan Island there and remembered our fun beach bumming and snorkeling excusion. Ah yes, its nice to see you again Kota Kinabalu.
When in Melaka, it’s not enough to admire the many shophouses lining up in Jonker Walk. There are several shophouses turned museums in Melaka that it’s worth walking inside one of them to get a deeper insight on Melaka’s history and culture. One that I would highly recommend visiting is the Cheng Ho Museum found near the tail end of Lorong Hang Jebat before the bridge. With a floor area spanning 55,000 square feet, occupying about 8 units of old shophouses dating back to 1786 and three floors of artefacts, it is considered as the largest museum in Melaka.
After our 2-day program in Melaka, we bid goodbye to our faithful eating companions. Some of us, like me, decided to stay longer in Melaka to explore. It was afternoon and I decided to walk. Walking gives me better grasp of a place’s layout and it is only now that I realised most of the attractions in Melaka are walkable. From the Jonker Walk, I crossed the east bridge and dodged the flow of traffic to reach the famous Melaka’s Dutch Square.
Oh I was ready to rub shoulders alright! But it was more than shoulders as at times I had to squirm my whole body way out of the crowd, moving and flowing in different directions at Jalan Hang Jebat Street in Melaka popularly known as the Jonker Walk. Last I was here, we only ventured this famed street boasting of well preserved Peranakan Houses dating back to 1800s during daylight. This was I was looking forward to my re-visit in this vibrant city, to experience the Jonker Walk Night Market.