OPENING UP OF 'MYSTICAL BORNEO'
By Shanti Gunaratnam
TOURING "Mystical Borneo", the land of wonders and
diverse cultures, is going to be very interesting and affordable, especially for those who
enjoy the "Fly and Drive" concept.
Imagine flying to Kota Kinabalu, hopping into a four-wheel drive vehicle before proceeding
to Ranau to enjoy the offerings of the Kinabalu National Park.
The park towers over the oldest rainforest in the world. It is 1,500 metres above sea
level and the bastion of Sabah's tropical flora and fauna. Some 20,000 tourists visit the
park each year.
One the way back, visitors can pay a visit to the Sabah Tea Garden and see for themselves
how Sabah tea is processed. Limbang in Sarawak the next day offers tours to longhouses,
the Buddha Cave or simply walking around the small town famous for buffalo races held
during the harvest season.
Textiles plus vegetables and seafood are also very affordable in Limbang, the town nestled
between Sabah and Brunei.
From Limbang, head to Miri or the "Oiltown". It is from Miri that many tourists
fly on to Mulu, home of the Mulu National Park.
This park is one of nature's most spectacular and the "jewel in the crown" of
Sarawak's expanding network of national parks. With the Kinabalu park, they are the only
two World Heritages Sites in Malaysia.
If you are one of those who would rather spend your vacation shopping, then the duty-free
island of Labuan, dubbed the International Garden Island of Borneo, is the place to hunt
Labuan also has some places of interest. One is the Japanese Surrender Point at
Layang-Layangan where the 37th Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Division Australian
Imperial Forces on Sept 9, 1945 which led to the end of World War II.
Another is the Labuan War Memorial which is Malaysia's largest war grave. Some 3,905
soldiers mostly Australians, British and Indians are buried there and every year, on the
Sunday closest to Nov 11, a memorial service is held, attended by war veterans, families
of war victims and others paying their respect to the fallen heroes.
Last year, Tourism Malaysia organised the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Borneo Mega Drive 2002 tour
of Borneo to show off the various tourist destinations in Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan and a
little bit of Brunei.
The seven-day tour began in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 10 and ended in Miri on Oct 16.
Expedition members comprised the media, those in the travel trade, non-governmental and
youth organisations, and government agencies.
According to Tourism Malaysia's Sabah director Edzuar Zar Ayob Azari, this
"listening" and sightseeing tour was held to get feedback from the Press and
those in the travel industry on how to package the "Fly and Drive" tours to
Borneo sometime in the middle of next year.
"We are also in the midst of getting feedback from tourists and travel agents as to
what visitors coming here want to see and do while in Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan and even
Brunei," he explains.
"The package will first be introduced to Malaysians, especially those in the
peninsula who have yet to see picturesque beauty of East Malaysia and Brunei, before
extending it to foreigners."
The target market for this package is small families looking to spend from four to seven
days in Borneo.
"This sort of holiday will be suitable for couples with either two or three children
and those who cannot afford luxury tours. The pricing for the package will be very
The tour will be flexible with participants getting to choose what they want to see and do
while in Borneo.
"The Kinabalu and Mulu National Parks are great places to visit. Many Malaysians,
especially those from the peninsula, have yet to see and enjoy the beauty of these
places," says Edzuar.
Edzuar is optimistic such a package will be a hit with visitors from the peninsula because
flying to Borneo is very affordable these days with airlines offering fantastic discounts.
Annually, 900,000 tourists visit Borneo with some 450,000 from West Malaysia.
Expedition leader and event manager for the Borneo Mega Drive Frankie Teo says some 1,500
km were covered during the seven-day tour which saw 22 cars, comprising 4WDs and a
Volkswagon Beetle ferrying expedition members to the various destinations.
Initially, the expedition was supposed to have been held over a period of almost two weeks
sometime in May but it was postponed to October because of World Cup soccer.
"We had wanted to do quite a bit of off-roading. But this time around, we decided to
scale things down to allow members the chance to enjoy the various tourists destinations
in Borneo. At the same time they can experience both air and road travel in this part of
the world," says Tan.
Times, New Straits Times