Dr. Ng Yen Yen appointed Chairman of Tourism Malaysia

Dr. Ng Yen Yen

Ng Yen Yen New Chairman of Tourism Malaysia

YBhg. Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen has been appointed Chairman of Tourism Malaysia effective 17 June 2013. “Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng is no stranger to the tourism industry having served as Minister of Tourism from 2009 until 2013, and before that as Deputy Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism from 1999 to 2003. I have full confidence in her to lead the industry,” says Minister of Tourism and Culture, YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri bin Tan Sri Abdul Aziz.

During her tenure as Minister of Tourism, tourist arrivals to Malaysia continued to rise from 23.65 million in 2009 to 25.03 million in 2012. Today, Malaysia is the 10th most-visited destination in the world according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Her tourism initiatives such as the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival, 1Malaysia International Shoe Festival and 1Malaysia Green 1Malaysia Clean campaign are now permanent features in the annual tourism calendar.

With her vast experience in the tourism industry, she is now in a closer position to steer the Tourism Board towards the realisation of the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan’s goals, as well as the immediate target of 26.8 million tourist arrivals for 2013 and 28 million arrivals for the upcoming Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng succeeds YBhg. Datuk Dr. Victor Wee as the 7th Tourism Malaysia Chairman (or 12th since the establishment of Tourist Development Corporation). Datuk Dr. Victor Wee, in his tenure as the Chairman from 2009 to 2013, had been active in the international tourism arena, holding key positions such as in UNWTO, while stewarding the Board effectively and efficiently.

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Star Cruise offers Muslim Cruise Packages on Superstar Libra

superstar-libra

Star Cruise offers Muslim Cruise Packages on Superstar Libra via travel agency Malaysian Harmony since early this year in 2013. And to initiate this new campaign, the travel company together with Santai Magazine and Malaysian celebrity Datuk Aznil Nawawi or Pak Nil as he is popularly known, organized a media familiarization trip from Penang to Thailand where a total of about 70 media turned up. This 3D/2N cruise which departs from the Port of Penang, arrives at Phuket and then sails towards the beautiful coastal town of Krabi before sailing back to Penang.

Explorer Lifestyle had the pleasure of joining the media group in early June and the experience was wonderful as we had never been on a cruise before. Boarding the ship for the first time, everyone was welcomed with a nice cold towel and welcome drink from the sweet staff on board. After checking into our cabins, the entire entourage was invited to a special welcome cocktail and mini press conference by the organizers and also Pak Nil. A magnificent spread of appetizers and desserts was served during this session which ended with socializing and mingling among each other. After that, we had a few hours to explore the Superstar Libra before the welcome party on board the ship at about 8 pm. This is something which is not to be missed by everyone if you are going on this cruise.

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Welcoming the guest on board the Super Star Libra

The Superstar Libra welcome party starts with the main host introducing the entire ship and so on. Right after that, a performance is conducted by the ship’s guest hosts followed by previews of the various shows that are available throughout the cruise which are spectacular and not to be missed. All in all, we were pretty impressed with the entire welcoming party. Soon after that, our personal explorations took place where each group went their own ways. Mind you, there are a total of 10 floors on this ship and you can imagine how large this cruise ship is.

On board, there are two pools and two Jacuzzi’s on the top deck, a restaurant and bar to compliment the area, there is a duty free shop on the fourth level while there is also a saloon, spa and a Chinese restaurant. On the 10th floor, there is the first Halal Restaurant on board a cruise ship which is called Spices Restaurant and also a Karaoke and a 24-hour cafe there. A disco is on the ninth floor while a casino is on the fifth floor of the ship. In three days, I have to admit, I did not manage to finish trying out all the entertainment offered here.

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Spices, the only halal restaurant on board a cruise ship here

During one of the nights, we were all treated to a special halal dinner together with Pak Nil at the Spices Restaurant. According to the Star Cruise representatives, a huge sum was invested into turning this place into a 100% fully halal restaurant. Certificates are also obtained by the cruise operator while brand new cutlery was bought for the place. The food, overall was good. It had a well balanced taste with fresh ingredients used. The chef was also a Malaysian Muslim who has been with Star Cruise for many years.

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Aznil Nawawi or Pak Nil trying some halal food at Spices Restaurant

The rooms come in various sizes where the most common ones are the standard rooms. Executive and deluxe suites are also available for those wanting a larger space on the ship. All rooms come with air condition, attached bathroom and a LCD television. In terms of comfortableness, I would say, this is a cruise ship and  for me, it was very decent though it looks small. But overall, I has good sleeping nights here.

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Phuket seen from the ship

Upon arrival in Phuket port, the group was ushered into a waiting bus where we were taken on a tour around the island. Mind you this was arranged by the host for the media. First stop – A cashew nut factory where we were introduced to the production of this unique nut. Now I know why they cost so much and if you would like to know, you should take try this cruise to explore the beautiful southern islands of Thailand. Next was the elephant park where guest are allowed to go for elephant rides and also see an elephant show here. Our final stop was the ever famous Patong Beach where you are given some time to explore the area for food and shopping. Our return to the boat was scheduled at 9 pm therefore all guest are reminded again and again so that no one misses the bus back to the port. (If you do miss the bus, you other option is to grab a taxi and head there yourself)

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Arriving at Krabi

From Phuket, the next stop was the coastal town of Krabi where we were given about six hours to explore the place. The ship will port out in sea while small ferries will transfer guest towards the main Aonang jetty. In most normal cruise packages, tours are optional or you can simply explore on your own at both Phuket and Krabi. The modes of transport are taxis or Tuk Tuk’s that take you into town and back to the jetty, for a price of course. For us, we simply walked around the famous Aonang Walking Street by the beach where shopping and food is easily available. Oh, I did pick up some amazing souvenirs there. For your added information, there is a pretty good factory outlet store located just out of Aonang in Krabi. It is called Outlet Village Krabi and most of the items there are quite cheap with many international brands. You need to take a taxi there though.

After Krabi, it is an overnight cruise back to Penang but before bed, there is a farewell formal dinner followed by a farewell showcase by the staff of the Superstar Libra. To wrap this up, we did a full tour of the ship which included a guided visit to the bridge of the ship and many other parts of the vessel. The only other place I wanted to go but did not have a chance was the ship’s engine room. Below are various pictures taken during my Star Cruise Superstar Libra trip to Thailand.

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Pak Nil officiating the press conference with Star Cruise, Malaysian Harmony and Santai Travel reps

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The special welcome appetizers for the media group

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Pak Nil as the ambassador for his upcoming trip with his fans in November 2013

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Spices Restaurant, a 100% Halal Restaurant on board the ship

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Cashew nut factory in Phuket
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Elephant Park in Phuket

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SuperStar Libra seen from the ferry

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Welcome Party on the Super Star Libra

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Pre-show at the Welcome Party

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Captain and crew on the bridge of the Superstar Libra

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Krabi’s famous Crab, a popular tourist photo stop

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Outlet Village Krabi – A must-visit for those who love to shop

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Exploring Aonang Walking Street in Krabi

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Shopping at Aonang, Krabi

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Superstar Libra at night, docked at Phuket

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Deluxe Room with Romantic Couple Package setting

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Standard room on the Superstar Libra with Romantic Package Decoration

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Super Star Libra Casino

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The special menu for the Malaysian Harmony Muslim Media FAM Trip

My recommendation – If you have never been on a cruise before, I suggest you try this one that heads to Thailand. Moreover, if you are Muslim, there is a full Muslim Cruise Package and you can get more information from the Malaysian Harmony Tour Company as they specialize in this. Also, Pak Nil will be having a special Muslim Cruise Package this November which is arranged by Malaysian Harmony therefore if you would like to be on this cruise together with him, please check the website for full details. Another tip from me is to check out the coming Matta Fair September in KL for cruise deals as sometimes, you can get really good prices for cruise packages. Alternatively, you can check out the Malaysian Harmony Booth at the Matta Fair 2013.

To end this, I would like to thank M-Mode’s Santai Magazine, Star Cruise and Malaysian Harmony for making this trip possible as this was an eye-opener for me in terms of going for a cruise. Seriously, I had a fantastic time on this cruise while I also made many new friends from the various media who went along. Also thank you to Pak Nil for entertaining us throughout the cruise. (Especially his witty game of Poison Ball or Bola Beracun in Malay). For those wanting additional information about the many other cruises around the region, you can get that from the Star Cruise website.

Legoland to house world’s biggest iconic Star Wars super weapon

Legoland Death Star

Image from The Star

Legoland to house world’s biggest iconic Star Wars super weapon

Fans of the sci-fi movie series Star Wars will be in for a treat with the world’s biggest Death Star model to be displayed at the Legoland Malaysia theme park. Made from 723,150 pieces of Lego bricks, the 6m tall model will be installed by the end of the next month. The model was designed to resemble the iconic moon-sized space station and super weapon that was first introduced in George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

The theme park’s model shop manager Stefan Bentivoglio, who headed a team of eight model builders for the project, said the Lego Miniland Death Star took 200 hours to design and will take another 1,800 hours to build and assemble. “It was designed by our Legoland California counterparts while the building and the assembling of the sphere is done entirely in Malaysia,” he told The Star during an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview of the project here yesterday.

He added that the sphere weighed about a tonne when completed with the installation of 135kg of stainless steel frames. “The model will even shoot laser beams accompanied with sound effects to make the Death Star come to life from the silver screen. Hopefully, the models will be able to convert those who do not know much about Star Wars into fans,” Bentivoglio said.

He said that the 90% completed model which is shaped like a sphere is about 2.3m in diameter and would light up at night with the help of about 10,000 glow-in-the dark Lego tiles to stay as true as possible to the one in the movie series.

Four different colours of Lego bricks – white, dark grey, light grey and luminous tiles were used to build the Death Star model and would be completed and displayed to visitors by July 26 for a limited period at the Nusajaya theme park. After that, it would be dissembled and displayed at other Legoland theme parks in Denmark, Germany, Britain, California and Florida.

“The model will be placed at a dedicated area of the theme park’s mini land and there will also be interactive display as well as smaller replicas of popular characters from the movie franchise,” he said. Other models and displays include Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader having a lightsabre duel, an X-wing fighter, the Emperor’s throne room, Garbage Masher and Trench Run – all made from Lego.

Source: The Star Malaysia – http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/6/17/nation/13247053&sec=nation

Nissan Almera Nismo Performance Concept unveiled in Malaysia

Nissan Almera Nismo Performance Concept Car

Nissan Almera Nismo Performance Concept unveiled in Malaysia

Nissan has quietly unveiled the Almera Nismo Performance Package concept at the Japan Super GT International Series in Sepang, Malaysia on the 16th June 2013. Apart from this, the new Nissan Juke Nismo was also on display next to the Almera here. However, there was no price of info about the smart looking vehicle.

Designed to preview a production model that will be introduced later this year, the Almera concept features an aerodynamic body kit with a front lip spoiler, revised side skirts, a rear diffuser and a trunk-mounted spoiler. The car is also equipped with a sports suspension, a Nismo exhaust and 17-inch alloy wheels. Despite being aimed at enthusiasts, the model is reportedly powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 102 HP (75 kW) and 139 Nm (102 lb-ft) of torque.

The price in Ringgit Malaysia was seen set at about RM79,000 without insurance. So speculation is that it will cost about RM85k-90k on-the-road when launched here in Malaysia.

While the model might not get your heart racing Nismo President Shoichi Miyatani said “We are glad to have our Nismo brand in Nissan’s mainstream models as it offers something special in terms of advanced motorsports technology, dynamic performance capabilities, and distinctively sporty design that is embodied in Nismo, Nissan’s motorsports, performance and personalization brand.”

Nissan fans are now patiently awaiting more news of the Nissan Almera Nismo Performance Concept car here in Malaysia.

Haze Red Alert: Muar API hits 383 – Johor, Malacca, Singapore worst hit

Haze in Malaysia

Haze red alert: Muar API hits 383 – Johor, Malacca, Singapore worst hit

It’s something in common that both Malaysia and Singapore would rather not have – haze that’s hit hazardous levels at both ends of the causeway. Just like the Singaporeans, Malaysians down south are getting the worst of the choking smoke caused by fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The worst hit was Muar, Johor. As of 11a.m, the air pollution index (API) there shot up to 383, which is rated dangerous. Kota Tinggi, also in Johor, recorded a very unhealthy level of 232. Levels above 301 are hazardous. The Department of Environment (DOE) released the figures this afternoon, identifying four other areas experiencing unhealthy levels – Pasir Gudang (199) and Larkin Lama (181), and Malacca town (137) and Bukit Rambai (119).

All afternoon session schools in Muar were ordered to close until further notice by Johor’s education director Mohd Nor A. Ghani. According to Ghani, a directive immediately goes out when the reading hits 300. Yesterday, Malacca’s government had urged all schools in the state to stop outdoor activities while Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam announced that operation rooms would be set up in places where the API exceeded 200.

The DOE has already banned open burning in Selangor, Johor and Malacca. The DOE lists API levels from 51 to 100 as moderate, 101 to 200 as unhealthy, and 201 to 300 as very unhealthy. Levels above 301 are hazardous. Most of the hotspots are in Sumatra’s Riau province, an area that is right across the Straits of Malacca and opposite Malacca, Johor and Singapore.

Like Muar, Singapore was badly hit. It experienced an all-time API high of 371 as of 1pm today. Meanwhile, Reuter reports that Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to the extent that some businesses and travel were disrupted. Air traffic controllers gave more time for aircraft between taking off and landing at Changi Airport, a major aviation hub, because of poor visibility.

Work at several Singapore construction sites slowed with few workers seen outdoors and fast-food operator McDonald’s suspended its delivery service across the city-state. An Indonesian airport that serves as a base for some of Chevron Corp’s Indonesian oilfields was shut because of the haze. Singapore called on Indonesia to do something.

“No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and well-being,” Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook page. Balakrishnan said Singapore had sent officials to an emergency haze meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. “We will insist on definitive action,” he said.

The illegal burning of forest in Sumatra, to the west of Singapore and Malaysia, to clear land for palm oil plantations is a chronic problem, particularly during the June to September dry season. Singapore, which prides itself on its clean environment and usually enjoys clear skies, saw its air quality deteriorate to unhealthy levels on Monday.

The top PSI readings in Singapore over the past two days have exceeded the peak of 226 reached in 1997 when smog from Indonesian fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia. Indonesian officials have tried to deflect blame by suggesting companies based in Singapore may be partly to blame for the fires. Singapore has said it wants Indonesia to provide maps of land concessions so it can act against firms that allow slash-and-burn land clearing.

Singapore-based palm oil companies with land concessions in Indonesia include Wilmar International Ltd, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd and First Resources Ltd. All three said yesterday they had “zero burning” policies and used only mechanical means to clear land. Cargill, whose Asia-Pacific regional hub is in Singapore, said there were no fires on its plantations in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan.

Source: Yahoo News Malaysia – http://my.news.yahoo.com/api-in-muar-at-337-danger-level-as-031143844.html

Audi R8 V10 facelift launched in Malaysia

Audi R8 V10 facelift Malaysia

Audi R8 V10 facelift launched in Malaysia

Audi has recently launched the R8 V10 facelift in Malaysia, where the model is now available to its future customers from RM1,250,000. According to the German based automaker, the facelifted version of the Audi R8 V10 has been recently launched in Malaysia, where the model is priced from RM1,250,000. The supercar has a single frame grille, new front and rear bumpers, matte black finish for the vent louvers on the sides, carbon sigma trim for the engine compartment cover, LED headlights, new daytime running lights and more. Other features offered in standard include the DVD Player, Bluetooth, MMI navi, Nappa leather sports seats, Bang & Olufsen sound system and much more.

Audi says that the biggest change for the mid-engine sports car is the new S tronic dual clutch transmission, which is replacing the old R tronic single clutch. This means that shifting is made a lot more faster through the gear lever or the steering wheel mounted paddles. The R8 V10 facelift is also getting launch control and a sports mode. The naturally aspirated V10 engine is producing a total output of 525 HP and it has a peak torque of 530 Nm. The model can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds (3.9 before the facelift), before reaching a top speed of 314 km/h. Average fuel consumption stands at 13.1 L / 100 km. For more information, please visit the Audi Malaysia Website on the Audi R8 V10 Facelift.

Borneo World Music Expo 2013 all set to take center stage

BWME 2013

Borneo World Music Expo 2013 all set to take center stage

Sarawak is all set to play host to another exciting event, the Borneo World Music Expo, the inaugural exposition for professionals and trade visitors within the international music scene. The Borneo World Music Expo (known affectionately as the BWME) which is going to be held from 24 to the 26 June in Kuching, Sarawak is happening just a few days before the very established Rainforest World Music Festival which will be held on the 28 to 30 June.

While the Rainforest Festival is about entertainment, the Expo is about the trade, networking, information dissemination and business behind the entertainment industry – concentrating on the World Music genre. The Expo seeks to be the market place where professionals come to present their services or to hire.

Being a musician or a band is not just about playing music but it is also about how to present and market the music, the image, the branding. It’s about how to get one’s information and music to the right people. On the other side of the coin, programmers need to have a big pool with vast variety to consider and to choose from when it comes to selecting the line-up for their events. The Borneo World Music Expo is just about bringing the two parties together where they will have a chance to show and tell and buy and sell.

The Expo, guided by the very experienced hands of Gerald Seligman, who was until November of 2009, General Director of WOMEX, the very well established world music Expo, in Berlin, has selected and invited programmers from all over the world to come to Sarawak Borneo where several showcase bands from Eastern and Asian regions are going to present their performances.

The Expo is also opened to everyone who wants to come and network and share, distribute their press kits, create more awareness of
their own music events, meet and extend their contacts. It seeks to be the open arena for everyone in the music industry to use it as a meeting place. The business of running music events also involve potential sponsors, media, event managers, entertainment venues, marketing companies, audio-visual services and equipment, record labels. For all these people, the BWME is going to be a useful tool and guide.

But it’s not all about just live shows and a bustling market place. There are daytime conferences that are informative and educational. There are panels of experienced professionals discussing aspects of the music industry and brainstorming discussions. In the words of Isabel Soffer founder of Live Sounds from New York,” I am coming to Sarawak with the hope of discovering new artists, traditions and cultures from Asia. Southeast Asia in particular is underrepresented in the US performing arts field and I hope to be able to make connections with artists, presenters, agents, and sponsors to begin bridging that gap”.

Sonya Mazumdar, Founder/CEO of EarthSync, a world music production house from India and an invited programmer, has this to say; “Asia’s rich musical tapestry needs to be featured much more in world music programming. A conscious effort is needed to create relevant platforms for collaborations and markets to showcase both traditional and contemporary acts”

The expo is supported by Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), an agency established by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia to further strengthen and position Malaysia as a major events hub for the region and Sarawak Convention Bureau.

Those interested to sign up as delegates to the conference can still do so. Delegate fee is RM360 inclusive of conference materials, lunch and 2 tea-breaks. For the public who are interested in watching the night showcases, tickets can be bought online or at the entrance and cost of these shows are only RM30. More information on this inaugural event can be found at the BWME 2013 Website.

135 Volunteers selected for RWMF 2013

RWMF 2013 Volunteers

135 Volunteers selected for RWMF 2013

The 16th edition of Rainforest World Music Festival 2-13 (RWMF) are welcoming 135 volunteers among the public. The volunteers will get an opportunity to gain experience, working at this annual music festival that ranked among the best 25 international festivals in the world.

The festival Secretariat received more than 400 applicants from 5 countries worldwide over the last few months. 50 will work in the Schleppers unit who will actively involve executing the logistics, technical and operational aspects on stage. The remaining volunteers will work at the Secretariat, Media Centre, Merchandise stalls, Access Control, Survey and other smaller festival segments.

“It has been a tradition of the festival, providing this platform to the volunteers among the public to gain experience in managing the event”, said Director of Corporate Communications – Sarawak Tourism Board, Madam Angelina Bateman. Adding to that, most of the applicants were received from those who highly qualified. Thus the festival depends much on their expertise and interest, she added.

Every year, RWMF is like a family ‘get-together’ when most of them return to volunteer at the festival. The commitments from the volunteers are wonderful and they are ready to help while enjoying their job at the festival. The RWMF Artistic Director, Ms Jun Lin said, “Working on a big many-layered production like the Rainforest fest is complex, hard work and 600% concentration. Having a strong and supportive team is essential. Then we all have a great festival”.

The festival provides the volunteers with complimentary entry to the festival, accommodation as well as Festival’s T-Shirt which to be worn while on duty. They will also receive a certificate of volunteering, which will make an additional reference in their biographies. The volunteers will work on shifts during 3-days event over the weekend from 28-30 June.

135 volunteers will be assigned to look after 21 bands confirmed for the RWMF this year. The bands are Rafly Wa Saja (Acheh, Indonesia), Mohsen Sharifian & The Lian Band (Iran), Nunukul Yuggera (Australia), Habadekuk (Denmark), Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble (South Africa), Spiritual Seasons (Ukraine), Pine Leaf Boys (USA), Chet Nuneta (France), Rey Vallenato Beto Jamaica (Columbia), Kries (Croatia), Kila (Ireland), Alp Bora (Austria) and Palsandae : Korean Performing Arts (Korea).

The international bands will be joined by Sarawak and Malaysian bands like Madeeh (Bidayuh traditional root), Juk Wan Emang (nose flute of Kayan), Native Chanting (oral blessings from the various indigenous tribes of Borneo), Maya Green (Sape), Rhythm in Bronze (Gong and Gamelan), Lan E’ Tuyang (Sape and Orang Ulu dance), Sarawak Drums (percussion instruments of Sarawak) and Shangyin Chinese Chamber Music Ensemble (Chinese traditional interwoven with Sarawak flavour).

Before the RWMF, there will be the Borneo World Music Expo 2013 which is being held at Kuching’s Pullman Hotel from the 24-26 June 2013 as a build up to the main event. This is also the first time the event is being held  here where it includes conferences, workshops, networking sessions, trade fair and musical showcases. The event is targeted for musician and artists to develop new contacts and global reach.

RWMF Tickets are priced at: RM120 for adults and RM60 for children aged 3 to 12 are now available on line at www.ticketcharge.com.my. A 3-day pass for adults costing RM330 and RM160 for children aged 3 to 12 are also available. For last minute attendees, please double check your accommodations as usually all the hotels would be sold out. More details available on website at www.rwmf.net. See you at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2013 in Sarawak, Borneo.

Port Dickson Helicopter Tours in Malaysia

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Port Dickson Helicopter Tours in Malaysia is a new product that is available on weekends at the PD Waterfront in the township of Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan. This exciting and adventurous ride will have you fly in the air overlooking the coastal township of PD, seeing resorts, roads and homes from a birds eye view. Started in March 2013, you can go directly to the PD Waterfront and seek the helicopter tours tent which is located right next to the PD McDonald’s Drive Thru. Below are pictures of the Helicopter Tour in PD and also information at the end. All pictures are used with permission from Malaysia Asia.

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Avilion Port Dickson view from the air

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Avilion PD

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Helicopter landing after the tour

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Aerial view of PD town

 

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PD Waterfront view from the helicopter

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Port Dickson Resorts aerial view

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Aerial view of the PD Water Festival 2013

To book this PD Helicopter Tour, please look for the white tent at the open air car park next to the McDonalds at the PD Waterfront.

  • Price: RM250 per person
  • Duration: 12-15 minutes
  • Availability: Weekends only (Subject to weather conditions)

PD is well known for their beaches, picnics and also resort style living with many new accommodations available. The newly launched PD Waterfront is also one of the latest attractions there which cater to all kinds of people. This is more of a modern lifestyle area minus the beach. If you are heading to Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan, you can consider this experience especially if you have never sat in a helicopter before, this would be a good time to try out the Port Dickson Helicopter Tours in Malaysia.