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Breath of fresh air in Bentong - August 12, 2017

BENTONG in Pahang is set to become one of the top destinations for city dwellers to take their mind off their hectic schedule, as it will soon serve as a satellite town to Kuala Lumpur.The lush greenery, in the strategically located Bentong, is one of the key reasons tourists find it a great place for a short retreat.While it is undoubtedly an upcoming destination town, Bentong can still learn a thing or two from Taiwan to push the envelope of its tourism sector further.Taiwan is a country with very limited resources and forest areas but it is deemed quite successful in maximising its agricultural and agro-industries.Bentong, will be able to tap into its rich natural resources for ecotourism.

Its district officer Datuk Azhar Arshad said the planning and methods adopted in Taiwan could be applied here to maximise the returns from ecotourism.“Among the proposals that we are looking into are to improve the Bentong ginger cultivation area and our organic estates so that it can be Bentong’s tourism products.“We also have our very own unique multicultural practices and the livelihood or activities by our orang asli which can be of interest to tourists,” he said, adding that one of the most vital factors was the professionalism and positivity in handling tourists, be it from foreign countries or other Malaysian states.Azhar recently led a delegation from Bentong to Taiwan for a knowledge-sharing trip with their Taiwanese counterparts and other officials to boost the tourism sector in Bentong.

Among the delegates were Pahang Tourism and Culture Ministry director Datuk Idros Yahya and Bentong Municipal Council president Datuk Mohd Shahid Ismail.In terms of ecotourism, Idros said Pahang’s target was “lung-washing” tourism as Bentong’s fresh air could be used to draw tourists.“What we have noticed in quite a number of countries is the lack of clean air for tourists to relax and unwind. Bentong has got the best that nature has to offer.“Location-wise, Bentong is very strategic as it is quite near to Kuala Lumpur. As such, it has a better pull factor,” he said, adding that discussions with industry players were also underway to promote the lung-washing concept.In addition, Bentong could also take a cue from the creativity the delegates saw in Taiwan.

Who would have thought that an abandoned sugar mill could be converted into a cultural hub featuring drums from various parts of the world?Without renovating or modifying the structure of the factory, the tenant of the premises fitted in performance theatres, a drum museum, classes and many other facilities.Located in the Rende District of the Tainan City in Southern Taiwan, that place is known as the Ten Drum Cultural Village.The Ten Drum percussion group took over the place as a rehearsal centre before it expanded and became a tourist magnet.Azhar said abandoned factories and tin mines in Bentong could be reused and turned into tourism attractions such as cultural hubs, depending on the feasibility of the ideas and transformations.

At a discussion and sharing session during the trip, Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s international affairs division deputy director Cheng Ying-Huei said creativity was invaluable and it was very much encouraged by the Taiwan government.The working trip to Taiwan was an invitation by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, following the success of the national level Chinese New Year open house held in Dataran Bentong earlier this year.Among the other places that the delegation visited were the Sun Moon Lake, Tai-Yi Ecological Leisure Farm, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Hom Chi Organic Leisure Farm, Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village and the Kenting National Park.

During a visit to the Li Kang Biomedical factory in Tainan, its chairman Cheng Yu Hsiu said he hoped to arrange a visit to Bentong and find out more about the market and future development of ginger, which Bentong was famous for.The company, which has more than 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry and herbal products, said ginger could be developed and used in health products such as supplements or even cosmetics.

Like Malaysia, Taiwan is famed for its night markets which sell a wide array of items, from street food to consumer goods and souvenirs. One could not help but notice that many hawkers and petty traders were youngsters in their 20s, some selling their own products and others with their own concept of street food. Bentong’s answer to that would be its weekly Bentong Walk on Jalan Chui Yin, which has attracted many visitors since its inception in late 2015.



Liow: This train will arrive ahead of time - August 10, 2017

KUANTAN: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) can be up and running well before its estimated completion date in 2024.

“We are confident that China’s contractors will be able to help speed up and implement the project, completing it before time,” said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai after the ground-breaking ceremony here yesterday.

“Yes, I am optimistic, because they are very strong contractors,” he added.

Liow was also positive that ECRL will benefit the east coast, together with the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) and Kuantan Port, both of which are expected to be ready by next year.

 

He added that with a transportation ratio of 70% freight and 30% passengers, the ECRL will see growth in the economic factors of the east coast and also benefit people living in the east coast.

Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce (MCCC) Pahang president Datuk Andy Chiew said the rail-ship concept of the ECRL and Kuantan Port will allow China to deliver goods and material to other Asean and European countries at a lower cost and in less time.

“Once the rail-ship concept is up and running, products and material from China can go through Malaysia to neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam,” said Chiew.

“This will save time and cut cost, as currently, China has to go through Singapore port to transport material.”

Chiew said it only takes three days for a ship from Qinzhou Port in China to reach Kuantan Port compared to four days to reach Singapore.

He added that the rail-ship concept provides China with another option for transporting material to Europe.

With ECRL, goods from Kuantan Port can be freighted to Port Klang before being shipped to Europe.

Federation of Chinese Asso­ciations of Malaysia president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah said the ECRL will help bring some economic balance between the east coast and the west of Malaysia.

He added that the rail would also boost tourism, giving travellers easy access to tourist spots in the east coast like Taman Negara, Pulau Tioman, Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian.

Kuantan draft plan unveiled - July 13, 2017

KUANTAN: A replacement for the Kuantan 2035 Local District Draft Plan has been unveiled and the public have one month to scrutinise it.

PLANMalaysia deputy director-general (planning) Rokibah Abdul Latif said the report will be displayed at the Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) lobby and the PLANMalaysia@Pahang office at Kompleks Tun Razak, Indera Mahkota until Aug 10.

The replacement is for the first plan which was unveiled in 2015.

“The report can also be viewed at the PLANMalaysia and MPK websites,” she said at the launch of the draft plan viewing here.

Rokibah said the replacement was necessary considering the latest scenario, trends and pressures of development as well as the importance of state projects.

She said the replacement draft was made after taking into account the Government’s commitment at the national level and also the development of high impact projects such as the East Coast Rail Line, the new state administration centre in KotaSAS as well as the East Coast Economic Region master plan.

“The report explains in detail each component of proposed lot-based land use based on the development, analysis and projection cores that have been set according to five focus areas,” said Rokibah.

These focus areas are sustainable land development and disaster risk management, safe and inclusive community development, tourism and sustainable town design, economic, agro-based industries, forestry development and sustainable mining as well as effective administration.

Rokibah said five briefing sessions and a mobile counter will be set up during the publicity period at the Kuantan Urban Transformation Centre, the Balok, Gambang and Tanjung Lumpur public halls and the Sungai Lembing old theatre to get public feedback.

State Housing and Township Committee chairman Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said the publicity period is a platform for the public to give their views and suggestions before the draft is gazetted by the state government.

“If the public requests for an extension, we may consider it. What is important is for the people to really understand what we are planning,” he said.

Present at the launch were state secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail and MPK president Datuk Fadzilla Salleh.

Dive site to be hotspot for clownfish - July 22, 2017

KUANTAN: A popular tourist spot along the beach near Kampung Balok will now become even more popular with the launch of Kampung Nemo, a special village for clownfish.

“Houses” will be built on the seabed of the site some 8km from the beach to attract clownfish.

Pahang Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said the dive site had always been visited by divers and what attracted them was the huge number of clownfish found here.

He said to make it more interesting for the divers, there was a need for artificial reefs to be placed at the diving spot, which was as big as a football field.

 

Tourism and Culture Ministry’s Pahang office director Datuk Idros Yahya was the one who came up with the idea to provide “homes” for the clownfish, said Mohd Sharkar.

“Another interesting part of this programme is that property developer Pasdec Corporation has willingly provided 10 artificial reefs for the clownfish.

“This is a good move in promoting the tourism sector through the participation of a corporate company. Pasdec has been building houses for the people and now it has taken another step forward by promoting tourism, in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy,” Mohd Sharkar said after launching Kampung Nemo here.

Also present were Pasdec Holdings Berhad chief executive officer Datuk Zuber Shamsuri and Tourism Pahang general manager Datuk Ishak Mokhtar.

Mohd Sharkar added that Kampung Nemo, as a tourism product, could be the first of its kind in the world.

He said the village is expected to see an increase in the number of tourists and scuba divers while the local diving centres will reap the benefits.

“We also welcome individuals and companies to erect a ‘house’ in the village, by purchasing the artificial reefs at RM3,000 each. These will then be transported to the seabed at the site about 8m deep,” he said.

 

A challenging race in Tioman - July 10, 2017

ROMPIN: The diversity of flora and fauna in Pulau Tioman is once again the centre of most challenges in this year’s Sultan Ahmad Shah Tioman International Challenge (Sastiec).

The 10th edition of the race saw the most number of participants, with 183 runners taking on the longest route of its kind at 50km.

The task of climbing Gunung Kajang on the island really tested the participants’ mental and physical fitness and they admitted it was the toughest race they ever took part in.

Event director Col Datuk Thong Kok Seng said the world class full marathon’s gruelling challenges had however not jeopardised the purpose of the event in promoting the flora and fauna of the island.

“The challenges we have in this event have in fact attracted an increasing number of participants since its inception in 2008.

In that year, only 80 runners took part but the number kept on increasing yearly.

“Despite the longest distance this year, we received the most number of participants, proving that the challenges are just a piece of cake for them. We started with a 35km distance in the beginning and the further the distance that we set, the more runners took part. This proves the event is successful,” he said.

One of the runners passing through a rocky and steep stretch.

 

Thong added that Pulau Tioman offers a nice place for every aspect of tourism.

“The runners do not come alone. They bring along their friends and relatives. I was told that the island is suitable for honeymooners, which is another niche market in the state’s tourism industry.

“This is win-win situation for everyone when people visit here throughout the year and the race is another pulling factor for tourist arrival,” he said.

Sastiec president Datuk Seri Tengku Kamarulzaman Sultan Abu Bakar said the event was very much attributed to the Pahang Ruler Sultan Ahmad Shah, who loves nature, adventure and outdoor activities.

Tengku Kamarulzaman said the inauguration was a resounding success and Sultan Ahmad Shah had said in his speech in 2008 that he would like to see the event being organised annually.

“In conjunction with Sultan Ahmad Shah’s 80th birthday in 2011, we planned a special route to take participants to an idyllic village on the southern corner of Tioman called Kampung Nipah. It is here that the late Sultan Abu Bakar was said to have resided in the old days during his visits to Tioman.

“As years passed, the event focused on testing the participants’ endurance in traversing the jungle of Pulau Tioman. We have had themes such as ‘The Nature’s Race’, ‘The Culture Race’ where participants took part in local traditional games as well as the marathon, and in 2015, we named the event ‘Ruby Jubilee Race’ in honour of the sultan’s 40th year of reign as the Sultan of Pahang.

“For 2016, we designed a gruelling race called ‘The Adventure Race’ combining the four natural elements of Pulau Tioman, which are its white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, pristine mountain and rugged mountain terrain, to test the endurance of the runners.

Tengku Kamarulzaman said 2017 was a special milestone for the organiser of Sastiec as it was the 10th year since the race’s inception in 2008.

The partcipants making their way uphill during the race.

 

“It has been 10 challenging years since we organised the first ‘Toughest Adventure Race in South-East Asia’ and to commemorate this special event we named our anniversary race this year ‘The Race of the Decade’.

Tengku Kamarulzaman said the event’s objectives included the promotion and positioning of Pulau Tioman on the world’s eco-tourism map, develop public interest in eco-tourism, promote community-based eco-tourism and economic agenda in Pahang, increase public awareness on nature conservation and sustainable tourism and also promote extreme sports, traditional games and eco-challange activities.

In the international men’s category, the Kenyans grabbed all top 10 places with Kipchirchir Lel clocking 3:54.49 to be the champion while first runner-up David Kipsang clocked 4:20.03 and Elisha Kipratich Sawe clocked 4:38.22 to win the third place.

In the international ladies’ category, the Kenyans too were the top three winners.

Champion Valentine Jepkemoi Serem recorded a time of 5:52.18, followed by Rebecca Nakuma (6:20.20) as first runner-up and Irene Kemunto Mogaka (6:27.49) as third placed.

In the local men’s category, Mohd Athird Ismail (5:07.06), Mohd Azuan Asmuni (5:14.37) and Mohammad Affindi Nudin (5:27.15) were the first, second and third placed respectively.

In the local ladies’ category, Tahira Najmunissa Muhammad Zaid (6:23.00) from Kuala Kubu Bharu, was first placed followed by Foo Kam Miew (6:37.11) from Kuala Lumpur and Norhani Mohd Jaffar (6:53.45) from Selangor.

In the veteran men’s category, Saleh Abdullah (6:20.55), Rahmat Kasbon (7:11.35) and Ong Chi Lai (7:16.01) were the top three winners.

All prizes were presented by Tengku Kamarulzaman.

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