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Gateway to east coast - January 11, 2020

KUANTAN: The Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport in Kuantan can become an important avenue to bring in more foreign tourists to Pahang and other east coast states if aggressive efforts are taken to promote it. State culture, unity, welfare, women, and family development committee chairman Datuk Seri Shahaniza Shamsuddin said it was possible and a good idea for the airport to receive more international flights. The airport recently began receiving flights from Singapore via a low-cost airline, Scoot, owned by Singapore Airlines. Shahaniza said the location of the airport, which is situated between the east coast and southern regions, was ideal for local flights from Kota Kinabalu and Kuching as well as countries within the Southeast Asian region. With its location, it was also possible to cater to flights from China, Vietnam, the Philippines and even South Korea and Japan.

“However, there are various aspects that we have to look into, such as the capacity of the airport, which needs further upgrading works, including the expansion of its runway and so on, ” she said at a press conference after receiving some 140 tourists from Singapore via Scoot recently. Shahanza was responding to a suggestion by a tourism operator to promote the airport. Also present at the press conference were Tourism Malaysia’s Asia and Africa international promotion division director Mohamad Taib Ibrahim, Tourism Ministry Pahang Office director Datuk Idros Yahya and Pahang Tourism director Datuk Ishak Mokhtar. Shahaniza said until September 2019, Pahang received 9,979,433 tourists and for this year, it was targeting 15 million visitors to the state. She said as for now, there were sufficient rooms in the state, with 32,109 rooms and 564 hotels.

In line with achieving targets for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, Shahaniza said the state-level tourism promotion had started since November last year with the launch of the tagline “Pahang Simply Awesome” and “Pahang Welcomes You”. She said besides aggressively developing the state’s tourist attractions, the government had also played an important role in managing the environmental aspect as both tourism and environment are inter-related. “It is pointless if we promote our products for tourists but at the same time, we spoil the environment, ” she said, citing the recent operations to clear illegal and polluting farms in Cameron Highlands as a positive move.

Source : The Star Online

Pahang gears up for more tourists in 2020 - Dec 7, 2019

KUANTAN: Pahang expects to see an increase in tourist arrivals thanks to the spillover effect from the expected 1.8 billion visitors to the Asia-Pacific region next year. State tourism, environment, and plantations committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said Pahang’s easy accessibility, its wide range of tourist attractions and the 35,000 available rooms were all added value for visitors.

Sharkar said the Central Spine Road which connects Klang Valley to Kota Baru, going past Bentong, Raub and Lipis in Pahang, would also make it easy for tourists to visit the state. He said along the route, the tourist arrivals would boost eco-tourism clusters in the three districts and entry points of Taman Negara in Merapoh, Lipis and Kuala Tahan, Jerantut. “Some 1.4 billion tourists from all over the world visited the Asia-Pacific region last year and according to United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation, the number is expected to increase by between 3% and 4% to 1.8 billion.

“Pahang alone recorded 13.4 million domestic and foreign tourist arrivals last year. “Pahang has also recorded the most number of domestic tourists at 9.2 million. “As such, Pahang can be considered a top tourist destination, ” Sharkar said in his speech during the launch of the Pahang Festival and its new tourism motto “Simply Awesome” in Kuala Lumpur. Also present were Tourism Pahang general manager Datuk Ishak Mokhtar, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry Pahang Office director Datuk Idros Yahya and other tourism agencies and operators from Pahang. Sharkar said as the biggest state in the peninsular, Pahang had various attractions to offer tourists such as highlands, beaches, islands, theme parks, and natural rainforests.

He noted that the development of information technology had a huge impact on the tourism industry where it had transformed and changed the landscape through apps that made it easier for tourists to plan their visits. He said the tourism authority in the state had already launched its application on PahangGo for easy access to all kinds of deals.

Surfing as a sport and tourism draw : November 20, 2019

Surfing has also caught the interest of many women riders and here, Qadeja is maneuvering and riding the waves like a pro. -Pic by Zainal Aziz

KUANTAN: The sport of surfing has existed since 1757 when explorers spotted Polynesians surfing the waves. As it gained popularity, surfing was culturally associated with Hawaiians. The other US states picked it up eventually, and its exponents spread most notably in California beach cities and as far south as San Diego. This further evolved into a lifestyle. There were constant surf meets which attracted top surfers from all over the world and offered huge prize money. Currently, surfing is a famous and lucrative professional sport bringing commercial value to those involved and more importantly, to communities where surfing has become annual sporting events.

These surfing locations are frequented by tourists and sports enthusiasts. In Peninsular Malaysia, there are strong waves and favorable conditions for surfing during the monsoon season on the east coast. But, surfing is still in its infancy in the east coast states, particularly Pahang. Surfing receives strong support from the Pahang branch of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry. The ministry believes that the sport has potential, and could benefit the country’s tourism sector as is happening in countries such as the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. There is much enthusiasm and commitment from individuals and groups involved in the sport. So much so there is a national surfing association to regulate and supervise this new and unique sport. One thing’s for sure, youths and teenagers now have another healthy and beneficial lifestyle to be involved in, instead of being lured into negative activities. Cherating, Pahang, is now on the global surfing map due to the many international surfing meets held there. Malaysian surfers or riders have also been competing in international tournaments in the Philippines, Bali in Indonesia and Korea.

Concerted efforts to develop the sport has shown results as several Pahang surfers have qualified to represent Malaysia in the Philippines Southeast Asian (Sea) Games. A commendable achievement indeed by our talented male and female young surfers. For those interested and keen to enjoy this water sports, a showcase of competitive surfing can be experienced at the Safari Surfing Grom Search for Kids and Junior Surf Open Challenge 2019 in Cherating from Dec 13-15. The event is a collaboration with the Pahang government and is a must for watersports fans to witness surfers from Malaysia and other countries. The trip can also be an excellent time to spend with family during the year-end school holidays. Other locations currently promoting wave surfing are Desaru, Johor, and Penang.

With a regular sports calendar, active and sustained surfing activities and development of more and more professional Malaysian surfers, it will be no surprise if the sport gains further popularity while bringing in tourism revenue. All the best to all our young national surfers at the Philippines Sea Games and do our country proud with a surfing medal brought home.

14 million tourist arrivals in Pahang - December 13, 2019

KUANTAN: Up to Nov 30, 14 million tourists have visited Pahang, compared with 13.4 million last year. Tourism Pahang general manager Datuk Ishak Mokhtar said two mega-events, namely Pesta Air Chenor in Maran in April and the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge in September, would attract more tourists next year. He said Pahang recorded the highest number of tourist arrivals in the country last year, with 9.2 million tourists, followed by Johor (7.8 million) and Perak (7.6 million). State Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said popular highland attractions — like Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, and Janda Baik — continued to be major crowd pullers.

He said top beaches like Cherating, Teluk Chempedak and Tioman were also popular. Other attractions, he said, included the National Park and the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Lanchang, where visitors could feed, bathe and take pictures with elephants. “With many interesting places to visit and a lot of things to do, visitors are spoilt for choice.” He said tourists could plan their holidays according to their needs and budget due to a wide range of accommodation, facilities and packages offered. “For example, if someone plans to visit the beach during the monsoon season, they can try surfing. Or if they want to try the state’s delicacies, they can ride on high powered motorcycles to Temerloh on a Sunday to visit Pekan Sehari and taste the famous ikan patin dishes.” Sharkar said Bentong recorded the highest number of tourist arrivals in Pahang last year with 8.3 million, followed by Kuantan (2.4 million) and Cameron Highlands (1.4 million).

In JOHOR BARU, it is hoped that more tourists would visit the state in conjunction with the Visit Johor Year 2020. Tourism Johor director Zihan Ismail said up to last month, the state recorded 14.91 million foreign tourists compared with 14.28 million in the same period last year. She said the state recorded 7.8 million local tourists last year. Zihan added that Tourism Johor had lined up a “20 events and 20 destinations” plan to attract more tourists. “There are a number of events and new destinations that we will focus on.” She said among the major events were Sukan Malaysia 2020 in July and the Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival. “Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the kite event and we plan to attract more participants.”

Zihan said Tourism Johor would promote different segments for different markets. “For the Japanese market, for example, we will focus on promoting cultural products. This is based on the feedback we received. “For the Indian market, we will promote the state’s administrative capital, Kota Iskandar, in Iskandar Puteri because many Indian tourists like to go there to take their pre-wedding pictures as there are many beautiful buildings.” Another new destination that would be promoted, she said, was the Skyscape at Komtar JBCC, a 150m-high observation deck that was recently opened by Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. “Visitors can find out about these tourism products on our newly-revamped website, which will be launched early next year, as well as through our Facebook page.”

Rustic hinterland of Pahang : October 24, 2019

THE engine strains, propelling the fiberglass longboat I am in against the current. Looking down one side of the boat’s low hull I can see tea brown waters churning; waters that are rich in organics and nutrients that nourish the lands and people nearby. This is Sungai Pahang, a mighty overflow that runs through the heart of the state. I am on the Pahang river near the town of Temerloh, 110 km from Kuantan, the state capital. I am somewhere near the riverbanks of Pahang’s second-largest town heading towards one of Temerloh’s many floating fish farms to visit what is arguably its most famous product: freshwater ikan patin or silver catfish.

Named Ikan Patin Madu, the farm is a roadside shop and series of floating cages tethered along the river bank. Here in the cages, juvenile patin or fry are fed and kept until they mature, which takes six months. The nature of Sungai Pahang itself also sustains the fish, which is said to impart a unique flavor to it. Speaking of flavors, no visit to Temerloh is complete without tasting the varied ikan patin dishes here. Temerloh is known as the capital for ikan patin not merely because of its fish farms but also its restaurants offering savory ikan patin dishes, including the ubiquitous ikan patin masak tempoyak (silver catfish cooked in fermented durian gravy).


Kampung Labu is also a gateway to Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan by boat

Along with other group members on a local cuisine discovery trip called Authentic Pahang Exploration organized by the Tourism Malaysia Eastern Region, we stop at Restoran Ikan Patin Bangau, a popular eatery secluded in the small village of Kampung Bangau. The restaurant operates from a family home and is less than a few hundred meters away from the roadside shop of the fish farm, which of course means it can offer the freshest catch. The dishes served here are traditional Temerloh delicacies, and the place is packed with diners coming from all over the country every weekend and public holidays. Also tucked away within the quiet village of Kampung Bangau is Ina Kraf, owned by the soft-spoken and humble Muhaimin Hasbollah. Visiting his serene-looking woodshop after a hearty lunch of ikan patin and fresh traditional Malay salads of ulam, I am surprised and quite proud to learn that Muhaimin is an internationally acclaimed master wood craftsman. Quietly and unassumingly, Muhaimin has been keeping the traditional Malay wood craftsmanship alive at his shop here in Temerloh. His dedication to his craft and skill has garnered many recognitions, among them the winner of the best craftsmanship award at the International Live Wood Carving Show and Competition 2012, China. Crafting items that range from small wooden boxes to traditional mancala or congkak boards and even large display pieces, each item is aesthetically mesmerizing and detailed. What also makes his creations unique and makes for collector pieces is the meaning behind each element of his carvings, such as how the flower stems intertwine without touching each other which signifies the respect youths have for elders in Malay society.


From the village of Kampung Bangau. we then head towards the village of Kampung Desa Murni, some 10km away. It is here that visitors looking for a modern resort stay with a village atmosphere will be pleased to discover Kampungstay Desa Murni, a resort that highlights the traditions and cultures of the surrounding villages. Although the establishment markets itself as a village homestay experience, I can only describe it as a resort since I have never seen a Malay village with a swimming pool. Kampungstay Desa Murni is a collection of modern and comfortable houses with traditional Malay village design, such as wooden balconies and wooden window shutters. In line with the local cuisine discovery aspect of the trip, it is here that the group members discover traditional Pahang desserts such as kuih pena and dodol kukus. Demonstrated by the villagers from nearby the Kampungstay, group members not only get to see the step by step preparations of these increasingly rare and hard to find desserts but also taste their unique flavours that made them popular in the villages of Pahang in times of festivals or celebrations in yesteryears. Interestingly, many of the group members invited to the Authentic Pahang Exploration are resort and hotel chefs, since Tourism Malaysia Eastern Regions hopes that they will be able to reproduce the recipes and highlight them at their own establishments as part of promoting the traditional cuisine of Pahang in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020.


Kampung Labu is also a gateway to Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan by boat

At 459km in length, Pahang River is the longest river in Peninsular Malaysia and the country’s third longest. The mighty river begins with the meeting of two rivers, Sungai Tembeling and Jelai at the confluence of Kuala Tembeling. I find myself at Kampung Labu, one of many small villages found on the riverbanks of the Tembeling river before it reaches and meets Jelai river. Here, along the river and separated by time and distance, a unique dish was created and had evolved through the years. Perhaps out of necessity to use whatever ingredients available around them, the inhabitants of the district of Jerantut had created a unique sour tasting dish using the fermented seeds of the perah tree. The seeds of the perah tree are poisonous, and can only be consumed after proper preparations through peeling, drying and pounding. The resulting ingredient is then used to prepare Gulai Asam Rong, a sour and nutty tasting soup made with freshwater fish and vegetables such as eggplants. What is also interesting is how the villagers had adapted the dish to also supplement the perah seeds with the much easily found rubber tree seeds, due to the sometimes scarcity of the perah tree which can only be found in the jungles. Kampung Labu village elder Mak Wan tells me that many villagers now prepare the dish using rubber tree seeds instead of the perah tree seeds, reminding me of the adaptability of these small communities. Situated halfway by the main road that connects the town of Jerantut to the iconic national park of Taman Negara, Kampung Labu has also become a transport hub for tourists who want to take the scenic boat rides upriver towards the national park. Built in 2013, the Labu Sentral terminal cuts the boat journey to almost half, since a boat ride from Kuala Tembeling may take up to four hours and even longer of the river’s water level is low.


Kuih Pena is a steamed traditional dessert with a delicate and light taste

In contrast to Kampung Labu that sits along the banks of the Tembeling river, Kampung Kuala Medang sits on the river bank of the Jelai river as it flows down to form the Pahang river. Located 51km away from the historic town of Lipis, the former capital of Pahang, Kampung Kuala Medang is perhaps one of the best examples of the state’s rustic and endearing hinterlands. So much so, the homestay programme of Kuala Medang that began in 2002 has even won numerous awards and recognitions for its homestay experience, offering activities with villagers such as tapping rubber trees, oil palm harvesting, bamboo raft-making as well as cultural demonstrations of traditional games, dances and cooking. It is at the cooking demonstration here in Kuala Medang that I learn about Nasi Kebuli, a rice dish said to originate from the royal palace of Pahang. Looking at the women of the village prepare the dish, I see that it is a tedious task, with them boiling the chicken in a richly spiced broth before deep frying it and then using the frying oil to fry the rice before finally simmering it in the broth. Although I am no cook and would be challenged to even cook rice in a rice cooker, even to my untrained eyes I realise this is indeed a dish reserved for special occasions and celebrations, and it would make perfectly good sense if it indeed originated from the kitchen of a royal palace.Another unique dish found here is Lemang Tepung, a sweet dessert of flour, palm sugar and coconut milk cooked in bamboo. Having only seen the more popular savoury type of lemang made with glutinous rice, it’s a reminder of how prevalent the use of bamboo once was in the rural communities of Pahang as well as around the country. Not only was bamboo used for food and construction, it was also extensively used for making tools, cooking utensils and cultural uses. Another interesting fact about the bamboo used here in Kuala Medang for preparing the Lemang Tepung is that it is of the Semeliang species, the same species of bamboo used by the nearby Semai Orang Asli tribe to make their hunting blowpipes.


The hearty spread available at Ikan Patin Bangau Restaurant.

Steeped in history and tradition, the hinterlands of Pahang are home to some of the nation’s most fascinating food, crafts and culture a visitor can experience. Although far from being a food connoisseur or foodie, even a person such as myself is able to appreciate the unique identities of the local delicacies discovered here along my journey. The varied landscapes of Pahang with its hills and valleys and rapid flowing rivers have shaped and enriched not only its cuisine but almost every aspect of the daily lives of the rural communities here. The Authentic Pahang Exploration is perhaps one of the best initiatives taken by Tourism Malaysia Eastern Region in its efforts to promote the state for Visit Malaysia Year 2020. Source : NST

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