Malaysia

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Mangala Resort & Spa – Pahang, Malaysia

Realised beauty in a palm oil estate

Mangala Resort & Spa (Mangala) is located within a serene plantation in Malaysia’s East Coast cultural heartland, Pahang. Boasting a total of 31 villas, this resort located in Gambang has been rejuvenated from barren mining lands to a natural expanse of green and tranquil garden of palm and fruit trees. This beautiful natural scene is further accentuated with a lake and extensive tropical landscaping.

Mangala offers an eco-leisure experience with no compromise on luxury with each villa being equipped with stylish and contemporary facilities to create a perfect retreat within natural surroundings. There are ranges of relaxing villas that offer spacious and serene natural wood-decking, enhanced by tropical landscaping and also offer privacy and combine tranquillity with luxurious flair.

The range of villas includes Jala Villas, that overlooks a peaceful lake; Vana Villas, which offers a private pool situated on gently sloping land with spectacular lake views and palm forest as a backdrop; Sara Cottages, which are luxurious cottages that overlook wetlands and offer a picturesque view of the beautiful natural sights and sounds, perfect for nature lovers who enjoy observing wetland birds, fish and plants.

Mangala Resort & Spa is an unparalleled leisure resort that has been designed around the needs of travellers who seek the finest hospitality services and experience. Being a boutique resort, they offer personalised and professional services with a unique range of activities and facilities such as gym, infinity pool, wading pool, and others. Mangala Spa is designed as a tranquil retreat with comprehensive and enticing wellness programmes. These include a range of on-site activities and excursions such as cycling, canoeing and archery in addition to the services of an on-site naturalist and recreation consultancy team who can tailor personalised activities based upon individual needs and requirements.

Mangala Resort & Spa is a special place with so much positive energy. At Mangala, every breath is pure refreshment and revival with an emphasis on the purity of spirit and the state of being happy and healthy. It is no wonder that the name Mangala bears the meaning auspicious well-being in Sanskrit.

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Water Villa at Mangala Resort & Spa

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Staying Green in the City – Penang

Olive Tree Hotel in Penang is an eco-conscious option for the business-oriented traveller

Does the idea of staying in a non-green hotel give you pause? With the new Olive Tree Hotel in Penang, you won’t have to worry about your hotel stay causing harm to the environment. Nestled along the industrial and corporate corridors of Penang, the Olive Tree Hotel is a Green Building Index (GBI) compliant hotel, and with its choice of 228 rooms and 24 suites, guests can expect functional spaces designed for the convenience of business and leisure traveller alike.

The Olive Tree Hotel is located just 10 minutes from the Penang International Airport and 20 minutes from its city centre. With a short scenic drive, guests will be able to access shopping centres and popular tourist spots like Queensbay Mall, Sunshine Square Shopping Complex, the Bukit Jambul Country Club, and the Penang Aquarium. The hotel even offers a scheduled shuttle service to the airport, Queensbay Mall, and nearby free trade zones.

Each room in Olive Tree is equipped with a 40-inch LED HD Television, and Chirotech mattress and microfibre pillows to ensure maximum comfort. The rooms are also equipped with high-speed internet access and an in-room safe deposit box. Avid readers of news and magazines may also obtain complimentary access to Press Reader, a smart-phone application available at Olive Tree Hotel which offers up to 5,000 newspapers and magazines.

For those who wish to host their events here, the hotel’s grand ballroom with its mezzanine gallery can comfortably accommodate up to 600 people, and is equipped with state of the art audio visual equipment. The well equipped conference and seminar facilities are flexible enough to be configured to suit a variety of needs and agendas. Olive free Hotel is located next to SPICE, near airports and both bridges.olive-tree-hotel-1

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10 Days of Festival-Filled Fun in Penang

Year-end gatherings highlight the best in literature, art and music in the pearl of the Orient

Literature critics, art enthusiasts and audiophiles will have to mark their calendars for the months of November and December as the stunning and remarkable “10 Days 3 Festivals” in Penang returns this year. The objective of having all these festivals back to back is to draw in visitors from all over and to ensure a fruitful stay and an enjoyable holistic arts festival in Penang. Read on more to find out about each individual event and what will be the highlights at each festival.

George Town Literary Festival (above) 

25 – 27 November

The George Town Literary Festival (GTLF), one of the most beloved and respected literary festivals in the region, returns for the sixth year in celebration of poetry, prose and spoken word from 25 to 27 November.

georgetown-literary-festival-1Helmed by Festival Director, Bernice Chauly, the three-day festival will see panel discussions, readings, spoken word performances, dance and film screenings around the festivals theme; “Hiraeth”, a Welsh word which means “the longing for a homeland that is no longer there”. The theme captures a universal unrest and longing for a better world in a reality that sees mass displacement of people, gross violations of human rights and growing chasm caused by the proliferation of crippling neoliberalism and regressive ideologies.

The festival’s stellar line-up of world literary giants and respected social commentators include Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), Adriaan van Dis (Netherlands), Olga Martynova (Germany), AC Grayling and James Scudamore (UK), Ayu Utami (Indonesia), Tishani Doshi and Mahesh Dattani (India).

This year’s keynote address will be delivered by leading Malaysian feminist activist and writer Zainah Anwar, with headlining Malaysian writers including National Laureate of Malaysia Muhammad Haji Salleh, Tash Aw, Faisal Tehrani, Dina Zaman and Karim Raslan.

GTLF 2016 is free and open to public, with the exception of the writing workshops.

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Visit Malaysia As Soon As You Can

The four Reasons Why Malaysia Got to Be Your Next Travel Destination

Warm waters, white sandy beaches, buzzing cities, rare wildlife and tasty cuisine. Stretching from the mainland Peninsula to Malaysian Borneo, it’s a natural playground for you to indulge your passions, whether they are cultural, natural, spiritual or playful – or a combination of all four.

Cultural wonder

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Kampung Baru – Malaysia

Capital Kuala Lumpur, your first stop, might be electric with modem life – centred around the glass bullets that are the Petronas Towers – but traditional Malay life can still be found among Kampung Baru’s wooden houses and street stalls. Sample some local favourites, like the fragrant rice dish nasi lemak.

Outside the capital, Penang Island’s UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town is full of architectural ghosts from its historic past. Meanwhile Melaka’s history as a Chinese, Portuguese and Arabian trading port is still felt in a melting pot of culture and cuisine.

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George Town is on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list – Penang Island, Malaysia

Another highlight is to stay with the indigenous Sabah and Sarawak people.

Travellers can organise a visit with a host family in a kampong (traditional village) or a homestay at a tribal longhouse.

Get beached

Of course, Malaysia’s 800-plus islands offer beach-dwellers and water-babies endless opportunity. The Terengganu islands alone have miles of postcard-perfect white-sand beaches for you to squidge between your toes.

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Diving at Sipidan Island – Malaysia

Those keen to get in – and under – the water will soon discover why divers rate Malaysia so highly. The island of Sipadan is a word-class spot for turtles, sharks and vertigo-inducing coral walls, while Labuan Marine Park is the resting place of wrecks – and the marine life that now call them home.

Have a wild adventure

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Explore Taman Negara National Park with its rainforests – Malaysia

For thrill seekers of all abilities, Malaysia offers an unforgettable experience. Your wanderlust can have you scaling 4,095m Mt Kinabalu, taking in the fauna and flora of Taman Negara National Park from its network of canopy walkways or exploring Deer Cave at Gunung Mulu National Park. For those who like more of an adrenaline buzz, Malaysia’s rivers – like the Kuala Kubu Bharu – offer a wide range of whitewater adventures.

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Proboscis monkey in its natural habitat at Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary – Sabah, Malaysia

A visit to the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah will put you in the natural habitat of the indigenous proboscis monkey. Just as endangered are the orangutans of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre or the Malaysian tiger that have made the Royal Belum Rainforest their home.

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An Orangutan mother and its cub at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

Indulge yourself

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Melaka’s Jonker Walk Night Market

Once you’ve finished hanging with the wildlife, then start getting back in touch with yourself. Malaysia’s endless number of tiny islands are the perfect setting for some serious relaxation, whether pampering yourself with local healing rituals on one of Langkawi’s 99 islands or taking in the scenery from a cruise-boat deck. Or you can enjoy a spot of retail therapy among the bustling boutiques of Melaka’s Jonker Walk or the heady atmosphere and street food of Penang Island’s night market.

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George Town Festival in Penang

Celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Penang at its annual George Town Festival this summer. Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage, the festival transform the Penang town into a stage to showcase performances, installations and collaborations with local and international artists from around the globe.

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Old George Town Streets that becamea UNESCO World Heritage

Highlights of the month-long festival include the A+SEAN Showcase, an outdoor event that includes giant installations of mammoth machines in Strandbeests by Theo Jansen and a host of popular bands from Malaysia and around the region.

In this short video you will see how “The Strandbeests” work

The George Town Festival commissioned Pearl of the Eastern & Oriental is not to be missed as well. Singaporean writer/director Lim Yu-Beng presents the second part in a trilogy of odes to his father’s home of Penang with an enchanting tale of a young female butler at the prestigious The Eastern & Oriental Hotel.

Beyond modern art shows are also heritage showcases. Svara Bhumi (Songs of the Earth), one of the official opening acts this year, will feature laeding aboriginal bands from Australia, New Zealand and the region.

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Svara Bhumi (Songs of the Earth) will open the George Town Festival This Year

Get yourself involved with the festival by participating in talks, workshops and heritage walks too. Liar’s Walk takes a crafty spin on popular walking tours available in George Town. Then listen in on stories from co-founder of Burning Man Festival, Larry Harvey, and prolific Cambodian director, Rithy Panh at Stories, Humanity and What About the Arts.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

  • George Town Festival runs from 29 July to 28 August this year. Some events are ticketed or may require prior reservation/registration.

  • AirAsia flies direct from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Penang daily (airasia.com). Taxis here are cheap. Fares from Penang International Airport to George Town start from US$10.

  • How better to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town than with a stay at Penang’s most iconic hotel? The Eastern & Oriental Hotel has been in service through two World Wars and has been the accommodation of many distinguished guests. The E & O continues to charm with its British colonial style in its facade and its rooms (from US$167 per night for Studio Suite).

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    The Eastern & Oriental Hotel – Penang, Malaysia

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Wildlife Travel

Nepal: Admire the rainbow colours of the monal pheasant

Take advantage of guided walks through wildlife reserves and daily game drives in search of tigers and leopards in Nepal. Get in touch with nature by staying in tents and eat outside with binoculars in hand. A mixture of marshland and grassland habitats attracts as many as 500 avian species to the country, including the stunning Himalayan monal, the national bird of Nepal. A great place to spot feathered friends is Koshi Tappu National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise. But if birds aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of other wildlife to get excited about, such as sloth bears, crocodiles, elephants and swamp deer.

Madagascar: Witness lemur behavior

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The biodiversity hotspot of Madagascar is where many wildlife enthusiasts make their pilgrimage. The island is teeming with endemic species and new animals are being discovered all the time. Perhaps that’s what makes Madagascar so exciting; the guidebooks are constantly being rewritten. One of the most recognisable animals is of course the lemur. There are 101 species of lemur living on the island, all of which are found nowhere else in the world. It’s possible to get guided lemur tours and witness their natural behavior, or you can go on safari and experience all the wildlife Madagascar has to offer.

Costa Rica: Watch turtles laying eggs

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Costa Rica is a haven for sea turtles. It’s a great place to go and experience first-hand the life cycle of one of Earth’s most ancient creatures. During nesting season, turtles line the coasts, laying dozens of eggs to bury beneath the sand for safety.

The six species have different nesting seasons at different sites. There are always turtles laying eggs somewhere in Costa Rica, which means there are almost always hatchlings emerging. The coasts of Costa Rica are strongholds for these turtles, particularly the leatherback sea turtle that has declined by 90 per cent since 1980, and much conservation work goes on here.

Its possible to stand back and take in the sight of hundreds of small turtles making their frantic dash to the sea, or you can volunteer for one of the many organisations working to protect the turtle’s future.

Norway: See polar bears on safari

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Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago and one of the best places to see polar bears and other iconic Arctic wildlife. Race across the snowy tundra in the company of an experienced guide and take in the astonishing beauty of the icy landscape and secluded fjords. Many companies offer snowmobile safaris, giving you the opportunity to witness wild polar bears roaming the ice in their natural habitat.

You’re not guaranteed to see a bear but to increase your chances, it’s best to visit in the summer, before the ice freezes over and the dark days draw in.

Zig-zagging across the ice sheets on a snowmobile means you won’t have to rely on husky-drawn sleds, giving the dogs a break. If you’re lucky, you may even fit in seeing the Northern Lights.

Malaysia: Volunteer with orangutans

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Orangutans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – Malaysia

Few places will capture the imagination quite like the jungles of Malaysia. With dozens of places offering eco-friendly accommodation, you can immerse yourself in the wilderness. Sanctuaries such as the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre teach rescued orangutans how to live in the wild. Simply pay them a visit or sign up for a volunteer placement.

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Wondrous Malaysia

Kissed by the South China Sea and framed by white sands, the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is visually enchanting. The same can be said of its incredibly colourful handicrafts, heritage, and cuisine. From kaleidoscopic kites and candy-colored cakes to tranquil islands and primordial jungles, it’s a magical microcosm of cultures.

The northeastern state of Kelantan is a modern-day melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Malays. The Capital’s Siti Khadijah Market is a dizzying array of local produce, spices, and exotic fabrics. A cluster of tantalizing food stalls line the first floor. Get there early and fuel up with a traditional breakfast of nasi dagang – steamed coconut rice with tuna curry.

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Siti Khadijah Market

Next, head to the Handicraft Village and Craft Museum to browse hand-painted batiks, stunning silverwork, and rice-paper wau kites. Watch an embroidery demonstration, or take a batik-making class, and bring souvenirs back with you.

Just south of Kelantan, Terengganu’s tropical spell is impossible to resist. Hop the ferry to Redang, where you’ll find the perfect mix of picturesque beaches and world-class comforts. Or visit the tiny island of Pulau Kapas and settle into a rustic, ocean-front chalet. Whether you’d like to swing in a hammock or dive World War II shipwrecks, Terengganu is otherworldly.

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Terengganu State Museum

Continue south and into Peninsular Malaysia’s largest state, Pahang. Here, Tioman Island offers every possible shade of paradise. Cascading waterfalls, stunning jungle paths, and laid-back fishing villages create unlimited curiosities.

And once again – there is the sea. Just like the white-sand beaches it kisses, it beckons you to dive into all the wonders of Malaysia and enjoy.

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Tioman Island

Walk on the Wild Side

First-time visitors to Sabah, on the northern edge of the mystical island of Borneo, will be charmed by its capital city, seduced by its golden beaches… and captivated by its wildlife.

Metropolis Makeover

You know the hotel’s general manager is Aussie when there’s a jar of Vegemite perched on the Club Lounge breakfast bar.

“I like to look after our guests,” laughs Ballina-born Fiona Hagan, general manager of Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu hotel. She’s at the helm of Le Méridien’s 21st-century makeover. The makeover is symbolic of many subtle changes taking place in sleepy Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it’s universally called.

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A view from Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu hotel – Borneo

The old shopping centres in KK are being nudged along by the arrival of glamorous “newbies”, while sunset cocktail bars overlooking Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park’s five islands are also gaining traction. Over at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, the Tanjung Ria Kitchen is another first for the region, featuring cooking stations and house-made specialties, while Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa continues to rake in awards.

Golden sunsets bring out the locals who shop and eat at the bustling waterfront market or along Gaya Street, the city’s main artery. Gaya Street is a hub of kerbside cuisine for Sabahan families. New establishments have sprung up, such as Peppermint (offering Vietnamese fl avours), and the Seven Grains Café, which specializes in Ibérico pork. Be there on a Sunday and hawker stalls take over, turning Gaya into a pedestrian street market selling everything from puppies to pizza.

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Gaya Street Market – Borneo

KK runs at a leisurely pace and the popular waterfront market’s souvenir section – nestled between jungle medicines, dried fish, fresh vegetables and men at sewing machines doing alterations for just a few Aussie dollars – makes it a must-visit.

When asked, Fiona happily shares some of her Sabah secrets. “Chilli Vanilla is a hole-in-the-wall cafe/bakery where they make divine chocolate brownies and red velvet cakes. For seafood, I always recommend Alu Alu Café near Jesselton Point, which serves sustainable fish straight from the boat and is cooked in the local Chinese style.”

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Penang – Malaysia

Pearl of the Orient

No sun-and-fun island (though it does have palm-fringed, casuarina-shaded beaches on its northern coast), Penang has been a vibrant cultural crossroads since the first permanent Western settlement in the Far East was established here in 1786.

At the time, the port cities on the Straits of Malacca were strategic way stations on European traders’ lucrative routes from Madras to Canton. Today it’s one of the most colorful, multiethnic com­munities in Asia, with Muslim Malays, Indians of various religions, and Buddhist Chinese successfully coexisting. The island recognizes and shows off its heritage in a more authentic manner than does Singapore, for instance.

In the main city of Georgetown, a ride on a man-pedaled trishaw is a classic way to enjoy some of the best-preserved English colonial architec­ture in Southeast Asia. Colonial-era shops, temples, and clan houses make Penang’s Chinatown authentic.

Follow the English of yore and jump on the funicular for a joyride up 2,720 feet through dense jungle and bamboo groves to the top of Penang Hill, where you can escape the heat and enjoy a panoramic view of the island and its harbor.

And don’t leave the island without stepping into the recently refurbished E&O – the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Sister hotel to Singapore’s Raffles and the Strand in Yangon, Myanmar, it was built in 1884 and stands today as a grand reminder of colonial days, when visitors like Noël Coward, Rudyard Kipling, and Somerset Maugham dallied over gin slings on the breezy veranda.

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Pangkor Laut Resort – Perak, Pangkor, Malaysia

A Sultan’s Island Escape

They say Luciano Pavarotti cried when he saw how beautiful God has made this island – and Pavarotti has seen his fair share.

Covered by a lush rain forest that’s home to crab-eating macaque and more than 100 species of exotic birds, the island has escaped commercialization because it was the private domain of the Sultan of Perak until his death just a few years ago. The Pangkor Laut Resort, the island’s only hotel, resembles a Malay village, with dozens of simple bunga­lows built on stilts over the sea; it’s one of Asia’s most luxurious and beautifully situated hotels.

As befits its five-star status, the resort offers a host of amenities and facilities, including sandy white beaches (with perfectly appropriate names like Emerald Bay) and handsome yachts and cruisers for visiting neighboring islands in the storied Straits of Malacca, Less peripatetic guests spend their entire vacation on their private balconies over­looking the water, completely disconnected from the world. Others prefer the hillside villas lost amid the ancient treetops.

The resort’s excellent restaurants serve everything from Chinese and Malaysian to East-meets-West cuisines in a number of handsome open-air pavilions or alfresco, under a canopy of a bil­lion stars. Who wouldn’t cry from joy?