Tuesday, December 25, 2007

System to warn motorists of dangerous slope movement

System to warn motorists of dangerous slope movement
Tuesday December 25, 2007

IPOH: An early warning system on slope movements has been installed to ensure the safety of motorists travelling along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road to Cameron Highlands.

The warning system, which records slope movements at Gunung Pass, is part of several measures to ensure the 56km-long road is safe to motorists.

“It is safe to use the road despite the current rainy spell because adequate measures have been taken to check soil erosion along the route,” Perak Public Utility and Infrastructure Committee chairman Datuk Ho Cheng Wang said.

Ho said the warning system, installed at a cost of RM500,000, would give real-time data of earth movements on the unstable slopes of Gunung Pass.

Top officers at the Perak Public Works Department would receive a notification on their mobile phone if the earth movement recorded was at an alarming rate, he said.

“With that, we can send out early warnings to motorists should there be a need for us to stop them from using the road,” he said.

He added that the computerised early-warning system was set up in early December and was now on a trial run.

Soil erosion is known to occur along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road, particularly at Gunung Pass, during a downpour.

The road is popular among motorists travelling from here to Cameron Highlands because it reduces the travelling time by more than an hour.

“Apart from that, PWD workers will also patrol the route once a day to look out for soil erosion and other road safety matters,” he said yesterday.

Ho pointed out that repair works, costing some RM25mil, on several other unstable slopes had been carried out to check erosion.

He said missing guardrails and signboards had also been replaced at a cost of RM1mil. -- The Star News

Monday, December 24, 2007

Early warning system on slope movements

Early warning system on slope movements
By Hah Foong Lian
Monday December 24, 2007

IPOH: An early warning system on slope movements has been installed to ensure the safety of motorists travelling along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road to Cameron Highlands.

The warning system, which records slope movements at Gunung Pass, is part of several measures to ensure the 56km-long road is not dangerous to motorists.

“It is safe to use the road despite the current rainy spell because adequate measures have been taken to check soil erosion along the route,” Perak Public Utility and Infrastructure Committee chairman Datuk Ho Cheng Wang said Monday.

Ho said the warning system, installed at a cost of RM500,000, would give real-time data of earth movements on the unstable slopes of Gunung Pass.

Top officers at the Perak Public Works Department (PWD) would receive a notification on their mobile phone if the earth movement recorded were at an alarming rate, he said.

“With that, we can send out early warnings to motorists should there be a need for us to stop them from using the road,” he said, adding that the computerised early-warning system was set up in early December and was now on a trial run.

Soil erosion is known to occur along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road, particularly at Gunung Pass, during a downpour.

The road is popular among motorists travelling from here to Cameron Highlands because it reduces the travelling time by more than an hour. -- The Star News

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A cool respite

A cool respite
Saturday December 22, 2007
By Revathi Murugappan

For a relaxing retreat combined with spa treatments, drive up to the Cameron Highlands Resort.

The largest hill resort in the country, Cameron Highlands is a popular holiday getaway for families and couples. There is lodging to suit all budgets but if you’re looking for luxury with a bit of pampering, a good choice is Cameron Highlands Resort.

Unlike its sister resorts in Pangkor and Tanjung Jara, Cameron Highlands Resort is small and resembles a typical English colonial home. The resort exudes English elegance and tropical chic.

The high life: This is Cameron Highland Resort’s treat for guests — tea amongst tea bushes in the Boh Sungai Palas Tea Centre
The high life: This is Cameron Highland Resort’s treat for guests — tea amongst tea bushes in the Boh Sungai Palas Tea Centre

The 56-room boutique hotel, formerly called the Merlin Inn, was taken over by YTL Hotels and Properties Sdn Bhd just last year and already it is drawing in the crowds. Recently, the resort was voted amongst the five best tea plantation hotels in the world by UK’s The Independent newspaper.

So, off we went on a three-day invitation to enjoy the cool climate of the highlands and bask in opulence. We had a speedy Gonzales of a driver who drove us from Kuala Lumpur to our destination in slightly less than two hours!

The usual check-ins and whatnots followed before we explored the place at our own pace. For a truly sensational experience, they treated us to one of their signature tea plantation experience one morning – a visit to a tea centre.

Typically, such a day starts with a 4WD picking up guests and taking them to the Boh Sungai Palas Tea Centre. A tea sommelier will lead you on a tea appreciation tour before explaining the intricacies of tea tasting. You’ll get to enjoy your cuppa while overlooking the valley.

Once you have warmed up, the adventure begins as you hop into the vehicle and drive deeper into the valley. Amidst rows of fragrant tea bushes, a picnic table is set up under a large white umbrella. A personal Nepali butler awaits with a delightful brunch spread and choices of wine, juices and hot beverages.

A comfy bed is always important.

The view is simply gorgeous but if it rains, then you can scurry for shelter at the nearby “bus stop”.

After binging, we skipped lunch and opted for tea, which incidentally is the new rage all over the world now. Food, food and more glorious food! If you’re a tea lover like moi, you must try the English afternoon tea at the Jim Thompson Tea Room.

The homemade scones, pastries, finger sandwiches and fresh strawberries topped with sinful chocolate might affect your waistline, but hey, when you’re on holiday, calorie-counting goes out the window. Besides, you can always work off the pounds later.

Bellies expanded and breathing heavy, we decided it was time for a snooze in the king-sized four-poster bed. The deluxe rooms are comfy and feature a seating area with French doors opening out to the balcony. Polished timber flooring has replaced the musty carpets of the old Merlin Inn, while the bathroom is in old-fashioned black and white marble.

All rooms either overlook the golf course or the lush forest.

Resident naturalist Shahril Kamarulzaman with some guests on the Jim Thompson trail. — ONG SOON HIN/The Star
Resident naturalist Shahril Kamarulzaman with some guests on the Jim Thompson trail. — Ong Soon Hin/The Star

The only drawback was that my room faced the main road (golf course) and the traffic was noisy. I kept waking up annoyed from the car honks and loud chatter of pedestrians, even with the windows and shutters closed.

A visit to any of YTL’s luxury resorts is incomplete without the spa treatment, for which the group has garnered many international awards. I was recommended the Fresh Strawberry Escapade, which includes a tea bath, a body polish and a massage – all using fresh strawberries, which have properties to soften skin and reduce inflammation.

The tea bath was supposedly a sensual experience. The tub is filled with tea leaves and warm water, and you jump in. You can place cut cucumber on your eyes, rub sugar to exfoliate your hands, and sip ice lemon tea to cool yourself while listening to meditative music on the earphones.

While I loved the soaking, I found it uncomfortable as the tubs were not meant for tall people! I couldn’t find a comfortable position to place my long legs and relax.

The body polish, made of strawberries, yoghurt and crushed oatmeal was delightful, although the chilled concoction initially sent shivers down my spine. My therapist ended the treatment with a massage using soothing, long strokes and medium pressure. I would’ve fallen asleep but dinner was calling.

Plans were made for us to dine under the stars but since it rained, we headed indoors for a specially prepared steamboat dinner. Guests have a choice of three restaurants to choose from, one being the Gonbei, an offshoot of the Japanese restaurant at Feast Village in Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

After dinner, guests can head back to the tea room to enjoy the delightful piano tunes played by Uncle Stephen or try a game of snooker. Or if you’d rather be outdoors, and the weather holds up, take a stroll along the main road to the nearby night market.

The next day was spent leisurely hiking along the Jim Thompson Mystery Trail with Shahril Kamarulzaman, the resort’s naturalist, who specialises in wild orchids.

Thomson, the American Silk King, mysteriously vanished on Easter Sunday in 1967 after going for a walk in the surrounding forests.

There are many theories regarding his disappearance, some plausible, others ridiculous.

“He is believed to have walked around the vicinity but I’m not sure of the exact trail,” quipped Shahril as he showed us endemic plants and flowers in the botanical paradise. The pleasant walk was marred by the appearance of many illegal water pipes in the forest due to poor enforcement by the authorities.

The walk ended at the fringes of an Orang Asli settlement and, after a quick lunch, we parted ways.

Cameron Highlands Resort
Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Tel: (03)2783 1000
E-mail: travelcentre@ytlhotels.com.my
www.cameronhighlandsresort. com

Room rates begin at

RM670++ per night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Highlands park in deplorable state

Highlands park in deplorable state
Friday December 21, 2007

I RECENTLY visited Cameron Highlands with my students and their parents. I was amazed as well as a little sad to see the development in the area.

Gone are the views of hills which have been replaced by buildings. The weather too is not as cool as before.

However, the biggest disappointment to me was the park (opposite the hospital in Tanah Rata). The flowers were beautiful, but the condition of the park is terrible.

The Cameron Highlands is a popular tourism spot but the condition of the park is really uninviting.

This is what greeted us as we stepped into the park. The rubbish didn’t look recent but a few days old. It was shameful.

The play equipment were not in proper condition. The swings were broken, the strings to the other equipments were frail and looked like they could break if any child were to step on it.

There was no proper place to sit as the wooden benches and tables were all mouldy and dirty.

It is not doing “Visit Malaysia Year” any good if the condition of our parks are like that.

I wonder what our foreigner visitors would think it they walked through such a park. I saw a lot of foreigners up in Camerons that weekend. Please do something about it fast.


Monday, December 17, 2007

BJSS’s Camerons wish

BJSS’s Camerons wish
By Ng Wei Loon
Monday December 17, 2007

DIFFERENT training venues and workout programmes has always provided an energising variation for junior athletes to get away from their mundane training routine.

Over the pre-season conditioning phase, a change in approach helps to keep them revitalised as they strive to boost their physical condition to face stiffer challenges next year.

National Sports Council (NSC) athletics junior development coach Ishtiaq Mobarak said his charges had always benefited from their year-end trip to Cameron Highlands because of the perfect training environment.

“I have been conducting training up there for a long time. The trip is no holiday for them,” he added.

Frog jump: Abdul Razak is psychological prepared to face the strenuous training in Cameron Highlands.
Frog jump: Abdul Razak is psychological prepared to face the strenuous training in Cameron Highlands.

Usually, they will chalk up about 30 units of training sessions over a 10-day stint.

“Naturally, Cameron Highlands is an ideal choice. It is not high altitude training. But, the cool weather and fresh air there allows us to increase our training intensity. And the terrains suit our training programmes,” said Ishtiaq.

However, his charges from the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) are still waiting for the green light to go through the paces there this year.

“If the idea does not materialise, we have to do some adjustments to our plan to gear them up for next year. But, the show has to go on. As alternatives we can either go for a day trip to the beach in Port Dickson or Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur. The only thing is that we will be losing out on the training units,” he said.

Since the competition calendar ended in October, the budding athletics trainees from BJSS have moved into the general conditioning phase with long distance runs, weights training and speed drills combined with active recovery session once a week in the pool every Friday.

“I have reminded them that they have such a short period to prepare for next year because they will be competing as early as March before the national schools meet in April,” Ishtiaq added.

The chase is on: Shaniz Mobarak (in blue) leading the pack in an uphill sprint.
The chase is on: Shaniz Mobarak (in blue) leading the pack in an uphill sprint.

As they increase their training load in the specific conditioning phase to transfer their explosive power and strength into their respective events, the trainees acknowledge the sessions are getting tougher.

Rookie Abdul Razak Abdul Rahim, 16, is psychological prepared to face the strenuous training in Cameron Highlands.

“I have heard about the demanding sessions from my teammates,” said Razak.

In contrast, Muhd Ajmal Aiman Mat Hasan, 14, is feeling stronger after his first outing with the team last year.

“I am looking forward to increasing my work load because I am physically in better shape. I have also improved on the movement skills for various drills,” said Ajmal, adding that the drills on the hills and steps were the toughest.

After achieving respectable personal results this year, the promising athletes are aiming to maintain their good run.

“They could sustain their performance throughout the season because they are in good shape by laying a solid foundation during the pre-season. A good example is our up-and-coming boys' 400m hurdler Abdul Azlan Samsuddin,” said Ishtiaq.

Besides finishing fifth place in the boys' 400m hurdles at the World Youth Athletics Championships in the Czech Republic, 16-year-old Azlan also won the gold medal at the Asean Schools Athletics Championships, Malaysia Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Athletics Championships and the National Junior Championships.

In the absence of his regular coach Teh Weng Chang, pole vaulter Mohd Fahme Zamzam also joined the group.

“I trained with the group because my coach is away for more than a week.

“I have gained strength from the weights workout to strengthen on my upper and lower body,” said Fahme, 14. -- The Star Metro

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Government to ensure flood victims get essential goods

Government to ensure flood victims get essential goods
Thursday December 13, 2007

PETALING JAYA: The Government has swung into action to ensure essential goods reach flood victims.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry officers would also prevent profiteering.

Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal said since most vegetables were from Cameron Highlands, there was no reason for traders to increase prices.

He said the ministry was keeping an eye on supplies such as chillies and pineapples by farmers in flood-affected areas but there were no problems so far.

“Last year, the supply of petrol, cooking gas and cooking oil was cut off to certain remote areas because of transport problems,” he said.

Earlier, he flagged off two trucks of supplies worth about RM100,000 for flood victims in Kota Baru, Kelantan and Muar, Johor.

The goods, contributed by Tesco Stores in Mutiara Damansara, were mainly canned food and basic items such as instant food, drinking water and diapers for infants and senior citizens.

Mohd Shafie also commended Tesco for its humanitarian effort.

Tesco has launched donation drives at its 19 stores nationwide to collect clothes, food items or cash for flood victims, said its corporate and legal affairs director Azlam Shah Alias. -- The Star.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rakan Muda league a resounding success in Kg Baru Tringkap

Rakan Muda league a resounding success in Kg Baru Tringkap
Thursday December 6, 2007

THE residents turned out in full force to show their support for the Rakan Muda Kg Baru (RMKB) Ku Ceria Community Sports League at Kg Baru Tringkap in Cameron Highlands recently.

JKKK Kg Baru Tringkap chairman Tang Sing said they were happy with the government’s efforts to initiate programmes for youngsters in the new villages.

“The youngsters in the Cameron Highlands don’t get many opportunities to be involved in sporting activities. This programme has generated an interest among the younger generation. It is encouraging, too, to see parents also coming to show their support.

Proud winners: The players with their certificates and prizes.
Proud winners: The players with their certificates and prizes.

“This programme can be a platform to scout talent and we hope sporting activities will be initiated by the government in the Cameron Highlands.

“The children had a wonderful time. It also brought together the community here,” said Tang.

About 20 teams took part in the three-on-three basketball challenge. The top three teams in the boys’ and girls’ categories were presented certificates and medals. -- The Star.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cameron Highlands MP - K Devamany

Devamany let off the hook by Najib
By Florence A. Samy
Tuesday December 4, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: Cameron Highlands MP K. Devamany has been let off without a suspension or warning over his remark in Parliament recently.

Devamany had a 20-minute meeting with Barisan Nasional Chief Whip and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday morning to explain himself.

The MIC backbencher told a press conference at the Parliament lobby that he had told Najib that he regretted his statement.

He, however, declined to say whether he was sorry over what he said when pushed further by reporters.

Devamany was said to have broken ranks with the ruling coalition over his remark in Parliament last Monday.

He had said the fact that 50,000 people showed up at the Nov 25 Hindraf protest showed the Government’s failure in distributing wealth equally.

His remark irked some Barisan backbenchers who felt he should have used proper channels but Devamany, who received support from the MIC top brass, maintained that he was only speaking up for the Indian community.

Devamany thanked Najib for meeting him and said he explained to the Chief Whip the concerns of the Indian community.

“He was very nice to me. I told him I regretted the statement. He advised me on what happened.

“I truly believe that unity, peace and stability is paramount in the country and cannot be compromised,” he said.

Devamany said Najib had expressed concern over the plight of the Indian community, which would be addressed by the Government and MIC through the Barisan Nasional spirit.

“He (Najib) has assured him that he would look into legitimate concerns of the Indian community,” he added.

Devamany said he would still speak up in the House but would be more responsible and not just throw words around.

“I fully support Barisan Nasional and the party leadership. That cannot be questioned,” he added.

Also at the press conference was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Deputy Chief Whip Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who confirmed that no suspension or warning had been given to Devamany. -- The Star

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grace Youth Camp 2007

Grace Assembly Youth is organizing a youth camp in Cameron Highlands. The camp is located at Barre I.J. Centre Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands. If you have young fellas who has nothing better to do during the holidays, you can sign them up for this youth camp.

Enquiries, please contact:
Kim - 012-238 2664 (Grace Klang)
Jessica Choe - 012 4742 600 (Grace PJ)
Kevin Jesudasan - 019 304 6682 (Grace USJ)

Camp Venue: Barre I.J. Centre, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
Camp dates: 8th Dec (Sat) - 11th Dec (Tue) 2007

Camp fees: RM210
Non-refundable but transferable deposit of RM$50
Closing date: 2nd December 2007

Grace Youth Camp 2007 (One Church Event)

Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to His diciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Boh Tea successor - Caroline Russell

Caroline lives up to challenge of being No. 1
By Leong Hung Yee
Saturday November 17, 2007

Inheriting a business that has been doing great sounds good to some of us but this was not the case for Caroline Russell.

The chief executive officer of Boh Plantations Sdn Bhd who inherited the tea business from her father Tristan Russell, felt she could not be complacent about the company founded by her grandfather John Archibald Russell in 1927.

Caroline Russell

“It was tough for me especially since the business was already doing so well that I had no choice but to bring the company to greater heights.

“The challenges then and today are not dissimilar. Boh has held a market leadership position in Malaysia for a long time. To maintain that clearly is the key focus and the challenge,” Caroline said in an interview with StarBiz.

She joined the company’s marketing department in 1988 after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, with a bachelor of commerce degree and worked her way up to her current position.

Her passion for the business and determination to bring the company to higher levels are among the contributing factors for the good track record and reputation Boh Plantations has today.

“I knew that my responsibility in Boh Plantations was beyond profitability when I took over the family business,” she said.

Boh Plantations is currently the leading tea grower in the country. It owns four tea gardens, of which three – in Boh, Sungei Palas and Fairlie – are located some 5,000ft above sea level in Cameron Highlands. The fourth is in Bukit Cheeding, Selangor. Collectively, the gardens constitute a total planted and mature area of 1,200ha.

The company produces four million kg of tea annually, translating to about 5.5 million cups of tea per day. And about 70% of all tea produced in Malaysia comes from the Boh gardens. Besides being the leading brand in Malaysia, Boh also exports to Brunei, Singapore, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

Caroline strongly believes in efficiency because it has been fuelling the growth of Boh Plantations.

Some of Boh’s beverage products. It has one of the widest ranges of tea products covering herb and fruit infusions, standard and premium teabag blends, hot and cold instant tea mixes, and a wide selection of flavoured teas.
Some of Boh’s beverage products. It has one of the widest ranges of tea products covering herb and fruit infusions, standard and premium teabag blends, hot and cold instant tea mixes, and a wide selection of flavoured teas.

She said the company had leveraged on technology to mechanise the various processes of the tea business but the most important aspect is moving with the times, where marketing is concerned.

“We have been looking at methodology at our plantations to improve yields as well as the harvesting process,” she said, adding that the company continuously invests in research and development, and looks at ways to improve business.

As with all businesses, Boh Plantations has its share of competition but Caroline maintains rivalry is good as it motivates all to work even harder.

“The market has become somewhat challenging as consumers are becoming more affluent and have higher expectations, thus constant innovation is required.

“Keeping abreast with consumers’ expectations is all the more challenging because as the more established brand, consumers have even higher expectations of us.

“We cannot afford to rest on our laurels,” she said.

She added that the company was constantly researching on what consumers want in a beverage product, and exploring how tea can deliver on future consumer needs.

Over the years, the company has expanded its tea offerings. It has one of the widest ranges of tea products covering herb and fruit infusions, standard and premium teabag blends, hot and cold instant tea mixes, and a wide selection of flavoured teas.

Caroline said Boh Plantations also hopes to help preserve the environment. Its past efforts included collaborating with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Smithsonian Institute of the US.

In 1997, Boh Plantations supported the Malaysian Elephant Satellite Tracking Project and the WWF for Nature-Malaysia, in the Orang Utan Habitat Restoration project.

The Malaysia-born and bred Caroline, who speaks with only a slight trace of a British accent, believes that business and investing is about taking risks, but above all, you have to be realistic and practical.

She is every bit the urban working mother of two, trying to balance work and family.

“It can be done and is not difficult. You just have to compromise on both sides,” she said, adding that she hopes to find more time for her family.

“It is never an optimal balance, but I think as long as you make a concerted effort to lead a more balanced life, half the battle is won,” she said.

She enjoys painting but with two young children aged two and four to care for, there is little time to indulge herself.

Although she also loves reading, that too takes a back seat to a “splashing time” in the pool with her children.

On her success, Caroline credits having supportive people around both at home and at work. -- The Star Business.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

BMW test drive from Kellie's Castle to Cameron Highlands

Three out of three
By Jay W.M. Wong
Sunday November 11, 2007

With the performance and handling of the BMW 3 Series pretty much a given, it’s time to find out what the real-world experience of having one is like.

SOME time back, BMW Malaysia organised a lifestyle-based drive with its 3 Series range. While the event centred on many non-motoring facets, it was also undisputedly a showcase to reaffirm the E90’s claim to be head of the class in its segment.

Three vehicles were chosen for the job, a 320i Sports Edition, 325i and the 325i Sports. The drive started early in the morning from BMW’s office in Cyberjaya, and with the 320i SE, it was off to our first destination, Kellie’s Castle in Perak.

En route, the the car soaked up undulations and corners with ease, and held its line through tight corners. The 320i, with its 200Nm of torque, hauled its 1.4tonne body around with relative grace.At Kellie’s Castle, we were greeted by exuberant foods and a string quartet playing Bach and Mozart.

We then headed at hyper-speed to Lumut’s Jetty Terminal, where a slow and relaxing boat ride to Pangkor Laut Resort followed.

Three for the road: a trio of BMW 3 Series in their element.
Three for the road: a trio of BMW 3 Series in their element.

There, my room was perched on a hill overlooking lazy waves and soft, sandy beaches.

After two hours of rest, Chapman’s Bar was the meeting point at Emerald Bay. An interesting selection of both land and sea delicacies made up our pre-dinner cocktails and mains. We chewed slowly whilst the setting sun slowly said goodbye to the world.

For our entertainment, 10 interesting finalists of BMW’s Shorties films were featured for our entertainment throughout dinner.

Splashing waves and the scent of sea breeze filled my senses first thing in the morning. Fisherman’s Cove was the venue for breakfast, after which we were transported by helicopter back to the peninsular, to a place called Clearwater Sanctuary.

With the mid-day sun nigh, my co-driver and I were presented with our next chariot, the 325i Sports. Though the suspension may have been tuned for a sportier drive, we calmly made our way to Indulgence’s restaurant in Ipoh, where we were served either Rainbow Trout or Wagyu beef for lunch, which was simply delectable.

With our tanks filled, it was time to crack the whip on those 215 ponies from the state of Perak into Pahang and onwards to the posh Cameron Highlands Resort.

Here, the roads are long and twisty, a veritable delight for those chasing the bends.

Three flavours: (from left) the Sports sedan, Convertible and Touring pose for a family snapshot.
Three flavours: (from left) the Sports sedan, Convertible and Touring pose for a family snapshot.

BMW has always prided itself in building excellent handling cars with great engines, but they have also been well commended for their research and development on their brakes. As I continuously braked late into the corners, hardly any brake fade was present.

Cameron Highlands Resort had a very unique interior in the old English Colonial style. This “little corner of England in Asia,” as it has been known, is certainly a romantic getaway with picturesque greenery.

Dinner at Gonbei Restaurant provided us with a Japanese bubbling pot of salmon and a selection of sushi, followed by an early night.

At 5.30am, we rallied at the lobby with cookies and precious pots of coffee at the ready before we drove towards Gua Musang.

This time, it was in the standard 325i sedan, with its suspension set on the comfort zone. The tail end felt a little bit more nervous than the Sports, but it never did present any surprises along the way.

Our destination was to be an undisclosed location that required a short trek off the road towards a large and wide landing area . Something didn’t seem right, instead of cool mountain air filling our nostrils; we sensed something more appealing in the pre-dawn darkness ? sausages.

The chefs of Cameron Highlands Resort had prepared a nice breakfast selection for us within a large white tent that also sheltered us from the cold drizzle.

Just like a play, the sun illuminated the clouds and they softly lifted like curtains to present a beautiful view of Cameron Highland’s mountains.

After this, the roads tightened and snaked a little more . Care was the operative word on this section. Though the sedan could keep up with its Sports brethren speed-wise, the suspension set-up and tyre choices meant the sedan was slightly twitchier around the bends.

Safely back at the resort, whilst we jawed about the route to Gua Musang, candid shots of us flashed on the projector screen filling the room with eruptions of laughter .

It was time for the journey home, and we had jubilant smiles. The preparation and execution of the event truly deserved a standing-ovation – the drive was magnificent, and the occasion a delight.

As for the cars themselves, they delivered every bit that was expected of them.
-- The Star Lifestyle

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Call for more efficient market supply system

Call for more efficient market supply system
Sunday November 4, 2007

To work towards a more efficient system as well as lower prices, he suggests that the Government revamps the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama), which was established to enhance the marketing of Malaysia’s agricultural produce.

“By Fama’s own admission, 85% of the fruit and vegetable market is controlled by cartels,” he says, adding that only 5% of the market goes through the Pasar Tani (farmer's market) system set up by Fama.

In a study carried out in 2003, CAP found that red chillies bought in Cameron Highlands by these cartels for not more than RM2.50 per kg retailed at the Penang wet market for more than RM6 per kg.

“Fama has not significantly enhanced the distribution of fruit and vegetables in the country. It has not been able to provide consumers with constant and affordable price. It has failed in assuring the majority of farmers of consistent and reasonable returns,” says Idris.

Another way to ensure stable prices is to ensure enough supply.

“If there is no need for approved permits for the import of foodstuff, then supply will increase, and this will bring down prices.”

Exports, meanwhile, should be cut down. According to the Ninth Malaysia Plan, fruit cultivation increased by an average rate of 9.8% per annum while production of vegetables improved at an average rate of 13.8% annually.

“It does not help consumers if production increases simply mean more exports. Local consumers must be taken care of and this can be done by ensuring that a portion of the fruits and vegetables grown is channelled to the local market,” says Idris. -- The Star News.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nationwide study on landslides / Farmers and vegetable prices

Nationwide study on landslides
Saturday November 3, 2007

Thirty slope stability and landslide experts are conducting a nationwide study to identify landslide-prone areas, said Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

Tamil Nesan reported him as saying that they included engineers from the slope-engineering unit of the Public Works Department who are equipped with the latest gadgets to monitor soil movement.

He said that the study was expected to be ready by April and the Government was hopeful that it would help address slope-related problems in the country.

He said that when the master plan was ready, it would have an early warning system at locations considered dangerous to alert the public of possible landslide hazards.

Vegetables prices fall, farmers income reduced

> Cameron Highlands vegetable farmers are willing to sell their produce directly to traders without the services of middlemen, Malaysia Nanban reported.

Due to the recent fall in prices, middlemen only offered to purchase beans at RM1 per kilo, tomatoes at 30 sen per kilo and cabbages at 80 sen per kilo and these vegetables had been sold to traders at higher prices.

Vegetable sellers in Teluk Intan said they had to sell the beans at RM6 per kilo, tomatoes at RM2 per kilo and cabbages at RM2 per kilo to consumers because the vegetables were bought at higher prices from the middlemen. -- The Star Nation.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hotel sector high on investors’ radar screen

Hotel sector high on investors’ radar screen
By Angie Ng
Monday October 29, 2007

Foreign groups are coming in greater numbers to acquire hotels in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley, to take advantage of the good value and expected strong growth in the industry.

Last year, a whopping 85% of the value of hotel transactions in the country was by foreigners compared with 44% in 2005.

Foreign investments in hotels grew by 64% last year with foreigners, including regional chain players, hotel funds, foreign investment funds and individuals, making up 42% of the ownership of 4- and 5-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur now.

According to Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe, the growing interest among foreigners in the hotel sector was triggered by the strong growth in the tourism sector and the economy.

Generally the foreign investors were from the region and the Middle East, he said, adding that there was also a growing interest from investors in Singapore, Thailand and Europe and American funds and hotel chains.

“The advent of low-cost carriers and the strong tourism drive may create an insatiable appetite for hotels,” Previndran told StarBiz.

In the past few years, Zerin Properties has concluded a number of hotel transactions within and outside the country for foreign groups.

“We are basically hotel dealmakers in the region. We are in the midst of concluding a sale in Indochina and selling a resort in the Philippines, and has been appointed by a Middle East fund to negotiate the purchase of hotels in the region.”

Hotel transactions in Malaysia

Previndran said Zerin was also involved in hotel sales in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and other emerging markets.

As the exclusive agent for the asset disposal programme of the Sheraton Chain of Hotels in Malaysia, it concluded the sale of the 207-room Sheraton Perdana in Langkawi for RM77.5mil and the 267-room Sheraton Kuantan for RM36.6mil in 2005.

It was also involved in the sale of the 149-room Merlin Johor Baru for RM10.46mil and the 66-room Merlin Inn in Cameron Highlands for RM13.5mil.

Last year, the 100-room Grand Centerpoint in Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM12.5mil, and the latest deal was the sale of the 91-room Four Seasons in Langkawi for RM435mil.

The 452-room Westin Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM455mil in 2006, or a whopping RM1mil a room

“Malaysia has some of the finest hotels in the region and the growing number of foreign brands and players is adding a new dimension to the local hospitality sector.

“The hotels here are on par with other international markets and the local industry is leading in terms of product innovation through products such as The Datai, Hilton Batang Ai and Tune Hotel.

“New hotels coming in with truly leading designs include Maya Hotel and KL Hilton, which are niche in their market positioning and are market leading,” Previndran said.

Renovation work to spruce up some of the leading existing hotels such as Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, Sheraton Imperial and The Regent is also underway.

With the tourism drive, average room rates (ARR) for 5-star hotels have moved up by at least 20% over the past two years while other categories of hotels have recorded an ARR increase of to 5% 10%.

Hotel occupancy rates in the Klang Valley have also increased from the mid-60's two years ago to about 70% now.

In August, 4- and 5-star hotels recorded an average occupancy rate of 86% while the average room rate climbed to RM361 from below RM300 previously.

“Moving forward, I think we are going to see a consolidation of hotel ownership – from fragmented ownership to chain ownership, and maybe even a hospitality-based real estate investment trust (REIT) like the Starwood REIT in the US.

“These consolidated owners will be locals and foreigners from the region who are already chain owners. There is also a strong Middle Eastern interest coming into the market, mainly in the premium properties,” Previndran said.

He said more top class brands, such as Conrad and Intercontinental, were expected to come into the market in the near future.

Ownership of 4 and 5 star hotels in Kuala Lumpur.

“On the other end of the spectrum, more chain-based limited service hotels in the likes of Ibis, Formula 1 and Holiday Inn Express will also be making its presence felt. I also see interest in resort locations picking up tremendously.”

Around the region, Previndran said Vietnam was experiencing a boom in the hotel industry due to shortage of good hotels.

“We see strong opportunities in the Vietnamese cities and resorts for premium and limited service hotels.

“The Philippines is also a good market as the population base is big and its islands are truly a big attraction for the Korean and Japanese markets.

“Australia is also another strong market, with Sydney being the most visited city in the Asia-Pacific.” -- The StarBiz

Thursday, October 25, 2007

King of the hill

King of the hill
Thursday October 25, 2007

Genting Bhd founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, who died on Tuesday, went against all odds and did the unthinkable when he developed a worldclass casino resort in a place no one dared to venture to more than 40 years ago.

Lim, who started development of the hilltop area around the present day Genting Highlands Resort in 1965, was reportedly inspired by the cool mountain air of Cameron Highlands.

He transformed the hilltop gaming and entertainment complex into the powerhouse of his multi-billion dollar empire.

Genting - the city of entertainment
Genting - the city of entertainment

Dubbed the “Casino King,” his career was also a rags-to-riches story he arrived in Malaya in 1937 from China after a 10- day voyage with only US$2 in his pocket but persevered to become one of the richest men in the world.

In March 2003, he was included in the Forbes Global magazine's list of World's Billionaires, coming in as the 206th richest man with a net worth of US$2.1bil.

Born on Feb 28 in 1918 in the Anxi district of Fujian Province, China, he worked as a carpenter with his uncle upon his arrival here, sold sundries and started a scrap-metal business.

He saved up enough money and set up Kien Huat Construction in 1950, which remains his flagship private entity.

One of his major breakthroughs was as a subcontractor for the Old Klang Road development project in Kuala Lumpur.

He later worked on a RM300,000 project to develop a drainage system from the Kuala Lumpur city centre to Pantai.

His competence paved the way for Kien Huat Construction to become a government- licensed contractor, which resulted in him obtaining a string of contracts.

Among the major projects undertaken by Kien Huat were Penang's Air Itam Dam, Kelantan's Kemubu Irrigation Scheme and the Cameron Highlands Hydro Electric Power Project It was while working on the dam in Cameron Highlands in 1964 that he saw the possibility of developing a hill resort nearer to Kuala Lumpur.

In 1968, he founded Genting Bhd, which was granted the only casino licence by the federal government.

Well-known for his hands-on approach, he was worker, project manager and engineer for the project.

His leadership propelled Genting to emerge as a key blue chip on the stock market, diversifying into plantations, paper, oil and gas, and power.

The company also transferred its gambling and resort-related operations to its subsidiary, Resorts World Bhd, which remained cash-rich even during the crippling 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

A philanthropist, he is also well remembered for the RM20mil donation to Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, from where he received an honourary doctorate.

The late Lim also received a string of awards including “Property Man of the Year” in 2002 by International Real Estate Federation FIABCI, 1987 Manager of the Year by the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of Malaysia, and “Business Achiever of the Year” by Yazhou Zhoukan, a Hong Kong-based international Chinese business daily.

Lim leaves a wife, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua, and six children. — Bernama

Friday, October 12, 2007

Seeing Malaysia on wheels

Seeing Malaysia on wheels
By Ng Wei Loon
Friday October 12, 2007

THE MotoGP will visit the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) on Oct 21.

Although Australian Casey Stoner secured the crown at the Japanese Grand Prix last month , the local and foreign motorcycle racing fans will be flocking to the circuit to catch the high-speed action.

For the foreign visitors, the newly formed Malaysian Motorcycle Getaways is offering the recreational super bikers from abroad a milder adrenalin pumping action on Malaysian soil and a chance to explore the beauty of the country.

Scenic sight: The riders taking a corner during their outing.
Scenic sight: The riders taking a corner during their outing.

Driven by the passion for riding, the local tour motorcycle operator was formed as a result of the partnership between M. Feizal Abu Kassim, 36, and former creative director Lawrence Ong, 51.

Feizal is confident that their new venture has huge potential to complement and boost the tourism industry.

“Malaysia has a lot to offer. The friendly people and hospitality as well as the wide selection of good food,” he said.

In fact, both were determined to turn their dream into a reality.

“For more than a year, we have been talking about the idea over regular teh tarik sessions. We got out website up and running in February. From there, we have established a strong foundation,” said Ong.

In addition, Akfar Tariq Abdul Khalid also serves as a part time guide for the group.

“Usually, visitors will travel from one point to the other using other forms of transport. We are catering to the foreign biking community to enjoy the journey riding on Malaysian roads. They will see more while riding. So far, we have received positive comments from our guests,” said Feizal.

Recently, two representatives each from Motor Cycle News (MCM) and Motorcycle Cruiser magazines based in the United Kingdom and United States respectively were invited to join them on a five-day tour courtesy of Tourism Malaysia.

The five legs on the central tour that they covered were Kuala Lumpur – Cameron Highlands, Cameron Highlands – Genting Highlands, Genting Highlands – Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur – Malacca and Malacca – Sepang.

On their first visit to Malaysia, MCM production editor Marc Abbott and MCM on-line video producer Angus Farquhar rode on the Suzuki K2 600.

Abbott was delighted that he was given the rare privilege to ride on the SIC.

“Now, I have featured on two circuits on opposite ends of the world with different characteristics. Donington Park is a circuit with fast corners. In contrast, riders are required to break hard on tight turns at Sepang. Besides a tour around the control room and media centre, going on the podium was definitely the highlight for us,” said Abbott, 33.

Abbott added that he would be coming back for a honeymoon with his wife next year.

“There is so much more to see. I would like to go on the northern tour. I felt very comfortable riding with the group because the tour operator provided thorough briefing as well as a leader and a sweeper to ensure the riders’ safety.”

Farquhar said the scenery was just a perfect selling point to entice couples to visit.

“Visitors could spend as much or even more coming here on their own and staying at posh hotels and not see half as much as we saw. Considering it is an experience of a lifetime, it is worth paying for,” said Farquhar, 29.

It was also a homecoming for Motorcycle Group Western Marketplace advertising manager Zack Adnan who came with Motorcycle Cruiser editor in chief Andrew Cherney.

“I am still a Malaysian citizen. Prior to this trip, I have not been home for more than two years. To be honest, not many Americans know about Malaysia. The tour operator has revved up the pioneering initiative to raise the profile of the country through motorcycle riding and put the country on the world map,” said Zack, 29, who has been residing in the United States for more than 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, Cherney pushed the Kawasaki Vulcan VN900 to its limit.

He is a renowned motorcycle journalist who has travelled around the globe and he was impressed with the good road conditions here.

In conjunction with Malaysian MotoGP, the tour operator has also lined up a four-day tour from Oct 21 to 24.

“We have also mapped out the courses for our eastern and northern tours. We also tailor the itinerary to suit the visitors’ needs. Our aim now is to see our establishment grow. We also want to explore new routes,” said Feizal

For details, visit www.ridemalaysia.com.my

Friday, October 05, 2007

Scrabble Tournament at Equatorial Cameron Highlands

Noble gesture
Scrabble Scene with Chuah Sim Swee
Friday October 5, 2007

Some of the finest Scrabble players from Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore groaned through three days of intense competition at the 7th Equatorial Cameron Highlands Malaysian Open Scrabble Tournament held from Sept 28 to 30 at the Equatorial Hotel after which it was named.

No, it was not mental strain and anguish, which they were suffering from, but the staggering amount of delicious food showered on them by the hotel’s friendly staff. And so, for three days, they valiantly staggered from dining tables to tournament tables to outwit and outspell their opponents.

Yes, after a one-year hiatus, the tournament was back with a vengeance, thanks to Tan Khee Chiang, the man who inaugurated it single-handedly. An avid Scrabble player, Tan ran the tournament successfully from 2000 to 2005. When he was transferred to the Equatorial Hotel Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, last year, the tournament was cancelled much to the dismay of Scrabble players in and outside the country. Tan vowed to hold it again this year with the help of his old team of helpers at the hotel.

Most players find this tournament special because of the gorgeous scenery, cool weather, the courteous and helpful staff of the hotel and the scrumptious food.

Back to the tournament, day one was dominated by Nigel Richards from New Zealand, as he won all his three rounds with ease. His leisurely walk to the finishing line turned into a brisk trot by day two when he mowed down all newcomers, suffering only a hiccup when he was beaten by Tony Sim from Singapore in game 14 (462 versus 409 points). On day three, it was a full gallop to the finishing line.

Sim hung on grimly to second place until the last game. He had the unfortunate “pleasure” of meeting Richards seven times. His defeat in the last round was the straw that broke the camel’s back and he fell to fifth place.

By the end of game 15, with just three more games to go, it was obvious to all that Richards would take the crown even if he were to lose the remaining games. That left the rest of the field to fight for second placing. Although Sim had been fighting valiantly to hold on to this placing, many others stood a good chance of wresting it from him unless he could beat Richards.

In game 18, the final game, Ng Chee Eng beat Alex Tan (371-301) and would have clinched the spot but for Jocelyn Lor who defeated Tengku Asri by a whopping margin (481-285). Four players tied with 11 points each and it was the spread that settled the matter with Lor wresting second position and Ng Chee Eng, Alex Tan and Tony Sim coming in third, fourth and fifth respectively.

The champion, Richards, also won for most number of bingos (44), pipping Chuah Sim Swee who had 40. He also won a lucky draw prize of a two-day one-night complimentary stay for two at the Equatorial Hotel Cameron Highlands on top of his trophy, a prize money of RM1,500 and a complimentary stay at the Equatorial Hotel Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.

Vannitha Balasingam won a trophy for highest game (602), while Tan Khee Chiang won for highest score for a word – ENFIXING (126 points). It is interesting to note that he also made the second and third highest scoring words – RESEIZED (121 points) and QUAFFING(113 points).

Scrabble has thus far been a gentleman’s game. Most players have always tried to uphold the unwritten rules that include honesty, courtesy to opponents and good sportsmanship. This could not have been more evident during the Equatorial Cameron Highlands tournament.

At the end of the second day, in the very last game (game 14), Ng Chee Eng tied with John Lam and each earned half a point instead of one point. The scorecards were signed, the results entered into the computer for the next day’s draw and everyone duly turned in for the night. Back in his room, Ng recounted the scores and found that he had actually won by a margin of two points. The next morning, he showed the results to Lam.

Under the rules of the game, once the scorecards have been signed by both parties and the marks entered for the next draw, the result should stand even if a mistake was discovered later. However, Lam gallantly agreed to change the result even though this would affect his standing and he even appealed to the organiser to do so. We salute you, John Lam. -- The Star Lifestyle.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Justlife aims to promote eating organic produce

Justlife aims to promote eating organic produce
By Bavani M
Photos by Ong Soon Hin
Thursday October 4, 2007

THERE is a lot one can do to preserve the environment. One is not expected to start a compost heap at home or change light bulbs to energy saving ones.

The simple act of buying organic vegetables or using biodegradable utensils is just some of the many little things you can do to save the environment.

And that is what customers who visited the newly opened Justlife outlet in the Gardens Mid Valley found out recently.

Simple steps: Tai filling her grocery basket with organic greens at the new Justlife outlet.
Simple steps: Tai filling her grocery basket with organic greens at the new Justlife outlet.

The outlet, which specialises in selling food, fruits, vegetables and products that are environmentally friendly, had organised a farmers' day to create awareness on organic products recently.

Farmers from Cameron Highlands, Kuala Kubu Baru, and other areas were brought in to teach shoppers the benefits of eating organic food.

“We’re here to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle because people are getting more and more concerned about their environment, global warming and healthy living,” said Justlife Group Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Callie Tai.

Yummy: Lee taking a bite out of a cherry tomato.
Yummy: Lee taking a bite out of a cherry tomato.

“You can help by simply changing your diet and opting to live a healthier life by consuming organic food,” said Tai.

Organic farmers do not use any form of pesticide or chemicals that harm the soil to plant their vegetables hence their fruits and vegetables are healthier and greener.

No doubt Tai does not dispute the fact that organic vegetables are costlier, in fact everything that is organically produced is more expensive but she is quick to add that the long term value of enjoying a healthy lifestyle free from diseases and sickness is priceless.

Farmer Jingle Kon from Kuala Kubu Baru who was one of the farmers at the outlet said organically produced vegetables are rich in vitamins and are good for the immune system.

A helping hand: Justlife stocks environmentally friendly products.
A helping hand: Justlife stocks environmentally friendly products.

“In the long run, eating them will only make a person healthier and stronger,” she said.

Lee Ong Sing, a farmer from Cameron Highlands, said people were still unaware of the goodness of organic food.

According to him, less then 1% of people in Malaysia consume organic food.

“It’s very big in the United States, Japan and Europe as people there are more concerned about their health and are aware of the need to conserve the planet,” he said.

Justlife outlets are located at Ikano Power Centre, Queens Park Retail Centre, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Puchong, Seremban, Malacca and Penang.

For details, call 03-7880 8035.

-- The Star Metro

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Put the kettle on

Put the kettle on
By Rose Yasmin Karim
Saturday September 22, 2007

Making the perfect cup of tea is not as easy as it seems.

I never liked designer coffee places. Although they brew good coffee, they are terrible makers of a proper cup of tea. So I seek joy in a glass of Masala tea at Indian restaurants – an orange brew, with copious amounts of sugar, evaporated milk, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

As disturbingly New Age as it may sound, it gives me a sense of well-being. What? That pair of shoes I’ve been eyeing don’t come in my size?

Tea, everywhere: The Sungei Palas Tea Centre overlooks Gunung Brinchang.
Tea, everywhere: The Sungei Palas Tea Centre overlooks Gunung Brinchang.

Masala tea.

Creepy blind date?

Masala tea.

It seems etched into the collective unconscious (of at least a sizable number of people, or at least the English) that whatever happens, a cup of tea can make things all right.

“Tea is best taken neat – without sugar or milk,” says Achuttan Kunjambi, 58, estate manager of Sungei Palas Tea Garden, Cameron Highlands. “Additives will only rob it of its true flavour.”

So, in an attempt to be more refined, I stick out my pinkie, grab a seat at a table facing the green tea shrubs at the Sungei Palas Tea Centre, and take a sip of the Earl Grey tea, sans milk and sugar.

Feeling very English, I nibble happily on bite-sized sandwiches and scones, and wash it all down with the rest of the aromatic, coppery liquid.

Although the mules have been retired to the stables, BOH’s Sungei Palas factory still retains an old-school approach in processing its tea. The leaves are first picked, sorted, withered, rolled, and fermented, before being sealed in 50kg bags and sent to the Bukit Cheeding factory in Banting for packing.

Achuttan tells me the fermentation process is the most vital.

“There are four main types of tea: green, black, oolong and white. It all comes from one plant – Camellia sinensis,” says Achuttan.

He explains that black tea is fully fermented, green tea is dried but not fermented and Oolong is a step between the two. “White tea is one of the rarest kind. The bud is actually white, hand-plucked before the leaf opens.”

I’ve never had any white tea myself, but Achuttan says it has a very delicate, floral taste. “The darker the tea, the higher the caffeine,” he adds. So if you’re avoiding caffeine, stick with white and green teas.

Passion for tea: Achuttan Kunjambi, 58, estate manager of Sungei Palas Tea Garden in Cameron Highlands.
Passion for tea: Achuttan Kunjambi, 58, estate manager of Sungei Palas Tea Garden in Cameron Highlands.

Achuttan’s favourite blend?

“Cameronian gold blend,” he reveals.

“The finest teas are made from the young, most aromatic and flavourful leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant – the top two leaves and the unopened leaf bud. It can fetch up to RM155 per kg,” Achuttan points out.

“The lowest grade is the dust, which are particles of tea leaves that are left at the bottom of the barrel during the manufacturing process.”

What determines the flavour of the tea?

“Tea taste is influenced by many factors – time of the year it is picked, the climate, soil, processing, and which leaves are picked,” he explains.

The Sungei Palas Tea Garden, located 1,524m above sea level is the brainchild of J. A. Russell, the same man who designed the Kuala Lumpur railway station. I’m not at all surprised when told the estate has been the set for many film productions, including Dil Maange More, a Bollywood flick staring Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takiya.

Noemie Poulain, 29, and her partner Igor Manceau, 32, from Paris, France, came to Cameron Highlands with their eight-month-old daughter, Aiko.

“The first few images that popped up when we Googled for Malaysia were of Cameron Highlands and it was also highly recommended by our friend back home who has been here,” says Poulain.

“It’s been drizzling on and off the last five days but we’re still enjoying it very much,” she says beaming, bouncing baby Aiko on her toes.

“This morning we trekked up trail number nine,” she adds.

“With the baby?” I ask, amazed.

“Yeah, the route was a breeze.”

Tools of the trade

With proper tools, you are halfway through to a perfect cuppa. First, you’ll need a chunky teapot. White porcelain or clear glass works well because you can observe the colour of the brew. Connoisseurs use different pots for different types of tea.

If you only have one pot, thoroughly rinse it with boiling water and baking powder. Never use soap to wash as you may end up with a soapy taste in your brew. The pot should be caked in years of previous tea makings for extra flavour. This is not gross, really.

Should one go for teabags or loose tea?

I personally like my tea loose. Teabags can produce a decent cup but think of the wastage in packaging. Another reason is tea, like pasta, needs room to spread out during the steeping process, which a tiny tea bag doesn’t properly allow.

If you use loose tea, you will need a straining device. It should be big enough to allow the leaves to expand, and small enough to fit through the top of your teapot.

I like the kind with a white cotton strainer that looks like a sock.

After putting in effort and money to make good tea, why spoil it by drinking it out of something undeserving of the honour?

Tea deserves a nice mug or cup. Don't use some ugly freebie mug or those mugs with clichéd sayings on it. And stay away from metal cups as it adds a metallic taste to your tea.

Look out for handles that are designed to keep your fingers from touching the hot side of your cup or mug, and mugs with a top lid that helps keep your tea hot.

How should tea be stored? Keep your tea fresh by keeping it in an airtight container or tin, which crucially is cool, dry and airtight.

The makings of a good cuppa

This is a public service announcement on behalf of people sick of drinking horrid tea.

Making good tea is not about a quick hit. It's about taking time and being a little self-indulgent. Here's how the tea ritual works at my house in the morning:

First I take the teapot outside and dump yesterday’s leaves in the garden where they make tea-rrific mulch. Then I boil cold tap water. Tea brewed with re-boiled water, or hot tap water, does not taste nearly as good as it removes the oxygen from the water and makes for a bitter brew.

While waiting for the water to boil, rinse out your teapot with warm water to keep your infusion from cooling off too soon. The water has to be boiling hot for black tea, leave the boiling water to settle down for a minute or so before you pour it on to oolongs, and a couple more minutes longer for green and white teas.

How much tea leaves you need will vary, depending on your taste and the types of tea.

“An excellent rule of thumb is one teaspoon (the measuring teaspoon, not the fancy one in your silver set) of tea leaves or 5.6g to one cup of water,” recommends Achuttan.

Follow the directions that come with your tea for the recommended brewing time and temperature. Generally, the steeping time will depend on whether you like your tea weak or strong, and the type of tea.

Longer steeping times make for stronger tea. They also make for bitter tea. If you want stronger tea, increase the amount of tea you use. Don’t steep longer. Cover the cup while the tea is brewing to retain the heat. Another important tip is to remove the brewed leaves immediately after the desired brewing period or you risk a tannin attack.

How the tea is drunk used to be a tell tale sign of a person’s social standing.

The wealthy drank tea undiluted, the middle class added some milk, and the poor filled their cups with cheap milk. With brown sugar, white sugar, honey, or neat, have it your way. Pour the tea through a strainer into strong porcelain cups or mugs. Optional extras include a newspaper, a remote control, a good book, and digestive biscuits.

Tea tasting

The ability to value tea calls for long experience and knowledge. At the BOH tea factory, a small mound of loose leaves are first spread out onto a piece of white paper. Achuttan explains that tasters will take note of the colour, texture, size, shape of the leaf, and length.

The colour of brewed tea is later observed in a clear or white cup. Putting into practice Achuttan’s demonstration, I bring the cup to my nose and inhale deeply to take in the aroma. Then, I take a spoonful of the tea and slurp with force to spray the tea over my entire tongue.

It takes every ounce of self-control to not swallow. Instead, the tea is swished around so it reaches all the corners of my mouth to identify either bitterness at the back of the tongue, saltiness in the middle, sweetness in the front or sourness on the sides. Tea tasters usually spit the tea out at this point.

The Sungei Palas Tea Centre is open daily except Monday from 9am to 4.30pm. Admission to the factory is free and guided tours are conducted every 30 minutes. To know more call (05) 496 1020 or e-mail: info@boh.com.my. -- source: LifeStyle.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unscrupulous middlemen inflating prices of vegetables

Unscrupulous middlemen inflating prices of vegetables
Thursday September 20, 2007

KEPALA BATAS: There are unscrupulous middlemen who inflate the prices of vegetables up to five times more than its farm price.

So, consumers are reminded to compare prices before buying their essentials in the market.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shapie Apdal said the farm price of 1kg of tomatoes in Cameron Highlands was only 90 sen.

"But, when the supply reaches the Selayang market, for example, the tomatoes are being retailed up to RM4.50 per kg.

"There are just too many middlemen involved in the distribution chain of grocery items that could have inflated the prices," he said after presenting grocery aid to 189 flood victims in Kampung Rantau Panjang here on Thursday.

Mohd Shafie said the prices of fish, vegetables and meat, which were not under the price control list, varied from stall to stall in a market.

"Based on personal observation, the prices of goods quoted by the stalls at the market entrance are a little higher than those located deeper inside the market.

"Perhaps, the front stalls have to pay a higher rental. But, as a wise consumer, we must compare prices first before making our purchases," he said.

On fears of a chicken shortage during the coming Hari Raya festive season, he said there was ample supply, noting that the country currently produced 22 million birds a month.

On the shortage of cooking oil in packets of RM2.50 per kg in several states, Mohd Shafie said he had told Deputy Primary Industries Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fa Kui to get the manufacturers to increase production.

"The shortage is so far only in Trengganu, Pahang, Sarawak and Johor. Hopefully, this problem would be resolved in a couple of days time," he said. -- The Star.

Crushed to death

Crushed to death
Thursday September 20, 2007

IPOH: A farm worker died a horrific death when his head was crushed in an accident involving an express bus and a lorry at the 15th kilometre of Jalan Simpang Pulai-Cameron Highlands here.

Ipoh traffic chief DSP Mohd Rodzi Rajab said the victim, Myanmar national Myint Soe, 23, was seated next to the window of the bus in the 2pm incident yesterday.

“His head was struck by the wooden barricade of the lorry, which broke off when the two vehicles grazed against each other.

“The Express Kurnia Bistari bus was on its way up to Cameron Highlands with 29 passengers while the lorry was travelling in the opposite direction,” said DSP Mohd Rodzi.

“The bus driver immediately stopped his vehicle but the lorry had already fled the scene by then,” he added.

DSP Mohd Rodzi said two other passengers on the bus sustained cuts from the broken glass and wood splinters and were given outpatient treatment at the Ipoh Hospital.

“We appeal to witnesses or anyone who come across a three-tonne lorry that is painted white on its front and damaged on the right hand side to come forward,” he said.

Those with information should call investigating officer Asst Supt Farid (012-9513464). -- source The Star.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Danish planters of Sungei Palas

Danish planters of Sungei Palas
Sunday September 9, 2007


The article ‘Heavenly Highlands’ in Sunday Metro (Aug 26) was most interesting, but the writer has been misinformed that Sungei Palas was planted by J.A. Russell in the 1920s. He planted Boh Estate near Ringlet but not Sungei Palas, which is close to Gunong Brinchang.

Sungei Palas was planted, mainly in the 30s, by two Danes who worked in Singapore, named Anker and Hindhede. The latter had a quarry, which still bore his name after the war.

In the 50s, while serving in the Malayan Police, I lived in a house on Sungei Palas and it still had the old visitors’ book for the estate. It showed how the two owners used to visit on public holidays, etc, and recorded progress such as “another five acres planted in November.” In the 50s, the property was still owned by the Danes.

During the Japanese occupation, apparently Japan was not at war with Denmark, so Danish planters from elsewhere in Malaya were allowed to live freely in Camerons. Among them were one or two British, pretending to be Danish. Mr Anker had a Japanese wife but she never let the secret out!

Richard Jones

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Heavenly Highlands

Heavenly Highlands
Sunday August 26, 2007
By Helen Ong

Cameron beckons with its calming scenery, beautiful gardens and farms.

THERE’S a good reason why the Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most popular resorts. In fact, there are plenty of good reasons.

The new road from Simpang Pulai makes for quite a pleasant drive, and despite what people say about global warming and higher temperatures there, the cool weather is obviously the greatest draw.

During the day, it is sunny but pleasantly mild, and warm enough to go about in shorts and T-shirt, although a cardigan on standby is always advisable.

Surreal English experience: You could be in Surrey.Surreal English experience: You could be in Surrey.

It definitely cools down when the sun sets, but the low temperature and high altitude will give you a good night’s rest. However, do have your bath during the day when the ambient temperature is still comfortable enough to shed your clothes.

Cameron Highlands produces a lot of our vegetables not just because of its altitude but also because of its high rainfall. Chances are it will pour when you are there, so don’t forget your waterproofs or umbrella.

The beautiful scenery and lovely houses like the newly-refurbished Cameron Highlands Resort and Ye Olde Smokehouse will transport you to Shakespearean times in Stratford-upon-Avon with their black and white mock-Tudor buildings.

Combine the first two and you will see why it’s very pleasant even if you do nothing more than go for a gentle stroll after a meal, or a more energetic hike around the golf course – the cool weather will ensure you don’t get hot under the collar, (literally, if not metaphorically). The 18-hole public golf course is relatively cheap, and although there are no buggies, the walk is not arduous.

Panoramic: Visitors to the Cameron Bharat Tea House located on the road side between Tanah Rata and Ringlet in Cameron Highlands will be treated to this breathtaking view of the plantation’s rolling hills and manicured tea bushes.Panoramic: Visitors to the Cameron Bharat Tea House located on the road side between Tanah Rata and Ringlet in Cameron Highlands will be treated to this breathtaking view of the plantation’s rolling hills and manicured tea bushes.

There are also surprisingly many other things to see and do, like the Cactus Farm, Rose Centre, Butterfly Farm, etc. At the Boh Plantation in Sungai Palas, learn about how it was started by Englishman J.A. Russell and visit the original 1920s factory. Enjoy the calm scenery from the viewing platform – tea, tea, everywhere – and purchase traditional and flavoured varieties at their gift shop.

Take the opportunity to visit some vegetable and flower farms on the outskirts of town – the greens (and greens, yellow, reds and other colours) are amazing. When you tuck into a crunchy sweet corn plucked straight off the plant, you’ll understand why it got the name in the first place.

According to Kodimani, who runs the Kasihmanis Strawberry Farm, one of the oldest, just outside Brinchang, there are now many places which produce this delicious temperate fruit.

Luscious: Strawberries galore!Luscious: Strawberries galore!

Some invite you to “self pluck” (sic), and enjoy a host of by-products, from homemade jams to milk shakes and ice cream. They are so plentiful that many restaurants offer fresh strawberry juice, thick and delicious, which makes a pleasant change from orange or apple.

Every other shop seems to be cashing in on this speciality. Apart from jam, you can buy strawberry pillows, balls, balloons, toys, mugs and jugs ? the list is endless. Some are cute, others a bit kitsch and a few are downright tacky, but there’ll be something to please everyone back home!

And if you go to the Pasar Malam, held on Friday and Saturday nights, vegetables and flowers are abundant and cheap. Go near closing time and a big bag of mixed vegetables will cost just RM10.

An important consideration is food, of course, and Steamboat is popular as it is ideal for the weather, and there are many restaurants which offer this – just take a stroll along Brinchang and you’ll see.

However, there are other things on offer, from Uncle Chow’s in Tanah Rata which has a good selection of local specialities to many other cuisines.

Cheery: A burst of sunshine from yellow chrysanthemums.Cheery: A burst of sunshine from yellow chrysanthemums.

Continue the slightly surreal English experience with classic ‘Afternoon Tea and Scones’ which are available everywhere ? with strawberry jam, of course.

It’s a wonderful place to go for some R&R, but don’t even attempt it during public or school holidays, as locals were happily recounting tales of four-hour long traffic jams stretching from just Kampung Raja to Brinchang. Parking, accommodation and restaurants become scarce resources and command much higher prices.

It’s even more enjoyable when there’s a group of you. As the night sets in, it’s very cosy to draw the curtains, have a few drinks, for medicinal purposes only, of course, play mahjong or some other games. If you’re looking for some away-time, then head for Cameron Highlands. -- Sunday Metro.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Vicinity of Tapah

Pristine retreat among nature
Sunday August 19, 2007

Within the vicinity of Tapah town are many recreational parks that are both alluring and exciting.

NOT many people are aware that there is more to Tapah than a little town with bustling day activities and quiet nights.

Within its vicinity are numerous places of interest that are both alluring and exciting.

Waterfalls, recreational parks, jungle trails, mountain peaks, hot springs and even the traditional route to Cameron Highlands, are all close to this town, which is about 67km south of Ipoh and 160km north of Kuala Lumpur.

It’s a laid-back town with several streets, mostly filled with sundry and trading shops, textile centres, local restaurants, a market square and several banks.

Steamy attraction: The Sungai Klah hot spring park in Sungkai is fast becoming a popular haunt for families and tour groups from all over the country.
Steamy attraction: The Sungai Klah hot spring park in Sungkai is fast becoming a popular haunt for families and tour groups from all over the country.

You may look for some local snacks or try some popular Malay cuisine unique to Perak at several restaurants here.

Alternatively, head for the recreational parks that promise more than just soothing green and blue mountain views.

Hidden from a distance by the rugged rainforest, these parks comprise several waterfalls and crystal clear streams amongst the hills. The parks are well equipped with facilities for day-trippers and picnickers.

One such waterfall retreat that is popular yet not too crowded is the Kuala Woh recreational park where a large, swift, clear water stream flows through.

What makes this spot interesting and different is its stream.

It has both icy cool and close-to-boililng water flowing in different parts of it.

A unique work of nature, one could take a warm bath with the added benefit of natural minerals to invigorate the skin and rejuvenate the body and mind.

There are jungle trails here too and close by is the trailhead to Batu Puteh mountain, which is over 2,000m high.

Splashing time: Picnickers having fun in this icy cool stream at the Kuala Woh recreational park.
Splashing time: Picnickers having fun in this icy cool stream at the Kuala Woh recreational park.

There are also several villages belonging to the orang asli or the indigenous people of the area and one can get a brief insight into their lives here.

Kuala Woh is 20km from Tapah town and some 20km further up towards Cameron Highlands is the lovely Lata Iskandar falls.

Visitors driving up to Cameron Highlands using the traditional route will not miss this waterfall located very close to the road.

The water is a little chilly for bathing but people do stop to take photographs or look for souvenirs along the road dotted on both sides with little stalls.

Local crafts, some jungle products and wild honey are sold here.

Not far from Tapah and clearly seen from the North-South Expressway is the Lata Kinjang waterfall. It is about 25km away and vies for the top spot among Malaysia’s highest waterfalls.

The waterfall is spectacular and has some basic facilities at its base.

It is a picture-perfect spot and you can get there by driving north along the old trunk road.

Drive 20km south of Tapah and another pristine haven unfolds.

Popular corner: The Nasi Kandar Capati Corner in Temoh near Tapah. Travellers attest to the delicious and soft capati served by the restaurant located along the Ipoh-Tapah trunk road.
Popular corner: The Nasi Kandar Capati Corner in Temoh near Tapah. Travellers attest to the delicious and soft capati served by the restaurant located along the Ipoh-Tapah trunk road.

It’s the Sungai Klah hot spring park in Sungkai, a spot that is fast becoming popular among families and tour groups from all over the country.

The attraction is its hot spring, which is said to have therapeutic values that help heal skin ailments, arthritis and other illnesses. Its setting is also picturesque with forested foothills of the Titiwangsa Range straddling the area.

This spot attracts some 5,000 visitors monthly and they come here to enjoy facilities such as a one-metre deep swimming pool, three other small soaking pools, a reflexology path and four indoor saunas.

The area is also located close to several orang asli villages and it is interesting to see these people carrying out their daily activities by the stream that flows through the area.

From the park entrance, a 202m boardwalk takes visitors through lush greenery and fantastic close-up views of natural springs emitting hot vapour clouds.

The park also boasts two man-made waterfalls and is beautifully landscaped with herbal and medicinal plants such as tongkat ali, kacip fatimah, jerangau, mata pelanduk and pegaga.

Traditional massage services are also available here.

While city-weary folks increasingly seek natural adventure and relaxation, food and eating out is another form of adventure here.

Along the Sungai Batang Padang riverbank in the middle of the town is Restauran Kualiti.

Sizzling: Grilled freshwater fish is among the mouth-watering dishes served at Restoran Kualiti. There are also grilled squid, prawns and chicken that are served with assam gravy or black sauce dips.
Sizzling: Grilled freshwater fish is among the mouth-watering dishes served at Restoran Kualiti. There are also grilled squid, prawns and chicken that are served with assam gravy or black sauce dips.

Though it is a humble-looking restaurant, you will be surprised to find over 100 types of favourite Perak and Northern Malay food served here.

Some of the mouth-watering fare include chicken, beef, quail, seafood, mutton and vegetables, prepared in different styles of kampung (Malay village) cooking such as gulai tempoyak, curry, assam pedas, masak lemak, gulai, kerabu and rendang.

The most popular item on the menu here is the ikan patin masak tempoyak (a type of freshwater fish cooked in fermented durian gravy) – a native delicacy in northern Perak.

Restaurant owner Hashim Jani, 70, believes in treating his customers like “kings”.

“We ensure the quality of our food and service is always up to mark, hence the name of our restaurant,” says the ex-army man who started the business with his wife in 1982 to supplement income following his retirement.

There are also assam and curry fish head as well as grilled squids, stingrays, and freshwater fish from Tapah and Teluk Intan that come served with assam gravy or black sauce dips.

The restaurant also serves over 15 types of ulam (fresh herbs and vegetables) with a variety of sambal and beef, oxtail, cow’s tripe, and chicken soups – all prepared in traditional Malay cooking style.

If you like Chinese food, Hainanese specialities are served at the Keng Chong Restaurant at Jalan Station in Tapah town.

A migrant from China started the outlet and it has been a popular eating place here for the last 100 years.

Hot pau: Wong Chee Hong, 66, serving a customer at his Keng Chong Restaurant
Hot pau: Wong Chee Hong, 66, serving a customer at his Keng Chong Restaurant.

Its owner, Wong Chee Hong, 66, says his grandfather started the restaurant, and it is most popular for its Hainan dumplings (pau) with various sweet and meat fillings.

Wong makes the dumplings using recipes passed down by his forefathers.

“I am the third generation making the pau. I can assure customers that the taste and quality has not changed,” he says.

Also sought after at his restaurant is the ‘lo mai kai” or glutinous rice steamed in bamboo leaves and cooked with chicken, mushroom and meat.

Other items are fried eel with dried chillies and stir-fried frog with ginger.

About 6km north of the town along the old road to Ipoh is the Nasi Kandar Capati Corner.

It’s in the little town of Temoh, just by the junction to Chenderiang.

The stall is famous for what it is named after – capati, the staple north Indian toasted flatbread.

Its proprietor, Mohd Yazid Mohamed Ashraf says people just love his capati as it is soft, thin and tasty.

“It goes well with the sardine or mutton curry. People can also request for chicken and fish head curry,” says Mohd Yazid who has been running the restaurant for 22 years.

There are many other places to eat here, including a fast food restaurant if you are not into local cuisine.

The variety of food here will certainly complement the wonderful and fulfilling experience visitors to this delightful place will have from its natural surroundings. -- The Star.