Thursday, January 31, 2008

Road to Cameron Highlands to benefit orang asli

RM80m road to Cameron Highlands to benefit orang asli
By Nik Naizi Husin
Thursday January 31, 2008

LIPIS: The orang asli community in Pos Betau will benefit from a 88km road from Sungai Koyan to Cameron Highlands scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

Jelai assemblyman Datuk Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said the road, costing RM80mil, could now be used by motorists from Sungai Koyan to Kampung Susu, a stretch of about 70km. Another 18km from Kampung Susu to Ringlet in Cameron Highlands was still under construction.

Welcome gift: Wan Rosdi (third from left) and Devamany distributing packs of rice to the orang asli at Pos Betau in Lipis recently
Welcome gift: Wan Rosdi (third from left) and Devamany distributing packs of rice to the orang asli at Pos Betau in Lipis recently

Wan Rosdy said, with the completion of the road, travel time to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lipis would be reduced by five hours.

“Currently, people go to Cameron Highlands via Gua Musang (in Kelantan), Batang Berjuntai (in Selangor) and the North-South Expressway, and the journey takes long hours,” he said when met after presenting annual bonuses to 46 village headmen from 18 orang asli villages in Pos Betau here recently.

Also present was Cameron Highlands MP S.K. Devamany.

He said the orang asli would benefit much in terms of marketing their fruits and crafts.

“The road will be another alternative for people to go to Ipoh and northen parts of the country,” Wan Rosdy added.

“I see some tourism attractions like waterfalls, rivers and the natural environment which could be upgraded and promoted with the new road,” he said. -- Star Metro

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No Genting stage for this year’s Tour of Langkawi

No Genting stage for this year’s Tour of Langkawi
By Eric Samuel
Wednesday January 23, 2008

PETALING JAYA: The penultimate leg of the nine-stage Tour of Langkawi (LTdL) cycling championships from Maran to Genting Highlands has been replaced with a route from Temerloh to Fraser’s Hill.

The chief operating officer of the Tour, Datuk Naim Mohamad, said the decision to replace the Genting stage was made in the best interest of the safety of the cyclists and members of the public.

“It is with a heavy heart that we came to the conclusion not to have the Genting stage. But one cannot put the safety of the riders at risk,” he said yesterday.

Naim added that for the first time in the series, the 13th edition of the Tour will have a new route for the King of the Mountain stage.

“Due to the Chinese New Year festivities during the first half of February, more than 150,000 holidaymakers are expected to converge in Genting Highlands,” he said.

“This is one of the busiest periods in Genting and the management have informed us that it would be difficult to totally close the roads all the way to the peak as done in previous races.

“They proposed finishing the stage in Gohtong Jaya but the organising committee felt that with such a high volume of traffic to the resort, it could lead to massive jams and worse still safety issues.”

Although the stage is not ending in Genting, the prestigious King of the Mountain jersey and award will continue to be sponsored by Resorts World.

Naim added that the technical team had surveyed the new route and the 127km race from Temerloh to Fraser’s Hill would be more challenging than the previous one.

“It is a direct ascent for the riders, all the way up. It is unlike the Genting stage where there are uphills and downhills,” said Naim.

A record 25 teams, including professional tour, professional continental, continental and Asian sides, will participate in this year’s Tour from Feb 9-17.

Feb 9: Alor Star -Kepala Batas (182.6km).
Feb 10: Butterworth-Sitiawan (159.7km).
Feb 11: Sitiawan-Banting (209.4km).
Feb 12: Port Dickson-Batu Pahat (169km).
Feb 13: Johor Baru-Bandar Penawar (139.9km).
Feb 14: Bandar Penawar-Kuala Rompin (182.8km).
Feb 15: Kuala Rompin-Kuantan (126.6km).
Feb 16: Temerloh-Fraser’s Hill (127km).
Feb 17: Kuala Lumpur criterium (80.4km).

-- Star Sports.

Monday, January 21, 2008

There goes the Brinchang neighbourhood

There goes the Brinchang neighbourhood
Monday January 21, 2008

LAST month, the main road in Brinchang town in the Cameron Highlands was changed to a one-way street. So was Jalan Muhibbah, which leads to a housing area.

We, the people who live at the housing area, have lost the quietness we used to enjoy.

Jalan Muhibbah has now become a main road where every single vehicle comes through. We are now given morning calls so very early every day.

Brinchang is also losing its customers because traffic is not going through the town.

Can somebody please do something about this change which is doing nothing to improve the living condition of the people here?

Rather than making streets one-way, why not give us more street lights? Plant more flowers and improve the cleanliness.

Brinchang, Pahang.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Infrastructure projects in Pahang

RM23.5m for infrastructure projects in Pahang
By Roslina Mohamad
Thursday January 17, 2008

KUANTAN: Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has drawn up plans to carry out several infrastructure projects for Pahang costing more than RM23.5mil that include developing the Universal Service Provision (USP) programme in five districts.

About RM20mil will be spent in Maran, Pekan, Rompin, Bera and Jerantut districts.

Another project is to build community broadband centres in Kuantan, Maran, Rompin, Bera, Bentong, Lipis and Jerantut at a cost of RM3.5mil.

According to state Science, Innovation, Information and Information Technology Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin, plans to build Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) infrastructure in Pahang were designed to complement the development and implementation of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) blueprint.

Mohd Sharkar said, under the Private Finance Initiative, 70 new telecommunication towers in rural areas, mainly in Felda land schemes, would be built.

He added that the state, through its newly-established wholly-owned company, Pahang Technology Resources Sdn Bhd, was expected to spur ICT growth for economic reasons as well as public convenience.

He said the state and MCMC would organise awareness campaigns on utilising ICT tools and infrastructure by holding exhibitions, seminars on creative content development, workshops and dialogues between the industry and consumers.

On the state’s efforts to ensure ICT facilities were accessible in the state, especially to rural folks, Mohd Sharkar said rural ICT centres were set up in public libraries.

“To date, there are 10 such centres at public libraries in Temerloh, Bentong, Cameron Highlands and Kuantan.

“More ICT centres will be set up this year,” he added.

In a move to encourage ICT-related activities being carried out more actively, ICT Club was established and launched by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob recently, he said.

The state had high hopes that the plans and activities lined up would provide exposure on ICT usage to the public and business community so that they would get the right benefits, Mohd Sharkar said. -- The Star Metro

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New plants for New Year

New plants for New Year
Saturday January 12, 2008

PLANTS are symbols of life and growth. For the Chinese, it is a must to have plants decorating their houses and gardens during the Chinese New Year celebration.

Some of the popular plants are, among others, bamboo shoots, lime trees, cherry blossoms and plum blossoms.

Apart from decorative purposes, each of them carries a special connotation that is usually synonymous with good health, longevity, good fortune, abundance of wealth, business growth and career successes.

Shopping for plants for next month’s Chinese New Year celebration will be more exciting and fun as there are many new choices, some quite out of the ordinary.

Green gifts: These bamboo shoots are among the items found at NZX Commercial Centre.
Green gifts: These bamboo shoots are among the items found at NZX Commercial Centre.

At the flower bazaar at the NZX Commercial Centre in Ara Damansara, lime fruit almost as big as pomelos are the big attraction among the shoppers.

“People like to buy these big lime trees as they are very special. Our lime trees are available in different styles. There are the one-tier, three-tier and also eight-tier ones,” Phoenix Ocean marketing director Eric Hong said.

Another newcomer is the dragon pussywillow that comes planted in pots, in contrast to the normal ones that come in vases without soil.

According to Hong, the Chinese love the new pussywillow as it is “alive” and will grow leaves, symbolising growth in many aspects in life.

The Bromeliad (pineapple or “ong lai” flower) in red, purple and yellow is another popular plant since it represents the arrival of fortune. “Ong lai” in Hockkien means “Fortune comes”.

“The plants here are not only suitable for decorating houses and offices; they make great gifts as well,” Hong sai
Unique feature: The dragon pussywillow comes planted in pots to signify growing opportunities in life.
Unique feature: The dragon pussywillow comes planted in pots to signify growing opportunities in life.

According to Hong, even non-Chinese purchase the plants because of their vibrancy and uniqueness.

Also available at the bazaar are the bamboo shoots, “change-your-luck” bamboos, bonsai, crystal soil, pussywillows, vases, plastic plants, decorative items and garden fountains.

The bamboo is very popular as a symbol of life, longevity and strength. It stays firmly rooted even in the face of fierce winds. For the Hokkiens, the bamboo plants represent their shelter from the evil demons that terrorised their ancestors during an ancient dark evil era.

The imported plants come from China and Taiwan while the homegrown ones are from Cameron Highlands.

“I will have cherry blossoms, tulips, chrysanthemums and more,” Hong said.

The bazaar, opened since Jan 1, is open from 10am till 11pm daily until the 15th day of Chinese New Year.

For more information, call 016-841 7887 (Jason) or 016-332 2322 (Melvin).

-- The Star Metro

Friday, January 11, 2008

Equatorial Cameron Highlands Scrabble Tournament

Highly popular
By Chuah Sim Swee
Friday January 11, 2008

The stage is set for Scrabble to take off in a big way in the country.

WHAT a year it has been! 2007 turned out to be a vintage year for the local Scrabble scene. Apart from the usual big events like the ICT Penang Open, Causeway Challenge in Johor and the Nationals in Kuala Lumpur, the year saw the re-emergence of the Equatorial Cameron Highlands Scrabble Tournament, thanks to the efforts of Tan Kee Chiang who refused to let this tournament die a natural death.

Last year saw the debut of Scrabble Scramble in Kuala Lumpur and the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall Scrabble Tournament, which was initiated by Martin Teo and Gan Yi En. The sheer number of new players participating in some of these events must have brought joy to the old stalwarts.

Novices and first-time players turned up in full force for the Scrabble Scramble, the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall Scrabble Tournament and the Mensa Mines Scrabble tournaments. Scrabble has finally made inroads into Malaysia and more people are viewing it not only as a pleasurable game but a competitive pursuit.

Credit should be given to Song Kim Lian (popularly known as Mrs Yap) for her tireless efforts to popularise the game at school level. The influx of young players will ensure that Malaysia will have a growing pool of talent to draw from for many years to come.

While the “newbies” were getting their first taste of competition, master players fought tooth-and-nail all through the year to clinch the remaining seat for the World Scrabble Championship (WSC) in Mumbai, India, which was held last November. Places were allocated to the top two rated Malaysians.

Ganesh Asirvatham was a sure bet for one spot but the rest of the pack battled it out at all the major tournaments to get enough points for the second spot. After many see-sawing rounds of results, surprisingly it was 15-year-old Ong Suanne of Penang who pipped the veterans to the finishing line. Her meteoric rise was breathtaking and she had sacrificed many long nights, juggling her studies and improving her craft.

After that, all eyes were on the WSC. As expected, Ganesh had a brilliant run but suffered a hiccup at the very end when lady luck deserted him in the crucial last three games and he lost to Nigel Richards of New Zealand.

On the other hand, being the youngest player in her very first WSC did not daunt Suanne. She came in a respectable 12th position and also won an extra spot for Malaysia for the next WSC.

Suanne also represented Malaysia in the World Youth Scrabble Tournament in Johor Baru and came in third. The surprise at the tournament came in the form of 15-year-old Shaun Chung from Kuala Lumpur. Unheralded for most of the tournament, Shaun played magnificently and outshone many of the more fancied players on the circuit. He emerged second place after three days of gruelling competition.

Congratulations to all our international champions. Our dreams of a Malaysian World Scrabble champion may just come true one day.

The Scrabble scene in the country is set to take off in a big way. We have the talent, and now the groundwork has been laid for scrabblers to get the guidance and exposure they need to make progress. Another crucial factor that helped all the pieces fall into place is the emergence of big-time sponsors.

In Penang, Dr Adele Tan, president of the Penang Scrabble Club, pulled off a coup when she managed to rope in Air Asia as an affiliate of the prestigious ICT Penang Open, together with Island College of Technology. All national and international Scrabble players flying to the tournament will be given special fare packages.

Jimmy Lim, managing director of the Tokai Group of Companies, gave the game a boost when he took over as main sponsor of the World Youth Scrabble Championship in Johor for this year and in years to come.

What does 2008 hold for Scrabble enthusiasts? Well, for starters, WYSC is now an annual event and it will be held in Malaysia. The organisers were so impressed by the warmth, hospitality, and talent in the country that Malaysia is now their destination of choice.

So what are you youngsters waiting for? Start practising now! Scrabble players from all categories, be they novices, intermediate or masters have bigger and better tournaments to look forward too.

The winds of change augur well for Scrabble in Malaysia. Things will only get better and it is hoped that all those who love Scrabble will put aside their differences and make Scrabble the No. 1 board game in the country. Our motto should be “Make words not war”! -- The Star Living

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pitcher Plants Pretty as a Picture

Pretty as a picture
By Anthony Law
Thursday January 10, 2008

Cups of prosperity: Lim Ah Keat admiring the fruits of his labour - beautiful pitcher plants - at his nursery at Bercham, Ipoh.
Cups of prosperity: Lim Ah Keat admiring the fruits of his labour - beautiful pitcher plants - at his nursery at Bercham, Ipoh.

PITCHER plants or “monkey cups”, believed to bring prosperity to the owners, have been keeping Lim Ah Keat and his son busy at their nursery.

Known to thrive well in the jungles, the pitcher plants are now being nurtured via tissue culture at Kooi Lam Nursery at Bercham in Ipoh.

Ah Keat’s son Dared Lim Seck Chai, a Material Science graduate from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said he had been helping his father at the nursery with the tissue culture.

Booming business: Ah Keat and Seck Chai checking the pitcher plants.
Booming business: Ah Keat and Seck Chai checking the pitcher plants.

“Cultivated from the leaves of the plant, the young tissue matures into the size of an ordinary plant within two months,” said the 29-year-old Seck Chai.

Seck Chai explained that the cups of the pitcher plant attracted and trapped insects, adding that the plants fed on the trapped insects.

However, monkeys in the wild would drink water trapped in the cups, thus giving the pitcher plant the name “monkey cup”, he said, adding that its scientific name was Nepenthes.

Seck Chai said his pitcher plants could live up to 20 years and they were grown in pots at the nursery, which his father had operated for the past 30 years.

Young plants: Pitcher plants from the ‘Alata’ species.

Ah Keat, 60, used to supply fruit seedlings and other plants before going into the pitcher plant business.

The nursery has over 10 different species of pitcher plants.

Some of the plants come from Cameron Highlands, the Netherlands, Belgium, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Seck Chai said the pitcher plants were popular especially during the festive season.

“Pitcher is supposed to be a favourable feng shui plant,” he said, adding that his customers would buy the plant for their homes and offices.

Spotted one: A spotted pitcher plant with a rounded cup.

“Pitchers are believed to be significant as the cups hold water which means wealth or money,” Seck Chai said.

He said he was first attracted to the cups of the plants and started to grow them commercially.

The plants, which had more pitchers or cups, were considered more valuable, he said.

Ah Keat said the plants were sought after particularly during the Chinese New Year and that he expected a boom in sales.

“Pitcher plants are an endangered species but this can be prevented with the use of tissue culture,” Ah Keat said.

Direct use of fertilisers on the plant would burn the roots of the plant, he said.

“But if you are hard working, you can feed the plant by placing small insects into the cup.” -- The Star Metro

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Agro-delight discovery tour

Agro-delight discovery tour
Saturday January 5, 2008

There are numerous flower, vegetable and strawberry farms accessible to visitors in Cameron Highlands, but if you’d rather not read a map trying to find them, why not opt for Titiwangsa Tours & Travel’s Agro-Delight Tour?

The tour takes about 3½ hours and covers the Cactus Valley and visits to different agricultural farms for hydroponic lettuce, strawberries, flowers, watercress, and more.

Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as there is a good amount of walking up and down steep steps and terraced footpaths.

Very vivid: Organic vegetables are harvested only after 70 days. Meanwhile, strawberry farms practise the pick-pay-and-eat concept.
Very vivid: Organic vegetables are harvested only after 70 days. Meanwhile, strawberry farms practise the pick-pay-and-eat concept.

The Cactus Valley is home to a wide variety of unusual plant species, like oddly shaped cacti, lantern flower (otherwise known as “freesia”), passion fruit (also known as “lovers’ fruit”), and even grapes.

Visitors will learn about different vegetable farming methods practised in the highlands – aeroponic, hydroponic, conventional and organic.

Hydroponic is a modern method and often the costliest, but vegetables are easily grown using water instead of soil.

Nutrients are fed to the plants via a circulated water system, giving them adequate oxygen. Protected from direct sunlight, the greens are grown on neat rows of raised elongated planters and protected from pests with strategically placed “fly paper” that lure insects to its adhesive surface.

The most popular vegetable grown using this method are the salad types, such as red and green coral lettuces, butterhead and Romaine.

According to our guide, organic vegetables are grown with chemical-free fertilisers and some form of crop rotation.

Strawberries in Cameron HighlandsVegetables require 3½ months to grow using traditional farming method, so most conventional farms today opt for intensive “open terrace” cultivation, which shortens the growth period to just 45 days. Organic methods, though, take slightly longer, yielding a proper harvest only after 65-70 days.

The organic vegetables produced here are mainly broccoli, mini bok choy, Japanese spinach, Chinese cabbage, leeks, iceberg lettuce and peas.

Did you know that all the strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands practise the pick-pay-and-eat concept? Camerons is possibly one of the few places in the world where the fruits are available year-round. Replanting is done every three years when the soil becomes too acidic.

Our strawberry plant species are mostly imported from Australia, Holland, Taiwan and the US. Our next stop was at a chrysanthemum flower farm.

Despite the costly capital outlay required to start a flower farm (up to RM3.2mil), the flower industry is the most profitable of them all here. We also viewed a watercress farm, where the greens were grown on open terraces with constantly running water. Harvesting is carried out after 60 days.

After the enlightening Agro-Delights Tour, we appreciated the fresh, crisp greens served for our steamboat dinner even more. Instead of seeing them as just an essential component of our diet, we saw the vegetables as the fruits of many diligent farmers’ labour in Cameron Highlands.

o Get more information on the Morning Madness Tour by Cameron Secrets and Titiwangsa Tours & Travel’s Agri-Delights Tour from this informative website:

Where to stay

Here’s a list of places to stay during your visit to Cameron Highlands. If you are stopping by for a meal, check out these restaurants.

Century Pines Hotel
Lot 42, Jalan Masjid
39000 Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands
Tel: (05) 491 5115
Fax: (05) 491 1115
One of the newer hotels which are family-friendly. Easy access to eateries and shops nearby.

Casa de la Rosa
Lot 48, Jalan Circular,
39000 Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands
Tel: (05) 4911 333
Fax: (05) 4915 500
A small but cosy property in mock-Tudor design. WiFi access and spacious family rooms available.

The Lakehouse Cameron Highlands
30th Mile
39200 Ringlet
Cameron Highlands
Tel: (05) 4956 152
Fax (05) 4956 213
A charming Tudor-style boutique resort with elegant, colonial-style furnishings. Ideal for honeymooners and couples looking for a quiet retreat.

Steamboat Restaurant
26 Jalan Besar
Cameron Highlands
Tel: (05) 4912 380
Steamboat and a whole range of hearty Chinese dishes. Very popular with visitors especially on weekends so go early if you want to get a table.

The T Café
No 4 (1st Floor)
Main Road Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands
Tel: (05) 4914 018
A simple café that serves soup, salads, sandwiches, Western and Asian dishes like chicken chop, fish and chips, noodles and fried rice. Try the freshly baked scones for tea.

Restaurant Palm Leaf Garden
3 Bandar Baru Brinchang
Cameron Highlands
Tel : (05) 4914 208
Reasonably priced local and Thai noodle or rice dishes with a selection of Western delights.

-- The Star LifeStyle

Natural delights

Natural delights
By Alice Ching
Saturday January 5, 2008

Cameron Highlands still enchants the visitor.

Our last trip to Cameron Highlands was two years ago, so we wondered: How much has changed? Is the weather still cold and the surroundings green? Would we enjoy ourselves as much?

These niggling thoughts preyed on our minds as we drove up using the new Tapah route.

Sight to behold: Sunset from Mt Brinchang, the highest peak at Cameron Highlands.
Sight to behold: Sunset from Mt Brinchang, the highest peak at Cameron Highlands.

Overall, the drive was a pleasant and interesting one. We even stopped briefly at some makeshift stalls manned by the Orang Asli. Besides selling wild honey, wild torch ginger flower and bamboo shoots gathered from the highland forests, the natives also sell an unusual plant known as pokok bulu ayam mas (golden chicken feather tree). The clumps of fine mossy golden hair from this plant are used by the Orang Asli to treat minor cuts and to stop bleeding.

When we stopped for a quick breather at Lata Iskandar, it pained us to see that the tall, shady trees surrounding the small waterfall had been felled, leaving behind an unsightly, scarred landscape. There were construction materials lying around, so we presumed maintenance work was being carried out to “beautify” the spot.

After checking into the Century Pines Hotel, we had an early dinner at the Lakehouse Cameron Highlands. Be prepared to pay KL prices when you dine here, but the grilled lamb rack, cream of mushroom, cream of tomato, spaghetti, fish and chips, and apple pie were well-prepared and worth every ringgit.

The apple pie especially is heavenly. We turned in early that night to catch a spectacular sunrise the next morning.

Morning madness

When was the last time you woke up before the crack of dawn to ascend a mountain to watch the rising sun?

We woke up at six and found our guide, Kumar, ready to whisk us off in the highlands’ favourite “work horse” – the Land Rover – for adventure outfit Cameron Secrets’ famed Morning Madness tour.

The 40-minute ride up Cameron Highlands’ highest peak, Gunung Brinchang (2,031m) was fun but bumpy. It also felt a little surreal because our surroundings remained shrouded in darkness and, now and then, the chilly air sent shivers down our spine.

According to Kumar, Cameron Secrets only accommodate small groups of four to eight people due to the sensitive nature of the environment.

Perfect: Enjoy a cup of tea with scones while looking at this perfect view.
Perfect: Enjoy a cup of tea with scones while looking at this perfect view.

“It also ensures a more intimate, off-the-beaten-track kind of experience. Ninety-nine percent of visitors who pick this tour are Caucasians but we would like to interest more Malaysians, especially nature lovers, to go on this tour. The spectacular sunrise, followed by a visit to the Mossy Forest, is an unforgettable experience and adds a different dimension to their holiday.”

Upon reaching the peak of Brinchang, we climbed up a tall viewing tower to wait for the sun. There was still 20 minutes to spare, but already we were mesmerised – by the spectacular 360° view of tranquil, verdant hills, some of which were blanketed in thick rolls of cottony clouds and others swathed in ribbons of ethereal mists.

Buffeted occasionally by strong, bone-chilling winds, we saw the sun rising majestically between the hills. Yup, the Morning Madness tour certainly gave a new perspective to our Cameron Highlands getaway.

After a quick cup of freshly brewed tea and light refreshments, we drove over to Mossy Forest to go trekking. It was a most rewarding experience as our knowledgeable guide frequently stopped to show us a plethora of ferns, wild orchids, herbs, and other jungle plants along the way.

We even spotted a small baby snake, which quickly slithered away into the undergrowth.

“At least you were game enough to venture on this trek. I have had first-time visitors from a neighbouring country who wore plastic bags over their track shoes to prevent them from getting soiled!” said Kumar, chuckling at the memory.

What did not amuse him was how they discarded the bags on the forest grounds once out of the forest!

So folks, remember the old nature-lover motto: Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs.

Our last stop was at the Boh Plantations Sungai Palas Tea Estate. We went on a brief tour of the tea factory and finished up with a late breakfast at Boh Tea’ria. The picturesque backdrop of endless tea plants on the gentle, undulating slopes made it a memorable breakfast. -- The Star Lifestyle