Monday, August 17, 2009

In Memory Of The Hoovers

Part of the 2-page story on Rev James Matthew Hoover,his wife Mary Hoover, (above) the Hoover Memorial Garden and the new Masland Methodist Church Complex (below) can be accessed at Click the link at the bottom to find out more.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Semporna---I Love You!

Semporna means place of rest in the local Bajau language. It was located on the east coast of Sabah, 90km from Tawau. The sword fish above is the symbol of the town of more than 150,000 people, the majority of them are Bajaus. I took a van from Tawau to Semporna which charged RM13 per passenger.
The town proper itself is a few rows of run-down shophouses.But the wharf area is always bustling with activities with many fishermen unloading their catches and tourists going out to their favourite island destinations in the Celebes sea or returing to land.

New rows of shophouses are being built at the waterfront.Probably once completed, they will be hotels or lodging houses and restaurants to carter for the ever increasing number of tourists.

Although first timers to Semporna (like myself) will initially feel a bit unsafe because of hearing too many stories of many illegal Filipino and Indonesian immigrants ( worst still, the Abu Sayyaf terrorists), it is, in actual fact, a very safe town with many helpful and friendly people.

Semporna is the gateway to several world class diving sites, the most famous of them is the Sipadan Island.Several other less famous but equally interesting and attractive islands are Mabul Island, Mataking Island,Pom Pom Island and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park which consists of 4 islands and several reefs.Going out to sea to visit the islands have first to pass through this wooden arch (below) to reach the various jetties along the Causeway Road and Semporna Bay.

Before leaving home I had booked a room at the 3-star Seafest Hotel but in Tawau,I changed my mind to staying at Dragon Inn. I made the right decision to switch for 2 obvious reasons.Firstly the RM66 nett rate at Dragon Inn was half of what Seafest was offering me.Secondly, the tour operator which arranged my tour to Mabul Island, Uncle Chang, has his office situated right infront of Dragon Inn.

Dragon Inn is an integrated tourism complex built over the shallow sea at Semporna Bay. It consists of 65 hotel rooms,several restaurants, conference rooms and a large netted area where many species of marine fish and creatures are kept for the viewing pleasures of its guests and the public as well.

Almost the entire resort is built of hardwood and nibong palm. It is certainly eco-friendly. The above long plankwalk leads to my room at Block H.

Not a bad room at such a reasonable price. The only complaint was the aircon was not cold enough.But a lot of people prefer to open all the windows to enjoy the pleasant sea breezes.

Feeding time for the fish is at 3 pm daily. The biggest grouper is probably more than 50 kg and 4-5 feet long. You can imagine how powerful it is (below) when it comes to fighting for food during feeding time.

Several other species of marine fish and creatures are equally fascinating. I spent hours photographing them in the afternoon when the light is good.

The above is one of the giant grouper...sunbathing in the pond.

There are many local and international diving companies offering professional and skilled dive masters/instructors in semporna. Scuba Junkie is one of them.

Presently there are probably enough hotel rooms to cater for tourists. Some of the hotels are Sipadan Inn (above).....

Borneo Global Sipadan Backpackers Lodge, and...

Seafest Hotel, the only 3-star hotel in Sipadan at the moment

I also spent many hours at the wharf photographing the boats and fishermen. The playful and happy children there are also very interesting photography subject.I will up upload more photos in the upcoming entries.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sandakan To Tawau

I will resume reporting on my Sabah holidays, sorry guys, for the long delay. The coffee house at the Swiss-Inn Waterfront in Sandakan opened earlier than usual specifically for the 4 of us as my friends had to catch an early fight to KK while I needed to be at the bus termainal at 7 am,travelling west ward to Tawau alone.

The early morning sun rays reaching the coffee house were so delightful and interesting. We just had some tea and coffee as most of the food were not ready for breakfast. The taxi ordered by the hotel had arrived, so we hurried off as the time was already 6.45 am. We went in the same taxi because on the way to the airport, it would just drop me off at the bus terminal.

The Tawau bound bus was leaving at 7.30 am, but it was already nearly full when I arrived at 7 am. I thought I was still lucky to get a front seat on row No. 5. But it turned out to be a nightmare. Sitting beside me was a guy who had irresponsibly stuffed a large bag between his legs, encroaching a fairly big portion of my space. Worst still, his soiled shirt smelled very bad. But I had no choice, I had to endure all these unpleasant circumstances for the next 6 hours. The bus driver was careful for he did not speed. The 320 km journey could have been completed in under 5 hours. The bus made a brief stop at a roadside restaurant in Kota Belud district to have refreshment and to visit the washroom.Here a small boy, probably only 7-8 years old, washed our bus for RM1. It was really a case of child abuse.

Along the journey my friend in Tawau had called me several times asking about the time I would arrive.He would be at the bus terminal receiving me and later we would go for lunch together. I arrived shortly after 1.30pm. My friend, who is also from Sibu, is now a General Manager for a timber company in Tawau. He introduced me to stay in King Lee Hotel (above), which was just opened for a week. The promotional rate was RM80 nett, which I thought was quite reasonable for a spacious and new room.Moreover, the hotel is within short walking distance to the market and wharf areas which I had planned to visit and take photos early the next morning.

My room was on the second floor and this picture was taken after I returned from the market and wharves. I walked to the wharves before 6 am, but was a bit disappointed that there were not much activities, unlike in Sandakan, the wharves there were already bustling with activities as early as 2 am.

Fishing boats at the wharves

These bales of goods were waiting near the wharf for express passenger boats going to Nunukan and Tarakan in Indonesian Borneo.The express boats here are also built by ship builders in Sibu. Many years ago, probably in 2001 or 2002, I did travel to Nunukan and Tarakan to inspect logs with a Japanese buyer from Marubeni Lumber. I still remembered he lost RM2,000 in his hotel room in Tarakan.

Much of the goods in the earlier photo were probably carried to the wharf by this guy. He was taken in the above picture at 7.36.30 am opposite the goods, soundly asleep on an iron cart and leaning against a cement water tank.

At the market I met this pitiful and miserable man,waiting for people to give him money.After observing him for a few minutes in a distant and noticing no one had helped this poor guy, I walked over to give him Rm10. I asked for his name but unfortunately I could not catch what he had murmured. I then followed him around the market with many curious early morning shoppers staring at me. One kind lady vegetable stallowner who also donated some money to him told me that this man with a "big nose' has been living on donations for at least 15 years. She said he would be seen at the market (below picture) every morning.

Physically, Tawau Town is quite like Sibu, but probably smaller than Sibu.The town still has some rows of wooden shophouses (below) I heard it also has quite a sizeable Iban population who came to settle there from Sarawak. Several medium-sized hotels here are owned and operated by the Sibu Foochows. Timber and oil palm dominate the economy.

Less than an hour by car from Tawau is the coastal town of Semporna. It is bustling with tourism activities as the town is the gateway to several world class diving sites. I will write about Semporna in the next entry.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Batik With Dayak Motifs Making Great Inroads

This week The Star publishes the story of this Iban family in Betong, Sarawak, who excels in batik making. Have a click below and find out more of their success story.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Native Bead Works And Rattan Bangles

Brightly coloured bead works hand made by the natives of Sarawak, particularly by the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan tribes of Ulu Belaga and Baram.Several online fashion stores in Malaysia and overseas are interested to market them. Since I know some direct suppliers,I will give them a try!