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What is commonplace to one may be unique to another. Be it a place, an attraction, a dish or an event – they mean different things to different people.
So it was when the judges looked at the entries for The Star’s 45@45 Giveaway Round 4 for readers as part of The Star’s 45th anniversary celebrations. Each of the judges had their favourites, for various reasons, be it the depth of the story each reader provided with the picture they sent, or the originality of the piece, or the quality of the image itself.
One thing that held true, though, was that many of the entries highlighted the unique offerings of this country called Malaysia.
Here are the Top 9 entries (in no particular order).
The rice fields of Kuala Perlis
Did you know that once the landscape begins to take on a golden hue in Kuala Perlis, the local womenfolk of all ages will take it as a siren call and head for the bunds just to engage in a spot of fly-fishing with the longest fishing rods that money can buy? Ever imagined that you would ever live to see the day when women outnumber men, when it comes to fishing?
These anglers of the fairer sex are not after catfish nor freshwater eel. What they really want is a tricky little finned fish known as puyu (the Climbing Perch).
Most sought-after for the pekasam dish, puyu makes a delicious fermented fish, best served deep-fried.
September – just before the harvest – is the best time to catch them. You need to head to Jalan Kuala Sanglang near a building set up for birds’ nest harvesting.
– Goh Lin Lin wins an eight-day German Christmas Market tour for two, courtesy of Trafalgar and flight tickets courtesy of Holiday Tours
The turtles of Mataking
At a glance, even our eyes are fooled into thinking that we’re in the Maldives. Not an exaggeration because the crystal clear blue water and white sandy beach of Mataking Island off Semporna, Sabah, is on par with the best beaches in the world. The private island is connected to another sub-island known as Mataking Kecil via a narrow sandbank. And this sandbank only emerges during low tide. It is one of my favourite snorkelling spots. Seeing turtles swimming in front of me ever so often and saying hello to a lost turtle was the sweetest experience.
– Nur Afzan Murtadza (photo: Luqman Asyrawi Ruslan) wins an eight-day Italian tour package, courtesy of Insight Vacations
All flat in Gusungan
How often do you find an island that is flat and sandy and not exceeding 2m above sea level? This 6.05ha island, off Semporna in the Sulawesi Sea, is surrounded by white sandy beaches.
It is an awesome sight as the waters are crystal clear and ideal for snorkelling, scuba-diving and island-hopping. There are only seven Bajau Laut (sea gypsy) families living on the island.
– Lee Shing Yaw wins an eight-day Italian tour package, courtesy of Insight Vacations
It’s magic in Bako
We arrived at Bako National Park at Muara Tebas in Kuching district by boat from Bako village. The hike to Teluk Paku was challenging as my family and I had to climb over protruding overgrown roots and clamber over many rocks and tree branches.
During the hike, we spotted rare wildlife at the park – including the flying lemur, Silver Leaf Monkeys, a poisonous viper, long-tailed macaques, bearded pigs, wild boar, swordfish, and mudskippers.
From Teluk Paku, we took a boat out to see the one and only amazing sea stack rock formation. It was out here in the sea we managed to spot the proboscis monkeys (found only in Borneo).
– Hooi Kah Mun wins a 3D2N stay for two at The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, courtesy of Starwood
Somewhere over the rainbow
Some 40 minutes away from Kuantan is Sungai Lembing, an old tin-mining town in Pahang. The town consists of a single main road lined by colonial type shophouses. The main attraction is another 45 minutes’ drive, accessible only by a 4WD vehicle, followed by a 45-minute hike through the jungle with multiple river crossings. The end-point is the beautiful Rainbow Waterfall, still pristine and unspoilt. At a specific time each sunny day, between 9am and 10am, a magnificent rainbow appears in front of the majestic waterfall. That’s the “gold” you get from this hike.
– Look Mei Ling wins a 3D2N stay for two at Gaya Island Resort, courtesy of YTL Hotels
A land up above
A while ago I visited a few villages in the vast and deep interior of Sarawak with a group of friends. It was my first sojourn to such a remote part of our own country.
We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, and then to Lawas, a small town just south of Brunei.
Two 4WD vehicles took the 13 of us over rolling terrain and increasingly more difficult laterite road to arrive at the quaint Lun Bawang village of Buduk Nur in the District of Ba’ Kelalan some seven and a half hours later.
The Lun Bawang are an exceptionally friendly people. When we were walking around exploring the village, many villagers greeted us warmly and invited us to visit them in their houses. We climbed up a hill to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the village and the rest of the valley. We visited a tiny factory operated by a villager who produced salt from brine collected from a well. We also visited the apple orchard of the owner of our homestay, the first apparently to grow apples in our country.
– Chin Mee Poon wins a travel voucher to Australia, courtesy of Tourism Australia
Fuel of yesteryear
At Kuala Trong, west of Kuala Kangsar, Perak, is a charcoal kiln that is a legacy of the pre-war Japanese period. Charcoal manufacturing is the bread-and-butter industry of the locals here, and to this day the same method of production is still in use.
The kiln was built from 22,000 pieces of red bricks plastered with a mixture of clay and sand. Standing on a 7m by 7m base, it has six openings and a door in the front. While taking a walk, you will definitely inhale the wisps of fumes from the charcoal expelled by the burning bakau. Pieces of bakau wood are tossed into the fire to slowly “cook” before it becomes charcoal. It is a slow process, whereby patience and hard work are prerequisites for this industry.
Wherever you go, you will be charmed by the locals’ smiles and friendliness. If you are lucky enough, you might spot the “pinkish charcoal” which the locals believe will bring you an abundance of good luck and prosperity.
One can also enjoy the surroundings which are remarkably beautiful, with a scenic view of verdant and incredibly fertile swampy mangrove forests from which bakau wood is harvested to produce charcoal.
– Chu Min Fseng wins a travel voucher to Australia, courtesy of Tourism Australia
One has to walk through a man-made tunnel to head to the other side of the limestone hill that is off Gunung Rapat, Ipoh. When you reach the other side, your mouth will open in amazement. You can see a very still lake and get an almost perfect reflection of the beautiful limestone hills surrounding it. And what else is it called but Tasik Cermin.
As you stare at the reflection in these calm and peaceful surroundings, it also begs you to reflect on life.
To get there, if you’re coming from Ipoh heading to Simpang Pulai, take the left turn and follow the road till you reach a quarry.
– Erica Mak Kar Kay wins a 2D1N stay for two at The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort in Langkawi, courtesy of Starwood
A group of us decided to climb Gunung Santubong in Sarawak, 45 minutes’ drive from Kuching. The climb was challenging (it was an unexpected rainy day) but great. Along the trail, there were many amazing viewpoints for us to catch our breath.
There are a lot of wood ladders and ropes to support our hike along the trail.
Our most memorable moment was stumbling across a giant face carved into the rock hidden somewhere amidst the foliage. Supposedly this represents a Datuk Merpati from Johor who made his home in Sarawak. It’s also a landmark indicating the summit is not far away! But other carvings around the area indicate that previously a Hindu civilisation, much like the Bujang Valley in Kedah, flourished here.
– Wong Mun Li wins a 3D/2N stay for two at Tanjung Jara Resort, courtesy of YTL Hotels