M’sia still number one destination in RM855b Muslim travel market

M’sia still number one destination in RM855b Muslim travel market

Malaysia has upheld its position as the number one destination in the global Muslim travel market as rivals are looking to close the gap fast, according to the leading annual research on the sector.

The Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2018, which covers 130 destinations, saw Malaysia retain the premier spot for the eighth consecutive year, while Indonesia built on its year-on-year growth by moving up to joint second with the United Arab Emirates in the overall rankings.

The index also reveals that a number of non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations in Asia moved up the rankings – a result of their concerted effort to adapt their services to cater to and attract the Muslim travel market.

Top 10 OIC Destinations

Top 10 Non-OIC Destinations

Singapore retained its pole position for the non-OIC destination markets, ahead of Thailand and the United Kingdom, while Japan and Taiwan surged into the top five for the first time since the GMTI was released.

The GMTI 2018 confirmed the Muslim travel market is on course to continue its fast-paced growth to reach US$220 billion (RM855 billion) in 2020. It is expected to grow a further US$80 billion to hit US$300 billion (RM1.16 trillion) by 2026.

In 2017, there were an estimated 131 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally – up from 121 million in 2016 – and this is forecasted to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020 representing 10 percent of the travel segment.

“We are now starting to see the impact of investment and commitment by destinations across the world into the Muslim travel market which is reaping rewards including a real shift in the rankings.

“The concerted efforts of destinations such as Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan using data and insights from the previous GMTI reports have to be commended as they are now closing the gap,” said Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating & HalalTrip.

“This year we have revamped the Index criteria to better reflect the growth strategies implemented by destinations to welcome the Muslim travellers resulting in positive movement across the Index.

“We have also released the ‘CrescentRating Growth & Innovation Model’ to help destinations practically use this report to strategize growth and innovation for this fast paced travel segment,” added Bahardeen.

Malaysia scored an Index score of 80.6, followed by UAE and Indonesia at 72.8. In comparison, Singapore which was the highest scoring non-OIC destination, scored 66.2.

Taiwan and Japan have continued to improve their overall ranking with the average GMTI scores by region contributing to Asia as the leading region in the world for attracting Muslim visitors followed by Europe.

“It has been a pleasure to work with CrescentRating in providing in-depth insights on the Muslim travel market for related stakeholders in the tourism industry. Many already successful destinations around the world are looking to diversify their visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates in today’s increasingly competitive travel market.

“The fast growing Muslim travel segment is an opportunity in plain sight but in order to benefit from it, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of Muslim travelers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them.

“We believe that the GMTI provides real value to businesses and governments looking to tap into this important and growing market segment and hope that this effort will continue to drive Halal tourism,” said Safdar Khan, Mastercard Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei division president Brunei.

It is estimated the Asean region will welcome over 18 million Muslim visitor arrivals by 2020, representing close to 15 percent of the visitor arrivals to the region.

“Based on the index, Malaysia continues to reinforce its status as the leading halal destination in the world. This is reflective based on numerous initiatives taken by industry players to integrate more Muslim-friendly services and facilities as part of Malaysia’s travel and tourism offerings.

“As the size of the Muslim travel market evolves upward, so does the economic potential. Malaysian businesses will need to better understand and analyse the demand as well as develop new propositions in order to stay ahead of the curve,” Safdar Khan added.

Some of these initiatives include the establishment of the Islamic Tourism Centre to facilitate market intelligence, tourism policy development and capacity-building services and an upcoming framework under the Halal Industry Master Plan 2.0 to address industry developments.

The GMTI is now the premier insights-driven data helping destinations, travel services and investors track the health and growth of this travel segment while benchmarking their individual progress in reaching out to the Muslim traveler.

The GMTI is now the premier insights-driven data helping destinations, travel services and investors track the health and growth of this travel segment while benchmarking their individual progress in reaching out to the Muslim traveler.

All 130 destinations in the GMTI 2018 have been scored against a backdrop of criteria with some new metrics added for this year’s research, including the CrescentRating Growth-Innovation Model.

Key metric criteria included access which includes infrastructure; communications and looking at how destinations market themselves to a target audience; environment and services. Each criterion is then weighted to make up the overall index score.

Sebarau fishing in the Murum

Sebarau fishing in the Murum

Murum Dam is located on the Murum River, the uppermost part of the Rajang River basin. It is fed by numerous rivers and streams, which makes it an ideal fishing ground for nice sized double-striped hampala barb (Hampala bimaculata), also known as sebarau.

My first fishing trip to Murum was in 2016, which saw us landing dozens of sebarau, and I have been itching ever since to visit the dam once again.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. My friend Gerard seemingly plucked the idea straight from my brain, and soon enough we were on the way to Sarawak, joined by another two friends, Boon Yew and Kelland.

We flew into Bintulu from KLIA, before checking into our hotel for the night. After a delightful dinner and cold beers, we decided to get to bed early so that we would be fresh and ready for the next day.

Richard, who was our guide and boatman for the trip, picked us up from our hotel in his four-wheel-drive before sunrise to begin our five-hour-long journey to Murum dam.

Several hours later, we stopped at a local Iban farmers market, where we bought some last minute supplies which we would take with us.

Upon reaching the jetty, we all eagerly loaded up into our two boats. Gerard and I were the first in with our boatman Ikhlas, while Kelland and Boon Yew got in Richard’s boat.

The jelatong or floating house, which we would be calling home for the next three days, was about two hours from the jetty. But we had come all this way and couldn’t wait, so we decided instead to fish first before heading out to the jelatong.

The boatmen reminded us that when fishing in Murum, it’s best not to focus too much on the main lake, but instead the areas where rivers or stream flow in, as this is where the sebarau usually converge.

The lures which I had prepared for the trip were mostly sized 70mm and below, such as the DUO M65, Spearhead Ryuki, IMA Ligid, Berkley Dredger, Rapala CD7 and Fat Rap. I also brought along a variety of spoons, such as the Daiwa Chinook, Abu Island and Tok Wan, as well as several spinnerbaits.

When we reached the first spot, Gerard and I immediately noticed that there were nets which had been set in the area. This wasn’t a good sign, as we knew that this would have adverse effects on our fishing, so we immediately decided to switch to a different spot.

Upon reaching our second spot, Gerard, who was using a rather large spinnerbait immediately cast it out. He allowed the spinnerbait to sink for several seconds before retrieving.

Several casts later he got a solid strike which stripped the line from his reel and after a nice fight, Gerard landed himself a 1kg sebarau which we released quickly.

Meanwhile, I was using the Daiwa Chinook spoon, and despite getting several “knocks” from the fish, none of them took my lure. After several attempts I changed to an IMA Ligid, which I casted out before letting it sink for several seconds before retrieving it.

The technique which I used was that I would jerk and stop while retrieving it, and on my second cast I got a solid hookup which turned out to be another nice sized sebarau.

While I was getting the fish out of the water, Gerard got yet another strike on a small shallow crank which he had changed to. After taking some quick pictures, we safely released both fish back into the water.

Murum being a relatively new dam has numerous dead trees which stick out of the water. While we were casting, our boat knocked into one of these trees which led to a big rotten branch to come crashing down on our boat.

After checking if everyone was fine, I found that the branch had smashed directly onto my TecnaAVX rod and broke it in half.

I was downcast for sure, but I knew that had the branch hit one of us things could have been much worse. A new rod can be bought, but an injured head in the middle of the jungle would be nothing short of disaster.

Thankfully I had my two other rods, so once we had cleared our boat of the broken branch, I was back to fishing.

We both managed to land several sebarau throughout the day on various different lures while slowly making our way to the floating house. When we reached the floating house, we saw that both Kelland, Boon Yew and Richard were back as well.

The three of them had a rather good day as well with numerous sebarau landed which ranged between 300g-1kg. Many of the sebarau which they caught were on the Abu Island 18g as well as the Berkley Dredger.

That night, after a simple dinner of canned food and rice, we all sat around talking about our day and what our plans were for the next. It was decided that we would swap boatmen, with Kelland and Boon Yew going with Ikhlas while Gerard and I would go with Richard.

The next day, after a quick breakfast, we were on the go again. This time we headed up to Ulu Danum, which is one of the many rivers which feed into the lake. However due to heavy rain and apparent logging further upstream, the water was too murky for us to fish.

We split up and explored several different spots instead where we landed nice good number of sebarau. We also lost several fish to bent hooks which opened up, a constant reminder that there were big sebarau around.

Most of the fish that we caught on the second day were between 1kg-1.5kg, sizes which are hard to come by easily back here in Peninsular Malaysia.

We also realised that the strength of the two striped sebarau was stronger than the normal single striped variety (Hampala macrolepidota).

When we returned to the floating house at the end of the day, we were told by Kelland and Boon Yew that they had been lucky enough to have stumbled upon a large school of sebarau, where they landed more than a dozen fish on a variety of lures including soft plastics.

That night, we all stayed up late knowing that the trip was coming to an end the next day. The whole night we shared stories and jokes till we all slept off one by one.

The following morning, we loaded up all our stuff into the boats before heading out as we planned to slowly make our way to the jetty while fishing on the way.

For some reason on the third day, the fish were not responsive and at noon we decided to head to a nearby waterfall to relax and have a quick dip.

At the last spot that we stopped before heading back, Gerard and I were casting at some floating logs in the lake when there was a strong take on my Rapala Fat Rap. The water in that area was crystal clear, and I saw that a generously-sized sebarau hooked up to my lure.

When the fish was about two feet underwater, suddenly another larger sebarau emerged from the depths and snatched the lure out of the mouth of the first fish with immense strength before dashing into the deep water.

Although I was using my Major Craft Corzza 12-25lb bait casting rod which was paired with a Daiwa Tatula that was spooled with 40lb braid, the sebarau managed to put up a solid fight, but I eventually managed to land it.

The sebarau’s aggression and epic take of the lure definitely surprised all of us on the boat. After removing the lure from its mouth, I found that the fish and managed to distort one of the Jespa 70lb split rings which I had used for the lure.

After weighing the fish, we found that it weighed a nice 2.2kg – the biggest we hand landed for that trip!

After some quick pictures, I revived the fish in the water until it was fully recovered and then released it back into its habitat, in hope that it would further grow and give someone else the same thrill that I had with it.

Soon after that, we decided to call it a day and sped back to the jetty where our four-wheel-drive was parked and drove back to Bintulu to spend the night, before catching our flight the following day back to Kuala Lumpur.

While the trip was a success for all of us, Gerard and I, who had been to Murum in 2016, found that the quantity of fish had definitely reduced. This could be due to some factors such as overfishing, numerous nets set at almost all the rivers, and the logging being carried out in the area.

Just recently, several friends showed interest to head to Murum later this year, and while nothing has been confirmed, I’m certainly looking forward to another trip this sebarau haven!

Memories of Cape Town will stay with you forever

Memories of Cape Town will stay with you forever

It is easy to mistake Cape Town for an European city, but this South African city is definitely worth a visit if you have a chance to travel there.

Both the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph named Cape Town as the best tourist destination in the world in 2014.

Although the last time my wife and I were there was back in 2007, memories of the place still linger on.

We were based in Maputo in Mozambique. Because we had booked accommodation either at Kruger Park or Swaziland, I had developed friendship with a tour consultant, Carien Du Plessis.

Carien and her family live in Cape Town. They were probably of Dutch descent, and they spoke Afrikaans, a Dutch dialect in South Africa up to the early 20th century before it became the official language of South Africa.

When we told her that we wanted to visit Cape Town on our trip home to Malaysia, she helped us to book the hotels, and on arrival from Maputo, she and her husband were kind enough to drive us up from the hotel to their home, some 40km away.

After an evening of BBQ, they sent us back to the hotel.

This kind of hospitality was hardly an exception, we encountered it everywhere in Cape Town, which made our visit very memorable. Over dinner, she advised us on how to get around on the Hop On Hop Off buses.

There are two routes – the Red and the Blue routes, which bring us to different tourist locations in Cape Town. We did not have to worry about security or the hassle of driving around in Cape Town on our own.

After the first day on the Red Route, we decided we would also go on the Blue Route.

Interesting places

The highlight of the visit was the Table Mountain. All around town as you drive, you can see the mountain with a flat top, resembling a table.

However, the mountain got its name from Table Bay in Cape Town.

Cape Town is what it is today as the result of the hard work put in by the Dutch East India Company. You can see a lot of old buildings built by the Dutch that date back to the 17th century.

In 2014, the city bagged the World Design Capital awarded by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. For that reason, it is worth a visit especially for those who are architecturally inclined.

Table Bay, on which Cape Town is located is, in fact, the oldest developed area in South Africa, owing to one Jan van Riebeeck who had founded this European settlement in 1652. He is the equivalent of Sir Francis Light in Penang.

Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg as the capital of South Africa.

To get the scenic view of Cape Town, it is worth a ride on the Table Mountain Cableway up to the top. Although it is only a flat area, the experience of being just on top of the world overlooking this beautiful city was just mesmerising.

There are some who may prefer to on a 4-hour hike up the Table Mountain.

It was here that we met a gentleman who claimed that he was a Cape Malay. When we told him that we were from Malaysia, he shared with us that his ancestors had been brought here by the Dutch as slaves centuries ago. However, he no longer speaks a word of Malay.

 

The other place worth visiting especially for those who love all kinds of flowers is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is a legacy left behind by Dutch since 1913 to conserve the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa.

Over here, be prepared to spend an entire day just to enjoy the different kinds of flowers and the walk as the garden alone covers an area approximately 36 hectares.

Our next recommendation is to spend an afternoon at the Mariner’s Wharf. Because Cape Town is a port city, the Mariner’s Wharf represents the life of the people here. Unlike our Pulau Ketam or Kuala Sepetang, the Mariner’s Wharf is a like one of the European wharfs with luxurious yachts and fishing boats.

Before planning a trip to Cape Town, it is best to check out the latest tourist attractions here.

It may be worth the trip if you want to check out the same species of penguins that swim across thousands of kilometres to the Philip Island in Australia, but since we had already been to Melbourne, we skipped this portion.

Alternatively, you can spend at least two nights in Kruger Park on the eastern side of South Africa.

Are you also made in Penang?

Are you also made in Penang?

Penangites are known to be very fond of their own state; they love their curry mee, prawn paste, nasi kandar and what have you. When I wrote this article about my observations of Penang, it attracted some 685 shares!

For instance, Penang has its version of Hokkien mee which is again different from the thick, round noodles cooked in soya sauce that I am used to. And a former colleague of mine, who usually stays quiet in our foodie chat group, surfaced like a submarine when Penang was mentioned.

As such, it is no wonder why someone has come up with a Made In Penang Interactive Museum (Mipim), which I think is really a smart way of helping people to rediscover the state, its past and present.

With 3-D artworks, they have turned the otherwise stately Behn Meyer Building in Weld Quay into a fascinating place for both tourists and photography enthusiasts.

Personally, I think they should shed the idea of a museum, because the term belies what a fun place it is for both children and adults.

We have been to other places which feature 3-D art, but Mipim is touted to be the first and the largest 3-D museum in Penang. Besides the fun of posing for the camera and later admiring how on earth you managed to hang on to the roof while Spider-Man rescues you, you get to learn both the history of the island and the lifestyles of its locals.

It makes it so much easier for us to explain to our computer-savvy children the history of Penang when they can pose as clog-makers or play glass marbles in this first-of-its-kind museum in the state.

Even locals like myself find it useful to bring my children to show them how the early part of our state’s history. It will only be a matter of time until all these legends and traditions are lost if we do not share them with our children.

For example, I remember vividly how a bullock cart looked like when I was very young boy, but my children would likely not even know how the cart can balance on two wheels!

With just one visit to Mipim, we can see the entirety of Penang – its history, cultural diversity and some iconic places – in just a couple of hours. It has five different sections, namely the Great Wall of Penang, the Miniature Local Trades, Miniature Weld Quay (where you still see Uncle Francis in his British costume), Interactive Theatre and my favourite, the Trick Art Gallery.

In traditional museums, exhibits lay flat and don’t come alive. But the idea of “see, don’t touch” simply does not exist here at Mipim. What you can see, you can touch – and better still, they encourage you to take lots of photographs to bring home memories about Penang.

I am willing to bet that word of mouth will soon spread about Mipim, like a scout ant telling its colony where to find the sweet stuff.

But I would strongly suggest that Tourism Penang or the state government approach virtual reality experts to create new experiences for visitors, like polysensory intermedia displays.

And maybe even a change of name too – something like “Penang in a Nutshell” or just “P-I-Nang”!

You can read more about Mipim by checking out their website or Facebook page.

The Made-in-Penang Interactive Museum is located at No.3 Pengkalan Weld, George Town.

Tel: 04-262 6119
Opening Hours: Daily, 9am-6pm
Website: www.madeinpenang.my
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MadeInPenang/
Waze: https://www.waze.com/livemap?zoom=17&lat=5.41676&lon=100.34387
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/YKBhtk2y2eU2 

For those planning a trip to Penang next time, check out this website:
http://www.penang-discovery.com.

A fishing adventure in the remote jungles of Kalimantan

A fishing adventure in the remote jungles of Kalimantan

The Plan

Whenever anyone mentions Borneo or Kalimantan, the first thing which comes into our minds is the mystical 140 million year old rainforest which covers the largest island in Asia, the animals which call it home and the tribes which dwell in it. But unknown to many the island is also a freshwater fishing haven with its many rivers and streams which hold an abundance of target fish such as Masheer and Hapala Barb or also known locally as Kelah and Sebarau. This very reason led six of us putting together a fishing trip to Kalimantan Indonesia in the search of these target fish. Plans were put into place several months in advance with six anglers who were Fahiz, Yan, TK, Goubin, Kasey and me Sandeep to travel to Indonesia which led us to contact local fishing outfit East Borneo Sports Fishing (EBSF) to book our trip through them.

Just three weeks before our trip, we were informed by EBSF that they had recently discovered a new spot in the jungles of Kalimantan which was very remote and off the beaten path. The location which was an estimated 17 hour drive from Balik Papan, Indonesia had only been visited once by the exploration team of EBSF, hence it was a gamble as the place was very deep in the jungle, had very fast flowing water akin to rapids, malaria carrying mosquitos, and unpredictable weather. However the six of us decided to take up the gamble and it was set, we were going for an adventure of a lifetime!

The Adventure

Our journey began in KLIA were we took a flight to Jakarta and spent the night in the airport to catch our flight the following morning to Balik Papan in east Kalimantan. Upon our arrival in Balik Papan, we were greeted by Suke who is a fishing guide with EBSF who took us for a quick Indonesian lunch of Nasi Padang before hitting the road. From Balik Papan we took a 9 hour drive to a small kampong where we rested for the night at the home of one of our guides.

The following morning after breakfast, we were on the road again for the most challenging part of the trip, which was an 8 hour journey by 4-weel drive along a logging and jungle track. After a bone jarring drive we finally reached the river which would be our fishing location for the next three days, and after loading up into the boat we took a 20 minute boat ride through the rapids to our base camp which was a hunting lodge built by the locals. After a nice bath at the side of the river and a simple dinner we setup our fishing tackle in preparation for the next day.

It Begins!

The tackle which we had prepared for the trip was more to the heavy side with us using reels with at least 13lb of drag which had been spooled with 30lb-50lb braided fishing line as well as rods which were on the heavier side with poundage ranging from 10-20lb, right up to 20-40lb. The lures which we had prepared for the trip were mostly shallow diving cranks and minnows which had been upgraded with stronger treble hooks and split-rings to prevent loosing fish due to them failing.

The next morning after a quick breakfast consisting of dried shrimp fried rice which was whipped up by our helpful guide Suke, we loaded up into our three boats which held a pair of us each to begin our journey upstream. The river that we were fishing in was a very fast flowing, hence we traveled three hours upstream before we switched off the outboard engine and started drifting down. We immediately started casting at the banks, under hangs and potential spots which might hold the fish that we were targeting. As it had rained the night before, the water was somewhat murky hence we know that the fishing was going to be challenging.

Fish ON!

Yan and I casted repeatedly at potential spots towards the bank with me using IMA’S Ligid minnow and DUO’s Realis M65 crank while Yan used RAPALA’S Fat Rap and DUO’s Realis M65 crank to try to lure the fish to hit our lures. After almost two hours of casting, Yan got a hit from a fish and after a quick battle he landed himself a decent sized Hampala. After a few quick pictures he released the fish back into the river and we were back at it again casting our lures at any potential spot that we could see, however the next hour held no fish for us, so we decided to take a break for lunch with the rest of the guys.

After lunch we were back at it again. While we were casting along some low over hang, Yan got a strike again and this time he landed himself a nice 4lb Masheer which had whacked his M65 crank. Once again after a few quick pictures, Yan lowered the fish into the water and ensured that the fish was revived before releasing it back into its habitat. By now it was already reaching the end of the day and I had yet to land a fish, I had switched my lures several times to much avail.

While casting at a particularly low over hang, suddenly I felt a sharp jerk on my rod, and I was ON! I was determined to not allow the fish to get away and after a quick fight I emerged the winner. The fish that had taken my DUO M65 was a Hampala which is one of my favorite target fish when I go fishing. Yan took some quick pictures as it was already getting dark and then I released the fish back into the river after which we both called it a day and returned to camp.

After a refreshing bath by the riverside, we tucked into a delicious dinner which consisted of grilled Masheer, fried rice and sup, while sharing about our day’s fishing. The rest of the guys had found the fishing pretty tough as well due to the murky water but everyone had managed to land at least a fish each. We were all exhausted from the long day and slowly we all crawled into our sleeping bags for some much needed sleep and with dreams of better catches the next day.

The following day we were greeted with by a welcoming sight, the river had somewhat cleared throughout the night and was much less murky. This lifted our spirits and after breakfast we began our day. I had paired up with Kasey for our second day and like the previous day, we travelled upstream for several hours and soon we began casting. Soon after we began casting I my rod jerked in my hand and I had landed myself a 3lb Hampala which had taken my IMA Ligid moments after I had casted it out. After the normal ritual of picture taking, the fish was safely released back into the water. Soon after I got another strike and this time it was an approximate 6lb Masheer which had taken my lure, I was overjoyed as this was the first time I had landed a Masheer and it was a decent size too.

Moments later Kasey landed a nice 4lb Hampala and Masheer in quick succession which put a big smile on his face. This fishing was definitely better on the second day and both of us landed approximately 9-10 fish each which all released after taking some pictures. Later that evening when we met up at our camp, we found out that Yan had landed a 13lb Hampala, which was a personal record for him and that both TK and Fahiz had landed big Masheer in the range of 8-10lb’s. The good water conditions had certainly boosted our catch rate and all of us were in high spirits after the day of fishing.

That night however it began raining very heavily and we all knew that this was going to lead to the river getting really muddy and murky which was the exactly what happened the next morning. The river had turned brown from all the mud and silt which and been washed into it and once again we knew that it was going to be a challenging day ahead. I had paired up with Goubin for the last day of fishing and although the water conditions were bad, I managed to land a 4lb Masheer  which whacked my IMA Ligid near a small stream. After a few hours, we decided to call it quits as the water conditions were too murky and we all decided to return to camp.

All good things come to an end

Since we were back early to camp, we decided to pack away our tackle and prepare for the long journey back the next day. Although the fishing had been slow on the last day, we all knew that at the end of the day, Mother Nature always wins and that at least we had a good day’s fishing the previous day. That night we all slept pretty late talking about our trip and fun that we had. The following morning, we loaded up into the boats one final time to head back to our 4 wheel drives and began the 17 hour journey back to Balik Papan before boarding our flight to Jakarta and finally KLIA.

The trip without doubt was well organized by EBSF and they ensured that our trip went along as smoothly as possible. Most of us were covered with mosquito bites by the end of the trip but luckily none of us contracted malaria or any other dangerous disease during the trip. Its sudden trips like this into remote areas which are the most fun as one will never really know what to expect, but given the chance I would definitely head back again there soon!

Website: www.eastborneosportfishing.com

Email: [email protected]

Called at: +6017-5111887 / +6019-5588887

You’ll regret it if you skip Komtar when visiting Penang

You’ll regret it if you skip Komtar when visiting Penang


Josephine Sheigra Rowland has been teaching arts at an international school in Kuala Lumpur. Entering into her third year now, she and her husband have been to Penang thrice in just two years.

“It is very nice,”

she quipped,

“and the food is great too!”

Her first trip to Penang was back in 2009, before she started teaching in the school. But she never really formed a lasting impression of the island back then.

Now, she’s fallen in love with the newly-refurbished Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (Komtar).

“Although we do not have children ourselves, you can literally spend the whole day there.”

Like Rowland, I agree that spending just two days in Penang is simply insufficient. Komtar alone needs one full day in order for the kids to explore.

In particular, I enjoy the Jurassic Research Centre for what it has to offer.

Although the Penang Rainbow Skywalk at Komtar is just a mini version of the world’s longest glass bottomed bridge hanging over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon in China, or even the Sky Bridge of Langkawi, touted to be the tallest sky bridge in Asia, it nonetheless offered a breath-taking view of Georgetown some 249 metres below.

In most of the tall buildings I’ve visited, like the Sydney Tower, KL Tower, Menara Maybank and Petronas Skybridge, you only get the city view through the glass windows, but this Skywalk allows you to look below through the glass floor.

I was initially hesitant to walk on the glass floor, but the fear was soon overcome when I saw people taking photographs on it. I was assured that the glass could take the weight of a few people; and even if there were signs of cracking, I could at least make the dash to safe ground!

The Coco Cabana Bar & Bistro is attractive place to chill and unwind, but with a shoestring budget, we decided to give it a skip. Due to shortage of time, we also missed out the Tongkat Ali King museum.

The Science Centre, despite offering only a fraction of what the National Science Centre does, is still worth a visit, while the Magic Mirror Maze is worth trying if you can spare five minutes walking through the maze.

The 7D Discovery Motion Theatre reminds me of the National Planetarium’s dome theatre and another such theatre in Langkawi – or even the movie Jaws – but what differentiates the one in Komtar is that it is 7D, the latest virtual reality innovation.

The Ocean Explorer is another experience that is worth checking out. It is 5D, and the best part was to when we were transported in a virtual submarine. On being attacked by sharks, everyone got their adrenaline pumping.

In total, you will need at least one whole day at Komtar to check out all the exciting happenings they have here, and to see how this three-decade old building has been facelifted to look modern.

When we first stepped into this “other part” of the Penang State government building, we thought we were mesmerised by the skyscreen, which stretches above the pedestrian walkway. I have seen this elsewhere, but to have it in Komtar is a real plus point.

Would I visit it again a second time? Yes, if I am able to cover the other interesting tourist spots in Penang on future trips. There are just so many things that tourists can experience and enjoy when holidaying in Penang.

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