New airline service the Borneo Island – FlyAsianXpress

I read the local newspaper today, The Borneo Post and found out that there is a new airline coming up to service the public, especially for people in the Island of Borneo. FlyAsianXpress is appointed by AirAsia Bhd as a sub-contractor to handle turboprop operations, which previously handled the rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak. Just like AirAsia’s tagline ‘Now everyone can fly’, those living in remote areas in Sabah and Sarawak can start ‘flying’ from 1 Aug 2006.

They will be using lower capacity propeller aircraft such as the Fokker 50 (50 seats) and Twin Otters (19 seats).

So, for those who like to fly around the smaller cities that they service like Kudat (The Tip of Borneo), Lahad Datu, Sandakan (Sukau and orang utan) and Tawau, you can try their services. www.flyasianxpress.com. Oh yes, they fly most of Sarawak interior village also!

My advice is: Do not confused with the fare that they wrote on the website. The fare does not include the airport tax and fuel surcharge. So, if it says RM9.99, it is just the tickets. And, as it is similar to AirAsia, its free seating!

Simple step-by-step guide to the summit of Borneo

I always received emails from my fellow mountaineers about how to plan and budget their trip to the summit of Borneo. After few months collecting informations, I can summarized the guide for you to follow. First, do some homework. Decide on few of these things:

  1. How many people are going for the climb? How many adults and children? Children may have a different rate and fee for the climb.
  2. How many days are you going for the climb? You can choose either a 3D2N or 2D1N climbing package. This is important for you to decide, because for both of the packages will involve different places to stay and totally differrent transport arrangement.
  3. What is your budget range for the trip? I mean, what type of place would you like to stay in? Hostel or hotel? If you are going to climb Mount Kinabalu as a family, it might be wise for you to choose backpackers or travelers lodge.

Second, proceed to the booking of the place to stay during the climb with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (Kinabalu Park HQ and Laban Rata).

  1. If you choose to spend 3D2N for the climb, then book a place to stay in Kinabalu Park HQ on the first night and Laban Rata on the second night.
  2. If you choose to spend only 2D1N, you just have to book a place in Laban Rata for the second night. You have to choose wether to stay in Kota Kinabalu or Kundasang on the first night.

Third, find a place to stay in Kota Kinabalu for your convenience before and after the climb, regardless of which climbing package that you planned for.

Fourth, buy your airline tickets for the trip. If you are an international traveler, make sure you come to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Then you will have to choose between AirAsia or Malaysia Airline System (MAS) to get to Kota Kinabalu.

Fifth, prepare your body for the vigorous activity. Do some exercise, at least 20 minutes of jogging, swimming or any cardio activity daily, 3 times a week. Be fit at least a month before the climb.

Sixth, prepare your climbing equipment. There are no specialize equipment to climb Mount Kinabalu, but by preparing early, it will make your climbing smooth.

Seventh, for transport to Kinabalu Park from Kota Kinabalu. This particular steps is a bit difficult to pre-planned, as it is a bit difficult to book a public transport before you go. It is either book it with a travel operator, or let it be until you come to Kota Kinabalu.

There are a lot of climbing options provided by the travel operator for you on the net However, none of them provide you with this kind of information. They might loose a lot of their clients if they tell you this D-I-Y climbing package.

Oh, please remember that there are differences between Malaysian and non-Malaysian for the rate and fees for the climb. Just clarify with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and Sabah Park.

Which one do you choose? html or cms?

I am going to write this post based on my experience on creating website using static html page compared to few open source cms software that are available from my webhosting provider, Exabytes. So, we might have a different opinion, but I appreciate any feedback.

  1. With N|vu, it was really comfortable generating a website without knowing any HTML. Although I still used good old tables for the website, while other webmasters prefer to use CSS, I still can get the look that I wanted for my website. Yes, it will be an advantage if I know CSS. I just want my website to look simple with easy navigation and not bloated with scripts that will delay my page views in the web browser. Compared to CMS software that I have tried (XOOPS, Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, php-nuke, Siteframe and Geeklog), it seems more complicated. Although the installation was a breeze from the web server, but as I entered the adminstrator page – I get lost. It seems easy, but it takes me more time to learn to get use to CMS compared to HTML. But, after getting used to the available CMS, I think I like Drupal.
  2. The other plus point about plain HTML and tables in N|vu is the ability for it to be configured with Google Adsense. I just dedicate a table for the ads, cut and paste the scripts and it is done! I can actually blend the ads into my content without ay difficulties. As you know, ads that are blended properly with the content will have more clicks! It was not the same for CMS. Because it is build with php backend, I have to download different plugins and modules for each and every cms that I tried. And, to get things worse, I have to do some tweaking of the scripts and templates. Even if I manage to put the things inside, most of the time it only broke tthe settings and I could only see error message!
  3. Designs. You can design your website as you like. There are a lot of free and open source html templates available in the net. However, with CMS, most of the time you have to choose the templates that is available. To make our own design? You have to know how to write code and programming. I do not like most of the templates available. I looks cluttered.

That is my opinion. What’s yours?

Want a FREE WYSIWYG HTML Generator?

I am not a Linux geek. I am not a programmer. I am not even a person who have a background in computer. When I got my laptop 3 years ago, I could not help but learning a lot of new things from the internet. It was not until 6 months back when I decided to go online. And, to go online, you have to have your own website.

I started to look for a suitable piece of software that could generate a professional looking website with only a fraction of a cost. As I live in Malaysia, pirated copies of Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive and Microsoft Frontpage is easily available from any ‘pasar malam’ (night market) around KK. I bought it for only RM5 per cd. I installed in my Acer laptop without any problem. However, when I tried to use it – I felt it was very, very difficult. I don’t know about you, but it only make me quite dissappointed. I went to bookshops around KK, with the intention to get some books on ‘howto for idiot like me’, but I notice that the book is more expensive than the pirated cd!

I did some Googling again, and found few pieces of ‘website generator’, ‘website maker’, ‘HTML Generator’, ‘website creator’ and ‘webpage maker’. I found that most of the software have limitations – its either shareware (that means you have to pay for the licence, and you are in a trial period for few days) or the software is not as ‘what you expected’.

During my search, I notice a word WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML generator. It was showed on few of the software – including Nvu. I search more. I was delighted to know that it is an open source software (OSS), multi-OS compatible – it can run in Windows, Linux and Mac, it’s FREE and will not draining my laptop source because of the size. I downloaded it. For Windows it comes with binary .exe package and for my Xandros I installed it from Xandros network. I never look back since then.Oh, I realize that I have a pirated copy of Dreamweaver in my HD. As I am going to be a good Malaysian, I uninstalled it. It’s illegal. Don’t do like me. Find open source software for your software solution. You might like it.

It was not a rosy walk with Nvu initially. The installation is easy, but when I run it, I could only see a blank page. Tried with the help – but it did not help me much. I did some googling again. I finally found Chris’s website on howto for Nvu beginners. What a relieve. I followed his five days course on creating my first website. It was really easy. My initail website did not look like a website at all. I did not have a theme for it. I tried to create a website for Sabah Clinic (my clinic), but it looks really ugly. I did found some templates for Nvu, but it’s full with red dotted line (I realize that it’s only a guideline for tables on my site – later). I was happy, but still not satisfied.

I found SBI! shortly after that. With some determination in my heart, I downloaded it. After reading it for two weeks, and some ideas on what should be put in a monetizing website, I turn back to Nvu and implemented what I’ve learn from SBI!. It is a lot easier. It took me another two weeks for me to be nearly satisfied with the result. I google again. I found out another help website for Nvu from WebBriefcase. And suddenly my website is nearly complete.

[eminimall]

CSS! I realize that I need CSS. CSS is a short form for cascading stylesheet. It means that the design of the site and the content of the site is written separately. It was then read by the web browser, and you can see the result of the website with css. When I made the website, I only use the good old tables. By using tables, the design and the content of the site is written together.

I did tried to learn CSS, but the resources and information about CSS was not as good as Nvu itself. Very difficult to understand. It took my precious time concentrating on my website content. Sadly, I have to withold CSS and continue with tables. It might be primitive for some web designer, but as long as it works and it works fine, I am quite happy with it.Back to Nvu. 1 month after I create my first ever website with Nvu and SBI!, I choose Exabytes for my webhost. Why not I choose SBI! to host it? Simply because it was expensive and my Malaysian credit card could not do the transaction to Canada (where SBI! is). I nearly spend RM1250 for my website if I choose SBI!. But, with Exabytes, I only pay RM300 per year. I did save money, but I need to work hard on building my website alone as Exabytes did not give support for building a website, compared to SBI!, where they have a good support and help on building a website.

Two months after having the site, I applied for Google Adsense. The application was approved in exactly 3 days. Knowing that I use table in Nvu for my website, it was very easy for me to blend the ads inside the content. The final result – a website dedicated for Mount Kinabalu climbers, full with info that you will not get anywhere from the internet. And the rest was history…

Must visit places around Mount Kinabalu

When visiting the Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs, do take the opportunity to visit the many places of interests along the way…

Kundasang

Kundasang is 6 km (4 miles) from the Kinabalu Park HQ, renowned for temperate vegetables. A long row of wooden stalls ‘gerai’ bustling with vegetable whole-sellere. Pick-up trucks fully laden with vegetables from farms around the valley deliver and unload their goods at the stalls. Bulk-buyers come from all over Sabah, even Sarawak and Brunei. Passing travelers also stop to purchase. Nearby are few rows of shops, seemingly sleepy except on Fridays, the weekly Tamu, market day.

Kundasang War Memorial and Gardens is like a fort on a hill, located immediately behind the rows of shops.

Kundasang War Memorial

Major G.S. Carter, D.S.O. (Toby Carter) a New Zealander employed with Shell Oil Co. (Borneo) initiated the building of the Memorial to remember 2,428 Australian and British prisoners of war who died during World War 2 at Sandakan POW Camp, the 3 infamous forced death marches from Sandakan to Ranau, adn as tribute to the many local people who risked their lives to help prisoners of war. Only six Australians survived to tell the horror. There were no English survivors.

Australia Garden

The ‘fort-like’ design of the Memorial was by local resident architect, J.C. Robinson. It has 4 interlocking but separate Gardens to represent the homelands of those who died: ad Australian Garden, a frmal Englisg Garden of roses, a Borneo Garden with wild flowers of Kinabalu and at the top level is the “Contemplation Garden” with a reflection pool and pergola.

Kundasang War Memorial

To commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the end of WW2, the Memorial was and beautifully restored in 2005 privately. The Gardens now replanted with flowers, roses and rare orchids including the much sought and valuable Rothchilds slipper orchids. ANZAC memorialService and private Memorial Services are welcome with prior arrangements. The memorial is open to visitors with minimal entrance fee charged.

Agro T Nursery is situated just a few meters from the Kundasang War Memorial on the left. At a small fee, it is possible to tour the nursery’s gardens of flowers, such as roses, orchids, hybrid hibiscus, tomatoes and other vegetables.

20th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon 2006

They call it “the world’s toughest mountain race”. It takes a gruelling soul to run, race and climb Mount Kinabalu with a total distance of 21 kilometers for both men and women. Takes place in Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, Mount Kinabalu (4095.2 meters) International Climbathon is a true challenge to the spirit of human endurance.

Mount Kinabalu Climbathon 2006

The race first started as a competition among the Kinabalu Park staff aimed at improving rescue efforts on the mountain (especially useful during bad weather when helicopters can’t be used) in the development of a Rapid Reaction Rescue Squad and, as such, was first held in 1984. It was not until 1987 that outsiders were allowed to take part. Following the success of the first national race in 1987, the Climbathon went international in 1988, earning itself the title of “the toughest mountain race in the world”.

Indeed, Climbathon is not for the faint hearted. Its gruelling 21 kilometers (13 miles) route over a more than 2,250 meters (7,357 feet) ascent, and the punishing pace, test even the most experienced, but every year more mountain runners take part, including the world’s best. Participants who do not finish the race within the time limit – 2 hours and 30 minutes to the peak and 2 hours from the peak to the finish line – are automatically disqualified.

Mount Kinabalu Climbathon

In the early days, Nepalese Gurkha runners dominated the men’s race, with Sundar Kumar Linthap winning from 1988 to 1990, followed by Kusang Gurung from 1991 to 1993. In 1994 the crown was taken over by Guianus Salagan, before he was overtaken in turn by Ian Holmes of Great Britain in 1997. Holmes hold the title with the record of 2 hours 42 minutes and 7 seconds for the fastest race, but in 2003, the record was broken by Italy’s Marco de Gasperi who finished with time of 2 hours 36 minutes and 59 seconds.The Climbathon resulted in Malaysia organizing the 15th World Mountain Championships in Sabah in 1999.

It was the first time that the World Mountain Race Championships was held in Southeast Asia. In 1998 the race was held in the Island of Re-Union under the French Athletic Federation and in 2003 it was held for the first time in Alaska, USA. This will be the fourth year that the Climbathon is the final determining race for the SkyRunner® World Series circuit. The Spanish based company Buff® has taken over this circuit as its main sponsor. Last year Climbathon has been endorsed as one of the 7 official races of the Federation of Sport at Altitude for the Skyrunning World Championship Circuit (racing on high altitude). A total of 247 participants (men category:126 women category: 51 and veteran men: 70) came for the ultimate endurance test.

The race will be held in Kinabalu Park HQ and Mount Kinabalu on the 30th September and 1st October 2006. Are you tough enough? Thinking of participating? US$33,400.00 in total Cash Prizes awaits those who dare to accept the challenge!! Send your registration form from the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon official website.

Last year’s winner of the event:
Mens open category:

  1. Ricardo Meija from Mexico, 2 hours, 41 minutes and 51 seconds.
  2. Dapit Fulvio from Italy, 2 hours, 48 minutes and 18 seconds.
  3. Jean Pellisier from Italy, 2 hours, 49 minutes and 57 seconds.

Women’s open category:

  1. Anna Pichrtova, 3 hours 13 minutes and 25 seconds.
  2. Favre Corrine, 3 hours 29 minutes and 08 seconds.
  3. Cruz Aleida Salazar, 3 hours 42 minutes and 19 seconds.

Veterans category:

  1. Taising Bukulong, from Malaysia, 3 hours 12 minutes and 28 seconds.
  2. Jios Kundapit, from Malaysia, 3 hours 26 minutes and 32 seconds.
  3. Raimin Ikin, from Malaysia, 3 hours 39 minutes and 29 seconds.

Kota Kinabalu is going to be an AirAsia Hub from July 11

Good news for budget travelers in Borneo Island. I adapted this news from our local newspaper, The Borneo Post this morning.

The Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) will be officailly become an AirAsia hub beginning July 11 (next Tuesday). By establishing KKIA as a hub, the budget airline will commence daily flights between Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kota Kinabalu-Kuching and Kota Kinabalu-Tawau. Previously, those route was managed by our national carrier, MAS.

“Having the hub strategically in place will facilitate the growth of the tourism industry in Sabah and at the same time stimulate travel between Semenanjung (Peninsular) and East Malaysia,” AirAsia Berhad Chief Executive said.

“The introduction of new routes and additional frequencies from the Kota Kinabalu hub will certainly create more economic opportunities in terms of tourism and business travel,” the Chief Minister of Sabah said.

The new AirAsia flights will be operated using the Boeing 737-300 aircraft and available for booking at all AirAsia distribution channels. In conjunction with the launch, AirAsia will offer special fares of RM9.99 one-way for its Miri (in Sarawak) and Tawau routes.

Get your low fare airline tickets at www.airasia.com

My two cent: Well, its good to know that you have options to choose between two major carriers in Malaysia. However, there are some complaints from the passanger that AirAsia staff is not as ‘friendly’ as the MAS staff. Looking from our point of view, they may be correct. Well, you can expect that to happen when they have to ? ‘overwork’ to give the best service around. I can usually see that they sometimes ‘faking’ their smile, just to make ourselve happy.

AirAsia

Experience it yourself. You may have a better experience than me 😉

The Greatness Within You

It may be difficult to believe, but some people actually cringe when an opportunity presents itself. They are the ones who don’t care what happens, just as long as it doesn’t happen to them.

Yet, there are others who, seeing the exact same opportunity, reach out and seize it immediately. It doesn’t matter that it’s something they have never done before; it doesn’t matter that others may try to discourage them. They understand that, as someone once observed, the man with new idea is often thought to be crazy – until the idea succeeds.

We believe that success most often strikes those who are optimistic and willing to challange their abilities. Consider the runner Glenn Cunningham, who was severely burned in his youth and told that he might never run again. Glenn, however, was undaunted. He overcame his disability by walking… then running… then taking strenous regimen of running miles every day. And then amazingly, Glenn set a world record for the mile run!

ASked to explain how he achieved such a feat, Glenn remarked,”I’ve never look upon myself as someone special. Maybe it’s because ignorance was always my greatest asset. I never knew I couldn’t do certain things.”

So, in business – as in life – we think it’s wise never to assume what you are or are not able to do. Only by expanding your mind, stretching your boundries, and testing your toughness will you make the same discovery as Glenn Cunningham and many in SBI! business: the unique, individual greatness that lies within you.

Still a sad news for Mount Kinabalu

This article was adapted from the local newspaper The Borneo Post, Thursday, June 22, 2006.

At last, the Chief Minister of Sabah has come out with a very late but good decision: ‘Mount Kinabalu project off’, it was on the first page headline of local newspaper, The Borneo Post. The area for RM9 million restaurant-resthouse project in World Heritage Site is totally scrapped. The Chief Minister said such development in the gazetted as a World Heritage Site, or any ecologically sensitive locations is strongly dissallowed.He said that it is an important area and the state government would dissallow any type of development which could destroy the environment there.

“The project involves rock blasting for piling purposes and we cannot allow this to happen within the World Heritage location. The project has been scrapped following discussion with the other ministries and we will give Federal Development Department Sabah (JPPS) ample time to clean up the debris, and hopefully the place will return to its original form,” he said. Asked about the situation in the area, he said that according to the JPPS report, it is “not serious”.

“We were told that the existing resthouse such as Laban Rata could not support the number of climbers wishing to scale Mount Kinabalu but we cannot allow anymore development there. If there is a need, then Sabah Park should find another location”, he said.”When we heard that there was rock blasting involved, we had to stop the project,” he said, referring to the resthouse-cum-restaurant project at Layang-Layang, a project funded by the Federal Tourism Ministry and supervised by JPPS to provide climbers with a place to rest and eat before continuing their journey. It was scheduled to be completed in May last year.

However, the previous contractor was unable to complete the project within the stipulated period and the contract was terminated. JPPS said they have opened a new tender for it.

My two cents: Malaysian style of thinking: Do first, think later… And look what happened? The damage has been done.

Sad news for Mount Kinabalu

This post was adapted from a local newspaper, The Borneo Post, June 13, 2006.

The Federal Development Department Sabah (JPPS) is being blamed for the abrupt abandonent of the RM4.35 million restaurant and resthouse project along the Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail. The Sabah state Government is pointing the finger at the JPPS for answer to the controversial high altitude project which has not been completed on time. The Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister also said the State Government is aware of the project being abandoned.

My two cents: What a waste of money!. Greed.The authority that approved the project is the one should be blamed. This is what a typical Malaysian do. They do first, and think later…

The project has become an eyesore at 2,727 meters asl, at the junction of the Summit Trail and Mesilau Trail, just above Carson’s Camp (Layang-Layang Hut). It was scheduled to start on June 30, 2003 and completed by May 1 last year. The contractor apparently abandoned it and left leaving a trail of debris at the site including piles of rocks, sand, iron bars and building materials.

My two cents: Poor Mount Kinabalu. No more beauty of a Upper montane/chestnut forest at 2,727 meters asl. If you want to know what I mean, go and see it for yourself.

The reason, according to the contractor was that they could not complete the job due to the cost of transporting materials via as well as the inability of his workers to cope with the harsh weather conditions on the mountain. It was also understood that JPPS officials had met with Chief Minister of Sabah over the abandoned project that is believed to have been re-tendered for a price of about RM9 million.

My two cents: I told you! They only think after they did something. And re-tendering the project for RM9 million? Another waste of money. The money can be used for upgrading the infrastructure and facilities of most of the poor interior part of Sabah. Leave Mount Kinabalu alone.

Former Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry Permanent Secretary said that there is no need for such a building there. He also questioned if putting up such structures with the use of dynamite blasting was in compliance with the World Heritage Site guidelines.

My two cents: I would not be surprised if UNESCO stripped out Mount Kinabalu as one of the reknown World Heritage Site!

Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) President said the association feared that officials who had approved the project were putting commercial viability ahead of environmental conditions.

My two cents: Yes, I agree. Greed is a good term.