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Street Food Friday / Food Travel / Singapore Travel / Malaysia Travel / Indonesia Travel / Dessert Travel / → All Tags
In a new weekly Friday column, we'll explore street food and other culinary specialties from around the world.
Last week we brought you the traditional delicacies of Vietnam and, this week, we skip to another part of Southeast Asia for the colorful treats of Singapore. Kueh, as they're called, are not specific to Singapore; these tiny desserts can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Southern China, but each country twists the basics into their own recipes.
Kueh (or kuih and kue) is really just a broad term signifying small cakes, cookies, dumplings, pudding, biscuit, or pastries made from rice or glutinous rice. Like most kueh, the Singaporean variety comes with no specific or authentic recipe since most of the methods have been handed down from generation to generation, creating a unique taste from color to color. Traditionally handmade for special events like Hari Raya and Lunar New Year, kueh is sold in food hawker stalls all year round.
Music Travel / Festival Travel / Borneo Travel / Malaysia Travel / Southeast Asia Travel / Rainforest World Music Festival / Kuching Travel / → All Tags
Last month, when we previewed our attendance at the Rainforest World Music Festival, we anticipated that it would be one of the best events of the summer given its location on the island of Borneo and its lineup that brought in bands from all over the world. We’re happy to report that despite the “on-paper” promise and high hopes we had set for RMF - typically a travel no-no - the festival weekend exceeded absolutely every expectation.
Why? The first and foremost reason is because it is exactly as advertised in terms of its exotic setting and multi-cultural lineup. They call it the Rainforest World Music Festival for a reason. Located at the Sarawak Cultural Village about 45 minutes from Kuching, the festival takes place in the shadows of Mount Santubong, where the rainforest spills down to the coast. The rainforest serves as a backdrop for the two stages, and across the street is the beach and the calm waters of the South China Sea.
Travel Tips / Southeast Asia Travel / Asia Travel / Vietnam Travel / Thailand Travel / Laos Travel / Cambodia Travel / Malaysia Travel / → All Tags
Ngoc Son Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi
It's a long trip from North America to Southeast Asia, so when you make the journey, you'll want to be as prepared as possible. For this travel writer, a few pocket-size things make all the difference, the value of most learned via baptism by fire. Stick these in your suitcase to make life easier next time you find yourself across the Pacific:
The new terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, KLIA2, opened earlier this year in May. A three minute, 50-cent train ride from the main terminal, it serves AirAsia, Lion Air, and Zest Airways and contains about 60 gates overall.
On our recent adventure in Southeast Asia, we passed through it on our way to and from the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo. As expected, the building is very modern, following the “new airport trend” of looking more like a shopping mall than a transit terminal. But there was one vendor that jumped out at us as we walked by, something we never expected to see: A grocery store.
Live Music Travel / Music Festivals / Events / Festival Travel / Summer Travel / Borneo Travel / Southeast Asia Travel / Malaysia Travel / Kuching Travel / Sarawak Travel / Rainforest Music Festival / → All Tags
Last week, we told you some of our top picks for festivals to kick off summer. The most worldly and unique, however, might be found on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo at the end of the month.
Known as the Rainforest Music Festival, the weekend concert features musicians from around the world with a theme of tribal and traditional music. Every continent is represented, but there is a focus on the local island cultures with performances by the indigenous musicians of Borneo.
Southeast Asia Travel / Borneo Travel / Planet Borneo / Iban Longhouse / Kuching Travel / Malaysia Travel / → All Tags
Similar to the Native American reservations here in America, native tribes maintain ownership of certain plots of land on the island of Borneo. One such tribe, the Iban, inhabits the jungles outside of Kuching in Malaysia, and makes its home in community lodging facilities known as “longhouses.”
The name is a pretty accurate description of their appearance. Picture a long, rectangular "motel" with side-by-side rooms and a common-area patio that runs the entire length. This is essentially the setup for the longhouse, except the outside common area is enclosed, and beyond that is an outdoor patio. Each room houses a single family and consists of two rooms, the bedroom and the kitchen. The bedroom also doubles as a living room when the mattresses are removed from the floor and leaned against the wall.
Street Food Friday / Food Travel / Malaysia Travel / Southeast Asia Travel / Borneo Travel / Kuching Travel / → All Tags
In a new weekly Friday column, we'll explore street food and other culinary specialties from around the world. Last week, it was Trinidad's roti, shark, and doubles. This week, we shoot across the Pacific to Malaysian Borneo to see what's cooking.
Last month, we spent close to two weeks in Kuching on Borneo, hiking through the surrounding vacant national parks and tracking down human skulls in the rainforest. But as any western traveler can tell you, the traditional food in Asian countries is one of the biggest treats. You can go out on a limb and try delicacies like python, but noodle-based street food dishes are the thing to try in Kuching.
Southeast Asia Travel / Malaysia Travel / ATF 2014 / ASEAN Conference 2014 / Indonesia Travel / Kuching Travel / Brunei Travel / Cambodia Travel / Laos Travel / Myanmar Travel / Philippines Travel / Singapore Travel / Thailand Travel / Vietnam Travel / → All Tags
Last month, the 33rd annual ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) was held in Kuching, Malaysia (Borneo) and drew delegates from around the world. The ten member countries - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam - were all represented by their ministries of tourism. The conference takes place each year but its location rotates through the member countries. This year’s host, Malaysia, opened the gathering by highlighting ATF’s vision of “Ten Countries, One Destination.”
“I hope that this forum will chart the strategic directions to expedite the growth and development of tourism in ASEAN and enhance our collaboration towards projecting ASEAN as an attractive and multi-faceted single destination,” said Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Many of the projects discussed at this year's Asian Tourism Forum, such as the high-speed rail between Malaysia and Singapore, are aimed at making travel between the ten member countries more fluid.
Given the great distance that has to be traveled to get to Southeast Asia, satisfying the American market means making it easy to country hop. As is the case with Europe (which is less than half the travel time for most), your average American ponying up big bucks for long flights will understandably want to see as much as they can -- or at least more than one city -- in one trip.
Although it is slowly developing from a small town to a small city as far as opportunity and entertainment go, Kuching's best quality hands down is its proximity to the island's national parks and rainforests. With approximately a half dozen parks within a two-hour drive, getting out into the natural world that surrounds the city is a must, as it is there that you will experience what makes Borneo, the home of one of the world's biggest rainforests, so special.
The Largest Flower in the World
The Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on the planet, measuring in with a diameter up to 3 feet and weighing up to 20 lbs. It's pretty at first glance, but its fowl odor (rotting flesh) and parasitic nature quickly squash the fairy tale. Still, it's a special thing when you see it, as the flower blooms and withers within a matter of days. Your best chance to see it is at Gunung Gading National Park.
Borneo Travel / Malaysia Travel / Southeast Asia Travel / Kuching Travel / Adventure Travel / → All Tags
As we told you yesterday and as you'll see in stories to come, the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia is one of the lungs of the earth, supporting lots of beautiful wildlife and adventure travel opportunities within the world's third largest rainforest.
Our coverage is focused on the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which together make up 26% of the island. But before we dig deep into what there is to see and do, we think it's appropriate to take a moment and catch up on a major current and future reality: The issue of chronic deforestation that's stripping the country of its natural beauty. The logging and palm oil industries have benefited the local economy, but there certainly has been a price of doing business.
We boarded bus K21 in the Kuching City Center ($1.33) and rode out to Kubah National Park, arriving about an hour and a half after the gates opened at 9:30 a.m. When we approached the hut at the gate to pay the entry fee (approximately $6) and were asked to sign in, we noticed that our name was the only one on the sign-in sheet.
An avid hiker, this couldn't have pleased us more, the thought of having the whole park to ourselves. We went off into the jungle wilderness for the next few hours, hiking to and swimming under waterfalls, spotting pitcher plants, ekor buaya palm trees (which are used to make roofs), and stingless bees. But the biggest surprise came when we exited the park later at 2 p.m. -- we were still the only person in the park!