While doing window shopping at Imperial Mall in Miri today, I came across these “internet-themed” flippers at one of the shops there. I saw Google flippers, Facebook flippers, Yahoo flippers, Twitter flippers and YouTube flippers.Obviously these are marketed without the permission of all these online iconic companies. But what the heck! Go get yourself a pair now!

Which one do you prefer? Youtube? Google? Facebook? Yahoo?

Or do you want Twitter?

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DAP has created another political tsunami  in the just-concluded Sarawak 2011 election, winning 12 of the 15 constituencies that it contested in.  It won almost all the seats in the major urban areas where Chinese make up the bulk of the population.

In Miri’s Piasau constituency, SUPP boss Dr George Chan lost by 1,590 votes to political greenhorn Ling Sie Kiong of DAP. Ling, a lawyer by profession, has now been dubbed the giant killer.

Ling Sie Kiong and Dr Chan shaking hands on nomination day

Giant killer Ling Sie Kiong

In contrast, PKR was only able to win in 3 constituencies out of the 49 constituencies that it contested in. An independent, George Lagong, won the Pelagus seat against PRS’ Stanley Nyitar and PKR’s Edward Sumbang.

Though Pakatan Rakyat failed to deny BN two-third majority, it has managed to double its haul compared to the 2006 elections.

This election has been the fiercest election ever in Sarawak, with West Malaysian leaders from both sides of the political divide campaigning aggressively for the past two weeks. And many also dubbed this the dirtiest Sarawak election ever, with widespread accusations of money politics. And  a number of pro-opposition websites like SarawakReport.org and Malaysiakini.com were victims of massive DOS attacks.

The massive crowds at DAP ceramahs really translated into votes this time round. And DAP’s hornbill mascot UBAH has become a hot item in Sarawak, selling out at all the ceramahs.

The Ubah mascot

Yes, UBAH has demonstrated loud and clear its power. Sarawak politics will never be the same again!

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Eljo Restaurants Sdn Bhd, the franchise operator for the famed McDonald’s fast-food chain, has opened the first 24-hour drive-through outlet at Permyjaya in Miri City. It is more of a conventional outlet with drive-thru facilities rather than a pure drive-thru outlet.

The McDonald's drive-thru at Permyjaya

McDonald's during the day

McDonald's at night

The famous golden arches

Drive-Thru Sign

The drive-thru area

Cars queing up at the drive-thru

The other drive-through outlet at Bulan Sabit Road near Columbia Asia Medical Center is scheduled to be opened by June next year, said Peter Chiu Lik Sing, the Sibu and Miri franchisee.

He said 60 employees, including 10 management personnel, have been hired to manage the outlet at the Permaijaya.

Chiu also said plans are afoot to open the first McDonald’s outlet in Bintulu while the McDonald’s outlet at Sarawak House Shopping Complex here has been relocated to Causeway Road.

“The relocation is inevitable due to expiry of the tenancy agreement. However, the new site will offer us better flexibility in terms of operating hours.

“We can open at 7am to serve the popular McDonald s Breakfast to our customers for the first time in 18 years here. The operating hours will be from 7am to 2am,” he told BERNAMA in an exclusive interview.

Chiu said the McDonald’s outlets in Sibu and Miri have been registering double-digit growth for the past several years.

“Last year, we did about RM9 million sales. With our new drive-thru outlet, we expect over RM15 million turnover next year,” he said.

Big crowd at McDonald's Permyjaya

He said the new outlets would introduce value-added products periodically to cope with keen competition from other fast-food operators.

“For instance, McDonald’s value lunch product is a hot favourite among our customers. Nonetheless, we will insist on our QSC (quality, service and cleanliness), the three pillars of our success and strategy to stay competitive and relevant,” he added.

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Last weekend I was at Emart Miri and saw a store selling local Sarawak handicrafts. The store seems to have quite a lot of stock and is operated by the pretty lady in the photo.  If you are looking for nice handicrafts, head down to this store and tell the lady that you read about her store on this blog. Hmmm….I should ask her for a referral commission, haha!

Handicraft store at Emart Miri

Another view of the handicraft store at Emart

Beautiful beaded baskets

Colourful beaded handicrafts

Handbags and costume

Headgears

Native costumes

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Residents living in Taman Tunku and surrounding residential areas in Miri have reason to feel elated with the ground-breaking ceremony today for a RM15 million  5.5-kilometre dual carriageway project that will provide a new link from Taman Tunku and  Taman Jelita residential areas to Miri-Bintulu Road.

Construction of this new access road, fringing the runway of Miri Airport, will be carried out by Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd and is projected to be completed within 18 months. Once completed, this new road will ease the traffic congestion of the present route in Taman Tunku.

Taman Tunku, Taman Jelita and other surrounding housing estates have a burgeoning population of 35,000 which may increase to 50,000 within the next five years.

Kumpulan Parabena Sdn Bhd, which owns nearly 2,000 acres of land on the left side of the Miri airport runway, has developed 900 acres since it started 27 years ago with the development of Taman Tunku township.

Taman Tunku is designed for 3,500 houses and the second phase undertaken by Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd will involve the construction of 750 units under the RV Housing estate. Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd is owned by prominent businessmen Hii King Chiong,  Nicholas Ling Kie King and a few other business associates.

The ground-breaking ceremony was officiated by Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud this morning. Despite the inclement weather, a huge crowd turned out for the ceremony.

On hand to welcome the Chief Minister were local dignitaries and prominent businessmen. Chinese lion dance troupes and representatives from various races dressed in their traditional costumes added a lot of flair and colour to the ceremony.

From left to right: Tan Sri Datuk Jimmy Lau Hieng Wui, Mr Hii King Chiong, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, Tan Sri Datuk Ling Chiong Ho, Mr Law Kui Kiong and YB Larry Sng

Lion dance troupes were on hand to welcome the Chief Minister

Representatives from various races dressed in their traditional costumes

Young girl in traditional attire

Young lady and man in traditional costumes

Natives in traditional costumes

Native lady dressed in beautiful traditional attire

Young man in traditional attire

Arrival of the Chief Minister

In his welcoming speech, Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd’s managing director, Mr Hii King Chiong,  expressed his gratitude to the Chief Minister for officiating the ground-breaking ceremony. He said that smart partnerships and synergy between the private sector and the government is the key to transforming previously isolated places into bustling economic hubs. He also commended the state government for its politics of development which has enabled Sarawak to progress so rapidly.  Lambir asssemblyman Datuk Aidan Wing, in his speech, said that the new road will greatly benefit the 5,500 households in the area and would act as a catalyst for futher expansion of the township. Also present at the function were Dato’ Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui, Federal Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water and YB Larry Sng Wei Shien, Pelagus state assemblyman and Sarawak’s Assistant Minister for Youth Affairs and Training.

Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd's managing director Hii King Chiong making his welcome address

Sarawakians must reject politicians who perpetrate “anti-rich people” sentiments as this will only deter the state’s quest for greater progress, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said at the function.

Sarawak's Chief Minister addressing the function

He warned about certain politicians trying to inject such ideas and were vocal in criticising successful enterprises in Sarawak in their attempts to win the support of the people.

“There is no such thing as a very thriving economy without businessmen and entrepreneurs,” he said prior to performing the ground-breaking ceremony.

He said Sarawak would not have progressed so much without the support of responsible corporate leaders who were willing to invest in projects with slow returns.

Taib said these businessmen and entrepreneurs had successfully diversified Sarawak’s economy which was once dependent solely on natural resources such as timber, and oil and gas.

Taib said big business enterprises had ventured into new range of industries like wide-scale plantations and the service industry, thus spurring the growth of employment and the local economy.

Mr Hii King Chiong presented a memento to the Chief Minister before the minister performed the ground-breaking ceremony.

Mr Hii King Chiong presenting a memento to the Chief Minister

The Chief Minister performing the ground breaking

After the ground-breaking ceremony, Taib left the ground-breaking site. The crowds waited eagerly for the lucky draws to continue. With one Blackberry and nine Samsung handphones as prizes, the lucky draw created a lot of excitement.

Lucky draws for hand phones

To finish off the event, Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd gave away lots of food items and mineral water. The scene was chaotic, with the crowds jostling to get as many items as they could. I saw some walking happily away with about a dozen packets of food items. And there were also a lot of people who just carted away one whole box of mineral water each as the crowd was too big for the handlers taking care of the food distribution.

Chaotic scene as the crowds jostled for free food items

Huge crowds jostling for their share of food

But it was a very successful event and the crowd went home with very wide smiles on their faces!

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Today marks the opening of Ta Kiong Supermarket at Merdeka Mall in Miri. With a retail floor area of 17,000 square feet, Ta Kiong offers a wide selection of local and imported goods. I particularly like the good choice of imported food items that the supermarket carries.

Big crowds at Ta Kiong on its opening today

In connection with the opening, the supermarket is holding a special two-day opening sale starting today. And customers can apply for the Ta Kiong RM10 annual membership card which will entitle them to certain privileges, such as getting one reward point for every RM1 spent and special discounts on Members’ Day. After comparing the member prices for some items to the non-member prices, I must say that the membership is a worthwhile deal.

While browsing around in the fruits section, I was attracted by the Kiwi fruits offer and bought a pack of the fruits to try out.

Kiwi fruits offer

Being a chocolate aficionado, I can’t help myself from being drawn to the chocolate section where there is a wide range of imported chocolates. The prices are a bit steep when compared to prices in neighbouring Brunei.

Ta Kiong - Chocolate section

Though I am not into wine, I still love to browse in the wine section. I am a bit allergic to liquor and my whole body would turn a bit reddish whenever I imbibe some wine. Call it a curse or blessing, depending on which side you are judging from.

Ta Kiong - Wine section

More wine

The coffee products also tempt me as I love coffee. Despite advice from a doctor to limit my coffee intake to not more than 2 cups a day (preferably 1), I often end up drinking 4-5 cups daily. So my dear liver, accept my apology for putting too much work on you.

Ta Kiong Imported Canned Coffee

I have heard that the food at the Chicago 7 outlet in  Merdeka Mall is not bad so I decided to give it a try. Chicago 7  is a local franchise and only the “broasters”are franchised from the U.S.  If you expect to see restaurant decorated with photos of The Chicago Seven, then you are in for a disappointment. The Chicago Seven were seven defendants—Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to protests that took place in Chicago, Illinois on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I ordered a beef burger and a hot dog plus a cold green tea with honey while my wife opted for two pieces of their broasted chicken set and a hot Ceylon tea.  I must say that their food is not bad, better than quite a lot of the fastfood outlets in town. The beefburger is tastier than McDonald’s but I think the jumbo beefburger sold by the burger stall near the Curtin Village in Senadin tastes better.

There is a Hummer road show at Merdeka mall that seems to attract a lot of curiousity. On display are 3 units of Hummer trucks of different colours – one black, one silver and one white.

The black Hummer

Mr Silver Hummer

The white Hummer

The Hummers are left-hand drives

I wonder whether the Hummer trucks can be considered an obsolete product since production of the Hummer vehicles has ceased in the US. I read online that the long strange trip that has been the Hummer brand is just about over for General Motors. The final ever production H3 rolled out of GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana factory on May 24, 2010 on its way to an Avis rental car outlet. GM had actually stopped assembling H3s in mid-2009 as it went through bankruptcy, but it resumed production recently in order to fill an 849 unit special order.

GM tried to sell the Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co., Ltd but the deal ultimately fell apart last February. A subsequent offer from Raser Technologies also went nowhere. Production has ceased.

Safety and ecological perceptions from other road users has attracted a lot of criticism for the Hummers. They are significantly bigger than other SUVs; this can cause problems parking, driving and fitting in a garage. Their large size also potentially poses a serious threat to smaller vehicles. The Hummer has been singled out and attacked as a symbol of ecological irresponsibility. Even compared to other heavy passenger vehicles, Hummers generally have very poor fuel economy. Because of its weight, it takes longer and further to stop in emergency braking situations. Large blind spots make parking difficult and possibly dangerous.

Ignoring the criticisms above, the Hummer trucks actually look very imposing. I have seen a few units on Miri roads and have been awed by their rugged sophistication. One of the Hummers that I have seen on Miri roads reminds me of an armour car.

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Today is Hari Raya Aidilfitri. To all my Muslim friends and readers, I wish you Selamat Hari Raya. As for the kids, I hope you will receive lots of  “duit raya.”

Last night I was at Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club’s Lakeview Terrace Coffeehouse with my family and some of my sister-in-laws and their families to try out the Ramadhan buffet promotion. We heard that the food was not bad and that at RM35 per adult, it was good value for your money.

Selamat Hari Raya greetings at the front counter of the hotel

The hotel lobby

As last night was the last day of fasting for the Muslims, there were not many patrons at the coffeehouse. We were given table number 18…what an auspicious number, haha! Apart from us, there were only 3 or 4 occupied tables. I took my time wandering around to take photos.

Table number 18....an auspicious number!

My hyper-active nephew Ah Nong

Lightings outside the coffehouse

A view of the hotel's compound

There was quite a wide range of food…..butter prawns, ginger chicken, black pepper beef, assam fish, barbecue prawns, barbecue chicken wings, barbecue sotong, satay, sambal eggs, ketupah, salad, coleslaw, barbecue lamb, and many more. I must say that the food was really not bad….better than the food that I had tasted at other hotel buffets.

Butter prawns

Sambal eggs

And for desserts, we were spoilt for choice. There were lots of traditional Malay kuih, cakes, ice creams, puddings, ice kacang, bubur caca and fruits. It was a great relaxing evening for us. By the time we left the hotel, we really felt full up.

Traditional kuih

Cakes...cakes...and more cakes

A choice of different puddings

Bubur caca

Once again, Selamat Hari Raya! Enjoy the Hari Raya food and delicacies and use this occasion to foster closer racial harmony. God bless you all!

May the flame of racial harmony burn brightly!


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Today is Hari Merdeka or Merdeka Day (Independence Day). And today also marks the soft opening of Merdeka Mall in Miri. After much delay, the new mall situated opposite Morsjaya Commercial Centre along Miri Airport Road finally opened its door to the public.

Merdeka Mall as seen from Morsjaya Commercial Center on the opposite side of the road

Signboard of Merdeka Mall

And what a letdown!

MERDEKA MALL MIRI has been touted as incorporating a new modern shopping design to provide shoppers with new shopping experience with fully air-con interior, retail shops, specialty stores, fashion outlets, food and restaurants, entertainment, supermarket, departmental store, education centre and space for exhibition and function. Its total build-up area is about 500, 000 sq.ft. It has over 500 car-parking bays located on lower ground floor, level 1 (ground floor) and level 4.

A view inside the mall

Another view inside the mall

Car parks on the top floor of the mall

The soft opening today was truly a major letdown. Only a few stores are open for business. Even the anchor tenant Ta Kiong Supermarket did not open for business today.

The whole mall looks deserted with so few stores open

As you can see, only a few stores are open for business.

The crowds were visibly disappointed. After waiting for so long for the mall to open, it is so disheartening to see the mediocre standard of the mall.

The only big store that opens for business today is the APEX Department Store. A walk through this store soon reveals that it is far inferior to Parkson at Bintang Megamall. The design and layout of the store and the quality of the items sold leave a lot to be desired.

The APEX Department Store

Ladies' clothing section of APEX Department Store

Ladies' clothing section of APEX Department Store

As today is the soft opening, there was huge traffic jams in the vicinity of the mall with cars queuing up on the Miri Airport road for their turns to enter the mall’s parking area. But I have an inkling that this mall may turn out to be a massive failure unless Ta Kiong Supermarket can help pull in the crowds when it opens.

See the traffic jams on the top left hand corner of the photo as cars waited for their turns to enter the mall's parking area.

I hope the two other shopping malls in the pipeline will be of a much higher standard than Merdeka Mall.  Miri deserves some classy shopping malls!

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The 2010 Borneo International Yachting Challenge (BIYC) began in Miri, Sarawak on the 24th of this month with 51 yachts  from 14 countries taking part. There are 20 entries from Australia, 6 from UK, 5 from Malaysia, 5 from New Zealand, 4 from USA, 2 from Germany, 2 from France and 1 each from Singapore, Grenadines, Vanuatu, British Virgin Island, Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

BIYC 2010 Logo

This annual event, now in its 7th year, takes a fleet of international yachts from Miri to Labuan – a distance of 105 miles, and then from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) which is another 65 miles. The regatta finishes in Kota Kinabalu with two races around the Tunku Abdul Rahman national Marine Park on Friday the 30th July, followed by a lavish prize giving dinner at Sutera Harbour Marina Club hosted by Sabah Tourism.

The regatta is a joint effort between the Ministry Of Tourism And Heritage Sarawak, Labuan Corporation, and the Sabah Tourism Board. Other sponsors include Sutera Harbour Resort, Samling Global, Pelita and Park City Everly Hotel in Miri.

Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan flagged off the contestants at Marina Bay in Miri. Sarawk’s Assistant Minister of Social Development & Urbanisation Datuk Lee Kin Shin, BYIC Miri Working Committee chairman Troy Yaw and Miri mayor Lawrence Lai were also present at the flag-off.

Marina Bay Miri

This year’s fleet has set a new record for the event. It will also make the regatta one of the largest of its kind in South East Asia. One of the reasons for this dramatic increase in numbers is due to collaboration between the BIYC and the Sail Malaysia Rally – Passage to the East.

BIYC committee member Simon Farmer, who was instrumental in forging this partnership with the organizers of Sail Malaysia, said that given the current state of the global economy and the ever shrinking sponsorship dollar it made sense to combine the two events. He said the number of entries this year proved that this had been a popular strategy.

The Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board and co-chairman of the regatta, Dato Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin expressed his delight with the number of yachts taking part this year and said that Sabah is on target to achieving its goal in becoming the Caribbean of the East.

He said that ‘events such as this are putting Borneo and Kota Kinabalu on the map, and are the perfect vehicle for showcasing the state and its bio-diversity’.

Adlin commented further that over the past 12 months Sutera Harbour Marina and Kota Kinabalu had hosted at least 10 mega yachts of over thirty meters with a combined value of over US$350 million dollars. Among these visitors was the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht, the 92 meter ‘Eos’ valued in excess of US$150 million.

Sutera Harbour Marina in Kota Kinabalu

“The fact that more and more of these types of yachts are visiting our shores means that the message is getting through to yacht owners and captains that Sabah and Borneo have as much to offer, if not more than the other major destinations around the world. These types of visitors provide a tremendous boost to the local economy and to the global perception of Sabah”, remarked Adlin

Tengku Adlin will take part in the regatta once again this year sailing aboard Farmers yacht in the final two races off Kota Kinabalu. This will be a little different from last year when he crewed on the 120’ luxury sailing yacht ‘Naos’ and was treated to a gourmet lunch. Farmer warned Adlin not to expect the same this year as the boat he is sailing on is a stripped out racing yacht with only the bare essentials. Adlin replied that he was ready for the challenge.

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Over breakfast this morning, I heard from my brother-in-law that the durians sold by Kai Nguong Nursery near Morsjaya Commercial Centre Miri are really good. I have seen Kai Nguong Nursery’s durian advertisements in the local Chinese dailies and have been thinking of dropping by to buy some of their durians. Durian season has started quite a while back but so far I have not bought any durians.

After breakfast, I made a trip to the nursery. From the road, the nursery looks small but if you go in, it is actually quite a nice big place.  The nursery sells a wide assortment of flowers and plants including bonsai. The mosquito repellent plants caught my attention but I wonder whether they are truly effective in repelling mosquitoes. There were quite a lot of people buying durians, some of whom ate the durians on the spot.

Kai Nguong Nursery near Morsjaya Commercial Centre, Miri

D93 Durians at RM15 per kilo

D96 Durians at RM8 per kilo

Dragon fruits

Mosquito repellent plants

Workers tidying up the durians....soil, leaves, etc are often embedded on the spikes of the durians when they drop from the durian trees

There were a few types of durians but I settled for two  D96 durians costing RM8 per kilo and one D93 durian costing RM15 per kilo. The two D96 cost a total of RM24 while the D93 cost RM16.

The two D96 durians that I bought

The D93 durian that I bought

On the way back to town, I dropped by Morsjaya Commercial Centre to take a quick walk around this busy commercial area. Servay Supermarket is undeniably the most successful business outlet in this commercial centre.  There are quite a lot of hawkers especially in the evenings. I bought some rambutans from a very friendly hawker who thought I was a tourist when she saw me taking photos.

Servay at Morsjaya Commercial Centre Miri

A hawker selling fruits at Morsjaya

Rambutans....another "heaty" fruit

On the opposite side of the road, the Merdeka Mall is nearing completion. This will be the first big shopping complex in this part of Miri city. The opening of the shopping mall has been delayed many times and it is expected to open next month with Ta Kiong Supermarket as the anchor tenant.

Merdeka Mall nearing completion

Upon reaching home, I opened up the durians…..oh yes, they are yummy! For those who have never tasted durians, you are really missing out something incredible. Durians has been aptly called King of Fruits.It has been said that durians smell like hell but tasted like heaven! And I am right now tasting heaven as I write this blog article.

One of the D96 durian that I bought....note its yellowish flesh....yummy!

The D93 durian that I bought.....thick delicious flesh!

If you are trying out durians for the first time, be warned about two things. Durians have sharp spikes that can easily draw blood if you are not careful when opening them.  When opening durians, inspect the durian’s husk for natural “seams”. This is where you will want focus your cutting and pulling efforts. And durians are “heaty” (a Malaysian way of saying something that will cause body temperature to rise)……do drink a cup of salt water after taking them or else you may end up with a sore throat. Actually a lot of people believe that if you drink water from the durian husks, you will  not get sore throat.  But I won’t vouch for that, haha! A more scientific way is to eat mangosteen after taking durians as mangosteen is a fruit with a cooling effect.

Mangosteens

Ouch! I told you to be careful when opening durians. This was what happened to me when I opened the durians just now.  Must be the revenge of the durians!

My bleeding thumb courtesy of the durian spikes

I wonder whether those sporting spiky hair got their inspiration from durians.  It sure seems that way to me!

Spiky hair style.....durian inspired?

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