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SPECTACULAR HONEYMOON IN PULAU REDANG
RECENTLY, due to the SARS outbreak, my wife and I chose to go to Pulau Redang for our honeymoon instead of overseas. We spent the first afternoon snorkelling just outside our resort. The underwater view was spectacular. In two hours, we saw all types of fishes, from huge white pomfrets to sardines, multi-coloured parrot fish, rock fish and sea cucumbers. It was a great trip and I would surely return to Redang Island for more snorkelling, of course!

Tan Kah Chuan Kuantan 

TANJUNG PIAI, THE END OF ASIA
By Sager Ahmad









It is the southernmost tip of the Asian continent and those who step onto Tanjung Piai are given a certificate by the Johor National Park Corporation.

When you are there, you can't tell that Tanjung Piai occupies such a unique location unless you look at a map or better still fly over it.

You will realise that the very end of the Asian land mass is ordinary looking mangrove swamp land jutting into the sea, most of it muddy.

The Johor National Park Corporation has spruced up the place and put up a car park, well maintained toilets, two bridges across a wide man-made drain, with a tractor train or boat ride to the park complex.

At the park, one needs to walk a 300m board plank built on stilts to reach two observation huts over water. That is actually "ground zero" or the southernmost tip of continental Asia.

One will encounter a range of wildlife in a natural setting – a family of long-tail macaques fishing for crabs in the mangrove roots, a lone albino heron and groups of belacak (mud skipper) said to have survived from the time of the dinosaurs.

Tanjung Piai Resort started as a stall specialising in seafood in the mid-1980s and due to good response from the public it developed into a full-fledge resort on stilts with 80 air-conditioned rooms.

Enjoying a mug of Nescafe tarik at the restaurant with the gentle sea breeze from the Straits of Johor blowing into your face is one way to leave your worldly troubles behind.

From the resort one can spot ships of different sizes and colours riding anchor and waiting their turn to enter Johor's Tanjung Pelapas harbour or Singapore harbour.

Resort managing director Md Hazib Atan says his father Atan Md Taib, who was a fisherman operating a kelong, decided to open a seafood stall and due to good response expanded to the Atan Seafood Restaurant on stilts with chalets.

Atan was also instrumental in changing the name of the place known as Sungai Belukang to Tanjung Piai, after a kind of wild fern found in the area.

"We worked hard to put Tanjung Piai, a sleepy hollow and an unknown place, on the world's tourism map and it has paid off. The State and Federal Governments have now recognised our effort," says Md Hazib.

"Now we have many visitors, especially students both locals and international. Foreign groups coming here are mostly from Singapore and Japan.

"Japanese students on many occasion come on homestay programmes after visiting Singapore and enjoy looking at fireflies at night and the varied flora and fauna in the mangrove forest."

Among distinguished visitors to Tanjung Piai were the Sultanah of Johor, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.

The resort often receives diners who come with family and friends to enjoy fresh seafood. Staying guests are usually weekenders or seminar participants. It has a fully equipped seminar hall seating up to 200.

The resort offers seafood cuisine. The fresh seafood is brought in by local fishermen from a jetty next to the resort.

The menu has home-cooked siakap, kerapu, kurau, bawal, parang fish, a dozen style of prawn dishes and crabs. One house speciality is lokan Tanjung Piai istimewa (special bivalve Tanjung Piai).

"We also offer visitors activities like fishing especially for coastal fish like sembilang, belukang, pari and gelama or deep sea fishing. They can also enjoy sea sports, camping and jungle trekking," Hazib says.









GETTING THERE

TANJUNG Piai is about 90 minutes' drive from Johor Baru on good roads. It is also accessible by small boats but visitors will have to brave the muddy shore. For more information, call Tanjung Piai Resort at 07-6969000, 6960011 or the Johor Tourism Department at Suite 5-4, Johor Tourist Information Centre, No 2, Jalan Air Molek, 80000 Johor Baru, Tel 07-2234935, 07-2249960 or fax 07-2241432, e-mail info@johortourism.com.my or website www.johortourism.com.my.





PONTIAN ATTRACTIONS

KUKUP town by the coast is famous for two things – seafood and hassle-free port to visit Pulau Karimun Besar in Sumatra, a 90-minute boat ride. Pekan Nenas is the entry point to visit Gunung Pulai Recreation Forest, Kampung Maju Jaya agro-tourism centre and homestay at Haji Sidek goat farm. Tempok Recreational Park with kampung ambience is ideal for family and group activities, offering boat trips to the Straits of Malacca or nearby Pulau Pisang and for fishing. Bugis Museum has a passionate caretaker who tells interesting stories about the Bugis. Rambah Beach is popular for picnicking and fishing. It is also a venue for local bird singing contests. Kampung Perapat Timbul is an agro-tourism and homestay destination. There is an apiary, orchards and oil palm, rubber, coffee and coconut plantations. Pineapple Museum should not to be missed as Pontian is the country's biggest pineapple producer.





VISIT JOHOR YEAR EVENTS

ARTS Festival (June 20-22, Segamat), Nusantara Theatre Festival (June, Johor Baru), Batu Pahat Traditional Food Fiesta (July, Penggaram Square, Batu Pahat), Food & Fruits Fiesta (July, Johor Baru), Kota Tinggi Agro Fest (July 11-13, Kota Tinggi), Mega Sale Carnival (August, throughout Johor), Kuda Kepang Festival (Aug 15-17, Johor Baru), Muar Watersports Festival (Aug 21, Tanjung Emas Square, Muar), 4x4 National Safari IV (Aug 29-31, Endau Rompin National Park, Kluang), Pontian Pineapple Fiesta (Sept, Pontian), Matta International Travel Fair (Sept, Johor Baru), Desaru International Triathlon (Sept, Kota Tinggi), Lantern Fiesta (Sept, Johor Baru), Bon Odori (Sept, Johor Baru), Top Spinning League (Sept 13 and 14, Kota Tinggi), Motorsport Festival (Sept 20 and 21, Pasir Gudang), Grand Prix Joran 2003, Grand Slam (Oct, Mersing), Second Link Bridge Run (Oct, Tanjung Kupang), World amateur inter-team golf (Oct, Johor Baru), Asean Tourist Guide Conference (Oct, Johor Baru), Ghazal and Zapin Festival (Oct, Johor Baru), Royal Johor invitational golf (Oct 3-5, Johor Baru), FIM Motocross Rd 10 (Oct 5, Johor Baru), Deepavali Festival and Open House (Oct 5-25, Johor Baru), Fisherman Fiesta (Oct 17-19, Kota Tinggi), Ramadan Bazaar (Nov 8, Batu Pahat), Mega Sale (Nov, throughout Johor), International Rainforest Challenge (Nov 30-Dec 9, Johor Baru), Christmas Open House (Dec 27, Johor Baru)





RAMSAR SITES

TANJUNG Piai was recently declared one of three new Ramsar sites – with nearby Sungai Pulai and Pulau Kukup – during the World Wetlands Day celebrations at Tanjung Piai on Feb 10. Kukup is the world's second largest mangrove island. The Ramsar Convention on wetlands was convened 32 years ago in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Tanjung Piai is the southernmost tip of Asia and is haven for large flocks of migratory birds. Neighbouring Kukup has a huge uninhabited mangrove swamp and is refuge for migratory birds including the endangered lesser adjutant stork. Sungai Pulai's unique ecological features include the largest remaining intact riverine mangrove area in the peninsula. These three join the country's first Ramsar site – Tasik Bera in Pahang, designated in 1995.
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