And a few photos from the day:
That doesn’t mean I can’t contemplate the past – in fact as a travel writer I’m often looking at the past as I write stories about something I did last week, last month, or last year. Photos, whether on the wall or on my electronic frame, are constantly reminding me of a great time I had in Oman, Thailand, France or New Zealand.
And of course, photos of special people, now dead, absolutely have me looking back. Nevertheless, all this looking back is very different to wallowing in the past and beating myself up for wrongs done, or praising myself for good achievements or actions. These memories do not stop me living in the now but often inform my now so I hopefully don’t repeat mistakes but do make sure of recurrences of good deeds.
Looking forward is easy, especially as I have a wonderful life. A visit to Mongolia later this year means I had to book tickets and make reservations ready for my travels. However, now that is done it’s no use wondering if my flight will be smooth, there will be no delays, or conversely, all my planes will be late, but stay in the now and know that I can and will deal with those events on the day.
Part of living in the now while looking to the future means I’m also reading about Mongolia so when I arrive I will have a little background knowledge to its history and places I’d like to visit. So, I’m reading about Mongolia and living in the day – and doing exactly the same for another trip except that one has all 3, past, present and future.
Malaysian Borneo, had been on my bucket list for many years before I finally got there so planning for another visit means I have evidence from past visits to enhance my current preparations. The Rainforest World Music Festival (in Kuching, Sarawak) is again high on my to-do list. Nearly 2 years ago, I spent some of a birthday there in the middle of a drumming circle – such fun. Meeting people from around the world will again be a highlight there as well as the fantastic international musical programme they’ve planned. As you can see once again I’m in the present, looking at the past, and planning for the future. As I said earlier, I do have a wonderful life – one I do not take for granted, and over the years have worked hard to live this ‘easy and fabulous’ life that people often comment on.
‘Living in the now’, also gives me the luxury of being able to consider my past and plan my future. This is not how I used to live my life -I was never in the now but always wallowing in the past and how awful life had been or looking forward to a day when, somehow, without any effort, I would be plucked from my current position into fame and fortune: it never happened.
What I didn’t realise was all that time I spent in the past or future was taking up energy for today. I learnt about living in the now but it wasn’t until I started travelling – around the world for a year with no bookings – that I really understood and valued its practice. It didn’t take long for me to realise that if I was worrying about crossing a border tomorrow I could not value the beach I was snorkelling on today. A fabulous lesson that I continue to use.
So, living in the now does not mean I cannot make plans for tomorrow – what it does mean I can make tomorrow’s plan and then carry on living today, not worrying about what the weather will be like or if I will enjoy the movie, all I have to do was buy the ticket or plan to meet someone and then carry on with today’s tasks.
I’m so glad my life does not require me to make New Year resolutions but to keep learning from mistakes and moving forward.
The Sarawak Tourism Board is this week Introducing musical talent to about 20 world music festival programmers, and media such as me. What a privilege to get up close to such talent and hopefully help music lovers find new talent they would not usually hear or see.
From Germany to New Zealand, Belgium to India, and the UK to Korea, they, and other programmers are attending the Borneo World Music Expo (#BWME2014) at the Hilton in Kuching, Sarawak. (Malaysian Borneo)
Last night it was two Malay groups (Mah Meri, & Madeeh) who took the stage and then an Indian group, The Barmer Boys whose talent – with instruments not seen before by most of the audience – was impressive, and I’ll be happy to see the these three Rajastarian men take the stage at the Rainforest World Music Festival in few days.
Madeeh Emsemble are from a Bidayuh longhouse (Annah Ra’ih) about 60ks from Kuching – one that retains its traditional roots music. The other group, Mah Meri, is from West, or Peninsula, Malaysia and this performance was the first given outside their village. None of them had left their village before, so for them to be ‘picked up’ by one of the foreign programmers would be a huge change for them … flying to Sarawak was a big enough event!
A day in a longboat then sleeping in the best bed I’ve ever slept in was my introduction to the World Heritage Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.
My adventure started with a 4-wheel-drive trip from Miri (I’d been at the fabulous Borneo Jazz Festival) during which we travelled along back roads, through oil plantations, over potholes in the snake-like, gravel road, over bridges, and on two vehicle ferries until we reached Marudi some 2 hours later.
Planet Borneo had arranged an early lunch for us, then, after a safety briefing, we boarded our longboat – home for the next five or six hours – a journey time that’s water level dependent.
A local woman on the boat tells me she did this same trip some 20 years earlier. She and her family were attending the opening of the national park and had gone up the wrong tributary and spent the night on the boat lost in a side stream! I’m expecting our local boatman to know exactly where he’s going on this curvy watery highway and that we won’t need to get out to push it through any shallow parts.
During the boat trip (on which many of the locals slept!) I saw monkeys on the riverbanks, some small hawk-like birds, the beautiful white herons and a couple of pairs of hornbills. We didn’t get lost, but we did hit a submerged log once, and had motor issues briefly. At our only toilet stop – at a small village – our bags are moved together and covered – it is obvious rain was imminent. I put my camera in its waterproof bag and get my plastic poncho ready – five minutes later its on as the tropical rain hits. We still have over an hour to go and soon we passengers transfer to two smaller boats to cope with the shallower water while our luggage remains in the original traditional longboat.
I’m one of two westerners on board, and because we’re larger, where we sat is vital to the balance! I sit where I’m told and stay still especially when we go through small rapids. Travelling along these three rivers, each one smaller that the previous one has certainly been an adventure which few travellers experience – and that alone is a recommendation! I love to get a little off the well-worn trails. (I returned to Miri by plane – 30 minute trip)
At about 6pm , after leaving Miri about 9am, we arrive at the Royal Mulu Resort happy to check in and remove our plastic ponchos. I’d have been even happier had I known this was to be the home of the best bed in the world! Next morning, over breakfast, one of the others in the group said, “I want to marry those pillows” so it was not just me who loved sinking into the soft luxury of the beds. I even looked under the sheet to see what the secret was … a lovely thick topper pad.
The Royal Mulu Resort is being upgraded and their website says:
“The 101-room Royal Mulu Resort in Sarawak, Malaysia is set to be rebranded as the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa in late quarter 4, 2014. With an ethnic design resembling longhouses, the resort rest on 15-foot wooden stilts rising over lush vegetation and linked by a series of walkways. Each guest rooms comes with its own balcony overlooking the scenic Melinau River, and modern amenities such as flat screen TVs and high – speed Internet access.
The resort will feature an all new lobby lounge with open-space business center and library. Guests can dine in all-day, three – meal restaurant with an outdoor seating for al fresco dining. A private dining room and bakery / deli will be located next to the restaurant, while a riverside bar completes the resort’s F&B service.
Other recreational amenities will include a new spa, an outdoor swimming pool, gym and Activity Center, meeting facilities, and Marriott Kids Club. The resort can even arrange exciting outdoor activities such as night cruise, rafting, kayaking and jungle hiking and many more activities available at Mulu National Park – http://www.mulupark.com”
Just so long as they don’t change the mattress and pillows I’ll be happy with whatever they do!
After dinner, it was great to have a good nights sleep as the next day we had some 26ks to walk, about 300 steps to climb, and a boat trip, as we explore the area, visit some caves, meet the locals, and watch the bats on their evening, syncronised, aerial display.
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Music lovers from around the world have just had a great time enjoying performances by international jazz artists at the small, and perfectly formed, 9th annual Borneo Jazz Festival. (Artistic Director Yeoh Jun Lin)
Some genres confound our expectations and jazz can do this – we sometimes can’t tell where the tune will go to next and often don’t like that uncertainty. I recently asked ‘what is jazz’ and soon I will blog about what these performers said about that vexed question.
The eight handpicked performers included (in no particular order) were Iriao, an eight-piece ethno-jazz band from Georgia. Their repertoire is based on Georgian authentic folk instrumental and polyphonic music, which has been recognized by UNESCO as being a masterpiece of oral immaterial heritage. They say the band is not aiming to modernize the unique polyphonic Georgian music but to saturate and adorn it with jazz elements. Listen to one of their pieces here on YouTube.
A crowd-pleaser was Vocal Sampling, an all-male a cappella group from Cuba . Their 2011 album ‘Cambio de Tiempo’ was nominated for 3 Latin Grammy Awards. Only using their voices, cupped hands and bodies they create a full range of timbres and textures of the Latin Orchestra – percussion, horns, keyboard, bass – which are vocally reproduced with astonishing accuracy. The crowd, and me, loved their classic boleros, rumba, and salsa, as well as more contemporary compositions.
Brassballettfrom Germany – evidently the first and only show worldwide where the musicians dance at the same time, although it is something many marching bands do the same. In their crisp suits and red ties, the choreographed show was popular. With only one stage at this festival on the beach, the stage manager and his crew deserve a shout out too.
Mario Canonge is a great musician and showman who played creole jazz with West Indies rhythms. He is originally from Martinique and now lives in France and the audience loved this band returning to Miri and the Borneo Jazz Festival. It seems each festival is a mix of one or two groups who have been before along with introducing new groups to the crowd.
YK Band from Indonesia featured jazz with a Borneo flavour and the locals particularly loved this group which has been performing since 2013.
Anthony Strong, pianist and singer has been hailed as ‘England’s new jazz superstar’. In 2013, Anthony Strong beat Gregory Porter, Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. to become October’s No. 1 on iTunes and No.2 on the Amazon USA jazz charts. Evidently Rod Steward described him as amazing while BB King called it ‘real great music’. The crowd, and I, loved his retro-contemporary repertoire including‘Too Darn Hot,’ ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘My Ship’ from his ‘Stepping Out’ album. (He tells me a new album is imminent)
Local-born artist, the 30-year old Diana Liu started classical piano lessons at five and, with a music degree from Australia and who starting formal, classical singing during her 3-years at Otago Girls High, New Zealand, plays pop, jazz, bossa nova, gospel, funk and soul in a beautifully clear voice. She sings in Mandarin and English and performed with an international ensemble of jazz musicians – Lewis Pragasam of Malaysia, Christy Smith of USA, Tan Wee Siang of Singapore, Greg Lyons of Britain.
Junk o Func, (with12 people) grabbed the stage and owned it! Lead singers Elvira Arul and Russell Curtis entertained us with punchy, gospel-influenced vocals and playful, interaction with each other and the audience – who loved them. (I predict they will return!)
Both evenings concluded with a jam session all the musicians ( inside the hotel) while in the Pavillion beside the ‘Stage by the Sea’ DJ Roundhead had a popular Club Set: crowned the ‘Malaysia DJ Champion’ three years in a row he has a 20 year history in the local music industry.
Held at the ParkCity Everly Hotel, Miri (Sarawak) is the birthplace of Malaysia’s petroleum industry – oil was discovered in the early 1900s and remains the major industry. With a population of 300,000 people, it’s a resort city with easy links to many of the states adventure and nature attractions and is close to the Sultanate of Brunei and Sabah, Malaysia.
The city is surrounded by four world-class national parks, Gunung Mulu National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the world’s largest caves), Niah National Park (Historical and archaeological site), Lambir Hills National Park (diverse species of flora and fauna) and Loagan Bunut National Park (largest natural lake).
Thank you to Sarawak Tourism Board for hosting me to this wonderful event.
One of the great bands at the #Borneo #Jazz #Festival Iriao.Song of sad Gurian man #music YouTube http://ow.ly/xcSD4 blogging about it now #Sarawak
Within twelve hours of arriving in Malaysia (Kuching, Sarawak) along with 200 others, I was planting a tree as part of the ‘greening the festival’ programme while also helping reduce our carbon footprint.
Here for the Rainforest World Music Festival for the first time, it seems this tree-planting ceremony is in its 3rd year and “helps make Kuching a livable city” said the CEO of Sarawak Tourism Datuk Rashid Khan.
Although not essential, it seems traders at the festival are “encouraged to use green products and practices so the event is not only successful, but also to leave a lasting eco-effect,” he continued.
No doubt, like most international festivals this will soon become a need to get a licence to be part of the #RWMF which is set in the Sarawak Cultural Village.
The 150 trees we (school children, musicians, journalists, concert promoters, travel writers, along with local officials and politicians) planted – in the Government offices lake compound area, Banguan Baitulmakmur – are the Golden Shower (Acacia Fistula). Evidently, over the past few years, some 2 million trees have been planted across Sarawak in events such as this: ‘We try to plant three trees for every one cut down’ someone said, ‘although it’s not always in the same area.”
Malaysia often receives bad press for the destruction of native forests and planting oil palm plantations, so it cannot be easy to convince the often cynical foreigners they want to “take care of our environment.”
“Come back and hug your tree” we are encouraged by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Datuk Gramong Juna, who said they are “trying to do good deeds to our mother earth, to take care of our environment. It’s heartening to note that the Sarawak Tourism Board has taken the government’s campaign seriously. ”
The minister continues, “We are proud to have the world’s oldest rain-forest that we have custody over. We are serious at promoting Sarawak as an eco-destination – this beautiful land where adventure lives.”
Arriving in Kuching a couple of days before the Rainforest World Music Festival I was, for one day, able to join a group of international concert promoters and journalists who were in the city for their first world music business conference and expo. It seems this was successful for many of the artists featured with their diaries filling up with dates to perform in other places.
The consensus from knowledgeable music people there (and I’m not one of them!) seemed to be that the local, traditional, music scene was creatively rich but needed support to present themselves professionally and that this expo, and the contacts made, will advance that. Good luck to them all!
Note, talking culture; the letter K at the end of a
Malaysian word, such as Sarawak, is always silent!
See more about the annual Rainforest Music festival here ( Next one 20-22 June 2014)
Set on the edge of the jungle, in the fascinating Sarawak Cultural Village, this has become a signature tourism event in this, Malaysia’s largest state Sarawak. I will be writing more about it, but for now let me suggest that if you plan to be in Borneo, or Asia in general, or will be passing through any July make sure you add the RWMF to your bucket list along with the orang utans which everyone travelling here wants to see.
At the three-day festival, along with the great shows every night, on the two stages, during the day are fascinating workshops with artists from various bands and acts combining to jam together and show how their instruments work. This meant the Australian didgeridoo was playing along with other wind instruments such as a saxophone or Iranian bagpipes! It was often hard to choose which workshop to attend.
A first this year was the pre-festival expo: the successful Borneo World Music Expo held at the Pullman Hotel and which is planned to be an annual event also, showcasing traditional folk, roots and ethnic music to the international stage.
I only attended the last day of the expo but was really impressed by a Malaysian band Beringin Emas who performed at a high impacts level for some 45 minutes during the showcase event in the evening. As I said … more to follow, just make sure you get to the next one … or the Borneo Jazz Festival in MAY 2014
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