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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Malaysia's Ghost Capital





Malaysia's grand vision of a planned administrative capital was intended to follow the great examples of Brasilia, Islamabad, Washington and Canberra.

Located 25 km south of Kuala Lumpur, the city is laid out with much use of green space and state-of-the-art urban planning.

All the important government departments are there as well as regal residences, but where is the population?

MPs and diplomats were supposed to relocate from KL en masse, but have so far refused to do so. Their empty palatial residences await their arrival.

Hotels like Pullman and Shangri-La remain almost empty. Great skyscrapers lunge for the heavens, but how much space is occupied?

The cracks are starting to show as many facades are finished but the contents remain void. The futuristic monorail system lies idle and unfinished.

Despite its design prowess, it has been described variously on the web as:

"Pyongyang without the parades."
"artificial city lacking life"
"Malaysia’s Frankenstein city"
"Mahathir’s Fatehpur Sikri"
Malaysia’s Frankenstein city
Malaysia’s Frankenstein city
Malaysia’s Frankenstein city
"a 1:1 scale model city" or more bluntly
"a planning failure"

A weekend cycle ride around the wide flat pavements and you feel like a location scout for the next post-apocalyptic drama.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kruger National Park: Life and Death in the Dark


(original images)

“The lions have made a kill,” crackled the thick Afrikaans-accented voice over the 2-way radio, “we’re on them now.”

And with that, our Land Rover sped off down the bumpy track, long shadows from the setting sun creating crazy shapes in the long grass and low shrubs.

Minutes later, we’re on the scene already now in near darkness as the last embers of the setting sun fall below the distant tree line. Jacob shuts off the 4WD’s noisy diesel engine and we coast the last few metres, coming to rest close to the action. At first it’s just a jumble of dark apparitions jostling in the bush interspersed with the occasional ‘crunch’ as a rib or leg bone is crushed in the lioness’s powerful jaw.

The spotlight reveals three young lions feasting on the carcass of a freshly killed buffalo. In rotation, they come in for a few mouthfuls, tearing the flesh and sinews from the bones then ambling away for a rest before resuming the bloody buffet. This is life and death in wild Africa and we’re right there in the thick of it.

For perhaps a half hour we just sit silently watching as the meat disappears into the bloated bellies of the small pride. The carnivores, intent on the task at hand, pay us not the slightest heed, despite the flashing of torches and spotlights, tearing and gnawing at the bush banquet.

At almost 20,000 sq kms, Kruger National Park in the far north-eastern corner of South Africa is one of the largest game reserves on the continent. Most visitors come for the day, but a handful of ultra-exclusive lodges retain legacy privileges and have premises within the boundaries of the UNESCO-listed biosphere.

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The story continues to describe facilities and services at the host accommodations and venues:

JOCK SAFARI LODGE
www.jocksafarilodge.com

TINGA LODGE
www.tinga.co.za

LION SANDS
http://www.lionsands.com/

The writer was a guest of South African Tourism and also attended the INDABA Tourism Trade expo in Durban.

The writer can supply both original and PR-sourced imagery.

Travel was sponsored by South African Tourism and the respective resorts/hotels.

Also available: Durban, Cape Town, Franschhoek Winelands

EMAIL for further details

Monday, August 05, 2013

Chiang Mai: Pillars of Tranquility

Story starter only



The former royal city of Chiang Mai in Thailand’s mountainous north, rises above the noise from the rowdy south. Roderick Eime escapes the rabble.

“Everything in Siam has its own time”

So said the bold Anna Leonowens to King Mongkut in that famous piece of semi-fiction, “Anna and the King”

And if that time was now, the former Kingdom of Siam has indeed come into its own.

While the southern territories abound in hedonistic pleasures, attracting record tourist numbers, the north retains the charm and beauty that so enthralled the 19th century royal governess. With her precocious son, Louis, the two lived in the King of Siam’s court for six years from 1862. Anna left, never to return, while Louis returned 15 years later to begin an enterprise in the burgeoning teak trade.

He returned to the former seat of the royal family, Chiang Mai, and built a magnificent manor in the traditional Thai style. That residence has now been restored and forms the centrepiece of the superb new boutique resort, 137 Pillars House.

So called because of the number of teak pillars on which the house was built, the immaculately renovated structure now hosts the restaurant, bar and lounge of the property and transports guests back to a time of colonial opulence.

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Further points to consider any story:
  • Chiang Mai supports a busy adventure/adrenalin tourism sector with animal parks, off-road tours, cultural villages and bungee/ziplines.
  • Chiang Mai is applying to UNESCO for ‘Creative City’ status along with cities such as Melbourne, Berlin and Buenos Aires.
  • Chiang Mai is the only tourist destination in Thailand to have made it into the 2012 TripAdvisor list of "25 Best Destinations in the World".
  • 137 Pillars House has been included in the 2013 HOT LIST of the Best New Hotels in the World by Conde Nast Publications.
  • 137 Pillars House featured in Travelite Spring 2013 Destination Hot List
  • 137 Pillars House is a member of the SLH group and is managed by SilverNeedle Hospitality.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

I think I'm going Macanese


In July I returned to Macau to see for myself the development that has occurred since my previous visit in May 2006. Macau is developing at a staggering pace, to say the least.
  • 2013 Images - includes Hong Kong and PR-sourced images
  • 2006 Images - includes Hong Kong and PR-sourced images
Earlier stories: