Tapping the ‘green

There has been a spurt of media reports on tourism promotion in the country. Wildlife reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty would be the obvious attractions. Though this enthusiasm is encouraging, certain issues have to be taken note of or else unregulated tourism will be another serious threat to the list of problems to our wildlife and their habitats.

In India, tourism to wildlife destinations in the garb of “eco-tourism” is already a popular concept. However, the term is by and large misused. In practice, it is used as just another “eco-sell” marketing tool. Wldlife tourism is carried out in an unsystematic and unscientific manner with no clearly laid out policies. For instance, carrying capacity is undefined for most of our protected areas, neither have there been scientific rules defined on visitor discipline. Enforcement of existing regulations has been very frail. Many of our natural wonders are seen as ideal locations to be unruly, play loud music, for gambling or as locations for recreational activities with little interest in experiencing natural environments.
Emphasis on conservation

Eco-tourism is defined as “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature, that promotes conservation, has a low visitor impact and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples”. Mere use of the prefix “eco” does not lead to eco-tourism. Eco-tourism can be distinguished from other forms of tourism by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveller responsibility and active community participation.

In our country eco-tourism is largely unfamiliar and is restricted to washing linen in an environmentally friendly manner or building thatched huts as lodges. A luxurious wildlife resort in Rajasthan charging over US$ 1,000/guestnight does not even have a conservation policy, depicting poor corporate behaviour. Tourism also has undesirable side-effects. In many areas it has led to negative social and cultural impacts, conflicts between local communities and investors, and also increased living costs for locals.

There are very few examples where eco-tourism is carried out in its true meaning. In the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the forest department has set up tourism eco-development committees. One of the committees is run by local Mannan, Paliyan tribals and carry out wildlife, birdwatching walks, sharing the benefits among its members. This is real eco-tourism.

In Karnataka, places such as Bannerghatta Biological Park or Tavarekoppa Tiger Safaris attract far more visitors than Nagarahole National Park. For a sizable segment of visitors who want “quick” wildlife tourism, we should promote such safaris to educate people on wildlife and utilise the revenue generated to protect larger, more ecologically sensitive wildlife habitats where small-scale, low-impact tourism should take precedence.
Benefits for local communities

The State provides substantial publicity and subsidies to tourism entrepreneurs. However, there is always scope for betterment and we need novel ideas that can provide viable economic development alternatives for local communities with tourism promotion. In places like Nagarahole National Park, where forest dwelling communities have been resettled outside the park, support should be provided to develop their own low-key tourism activities such as guided walks in reserved forests outside the national park limits. People like hands-on activities. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts would be attracted to such innovative programs. Non-governmental organisations can help train tribals in communication and also support in running their programs.

In areas where agriculture is no longer profitable due to wildlife crop raiding, farmers adjacent to protected areas can form co-operatives and develop tourism activities in their land. Alternatively tourism companies can lease (not buy) farmland and carry out nature tourism in private lands. I am certain such tourism can bring in better revenue than agriculture and improve community attitudes towards wildlife.

Eco-tourism should promote conservation ethics and generate public awareness through accurate scientific information and not “story telling” which is the current trend. This needs trained, motivated education officers and attractively designed interpretation centres which is currently lacking both in the Government and private sector. Eco-tourism should motivate visitors to a more “active” contribution to wildlife conservation.

Nature tourism is growing at 10-12 per cent annually. With the neo-classical economic development bringing increased disposable income, advances in transportation, advanced information technology and corporatisation of this industry, low impact wildlife tourism has great potential; however it has to be well regulated. In its current form, it lacks focus, discipline and sensitivity to both wildlife conservation and local cultures. Wildlife landscapes should be more seen as outdoor educational classrooms rather than recreational locations. Well-implemented, scientific and environmentally sustainable wildlife tourism can bring in larger public support for conservation. Government and private entrepreneurs should solicit NGOs and academic institutions to provide technical and educational support. Monitoring sustainability, developing objective indicators, systematically tracking short-term and long-term tourism impacts through research that would help in developing appropriate policies and management guidelines, could all be the role of wildlife tourism researchers. Building awareness about the negative impacts of tourism among tourism entrepreneurs, guides, safari drivers has to be another key activity for NGOs. A nascent effort in this direction is taken up by Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT), a non-profit joint venture of U.K.-based India-focused travel operators and Global Tiger Patrol through eco-labelling of wildlife resorts in six tiger reserves in north India.
Towarsds fair distribution

Is there a linkage between promoting tourism and wildlife conservation? Though the volume of park-based tourism has substantially increased, there is little direct linkage between the benefits reaped by tourism entrepreneurs and wildlife conservation. Tourism is an economic activity and it cannot be a one-sided transaction. There should be fair distribution of benefits for preservation of the attractions that are the source of tourist interest, which are wildlife in this case. Urgent steps have to be taken to encourage the tourism industry, including hotel and resort owners, restaurants, souvenir shops, travel agents and all others benefiting directly or indirectly from wildlife tourism, to contribute for conservation efforts through setting up a separate protected area conservation tax under the local forest department. This would also enhance the non-use value of protected areas.

Eco-tourism should provide genuine development opportunity for local communities and involve them in planning, development, operation and benefit sharing. Focus should be on optimising local economic benefits, developing leadership and skills of local communities for higher paid jobs rather than restricting them to jobs such as cooks, drivers, gardeners or cleaners. Though such jobs are certainly helpful, the ratio of revenue sharing is minimal. Eco-tourism should offer jobs that provide an alternative to agriculture, animal husbandry or other forms of land use that are causes of wildlife habitat degradation. However we need to be cautioned that over-dependence, unplanned tourism can be risky and can cause severe damage to ecological integrity.

Holiday hotspots: where are we heading in 2008?

Forget glitz, crowds and over-development: the key holiday destinations in 2008 will be those remote corners of the globe that offer comfort, solitude and authenticity, writes Mark Jones.

Once upon a time, writing an article of predictions such as this would have been a straightforward task. Name-check some big openings, whisk around the atlas with a style thermometer naming what's hot, where's cool, where has gone tepid and who's been frozen out.

No longer. Now you can't look forward in the travel business without grappling with the Big Issues: global warming, geo-politics, China, international security. Many of these issues came together at the Bali conference this month - and what a choice of venue that was. Only a few years ago, nowhere better symbolised the innocence of modern multicultural travel: a place where young Australians flocked to get drunk and rich Britons fled to chill out. Now Bali - sadder, wiser, bombed, more wary Bali - will become shorthand for nothing less than the battle to save the planet.

Greener travel

The great hope for 2008 is that tourism, like other global industries, can find a way to be both green and profitable. At present, niche operators such as hotelier Campbell Gray (One Aldwych and Carlisle Bay, among others) can safely target the sliver of wealthy travellers who really do prefer a single perfect apple in an earthenware bowl to a huge basket of waxy fruit wrapped in cellophane. Still, a decisive shift is taking place and any hotel-owner who thinks that going green means putting a little card in the bathroom asking you whether you want your towels washed has spectacularly missed the point.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) says that tourism accounts for 10 per cent of global GDP. International tourism will triple in next 20 years and international arrivals are expected to rise from 700 million to 1.6 billion by the year 2020. That's a lot of people on the move burning a lot of fuel. But no sane environmental campaigner can simply set up camp outside Heathrow and tell us to stop flying.

More WTO figures: tourism employs over 250 million people. It is the main money-earner for a third of developing nations and the primary source of foreign-exchange earnings for the majority of the 49 least developed countries. So by all means choose Norfolk rather than The Gambia for your summer holiday if it eases your worries about air miles. But be aware that a tourism drought in these countries will be just as devastating as any other kind.

We will see more travellers opting for the so-called "gold standard" carbon offsetting schemes (too complicated to go into here, but it's about more than planting a few trees).

Where we'll be going

The indications are that we will be choosing our big holiday more thoughtfully, opting to keep it real and low-scale in Africa or Latin America. The success of Namibia and Botswana in limiting developments to a few high-quality lodges and responsible operators is encouraging others to follow suit. The coming year will be a landmark one in Zambia, where Abercrombie&Kent plans to open no fewer than seven new camps (four of them in 2008).

In Botswana, Colin Bell, the founder of Wilderness Safaris, has gone into partnership with Mark Read (the former head of WWF in South Africa) to create the Selinda Reserve (due to open in April). While in July, the celebrated Zambian guide Robin Pope is opening Pamulani in July, a new lodge on Lake Malawi, set inside a World Heritage Site.

South America will continue to supplant south-east Asia as the destination of choice for intrepid long-haulers and gap-yearlings. The Atacama Desert will get the boutique treatment with the new Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, while long-standing Latin American experts Cazenove+Loyd are beginning tailor-made hiking trips into the remote areas of the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. They have also spotted that Machu Picchu is becoming overworn and are starting treks through remote Andean villages avoiding the tourist trail.

Even before regime change happens in Washington, the hawks are in flight. That makes the prospect of visiting Iran or Syria, say, much more palatable. In fact, as anyone who has travelled in those countries knows, it's hard to feel safer and less hassled anywhere in the world; and it will take huge increases in visitor numbers to make magical places like Isfahan, Persepolis, Palmyra and Aleppo feel crowded.

New business model needed, vendor says

A San Diego gift shop operator has drawn the ire of cultural watchdogs after ousting island artisans from one of Hawaii's most popular tourist attractions.

Some fans of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which draws about 700,000 visitors each year, complain that many authentic crafts have disappeared from the center's gift shop on Oahu since San Diego-based Event Network took over retail operations last year.

“I tried to go Christmas shopping and couldn't find the local crafters that I normally find at PCC,” said Kathy Connors, a resident of Windward Oahu. “I'd say at least 90 percent of it is made in China or overseas. I'm originally from Hong Kong, and I just can't send Made-In-China Hawaiian gifts to friends in Hong Kong.”

Event Network, which operates gift shops in museums, aquariums and other attractions nationwide, acknowledged that the previous handful of local artisans and vendors who ran several center shops were let go when the company took over.

The center, located about one hour from Waikiki, is a top tourist destination. It consists of seven native villages that are designed to give visitors a glimpse of native Hawaiian and other South Pacific cultures.

But the perceived influx of look-alike crafts not produced on the islands has miffed cultural purists. The issue landed Event Network on the front page of The Honolulu Advertiser last week.

Larry Gilbert, president of Event Network, maintains that the center's gift shops and crafts remain “very authentic” to the cultures the center showcases. He said the shops source many of the same items from the displaced vendors as well as new ones.

“There are people who create crafts all over the Hawaiian and Polynesian islands, and there are many different people we buy from,” said Gilbert, whose company operates gift shops in 48 locations, including the San Diego Air &Space Museum in Balboa Park. “There isn't just one source of product. Our job is to bring together the best and most authentic and most interesting assortment possible. It is no different from any retail environment – sources change.”

The center does offer products made in Hawaii and the Pacific, including tapa cloth made in Hawaii and Fiji, according to Event Network. Other items are produced elsewhere to keep them affordable – for instance, the center's Hawaiian-style quilts are made in the Philippines.

Susan Kunz, director of PCC's retail stores for Event Network, said the company required a “different business model” when it took over operations for the center, according to the Advertiser article that ran Thursday.

“There were a lot of unhappy feelings. For some of these people that was their whole livelihood. So that's a tough thing,” Kunz said. “But it just becomes a different business model. You just have to adjust. It's a different way of doing business.”

Kunz told the newspaper that the challenge is maintaining a product balance that serves everyone from Saudi princes to everyday tourists. Because PCC is a major cultural attraction it needs a steady supply of quality products, she said.

“I need to find people who can supply me and who can keep me in product and who can deal with a company,” Kunz told the Advertiser. “We don't do cash on delivery, for example. And we're not a craft fair. We're not one-time buyers. So we deal with purchase orders. And we pay with a check after 30 days – that kind of thing.

“And some of that becomes very difficult for our local crafters because they're not used to it,” Kunz said.

Cultural watchdogs who are championing some of the local artisans said the “mainland” business model doesn't always work for one-of-a-kind items. Kona Hahn, a native Hawaiian whose family practiced the art of lauhala weaving, said a compromise should be found.

“We are trying to keep part of our heritage alive by doing the authentic things that were done generations ago,” Hahn said. “So many tourists make the PCC a destination. They've paid all this money to come to Hawaii and they want to bring home something made in Hawaii – not the Philippines.”


New Year revellers not visiting Maoist land

Raipur, Dec 27 - With hills, caves and waterfalls, Bastar makes for a picturesque getaway, yet there has been a sharp drop in the number of New Year revellers in the region that was virtually the epicentre of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh throughout 2007.

'New Year revellers, a majority of whom consists of families, are shying away from Bastar,' a top official in the tourism department told IANS.

Till Tuesday, around 5,200 people had booked hotels, motels and government guesthouses to usher in the New Year at various tourist spots in Chhattisgarh. Out of these, just about 18 percent (756 people) had booked at Bastar locations.

Last year about 8,000 people had gone to various tourist spots for New Year celebrations, of which 80 percent visited Bastar despite spiralling Maoist violence.

The revellers' reluctance this time to celebrate in Bastar is blamed on rising violence in the region, which includes the worst hit Dantewada and Bijaur districts.

Overall, about 95 percent of the Maoist violence in the state has been recorded in the Bastar region, which is spread over some 40,000 sq km in five districts. The violence has resulted in some 300 deaths, including 202 policemen, this year.

'They seem to be preferring the state's northern region's hill station Mainpat in Surguja district, the wildlife-rich forest location at Barnawapara in Mahasamund district and Achanakmar forest reserve in Bilaspur district.'

He, however, pointed out that tourist spots in Bastar have never seen any Maoist violence.

The Bastar region is home to ancient monuments, rare wildlife, waterfalls and rock paintings.

One of the places known for its natural beauty is Chitrakote, where the Indravati river abruptly drops 96 feet, resulting in a spectacular horseshoe waterfall often compared with the Niagara Falls.

Bastar also boasts of the Kailash and Kutumsar caves that are said to be three billion years old.

Left extremists have stepped up their activities in Bastar this month. They blew up a police station Dec 12, engineered a daring jailbreak Dec 16 from Dantewada prison in which 299 inmates, including nearly 100 Maoist cadres, escaped and killed 12 policemen Dec 20 in Konta block in Dantewada.


TKK Restaurant, Teluk Jawa (a.k.a. Megah Ria Seafood Village)

Having my Christmas dinner at TKK Seafood Restaurant, Teluk Jawa (a.k.a. Megah Ria Seafood Village)
(N1 28.606 E103 50.728)

Map from JB Custom to TKK Restaurant

The meaning of 'TKK' is Tie-Kong-Kia in hokkien (means son of the god)! Of somebody call it Tan-Ku-Ku in hokkien (means long waiting). :)
We ordered a few dishes like : Steam prawn, steam sotong (squid), Thai style slice cockle, vegetables and Hot plate Tofu (bean curd).

Among all, I love the steam squid very much! The spice added was just marvelous!
The environment is relax and not crowded. As you can see, there are two session in the restaurant.....typical seafood restaurant area and the romantic bridge area especially for couples or family.

Live seafoods available

The total cost of the dinner are MYR78.00. It's quite reasonable price from this good environment restaurant.

Related post :-
TKK Seafood Restaurant (2nd visit) at Teluk Jawa, Johor Bahru.



Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple (柔佛古廟)

GPS coordinates : (N1°27.625 E103°45.785)
This is one of the oldest structure in Johor Bahru which build on 19th century and well maintain till today. It's located along Jalan Trus in between Kotaraya Shopping Complex and Pan Pacific Hotel at Johor Bahru town.

Map provided by MalSingMaps.com

It also the symbol of unity among five chinese dialect : Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Hainan. And host the five Deities : Yuan Tian Shang Di-(元天上帝) or (大老爷), Hong Xian Da Di-(洪仙大帝) or (洪仙公), Gan Tian Da Di-(感天大帝), Hua Guang Da Di-(华光大帝) and Zhao Da Yuan Shuai-(赵大元帅) for the five groups.
For more information about the temple, please visit Wiki : Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple.

I went to this temple on Sunday (23-12-2007) afternoon. Not many peoples there except some tourists. I found out this temple is different from others, because it's not a huge in size but it's famous of the historical values and also not much to explore.

Only the main hall and the both side doors are access to the small area which displays all the history of this chronicle temple.

Right lane

Left lane

Entrance to the Culture Center

Annual Chingay will be organized by the temple known as Parade of Deities. During the time, it has attract many peoples to participate, which also attract tourist for this grand Parade of the temple.

It's took me about 30 minutes to view every corner of this temple.



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Budget Hotel at Taman Rinting, Masai, Johor Bahru.

Budget Hotel at Bandar Seri Alam, Masai, Johor Bahru.

Budget Hotel at Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, Johor Bahru.

Kingston Hotel (N1°30.906' E103°40.107')
72, Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/3, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, JB.
Tel : +607-5575180
Room rates : RM68+ – RM108+
* Free Wifi services

* Famous Bamboo House Restaurant at ground floor

Suan Bee Hotel (N1°30.865’ E103°40.145’)
99 & 101, Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, JB.
Tel : +607-5545399
Fax : +607-5565399
Room rates : RM58.80 – RM108.80
* Internet access via LAN in every room.

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* Budget Hotel At Taman Senai Utama, Senai, Johor.
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* Budget Hotel At Kulai, Johor.
* Budget Hotel at Taman Rinting, Masai, Johor Bahru.
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* Budget Hotel at Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru.



Budget Hotel at Taman Nusa Bestari 2, Skudai, Johor Bahru.

Budget Hotel at Taman Nusa Bestari , Skudai, Johor Bahru.