Tuesday, December 5, 2017

BORNEO ORCHIDS - COELOGYNE ROCHUSSENII in our garden

Just last week, I noticed strings of our hanging orchids ready to bloom. These are the Borneo Coelogyne rochussenii orchids.   
Coelogyne rochussenii is a species of orchid, native to Borneo Island with a beautiful scent. They are found growing on tree branches and rock faces in the primary forests of Borneo.
 
 
  After a week or so, the orchids began to bloom.
 
Full bloom flowers are lightly lemon-scented.  
 
 
A single well grown plant is able to flower a spectacular display of over 2500 flowers!!
 
 
 
It is estimated that there are about 3000 species of orchids found in the wild of Borneo. However, many of these treasures together with countless of plants and animals have been lost due to deforestation. 


   

Monday, November 13, 2017

MASwings - TO REDUCE SERVICES & AN OTHER ROUND STAFF RETRENCHMENT IN 2018?

MASwings will cease operations for six routes in Sabah and Sarawak by next year to make way for commercial airlines said the Transport Minister of Malaysia in a press statement on 08 Novermber 2017. He said this was decided after a study was done by the Malaysia Aviation Commission on Rural Air Services. It was found that the six existing routes jointly operated by MASwings and commercial airlines like Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia had a high load factor of up to 86% making it profitable for commercial airlines.

The routes are:
1. Kota Kinabakalu - Sandakan vv
2. Kota Kinabalu - Tawau vv
3. Kota Kinabalu - Miri vv
4. Kota Kinabalu - Kuching vv
5. Kuching - Miri vv
6. Kuching - Sibu vv

According to the Minister, the above routes would be opened up for all commercial carriers except MASwings. Something is wrong somewhere! MASwings is not considered a commercial airline? This could be the plan to shut down MASwings in the near future or is it another round of  staff retrenchment ?

Let's share the history of our East Malaysia domestic operations in the past. Well before Malaysia Airlines was born, these services were operated by Borneo Airway in the 50s, then Malayan Airways  in the early 60s, Malaysia Singapore Airlines in 1966-1972 and finally Malaysia Airlines from October 1972.
 
 
 
 
 
 These were some of the aircraft seen in the East Malaysia sky in the past.

Out of the blue in April 2006, the Government announced that they have appointed AirAsia to take over all Malaysia Airlines East Malaysia and Rural Air Services routes from 01 August 2006. As a result, a new airlines, FlyAsianXpress (FAX) owned by AirAsia took the East Malaysia sky.  
 
FAX aircraft

FlyAsianXpress was ill prepared and it was not welcomed by the public as soon as they started the operations. Commuters, civil servants, and people working in the tourism industry criticized the airline for their poor service and long delay with frequent cancellation of flights without notice. It's also more expensive to fly comparing to Malaysia Airlines. After less than a year in operation, FAX was at a lost with most of their aircraft grounded. They were unable to maintain schedule and decided to quit and approached the government for help. The government finally decided to terminate their contract and asked Malaysia Airlines to resume operations with an assurance that any financial loss will be borne by the government.

On 01 October 2007, a new airlines was born - MASwings, the subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines began the East Malaysia operation including Rural Air Services with eight 50-seater F50 and four 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft. All these aircraft were used by FAX and was restored and refurbished by Malaysia Airlines.
F50 and Twin Otter DHC-6 310

By 2009, the Fokker-50 fleets were phased out - replaced by ATR72-500 the advanced turboprop aircraft. 
 
 
The 64-seaters ATR72-500

Currently, MASwings is serving a network of 24 destinations and operates with ten (10) 64-seater ATR 72-500, an advanced turboprop aircraft which connects Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, and Miri International Airports to major towns and cities in East Malaysia.

In addition to the new turboprops, MASwings also upgraded their Twin Otter fleet to the 19-seater Viking Air DH6 400 series Twin Otter. These aircraft are deemed vital lifeline in providing air transportation into remote and highlander areas many of which are inaccessible by road. MASwings’ regular Twin Otter service operates out of eleven (11) Short Take Off Landing (STOL) ports across Sabah and Sarawak.
In my opinion, the government should not take out MASwings on the 6 routes as it will continue to give MASwings the opportunity to make profit. I believed that the traveling public will enjoy better services and cheaper fares with more commercial airlines and MASwings servicing these routes.

Monday, October 30, 2017

KUNDASANG - 2 YEARS AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE

From Mt.Kinabalu park, we continued our drive to Kundasang, some 6.5 km away. It took us about 11 minutes to get there. 
Approaching Kundasang town 
Mt.Kinabalu Heritage Resort and SPA (formally the Persaka Hotel) situated atop a hill approximately 5,000 feet above sea level providing a commanding view of the majestic Mt, Kinabalu. On a good day, the panoramic view of Mountain offers a breathtaking view from viewing point of the resort.
Mt.Kinabalu viewing point located near the hotel's garden.
That afternoon, we could not see Mt.Kinabalu from there because of the misty weather. 
The Heritage resort has 12 units of chalets built amidst the pine trees accessible through the hanging bridge from the main hotel building.
From the hotel we moved to Mesilau area passing the roundabout.
A steep descend to the valley.
A holiday lodge
From the valley, it's all the way uphill.
The Desa Cattle farm.

As heavy rain clouds were looming on the horizon in Mesilau resort area, we decided to back-track to Kundasang.  
U-turn back to the valley
From Kundasang, we headed for home
From a distance, the mist was seen moving in.
  It was misty most of the way.
Arriving Kota kinabalu as sun was setting in the rain.

It was a good outing to visit Mt. Kinabalu park and Kundasang area in a lapse of more than two years after the earthquake. There were no significant damage around the areas except for some landslides still under repair and maintenance along the road.