Malaysian pop-punk rebels: Bunkface  

Sam, Youk and Paan are the three young men that make up Bunkface, one of the most successful groups ever to come out of Malaysia. Since 2005 they have been lashing out high energy pop punk riffs to dizzy teenage fans across the continent.
After initially finding success with their English language Lesson of the Season EP in 2007, Bunkface's big break came with the release of their first Malay single Situasi in 2008. Though they had initially intended to record the track in English, in order to ape their American heroes such as Sum 41, The Offspring and Green Day, bassist Youk suggested a Malay recording at the last minute. It was an inspired decision, and the song went on to hit the number one spot on FLY FM.
After blitzing the first ever Shout! Awards and taking home three gongs, Bunkface released their debut album, Phobia Phoney, in 2010. A mixture of six English songs and 4 Malay songs it produced several more hits of the band, including Revolusi, Prom Queen, Soldier and Dunia.
Their second LP Bunk Not Dead followed in 2012, produced on their own Bunkface Productions label. This time they decided to add 9 English songs and 4 Malay songs. The long wait between their debut album and this follow-up is attributed to an incredibly hectic touring schedule that saw Bunkface play across Asia, Europe and North America to wide acclaim.
It's a heavier piece than Phobia Phoney, with lyrics that enter stranger, more troubled areas and a less obviously poppy sound in the music. Part of the reason for this increased heaviness had to do with an increasingly hostile attitude towards Malaysian punk from the country's established music scene.
For example, the previous year, the albums lead single Panik had been banned by Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM, the government's official station).The initially cited reason for the ban was to do with the repeated usage of the word ‘Reformasi' in the lyrics, which is a term often used by opposition political leaders. Bunkface themselves reacted angrily to the ban, saying they had the right to use whatever words they wish and that they had no political message that they were trying to put across.
Despite the controversy, Bunkface remain one of Malaysia's most popular acts, with a huge following of loyal punk fans.

Jaclyn Victor: from lounge singer to national icon  

You might know her as Jaclyn Victor or you might know her as Jac. Whatever you call her, you should know that Jaclyn Victor is one of the most powerful and popular singers in the Malaysian pop scene. After winning the inaugural Malaysian Idol and Ikon Malayisa contests, she went on release a string of hugely popular and influential albums and represented Malaysia in Asian Idol and Ikon Asean.
Before Malaysian Idol, Jac had already been earning a living by singing in clubs and bars across Kuala Lumpur. She had even recorded an album, entitled Dreams, and sang on a national television show but had not come to mainstream attention.
Malaysian Idol changed all that. She auditioned on the encouragement of her mother and stormed the show, with her faultless covers of staples such as Sweet Child O Mine, Lady Marmalade and If I Ain't Got you. In the final, she won an incredible 76% of the audience's vote, before singing Gemilang, the song written for the winner that would eventually become her signature tune.
She quickly released an album of the same name, which went gold almost instantly. Jac picked up award after award across the next few years, playing in various huge events across Asia. Her second album, entitled Inilah Jac, dropped in 2006. Supported by her first proper music video Ceritera Cinta with Rio Febrian, it was another critical and commercial success.
At the AIM awards in 2007 she was nominated for a four awards and took home one for Best Female Vocal Performance in an Album. She also sang on a special edition of the hugely successful High School Musical 2 soundtrack, helping to promote it across Malaysia.
Jac was also a very big part of the 50 Years of Malaysian Independence celebrations, headlining the Live and Loud KL concerts that ran across 10 days in the capital. This was followed by more touring concerts in Europe and Asia.
Since then Jac has released two more acclaimed albums and begun a successful acting career. She starred in Talentime, directed by Yasmin Ahmad in 2009, bagging an award for Best Promising Actress at the Malaysian Film Festival.
Jaclyn Victor is one of the most brilliant vocal talents in Asia. Her extraordinary career continues to be one of the most exciting things in Malaysian pop.

 

How Raihan conquered the world  
Any recent history of Malaysian music simply has to include a large section devoted to Raihan, the Nasheed group that took the country by storm in the mid-90s. Their debut album, entitled Puji-Puijan, hit the charts in late 1996, selling over 750,000 units in Malaysia and many more worldwide. As of this date, it has sold a grand total of 3.5 million copies across the globe, making it the most successful Malaysian album of all time.
So what is it that made Raihan so successful?
A Nasheed band made up of five members, Raihan have a reputation for creating deep, soulful vocal music that instantly resonates with the listener's sense of spirituality and emotion. The singing from core members Nazrey Johani, Che Amran Idris, Abu Bakar Md Yatim, Amran Ibrahim and Azhari Ahmad was backed up by driving insistent percussion and their adoption of instrumentation differentiated them from the Nasheed music of the past. Theirs was a truly new take on an old formula, and it instantly clicked with a world music audience.
The year after Puji-Puijan, Raihan sang in front of Queen Elizabeth 2nd at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh. Soon after, they received an honorary letter from Prince Charles for their performance at Commonwealth in Concert and then performed at the Commonwealth Games 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.
Tragedy struck on 29 August 2001 when Azhari Ahmad suffered a fatal heart attack at the Era music Awards in Pahang. The other four members decided to keep working in his wake, releasing 10 more albums since Ahmad's passing, all of them massively successful and critically acclaimed.
Raihan has been showered with awards over the years. They have won numerous AIM awards in various categories, including best album, best group, best nasyid album and best nasyid song.
Raihan's success has taken them across the world, playing to packed crowds in famous venues. As well as being only the third Malaysian artist to perform at London's renowned Royal Albert Hall, they also became the first to perform their for a second time in 2008. They have also toured extensively across France, the UK, Austria, Canada and the United States.
Perhaps Raihan's success is best summed up by their motto: Pray Hard, Work Smart.
Butterfingers - kings of Malaysian rock music  
In Malaysia, a country obsessed with rock music, Butterfingers are almost certainly the biggest home-grown rock band. Formed by a group of students in Malay College in 1993, the band quickly gained a fearsome reputation in the local underground rock scene. Grunge was breaking and the raw energy of their sound, plus the charisma of front man Emmett, caught the young audience's eye.
Their first demo tape, entitled 1 Goat, 2 Apples and 16 Oranges, caught widespread attention, with many people thinking it was an upcoming, unreleased Nirvana album that had been leaked. Their first album hit in 1996. Entitled 1.2 mg, it was critically acclaimed and it resonated with the grunge-loving young Malays. The follow up, Butter Worth Pushful was similarly well received, but it was their third LP, Transcendence, which hit in 1999 that truly made the mainstream breakthrough.
While it retained the grungy anger of their earlier albums and contained much of the ferocity of their live shows, it was a more intricate affair, with some terrifically sophisticated song-writing. It sold more than 50,000 units, which was then considered unprecedented for a Malaysian artist in a marketplace dominated by foreign groups.
The band followed Transcendence with one of the most critically acclaimed rock albums in the history of the country. An epic departure into complex rock music, it was seen as a true tour de force by Malaysia's music press. Unfortunately then fans did not agree: it sold disappointingly. Though Butterfingers had developed, it seemed their audience had not, as they still called out for the three chord rock that made Transcendence such a hit.
The next major project was a Malay-language album called Selamat Tinggal Dunia. While many other big name bands were recording in their native language around this time, Butterfinger's effort felt unique as it continued their exploration of new musical ideas and strange lyrical ideas.
Butterfingers released another album in 2008, named Kembali, before taking a sabbatical while members of the band studied for various different degrees. At this time, they have not officially broken up but have not released any new material as a group in five years. Their legions of fans across South East Asia, however, still hold out hope for more.
Getting around Kuala Lumpur  

By rail
The thriving capital city of Malaysia is well-served by transport – principally railways, taxis and buses. Around one kilometre to the south of its historic old train station lies KL Central. This hub lies at the hreart of the city's sophisticated urban transport network.
Within this hub various systems congregate - KTM Komuter, KLIA Transit, KLIA Ekspres, LRT and Monorail systems. The one less satisfactory aspect of travelling across Kuala Lumpur is the fact that these systems were all built separately, and to this day remain largely un-integrated. This means different tickets have to be purchased for each stage of a journey. However, it remains perfectly feasible to get right round the city using the hub services, and a combination of monorail and railway.
Another factor which aims to make travelling as convenient as possible are rechargeable ‘Touch & Go' stored value cards, which are available at all LRT stations. These cards can be used to access the electronic gates at any of the LRT, train and monorail systems.
By bus and tram
Sightseeing around the city has been considerably streamlined in recent years. There are information booths on street corners where you are able to access route maps, as well as information on season tickets. Local buses leave from many of the city's bus terminals, including the vast Puduraya bus station and the Klang bus station. Your single fare for most destinations within Kuala Lumpur city limits is covered by one MYR. A two MYR ticket will allow you to take unlimited travel for one day on any of Rapid KL's 15 routes.
Local transport
Many travellers opt for taxis or the LRT systems. Not only are these modes of transport more efficient, they are air-conditioned. The city's local buses depart from half a dozen stands around the city. The zip around Kuala Lumpur's thoroughfares and are ideal if your destinations are Central Market, the Kota Raya department store, and many other locations.
There are numerous taxis in the city, queuing at designated stops. You are also able to flag-down taxis in transit, although drivers will only stop if it is safe and convenient for them to pull over. Fares commence at two MYR for the first two minutes, and proceed to charge at an additional 10 cents for every 45 seconds. From midnight until 6am you'll be automatically surcharged an extra 50%. Extra passengers (that is, more than two) are charged 20 cents each.
A note of caution is that not all drivers use a meter, even although it is a legal requirement for them to do so. Also, not every taxi driver possesses a complete geographical knowledge of the city. It is therefore recommended that you familiarize yourself with all possible routes by consulting a Kuala Lumpur street plan. While it will be impossible for you to take into account localized factors, such as roadworks or accidents, at least having armed yourself with some basic knowledge of the street layout will help you to correct the driver on the off-chance he is straying drastically!
 
By air
KL International Airport (KLIA) is one of Asia's major aviation hubs and is a destination in itself. It is located at the top of the southern corridor of Peninsular Malaysia, bordering the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Situated in the Sepang district, it is approximately 50km from the capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

KLIA is a unique airport that offers something for everyone whether it is for business, entertainment or relaxation. The airport is part of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) where new technology is actively pursued.

Surrounded by four main cities - Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Seremban and Malacca - the airport is a catchment area that offers exciting opportunities for businesses. As modern as it sounds, KLIA still strives to create a homely airport with a serene environment.

The airport was designed using the 'Airport in the Forest, Forest in the Airport' concept, in which it is surrounded by green space. With the co-operation of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, an entire section of the rain forest was transplanted in the Satellite Building.

Since its inauguration in year 1998, KLIA has won numerous awards from international organisations such as Skytrax and International Air Transport Association. With its continuous effort to provide excellent services to passengers, the airport has emerged as one of the top five airports in the world.
Malaysia most awe-inspiring diving sites  

Malaysia is rightly regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Far East's many fabulous landscapes. But it is away from the land that this area really comes into its own in terms of attracting visitors. Malaysia actually consists of two main land areas, ‘Peninsular Malaysia', adjoining Thailand on the Asian continent, and the East Malaysian states to the north of the island of Borneo. These masses are separated by the South China Sea.
With so many coastlines being lapped by the Pacific Ocean, it is only natural that Malaysia has gained a formidable reputation as a beautiful location for diving. Divers in all shapes and sizes, from casual snorkelers to serious ‘Scuba' explorers, flock to this part of Asia from all the other corners of the world. There are many impressive dive sites to be found in Malaysia, but here is a short list of some of the most fabulous.
Sipadan
Spidan is reckoned to be one of the finest sites. This in itself is somewhat unusual because it is not all that easy to dive here due to the restrictions that are in place. For one thing, a permit is required in order to go down and explore off the coast of Sipadan. These are issued on a daily basis. However, for those fortunate enough to receive the appropriate permission, the rewards are immense. The waters are free of silt, making for excellent viewing conditions. The coral reefs are home to a diverse range of marine creatures, with some spectacularly coloured fish darting around in vast shoals.
Kapalai
Kapalai as mentioned here because of its accommodation facilities. Due to a large Sandbank that exists here it is not that spectacular for its diving; however it is renowned for its exclusive resort – built on stilts!
Lankayan
Lankayan is often cited as Malaysia's next most popular diving location after Sipadan. It is a small island, just to the north of Sandakan, in eastern Sabah (on Borneo). Although there is only one resort here, it is luxurious and it is dedicated to providing divers with somewhere to relax in superb comfort while they chill in preparation for donning their wetsuits in the morning. One reason for the enduring popularity of Lankayan is the fact that this is one area listed as a natural habitat for whale sharks. While diving in the Pacific does tend to conjure images of coral reefs, coloured like a proverbial rainbow with all the exotic species of tropical fish, it is also possible to spot nature's largest fish.
The close-up and personal encounter with a whale shark is reckoned to be one of the most or inspiring experiences that any diver could possibly hope to capture. These creatures may look intimidating, but, unlike some of their smaller relatives, they are completely harmless (unless you happen to be plankton swimming anywhere near their massive jaws!)
Layang-Layang
Unlike the aforementioned tropical islands, this area is really just a concrete landing strip. Well that doesn't sound too inviting terms of providing a springboard for some serious diving action, its location - on a large sandbank just below sea level - insures that the area has not been adversely affected by any form of human contact. As a result of this, the crystal blue seas here are home to a vast array of species, including fast schools of manta rays. To catch sight of these majestic sea creatures gliding past en masse is yet another one of Malaysia's underwater highlights.

 

Malaysia's top resorts: Kuala Lumpur  

Malaysia is definitely a nation of contrasts. Its cosmopolitan cities are vast Asian melting pots, teeming with life, and bursting with culture and things to do. Its countryside varies from mountainous landscapes, azure coastlines and tranquil islands. For the many who are drawn to this Far Eastern location like a magnet, it is that very diversity that is the key attraction.
Naturally, prior to embarking on any river cruises, wildlife treks or city breaks, visitors will first want somewhere to pitch up and call ‘home base' for the duration of their visit. So here is a list of some of the country's most-recommended visitor resorts.
City attractions
As Malaysia's bustling capital, Kuala Lumpur is often any visitor's first port of call. A diverse location, it offers a variety of accommodation choices, from luxurious hotels to plainer accommodation. If you are looking to embark on some serious retail therapy, Kuala Lumpur has everything you could possibly ask for in terms of a shopping experience. At one end of the scale there are luxury brand stores, their shelves stocked with the latest tempting designer items. At the other end, there are thriving street markets, where you are not only faced with a bewildering range of products, you have the opportunity to try your hand at some serious haggling with the vendors.
After a long day jostling amongst the crowds, what better way to unwind than booking into any one of hundreds of luxury spa, where you can take refreshments and emerge fully re-invigorated. Your choice of eating places is almost boundless. Malaysia cuisine is famous the world over, and as well as local temptations, there are restaurants catering for every taste imaginable. Neighbouring examples of Far Eastern dining are well-represented, with Indonesian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese choices.
Other things to do in Kuala Lumpur include visiting the Lake Gardens and Bird Park. Here you can suck up the tranquil atmosphere while enjoying pleasant strolls by lakes, with exotically-plumaged birds fluttering amongst the tree canopies. If you feel like taking on-board some of Malaysia's cultural highlights, why not pop into the Islamic Art Museum and National Mosque?
Batu Caves
Just outside the capital city you can truly get away from it all by experiencing the Batu Caves. Those street markets with their chattering vendors loudly selling their colourful wares will seem a million miles away. In fact, the world itself will seem peculiarly distant as you immerse yourself in some cathedral-sized underground caverns. Some of the caves down here are over 100 metres tall. This can be an incredibly moving experience as you find yourself dwarfed by the vast geological structures, including twisting stalactites and stalagmites. Pockets of underground water, fed by droplets cascading down from far above.
All the creatures who are resident in this subterranean lair, the most numerous are the bats. If you happen to be visiting around sunset, you might be lucky enough to see the moment when thousands of these creatures swarm from their roosting spots to hunt for insects.
As if having such a firsthand experience of nature wasn't enough you may well be lucky enough brackets or (unlucky enough) to be greeted by some of the local monkey population. They are used to having peanuts given to them by other travellers, so be prepared for a spot of haggling with these boisterous cave guardians!

 

Malaysia's top resorts: Langkawi  

Although long considered ‘cursed', this spectacular island retreat has been remodeled as a tropical tourist paradise. To give it its official title, ‘Langwaki the Jewel of Kedah', Langwaki lies off the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is scarcely a single location – in fact, Langkawi is a collection of islands lying some 30 kilometres off the Malaysian coast, in the azure Andaman Sea. Altogether there are over 100 islands in this archipelago.
They form part of the Malaysian state of Kedah, which runs alongside Thailand to the north. The largest of the Langwaki islands is Pulau Langwaki, which has a population of around 65,000. It is popular among visitors for being duty-free. Nearby is the island of Pulau Tuba, the only other inhabited island in the vicinity. The remaining islands vary in size and degree of isolation, but naturally this sense of being remote makes them popular with tourists escaping the hustle and bustle of contemporary life.
Because Langkawi is an increasingly popular visitor retreat, it has developed a world class tourism infrastructure. Its facilities include a contemporary international airport, well-maintained roads and a modern marina. Its hotels enjoy excellent reputations and it also boasts award-winning luxury resorts. Langwaki's golf courses are considered superb by all who have teed-off on their luscious, palm tree-fringed fairways. There is also a host of other recreational activities to collect the appetite.
The beaches every bit the picture postcard vision: white sands lapped by turquoise seas. The unpolluted waters are crystal clear, making them a magnet for snorkelers or divers. The coral reefs are a habitat that is teaming with a diverse range of marine wildlife. Divers immersing themselves in this underwater paradise will find themselves tracking shoals of brightly-coloured fish, like constantly shifting rainbows. Larger species include marlins, giant groupers, barracudas and sharks.
For visitors wishing to explore further afield, boats can be chartered for a spot of sport fishing. Those wishing a more sedate Pacific adventure can indulge in dolphin or whale spotting from the comfort of the deck, the cocktail of choice close at hand.
For landlubbers there is also much to see in the rainforests making up the hinterland of Langwaki. Guides will explain the variety of different species that scuttle around the forest floor or flutter around the canopy. The incredible biodiversity includes beautifully-coloured butterflies, an exotic array of birds, and many different varieties of mammals. The good thing about the rainforest here is that you can explore to your heart's content, knowing you are never too far away from civilization.
A cable car will take you to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang where you can access the Langwaki Sky Bridge. This 125-metre long walkway towers over the surrounding rainforest canopy at the height of 700 metres. This pedestrian bridge is curved and anchored by cables. Its spectacular setting has been used in an Indian action movie; but for more down-to-earth visitors it offers an unbeatable vantage point for views over the landscape.
After your long day of exploring the natural beauty of the island, you can retreat to Kuah Town, the commercial centre of Pulau Langwaki. The architecture here is a mixture of charming colonial-style housing and modern buildings. There are plenty places here to dine and unwind.

 

Great things to do with the kids in KL  

The Kuala Lumpur Tower
Often abbreviated to the KL Tower, since it was opened in 1995 this 421-metre tower has become one of Malaysia's most iconic landmarks. It is the highest viewpoint in Malaysia's capital city that is open to visitors. As well as offering unbelievable 360° views, the tower offers families a zoo, pony rides, a 4D theatre and a revolving restaurant.
Batu Cave
Another attraction popular with families is Batu Cave. Situated on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, this Hindu temple has been constructed directly into a limestone cliff face. It is easily accessible, with commuter trains taking you to the entrance. From here you proceed to climb 272 steps until you arrive at the entrance of the cave. Exploring the caves will appeal to children of all ages, with mischievous wild monkeys providing an amusing distraction. Entrance is free.
Bird Park
The largest walk-in, free-flight aviary in the world, Bird Park is home to over 3,000 birds. These in a diverse variety of often spectacularly-coloured species, including toucans, great hornbills, and parrots. Although the setting can often be noisy, it is well worth it for the opportunity your kids will have to feed the brightly-plumaged birds.
Again, situated some way from the city centre (around 15 km), this museum is well worth a visit. An attractive conical building set amongst 8-hectares of beautiful grounds, a playground and water pool will keep kids amused. The museum's aim is the promotion of knowledge of key scientific areas. Its many informative themes include an environmental Odyssey, and frequent glimpses into future technology (with thinking machines a popular exhibit).
Lake Gardens
As the Bird Park, Lake Gardens comprise exercise areas, a jogging track, a butterfly, and gardens that are abundant with orchids. To visitors arriving from other parts of the world, this is one thing they will certainly find unforgettable – the colourful explosion of vibrant blooms. As well as looking beautiful, the variety of fragrances will assault your nasal senses as much as you aural senses!
Paddle boats can be hired to cross the lake. This is a terrific way to enjoy the tranquil waters – and as keeping fit goes, it is also so much more practical than spending hours on the treadmill in the hotel gym!
For those of you who like to relax, as well as finding out more about the mysteries of the universe, there is also a planetarium. Here you can settle back in luxuriously comfortable seats and gaze up at the stars. The commentary will inform you all about our place in the universe, going right back to the dawn of cosmology with the so-called ‘big bang'. The beauty of the scientific explanations here is that they are aimed at the generally curious, rather than anyone seeking to write a thesis about the subject!
Covering more than 90 hectares, these lush gardens are a visual feast, with something to keep everyone in the family occupied for hours.

 

Malaysia top resorts: Penang  

Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Orient', the state of Penang lies to the north-west of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Strait of Malacca. Despite being the country's second smallest state, it is its eight-most populous. For this reason, its seaside charm, combined with an urbanized and industrialised economy, have transformed Penang into a tourist destination that is increasingly popular amongst domestic and international visitors, as well as being highly-prized by Malaysia for its income.
Penang's population of just over 1.5 million is as ethnically diverse as they come in this corner of South-East Asia. The common languages, aside from English, include Malay, Penang Hokkien, Mandarin and Tamil. As is the case in any area with such a melting pot of cultures, the end result is a colourful backdrop for any visitors. As well as listening to the range of different languages and dialects baying from street corners and open-air markets, travellers can be assured that a fine selection of ethnic cuisines await in numerous food stalls, cafes and restaurants.
George Town
George Town, the capital of Penang, lies to the north-east of Penang Island. Together with the outlying urban areas, its metropolitan population exceeds 2.25 million inhabitants, making it Malaysia's second-largest. Named after King George III, who ruled Britain between 1760 and 1820, George Town's inner city is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Like the other mixed ethnic areas of the state, George Town has schools catering for all of its diverse citizens – English, Tamil and Chinese, as well as international schools. The city is hugely popular with tourists who are drawn to its unique blend of architecture, mixing colonial-style housing with indigenous and ultra-modern accommodation.
Batu Ferringhi
Northwest of George Town, Batu Ferringhi is accessed by a winding coastal road. Here you will find wonderful beaches, where golden sands seem to stretch towards a hazy horizon. The beaches are lined with many international standard hotels, with the west-facing rooms particularly sought-after. Your choice of activities depends on how active you wish to be. For those of a more sedate nature, there is ample opportunity to just kick back and enjoy basking in the sunshine, cocktails or chilled beers to hand. But for those seeking a more thrilling holiday there are plenty of aquatic pursuits on offer. Bought rides are available that will take you up to coast, either to enjoy the rainforest scenery from a distance, to indulge in some fishing, or to spot whales cruising by en route to southern pastures. Is also a popular option, whether that involves investigating the wildlife in the mangrove swamps, or heading further out to enjoy a spot of surfing.
The Pacific Ocean in this area is known for its abundant marine life, so you may wish to hire the kit and embark on some unforgettable diving excursions. The clear waters are home to numerous species of tropical fish, crustaceans and molluscs. The more intrepid adventurers can indulge in everything from water-skiing to jet-skiing, or even parasailing. At nighttime Batu Ferringhi becomes a party zone, with barbecues on the beach soon sizzling with freshly caught fish, and an open-air bazaar hawking everything from souvenirs to locally-fashioned handicrafts.

 

  
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