SO  MUCH  TO  SEE,  SO  MUCH  MORE  TO  BUY  IN  MALAYSIA

MANILA, JULY 14, 2007
(STAR) By Rey Rivera - Going to the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival was like opening a box of metaphorical chocolates. You just don’t know what exactly you’re gonna get.

Attending this year’s mega sale event in Kuala Lumpur was like searching for my very own version of the holy grail of consumer items: a Nikon 18-200 VR lens or a four-string MusicMan bass guitar (since my hobbies are taking photographs and playing music with my sons Marvin and Marion in our community church band during weekends). As it turned out, KL offers a whole lot more in terms of shopping and chancing upon good finds — from badminton shoes to Giordano shirts to durian-flavored chocolates to batik shirts to pasalubong for my wife Beth. It was a carnival all right. A carnival for shoppers, sightseers and shutterbugs like me.

“The Mega Sale Carnival is more than just promotions, bargains and discounts, it has abundant activities to offer, some of which are refreshingly different,” said Malaysian Tourism Minster Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Bin Tengku Mansor at the Starhill Gallery in KL for the launch of the event.

Before, the annual Mega Sale Carnival was held for only six weeks. The Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia and the Shopping Malaysia Secretariat have extended it this year to 11 weeks nationwide. It is ongoing until September, so hardcore shoppers still have a chance to pack their bags and take a flight to the Malaysian capital.

“This is a Mega Sale with a difference,” the minister stressed. “Shoppers can browse, buy and participate in various exciting contests and activities throughout the period.”

As part of the shopping carnival, there were even weekend midnight sale promos in selected malls in KL, Johor Bahru and Penang — and with hotels and airlines offering discounts and various promotions. There was a shopping hunt at the Bukit Bintang area and a Maxis media treasure hunt, which took participants on a quest through the streets of Johor Bahru, Malacca and then Kuala Lumpur. A MasterCard raffle with a four-day/three-night stay for four at the prestigious Pangkor Laut Estates as the grand prize, which included “a private yacht transfer, accommodation in a luxurious two-bedroom villa with an outdoor bath, a geometric infinity pool, as well as living and dining pavilion.”

There is also the “Big 7 special,” which is ongoing until Sept. 1, where seven malls in Bukit Bintang hold a “shopping feast like no other.” Then there are visitors incentive programs, with tourists entitled to discounts in establishments such as Metrojaya Department Stores (visitors get a five-percent discount on regular merchandise), Isetan Kuala Lumpur (with its Traveler Shopping Privilege program), Suria KLCC and Parkson (with their Tourist Privilege Card offerings), as well as promos by MasterCard and The Body Shop.

What to shop for, you ask? Items range from clothes and accessories, jewelry, and cosmetics, to electrical and high-tech equipment, handicrafts and unique curios. All at discounted prices.

The posh Starhill Gallery — which intends to put up branches in Singapore, Shanghai, London and Moscow — had a midnight sale, with international labels like Anne Klein New York, Fendi, Gucci and Valentino offering end-of-season sale. Shoppers can also partake of espresso and fusion tea from Hausbrandt, and those who spend 200 ringgit and above are entitled to complimentary treatment vouchers to Pamper Zone.

Indeed, Malaysia is living up to its tourism tagline of “The Time is Now, The Place is Malaysia” by aggressively promoting its Visit Malaysia Year 2007 series of activities as the country celebrates its 50th year of Independence. Visitors can dance to traditional tunes during Citrawarna or the Colors of Malaysia celebration, join and witness unique religious festivals like Tadau Kaamatan or Gawai Dayak, or sample local festive delicacies.

Last year, Malaysia played host to more than 17.5 million tourists, registering an increase of 6.8 percent from the previous year’s 16.4 million visitors. The minister also informed us that the first-quarter figures on tourist arrivals are very encouraging. For the period from January to March 2007, Malaysia registered 4.8 million visitors, marking an increase of 9.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

“In respect to tourist expenditure, last year, shopping activities alone accounted for 25.7 percent of the overall tourism earnings. The Mega Sale in August registered a 7.9-percent increase in tourist arrivals, as compared to the previous year’s 1.5 million visitors.”

Things are, indeed, looking up. And I am not just talking about the Eye of Malaysia, the huge Ferris wheel that offers a breathtaking view of Kuala Lumpur. Serious efforts are being put into promoting Malaysia as a leading shopping hub in the region, since shopping has not only made a major impact on the Malaysian tourism scene, it has also boosted the country’s economy as well.

“We want to establish the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival as a brand that would carry our message across to the traveling and shopping-loving communities around the world,” concluded Minister Mansor.

Sight-Shopping in KL and beyond

In between shopping, we toured Malaysia with our guide Karyn Lai of Belantara Holidays.

We visited the Petronas Twin Towers and Istana Negara, the official residence of the King of Malaysia, where we were fortunate enough to see the changing of the guards. So went a portion of my camera’s memory card. Then it was off to the National Monument, a huge bronze statue made in honor of the valiant soldiers who defended the country against communist insurgents in the ’50s, and Merdeka Square with its 100-meter-high flagpole, reputedly the tallest in the world, proudly flies the Malaysian flag. The Union Jack was lowered here on Aug. 31, 1957, marking Malaysia’s Independence from colonial rule. Day one was capped with a visit to the Royal Selangor, the world’s largest pewter factory, and the KL Tower situated atop Bukit Nanas.

The next day, we departed for the Putrajaya city tour. A striking feature of this township is the numerous bridges that span the water bodies, each with its own distinctive design. Part of our itinerary was a cruise onboard Belimbing passenger cruise boat along the scenic Putrajaya Lake. Putra Mosque with its pink dome was really a photographer’s delight. Thank God, the sun was out this time, thus I managed to get some good shots. We ended the Putrajaya tour with a delicious satay lunch hosted by Taman Warisan Pertanian officials.

On day four, we headed for the Las Vegas of Malaysia: Genting Highlands. We stopped by Batu Cave for a photo op, then proceeded to Awana for a cable car ride up to the highlands. Genting boasts indoor and outdoor theme parks, but since I’m not into heart-pumping rides, I settled for the delicious food and some shopping. Yes, shops there were offering up to 70-percent discounts as part of the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival. We spent the night at Colmar Tropicale, a French-themed resort managed by Berjaya Hills. We even met a group of Filipino musicians performing at the resort.

On our last day in KL, we went shopping at Sungei Wang Plaza, which houses more than 500 retail outlets with an incredible assortment of goods, where we found bargains of up to 70 percent. Too bad I couldn’t find the magazine store that sells inexpensive mint-condition back issues of Guitar World and Bass Guitar, which Igan D’Bayan told me about. But I did find more pasalubong.

After shopping, I spent the night taking photos from my hotel window, hoping for some unexpected beauty would pass by. You just never know what you’re gonna get.

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For information, call Tourism Malaysia in Manila at 817-4581 or telefax 812-0770, or visit www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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