We took a six-hour road trip over the long Labour Day weekend for something special: to hear Malaysia’s legendary jazz chanteuse Dato’ Sheila Majid sing while being surrounded by the rainforest! Well, to be exact, this exclusive showcase took place within the intimate setting of the luxurious Belum Rainforest Resort, located on Banding Island, Perak, which is within the vicinity of one of the world’s oldest rainforests: the 130 million-year-old Royal Belum State Park.
About Banding Island
Banding Island is a 243-hectare inland island encircled by the Temengor Lake. The island is surrounded by a man-made lake created in the late 1960s through the construction of the Temengor Dam to generate hydro-electric power and deprive communist terrorists then of one of their few remaining infiltration routes from their bases in southern Thailand.
Those seeking solitude and to be one with nature would find Banding Island a perfect getaway destination. Banding Island hums with an incredible diversity of life. It is owned by EMKAY Group, one of Malaysia’s property development giants. The company develops Banding Island as the centre for introducing the Royal Belum State Park to the public and aims to position it as a premier heritage destination on the international ecotourism map.
That being said, EMKAY’s eco efforts are continuously heralded to create more awareness towards conserving Royal Belum while at the same time luring more visitors to enjoy this pristine destination. Since nature is a treasure meant to be shared by all, a unique promotional idea was conceptualised involving Dato’ Sheila Majid giving out one-of-a-kind showcase as a tribute to the environment and to remind us all on the need to conserve it. We were very ecstatic to witness this soldout exclusive show, especially since we are big fans of the Jazz Queen!
Our Date Night with Sheila Majid
With a career that has lasted 33 years thus far, Sheila Majid still has her spellbinding entertaining skills. Throughout her performance, which lasted almost two hours non-stop, Sheila delivered some of her timeless classics including ‘Lagenda’ and ‘Sinaran’, including numbers from her latest album, ‘Boneka’. Her special tribute to Michael Jackson added a nice touch to what was already an excellent show. As always, there was never a dull moment in Sheila Majid’s concert. Everyone in the audience were kept entertained by her singing and wit. We are sure everybody agrees that it
was definitely money and time well spent.
Besides providing a treat for Sheila Majid fans, the showcase aimed at highlighting the importance of forest conservation, a cause deeply engrained into the corporate DNA of Belum Conservation, a subsidiary of EMKAY Group, to preserve and protect its natural surroundings. Nature and its conservation are close to Sheila’s heart as well, and she did a wonderful job sharing her thoughts and views about the environment between her songs throughout the show.
As such, a portion of the proceeds garnered from the showcase were channelled towards Pulau Banding Foundation, a non-profit and non-political organisation aimed at promoting research and ecotourism through sustainable development of fragile ecosystems within the Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex. A cheque from the showcase proceeds was presented by Sheila and Dato’ Fazwinna Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, the Executive Director of EMKAY Group, to the foundation.
“Environmental and forest preservation is something I am really passionate about, and it is really heartening to see so much effort being done by organisations such as the Pulau Banding Foundation to preserve this amazing natural resource. The work they do is truly commendable and it is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to work together with the Pulau Banding Foundation, to help bolster their noble efforts. This is truly a breathtaking venue and I couldn’t think of a better way to promote my latest album to the world, right here,” said Sheila Majid.
Our Second Date with Sheila Majid – Discovering Beyond the Resort
On the following morning, Sheila – along with her husband Acis and their two daughters, Khadeja and Khalefa – took the opportunity to visit Kampung Semelor, an Orang Asli settlement situated within the Temengor forest and learn more about life in the heart of the rainforest. Kampung Semelor is about an hour’s ride away from Belum Rainforest Resort and is only accessible by four-wheel drive trucks. Along the way we saw a lot of bamboo trees and plenty of elephant dung, a sure sign that a group of elephants were there earlier to look for food. They simply love to eat bamboo!
We visited the i-Play Toy Library, which was set up in 2008 by Yayasan Emkay for Orang Asli children to have the opportunity to be exposed to education through play and music. Here, the children are taught to converse in English, and the teachers are trained and qualified Orang Asli themselves. Much to Sheila’s delight, the children put up a surprise dance performance with Sheila’s trademark song, Sinaran in the background! The Kampung Semelor Toy Library is one of the first of five facilities set up for the Orang Asli community within the Belum-Temengor area, which promotes children development and skills.
Just a short walk away is the Orang Asli women’s sewing class and handicraft making centre. The women’s sewing workshop is part of the Orang Asli Educational Program and is in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource. The women get paid for each item they produce here. We applaud Yayasan EMKAY for its good work in breaking barriers with the Orang Asli community, and
it is heart-warming to see how passionate the Yayasan Emkay team members are in this cause.
The visit to Kampung Semelor ended with a sumptuous Orang Asli style meal that includes rice cooked in bamboo, ikan sebarau masak lemak (carp in turmericinfused coconut milk gravy) and ikan pekasam goreng (deep fried fermented fish).
Up next was the visit to the Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre, which was set up by Pulau Banding Foundation, incorporated since 2007, aimed at promoting sustainable development of the fragile ecosystems of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest and to meet the challenges to balance between forest and development. The research centre carries out research on the Belum-
Temengor Rainforest flora and fauna, then disseminates the information and facilitates in making the area a sustainable and ecotourism destination. We were brought on a tour of the place to learn more about the work done by the organisation. This enlightening visit ends with tree-planting by Sheila and her family.
About Yayasan EMKAY
This foundation, incorporated in 2001 to contribute towards improving the standards of living among rural and the less fortunate members of the community by providing opportunities in the areas of education, health, spirituality, sports and general welfare. To date, this foundation has contributed RM 51.5 million for those in need all over Malaysia. We were impressed to learn about
the foundation’s work and fundraising initiatives. One of the initiatives that attracted us is the Uniform Drive for the children of Belum-Temengor. To know more, visit www.yayasanemkay.org.my.
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Our Stay! Belum Rainforest Resort
With nature right at your five-star doorstep, this resort is definitely an excellent choice for city dwellers like us. As much as we love nature, we are also creatures of comfort… so what a nice way to end your adventure-filled day with nice hot shower and sumptuous meal at a proper restaurant!
Home to rare foliage and 14 of the world’s most endangered mammals, the area within and around Belum Rainforest Resort has been identified as Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1 by the Malaysian Government and is recognised by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Studies also indicate that this primeval forest remains one of the largest
untouched forest reserves in the world!
Parents, this is an excellent place to stay with your curious children and introduce them about nature and wildlife conservation. There are plenty of activities to do within the compounds of the resort, even more when you explore further! Do check out www.belumrainforestresort.com to find out the season that would interest you the most. For example, August to September is
hornbills-watching season, and 10 species of hornbills have been spotted here, which is more than Sarawak. There are also Rafflesia growing in different spots of the forest as well.
We had fun exploring the resort’s facilities and activities on our last day of stay. Our favourite was the Kelulut (stingless) bee farm, where we get to learn the different species of the stingless bees. We also had the chance to taste the honey produced by the differing bees. History and military buffs may want to visit The Pillbox; one of the few remaining military structures dating back to the period of communist insurgency. The Pillbox is now a museum with exhibits on Pulau Banding’s history, tracing back to the 1960s until the last holdouts surrendered in the 1980s.
If you hike further uphill from The Pillbox, you will be pleasantly rewarded with breathtaking views. Do ask Belum Rainforest Resort’s friendly staff on other activities available during your visit. We heard that there are flying fox and bamboo water-rafting being offered! It was just too bad we did not have the time to explore further – we recommend that travellers stay at least two full
nights like we did if you just want to have a relaxing holiday, and more if you plan to explore the great Royal Belum Rainforest!
Overall, it has been a fantastic eye-opening trip. It has been nine years since our first visit to Belum Rainforest Resort, and it was great seeing the expansions done on the resort. We look forward to another trip to the resort sometime in the future.
On a side note, if you are heading back to KL, do drop by at Restoran Tasik Raban. This restaurant is known for its mouth-watering charcoal-grilled fish served with signature gravy, which travellers must be prepared to wait for the fishes to be grilled upon ordering. There are plenty of traditional Malay dishes to entice your appetite as well.