AirAsia gives Filipinos more chances to travel and shop with flights to MalaysiaBy Tessa Prieto-Valdes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Malaysia, Truly Asia. One can’t help but suffer from last song syndrome whenever that line is said. LSS notwithstanding, we can learn a lot from our Asean neighbor on how to promote tourism.
Early last month, Tourism Malaysia Philippines invited an intimate group of personalities to experience the beauty and culture of their country through a visit to the vibrant capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Along with our traveling group from Manila, a large contingent of media and bloggers from Cebu joined the inaugural flight of AirAsia. That group flew directly to Kuala Lumpur from Cebu.
AirAsia Berhad is a Malaysian low-cost airline headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. It has been named the world’s best low-cost airline, and is a pioneer of low-cost travel in Asia.
Taking off from Terminal 4, which I found out is our new moniker for the old domestic terminal, AirAsia has the benefit of being the only fish in a small pond. My new Piquadro leather carry-on, available at SM Aura, was hardly scuffed as I breezed through the Customs and Immigration counters manned solely for AirAsia.
Onboard, the on-time flight was pleasant and the choices of meals were quite delicious. Flying for the first time on AirAsia was a pleasant surprise.
After meeting the rest of the Philippine group at the airport, we checked into our hotel and took a day tour to discover KL. The city is a convergence of a rich, colorful past and the bright, promising future of Malaysia. Vestiges of colonial Britain can still be seen in the old structures and traditions, but these blend perfectly with the newer, exotic architecture and modern culture.
This blend is best represented by the iconic Petronas Towers—thoroughly modern, yet architecturally arching back to a pair of Islamic minarets. These towers are the grand gateway to the country.
My travel buddies, G Tongi and Tim Yap, both enjoyed the photo and shopping opportunities in the many shops in the area. We all enjoyed the tour, with our guide, Eddie Chok, regaling us with his tidbits about the city.
Our tour took us through Little India, the New King’s Palace, Putrajaya and, of course, Petronas and the surrounding KLCC. The KL City Gallery had incredible graphics and visual presentations of the city, which I am sure we can replicate for our own tourists.
The Red Carpet Wax Museum, Shah Alam, was where we had the most fun. We ended the night in Sky Bar, Level 33, at the Traders Hotel to enjoy drinks and the spectacular city view.
For the culturally inclined, KL will not disappoint. From the quirky and modern to the classic and local, art is an integral part of the Malaysian ethos. One notable focal point that seems to weave all the genres of art is Central Market. Artsy-craftsy new art easily finds its niche with traditional art as well as conceptual and modern art. Add shopping to the mix and you have an art lover’s paradise.
During our first Malaysian dinner at the Shangri-La Putrajaya Hotel, Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, director general of Tourism Malaysia, welcomed the Filipino group and shared his excitement about having more flights between our countries.
We were very honored that the Big Boss of Tourism Malaysia joined us for dinner on the eve of his birthday. Together with him were tourism officials Syed Yahya Bin Syed Othman and Marhafizman Bin Mohamed Daud.
Fazdila Mansor, director of Tourism Malaysia Philippines, was delighted to host us just in time for KL’s big year-end sales, which immediately caught my attention, of course.
Jenny Bugarin-Tan, AirAsia PR manager, was happy to be part of the inaugural group that flew in from Malaysia. At her table was Adam Kamal of Rakyat Travel.
Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is this country’s biggest and grandest tourism celebration, with dazzling parades and processions, colorful cultural shows and exhibitions, fabulous food festivals, exciting sports and adventure, enchanting music and arts festival, shopping extravaganza, nature thrills and spills and many more. The theme for the year is “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia.”
The entire tourism campaign is focused on “the diverse cultures and multiracial communities living in peace and harmony in their blessed country.” The campaign aims to conserve, preserve and nurture the rich heritage of Mother Nature, as well as to reflect the uniqueness of Malaysia as an important eco-tourism destination. The official mascot for Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is the Proboscis Monkey.
‘Wicked’ starts Manila run
Today is my eldest daughter Annika’s birthday. We will partly celebrate it by watching “Wicked,” which starts Jan. 22. “Wicked” will play for a strictly limited season at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The musical is a brilliant reimagining of the stories created by L. Frank Baum in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Local producers of the Broadway musical phenomenon have announced they will be having a “Yolanda” benefit show on Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m. In addition to ticket proceeds, there will also be an auction after curtain call, all for Yolanda relief.
The auction will include a beautifully packaged “Wicked” prop from the show: Glinda’s training wand. This wand is a focal point of the story and the perfect prop for any aspiring wizards in the audience. The wand is boxed and signed by Suzie Mathers and is a true one-of-a-kind collector’s item.
Another auction item is “A Wicked Experience,” which will be an opportunity to be part of the cast for one day. The winning bidder gets to join the cast members through rehearsal and warm-up, and then be put into hair, makeup and costume for a final transformation.
The bidder then appears onstage, taking on the role of an Ozian wishing Elphaba a safe journey to Oz. And if the bidder’s acting is superb, who knows—perhaps a Broadway invite may be in the offing.
Follow @tessavaldes on Twitter or visit www.tessaprietovaldes.com.