Sabah and Sawarak are neighbouring states in the north of Borneo, an island off the southern coast of Malaysia. Sabah's capital Kota Kinabalu, which adjoins the South China Sea, is a 2? hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur. Many towns and ports in Sabah are famed for the natural beauty that surrounds them, and there are 50-odd islands to explore. The marine treasures of Sabah are a real treat for people from landlocked countries like Nepal. If the idea of lounging about on Sabah's gorgeous beaches worries those who don't want to get their feet wet, they can visit the interior for glimpses of rare animals such as the Orang-utan.
The Malaysian government has lent ample support to schemes to accommodate tourists in traditional houses, or 'home-stays'. There are 228 home-stays within 100 kilometres of Kota Kinabalu. Such arrangements have boosted the development of tourism as well as the local economies.
Thanks to tourist dollars, there isn't a road in Kundasang, a mountain town much like Nagarkot, that isn't surfaced or a house without a car. Local businessman Bajau, who has hosted some Russian tourists, says, "the Malaysian government has really boosted tourism here and that's also helped us."
With an eye on bolstering tourism further, the Malaysian government launched a 'Mega Fam Trip' earlier this year. Journalists and tourism sector workers from many countries, including Nepal, got the chance to see Malaysia close up. The guests got a taste of Malaysian culture and saw the sights.
Many Nepali tourists have visited Malaysia already, using the services of travel agencies such as Marco Polo. One such tourist is Mohan Kaji Shrestha, who visited Malaysia with his family in September. "There's no question you'll have a great time visiting Malaysia," he says.
Malaysia is the first country to have hosted such an event. If Nepal is to come anywhere close to meeting its target of a million tourists for Nepal Tourism Year 2011, then such initiatives may be key.