Highlights of Malaysia ASEAN Influencers Programme (MAIKOL 2019)

Last August 26 to 31,2019, twenty five active bloggers and influencers from different ASEAN countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur, to participate in the Malaysia ASEAN Influencers and Key Opinion Leaders programme (MAIKOL 2019). The 6-days programme offered the participants a fun and engaging ‘Experience Malaysia’ activities and cultural exposure, aiming to promote Visit Malaysia 2020 tourism campaign.

The programme was spearheaded by Tourism Malaysia of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Malaysia). They participants were hosted and sponsored by Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, with Airasia as partner airline.

Day 01

The activity kicked off at Kuala Lumpur. Day 01, the arrival day, was all about introduction, preparation and briefing over a sumptuous Malaysian dinner with the officers and major sponsors.

Day 02

Day 02 was a highlight, as the participants spent one day to enjoy Sunway Lagoon Amusement Park. Among the popular rides were the river rapids and scream coaster. Day 02 afternoon was spent at the Sunway Lagoon, which is the world’s largest surf pool to date. Check out the complete Sunway Experience and short video blog by clicking here.

Day 03 

The main assignment of the activity was to let the participants see and experience Malaysia beyond the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur. On day 03, all twenty five bloggers and influencers were sent as solo travelers or in pairs to different provinces across the country, given the freedom to make their own itineraries at the assigned place for 2 days. A number of participants took the intercity train to Kedah, Ipoh etc. Two participants explored Sarawak. Reggy (Indonesia), Sam (Cambodia) and I flew to Sabah. I was particularly assigned to visit Tawau and Lahad Datu, which is located on the east coast of Sabah. My flight took three hours per way by Airasia direct.

Tawau, Sabah

Beautifully set at the east coast and facing Celebes Sea, Tawau is the third-largest town in Sabah, after Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. Tawau is a fast developing industrial town, mainly sourcing on Palm Oil industry.  Blessed with fertile soil, Tawau is also popular for their cocoa products, which is said to be among the best chocolate raw material producers in the world. Apart from its industrial image, Tawau is best known as the gateway to some of the most well preserved rainforest and conservation areas in Malaysia (in the world actually). It is impossible not to notice its lush green hills and flat lands as the plane is descending.  Among the highlights of my Tawau Trip was a quick half day trek to the Tawau Hills Park rainforest and see some of the tallest rainforest trees in the world up close. A trip to the popular Teck Guan Coco Museum is also worth mentioning. I hoarded boxes of chocolate drinks, as they are perfect giveaway to friends.

At the entrance way of Tawau Hills Park.

If given more time, it would have been nice to drive two more hours to Semporna and the other beach resort-islands, which is said to offer one of the best diving and snorkeling sites in the world. For tours, you may get in touch with Sabah booking though their official website by clicking here.

Day 04 – Lahad Datu, Sabah

View of Denver Bay as seen from Danum Valley Field Tower

On my day 04, i was assigned to explore Lahad Datu, which is around + 2 hours drive by land. Lahad Datu is a humble town, also sourcing mainly on the palm oil industry. On my way to my assignment, I dropped by Danum Valley Conservation Area Field Centre. Danum Valley is a 438 square kilometres tract of relatively undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah, Malaysia. It is one of the richest rainforest in the world, having more than 200 species of plants/trees in just one square hectare. Danum Valley is also home to numerous exotic Southeast Asian birds, pygmy elephants, the elusive Sumatran Rhino and Bornean Proboscis monkey.  I wasn’t able to see the animals at their natural habitats as they are located 60 km deeper into the forest. However, I was able to see the vast green lands and the breathtaking view of Denver Bay from the 7 storeys high field centre tower. Lahad Datu is located right at the coastal line of Denver Bay, which can also be seen from the tower.

As a coastal town, Lahad Datu is abundant on fish and seafood. It was a delightful experience seeing fresh catch at Pasar Ikan Fish Market. Some catches there are actually not available in my country. I enjoyed the freshest grilled fish dinner at Jalan Mawar, which is located just at the opposite of the fish Market.

Check out my Tawau and Lahad Datu video blog preview below. 


Day 05 – Kuala Lumpur Night Tour

Photo by Ian Ray Garcia of Wander Lust

On day 05, I flew back to Kuala Lumpur to reunite with the group. We also scheduled a quick late afternoon tour to KL Tower. Highlight was seeing Kuala Lumpur cityscape while inside a glass box, that is 420 meters above the ground level. Such a memorable experience it is. By night time, we headed to the Petronas Twin Towers for dinner and leisure.

Day 06 – Hari Merdeka, Malaysia’s Independence Day

Day 06 was an early call, as we were invited to attend Malaysia’s 62nd National (Independence) Day. The event, which was held in Putra Jaya, was packed with locals taking pride on the nation’s celebration of freedom.

Photo by Glen Santillan of Escape Manila

Day 06 was also the last day of the programme. All participants, organisers and sponsors enjoyed a night of fun and sharing over a sumptuous Malay-themed buffet. The programme was concluded by the announcement of the creative contest winners. The most creative photo was awarded to Abigail Javellana of Our Awesome Planet, Philippines, and the most creative video was awarded to PK of Cambodia.

MAIKOL 2019 was indeed a remarkable experience for my blogging career. During the 6 days activity, I was able to find a deeper appreciation of Malaysia, its people, its land, its unique flavours and valued culture. The activity also earned me cultural exchanges, friendship and bonds with the other participant, as well as with the ever hospitable Tourism Malaysia hosts. ASEAN brotherhood and camaraderie lives on.


Airasia flies Manila to Kuala Lumpur daily. click here for schedules and costing.

For Sunway City Kuala Lumpur bookings, click here.

The participants from the Philippines. Ian Ray Garcia, Tia Lacson, Abigail Javellana, Glen Santillan and Joseph Lim


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