Sunday 27 April 2008

Azalina grasps some of the problems and exposes them

The Wau Bulan (Moon Kite) of Kelantan

The China made plastic toys of Malacca!

This was reported in the Star,

(Emphasis is mine)

QUOTE: MALACCA: Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said wants the nation’s cultural heritage preserved and more handicraft and souvenirs produced.

She said this after her first official visit of Malacca, touring several tourist sites at Bukit Cina, Portuguese Settlement and Jonker Street.

Azalina said the respective state governments and related agencies must be proactive and maintain a balance between modernisation and preservation of heritage.

She cited Malacca as an example where over-emphasis on development and modernisation would only result in the city losing its historical authenticity.

Malacca is situated between two large cities. Those visiting the historic city come to see its heritage and not because it’s a modern city. They can go to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for that,” she added.

She also lamented the lack of locally produced handicraft and souvenirs for sale, as almost all the products came from countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and China.

“I suppose we are living up to our slogan of being Truly Asia as one can find handicraft from all other countries being sold here as souvenirs but none of our own,” she added.

She also said that promotion of a particular tourist site must go beyond providing basic facts.

For example, many foreign tourist use the Web prior to their trips to find out more about their intended destination. Our websites must go beyond just stating the basics but include interesting stories behind its history,” she said.

Azalina also wants tourism campaigns re-evaluated to ensure tourists were not disappointed when they got here.

When tourists come to Malaysia, they find certain aspects are still lacking. It’s like inviting someone over to your house but certain things in your home such as the toilets or lighting are not working properly,” she said.UNQUOTE

It was also reported that Azalina had observed that work still needed to be done before Malacca city could be a top tourist destination.

She said, according to the NST, that a more balanced approach towards the city's development was needed before it could be successfully chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This was in reference to the upcoming visit of 40 UNESCO delegates who will assess the city for eligibility as a World Heritage Site, next month

Azalina also outlined her suggestions towards improving Malacca:

"The first thing I noticed were the many traffic lights I passed before reaching the city centre on my way to the Portuguese Square’.

"I also did not see any relevant sign boards that led to the settlement. I would be lost if I was alone,"
she said.

"I strongly feel that the city's planning should have a more logical concept behind it."

"Incommensurate development will result in Malacca losing its identity. Tourists should not feel as if they are in any other city."

She urged the state government to come up with more preservation plans to achieve the 'Destination Malacca' goal.

"Heritage sites and buildings in Malacca should be well depicted and a fund for tourism should be set up."

Malaysia should produce more handicraft, Azalina said, and I have to fully agree with her remarks, Malaysian handicrafts are indeed as rare as hens' teeth in most tourist areas throughout Malaysia, except for those in Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak where traditional good quailty handicraft and other wares are produced and promoted well.

Azalina has, for once, spoken some sense and has hit the nail squarely on the head and, especially as far as Malacca is concerned, she has spotted that a " Tacky Theme Park and Shopping Paradise" is not what the tourists want.

The night market in Jonker Street, Malacca, which is held from 6pm until late on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, is enjoyable and worth a visit, but it could be very much better and much more enjoyable and meaningful if all, or most of the goods on sale were made in Malaysia. The only redeeming feature of the Jonker Street weekend Night Market is the tasty food and other quality refreshments which are available.

As it is, it is sad to say, that there is hardly anything, apart from the food and drink, on sale which originates from Malaysia.

This is a disgraceful situation, the state governments and other relevant authorities apparently have no policy, about giving priority to locally made goods in tourist spots, especially hand crafted wares, fabrics, other handicraft as well as other traditional goods and toys.

Since there is a plethora of junk toys and other cheap and nasty rubbish from China and elsewhere, and handicrafts from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and other South East Asian countries on sale everywhere, this must be the preferred option.

Compare this to the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok Thailand, this enormous Saturday and Sunday Market sells almost anything and almost everything on sale is manufactured in Thailand. The abundant and varied local food and other refreshments available are excellent too. It is well worth a visit.

The Thailand made handicrafts and other local goods on sale are varied, of high quality and are also reasonably priced.

Why does Malaysia not have such a varied range of reasonably priced, high quality handicrafts available offered for sale in places such as the Jonker Street weekend night market?

Perhaps the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) can explain what their role really is, if it is not to promote and encourage the production of local handicraft?

They certainly, based on what is on sale, seem to be resting on their laurels, as they are far less than efficient and much less effective than is required.

The Tourism Minister also correctly pointed out that places of interest are not well signposted, and that there are no proper explanations and information regarding the historic significance of the various historic landmarks and buildings.

In my earlier posts HERE , HERE and HERE I stated that Malacca was not taking the correct path to becoming an approved UNESCO World Heritage Site, now it seems that the Tourism Minister has serious doubts too.

I wonder if this will be the point at which Azalina Othman Said becomes a more logical, sensible and practical politician who works for all Malaysians, instead of continuing to be her usual UMNO-centric self, who seems hell-bent on creating national disunity?

Luceat lux vestra

-Let your light shine

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