Ruddy kingfisher. (Photo Credit: Choy Wai Mun)

Ruddy kingfisher. (Photo Credit: Choy Wai Mun)

Being an island blessed with a 130-million-year-old pristine rainforest, Penang is a haven for nature enthusiasts. But beyond weekend hikers and hobby anglers there is a group of amateurs and professionals who seek out wild birds, simply for the pleasure of observing them in their natural environment. These are the Birders.

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Cover Story of the Penang Monthly June 2017 Issue

Cascading waterfalls at Bukit 300, Nibong Tebal.

Cascading waterfalls at Bukit 300, Nibong Tebal.

Tourism contributes substantially to the national GDP of many countries in the world. Its extensive products and ancillary services generate job opportunities locally and exert a strong spillover and multiplier effect on the economy.

It is reported that the travel and tourism industry is responsible for a direct world GDP contribution of US$2,306bil (3.1% of total GDP) in 2016, and is forecast to rise by 3.8% in 2017. In South-East Asia, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP was US$119.7bil (4.7% of total GDP) and is expected to rise by 5.7% per annum from 2017 to 2027 - translating to US$222.8bil in 2027.

Between 2000 and 2014, Malaysia’s travel and tourism exports expanded by 290%, outpacing the total export of goods and services. Its direct, indirect and induced GDP impact generated as much as 14.9% of the nation’s GDP in 2014 - twice of that created by the education sector, which reached 7.3%.

And just last year, the direct contribution to Malaysia’s GDP was US$14bil and is expected to rise by 4.2% in 2017. In the next decade, the projected direct contribution to Malaysia’s GDP by the travel and tourism industry would be as much as US$24.2bil in 2027 (5.4% of total GDP).

While travel and tourism infrastructure and services continue to expand, holiday trends are shifting as well, especially among the young. A survey by Chase Marriott Rewards found that 84% of millennials (18-34 years old) are interested in taking volunteer vacations compared to a mere 18% of respondents from generation X (35-49 years old), and 17% of baby boomers (50-67 years old). Given that millennials are growing into their peak earning and spending years, their purchasing power should reshape the economy; thus, tourism should soon veer decidedly towards trips that can be classed under ecotourism.

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Talking About Ageing: The Greying Elephant in the Room by Evelyn Teh

Public spaces such as Esplanade are where oldies can meet up and chat.

Public spaces such as Esplanade are where oldies can meet up and chat.

Most of us would prefer growing old in comfortable and familiar surroundings, but this may be a luxury that more and more of us will not be able to afford. Malaysia’s population is ageing, costs are increasing, and the nation is still unprepared for future challenges.

We live in unprecedented times: more people are living longer and have healthier lives than ever before. The Department of Statistics Malaysia has revealed that the life expectancy of Malaysians has been rising – from 72.2 years in 2000 to 74.7 years in 2016.

This holds true for the rest of the world. The United Nations reported a 48% increase of people aged 60 years and above between 2000 (607 million) and 2015 (901 million). By 2030, the figure should hit 1.4 billion people by 2030. In other words, within 13 years, the number of people aged 60 years and above in the world will equal China’s entire population in 2013.

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A City For All Classes by Evelyn Teh

Penang has been receiving wreaths of accolades in recent years. But instead of basking in international glory, we should consider what it is that we ourselves wish for – and need.
Penang has been recognised in city competitiveness indexes as one of the most liveable cities in Asia.

Penang has been recognised in city competitiveness indexes as one of the most liveable cities in Asia.

There is no doubt about it. Cities are growing with astonishing intensity, and as we move towards an increasingly urban world, a plethora of tools, indexes and frameworks is being developed for cities to compare and benchmark themselves with each other in terms of quality of life and liveability. This can be hugely useful for cities wishing to identify their weaknesses and learn best practices from their peers.

Ultimately though, these tools should encourage citizens to reflect on urbanity itself and its impact on the wellbeing of people and society.

There is a range of approaches to the creation of city-level indexes for wellbeing. The United Nations Human Development Index aims to objectively measure the basic dimensions of human development: education, health and income. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) created a City Development Index for the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in 1996. The Asian Development Bank also then created a congestion index and a connectivity index. However, given the great diversity of cities, it is extremely challenging to construct a uniform index that is sensitive to local conditions and priorities.


Where the Sea Meets the City is Where the World Meets Penang by Evelyn Teh

Penang was settled from the sea, and the fort was built to defend against naval and pirate attacks. As George Town grew into a port, its waterfront became its actual face. Any serious rejuvenation of the city must therefore involve the restoration of its waterfront.

The role and identity of waterfronts today vary depending on the community they serve. Traditionally, waterfronts are defined as the part of a town fronting or abutting a body of water.

The Esplanade

The Esplanade

Playing a significant role in defining a city’s economic, social and cultural facets, waterfronts inevitably mould the character of the settlement it represents. The waterfront in George Town has a backdrop that consists of key elements of the town itself – the Esplanade, Pengkalan Weld, Swettenham Pier and the Clan Jetties.


Deal With It: Not Everyone Will Like What You Are Doing by Evelyn Teh

I made a mistake thinking that everyone would understand or support the documentary that Andrew Han is producing. Although the idea of the documentary was birthed out from a genuine hope to preserve nature for our next generation, we've encountered many who seem to take offense for reasons unknown to us.

While their snide and cynical remarks can be discouraging (sometimes painful to hear), it has somehow put us in the spot where we rethink how much we really want to make this documentary happen even when nobody believed in what we're doing. This, plus the countless rejections for interviews, data scarcity, lack of resources, technical issues, working late nights, and even financial strain.

Many, if not all of us are fighting a battle we know nothing of. So let's be kind to each other.

Therefore, I just felt the need to put this out there: nothing worth it ever comes easy. It helps to go back to the first time we set our minds and hearts on pursuing our cause and to recall why we need to do the things we do. Hang on to that.

My sincere hope is that this post might also encourage some of my friends out there who are seeking for a glimmer of hope in a world where people are ever so ready to be critical of us. Hang on in there, it'll all get better!

Fading Cultures by Evelyn Teh

Dissecting my disposition on fading cultures.

A particular culture only lives as long as there is ownership. Ownership will stay as long as there is relevance. Relevance exists where there’s value defining it. And the kind of value that we uphold defines our identity. It is a tragedy for ‘good cultures’ to fade away, but that is because inevitably, people change with time. So does culture.

But why do some of us fight so hard to prevent a certain culture from fading from our lives?
Because culture leads us back to our roots.

Because culture is a heritage passed down from our forefathers.
Because culture is our anchor of familiarity in a rapidly evolving world.
Because culture breathes character and depth into our lives.


Gender, a stereotype by Evelyn Teh

There has been numerous occasions where I encountered gender stereotypes in my life. Some are quite petty, while some are downright uncivilized. There is one though which has changed the course of my life - although not for the worse. I was lucky to have found a place to belong after being steered away from what I really wanted to do but this experience has left a lasting impression on me that will constantly serve as a reminder that I should never surrender to or advocate gender stereotype.

Although it has been more than 10 years, I still remember the day when an academician told me that urban planning is an industry dominated by men; and therefore women will almost certainly face challenges and will need to struggle to keep up in order to make it. Because of this remark and out of the lack of self-confidence, I dropped my intention to enroll in the School of Housing, Building and Planning in USM.

I look back and wish I had received as much empowerment for women as we have today. I still have a deep interest in urban planning which could have been my career path today if I had just went ahead despite what people tell me what women can or cannot do. If there’s a message from this experience; it is to never ever trade-off your passion or interest to fulfill the society’s typecast idea- that which gender should be the limit to someone’s ability to rise above challenges. And also; never be that parent, sibling, friend, mentor or partner who snuff out the dreams of someone you know just because of gender stereotype. 

May 11, 2015