Martha Stewart, well-known American lifestyle guru, author, publisher and host of the popular TV talk show "The Martha Stewart Show" recently visited Malaysia at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism. Accompanying her on her first trip to Malaysia were her niece Sophie Herbert and good friend Memrie Lewis. While in Malaysia, Stewart tweeted about her experiences to her two million fans via Twitter. Stewart took the opportunity to try the local cuisine, visited many places of interest and watched how local handicrafts like pewter and songket were made. She had tea with Her Royal Highness, Queen Tuanku Nur Zahirah and brunch with Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Prime Minister.
In Kuala Lumpur, Stewart toured the Petronas Twin Towers, Islamic Arts Museum and Kuala Lumpur Bird Park where she had fun playing with the birds. She took a helicopter ride north of the city and was amazed by the sight of miles and miles of padi fields. Stewart also witnessed the "Colours of 1Malaysia" celebrations held at Dataran Merdeka on May 22. "Colours of 1Malaysia" is a collection of street performances which was first launched in 1999 by the Ministry of Tourism to highlight Malaysia's cultural heritage through music, song and dances. The finale of the evening was the Tarian Cuti Cuti Malaysia, a dance specially choreographed by the Ministry which was performed by the 5000 odd dancers.
Stewart had a walkabout in Melaka which she mentioned had a colourful history since the fifteenth century. She also visited the resort island of Pangkor Laut, Perak where she waxed lyrical about the beautiful beach at Emerald Bay. Sabah which lies on the island of Borneo was also on her itinerary. Stewart described Sabah as "the home of orang utans, tarsiers, slow lorises, elephants, wild boars, proboscis monkeys, 622 species of birds and more". Among the places she went to were the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and Pulau Gaya where she watched a giant clam rehabilitation project. It's a pity she did not make a trip to Sipadan which is rated as one of the top five diving spots in the world.
I am surprised that Stewart did not visit the Agnes Keith House in Sandakan. Agnes Keith (1901-1982), was an American adventurer and author who was noted for her autobiographical accounts of North Borneo (now Sabah) before, during and after the Second World War. The three books about North Borneo written by Keith: Land Below the Wind, Three Came Home and White Man Returns, gives a vivid depiction of life in the region during those turbulent times. Agnes and her husband Harry left North Borneo in 1952. The house she and her husband lived in has been restored and turned into a museum. It contains displays about them as well as life in Sandakan during the first half of the twentieth century.