Followers of my blog know that I love Western classical music. My blog category Music has 16 posts about Bach, Mozart, Chopin and others. But that doesn’t mean I am not interested in other kinds of music 😉 .
My interest in “pop music” started in the late sixties when I was studying in Amsterdam. Those were exciting years, there was an atmosphere of optimism that a new era had arrived. Flower Power, Hippies, May 68, Woodstock
It influenced me. Although I remained basically a “nerd”, I did grow my hair, took part in anti Vietnam war demonstrations, wore a ban-the-bomb necklace and watched the Maagdenhuis riots (from a safe distance haha). Here are two photos , illustrating how I changed 🙂
Soft drugs were getting popular in those days, I was too shy to experiment with them, but I liked the relaxed atmosphere of Melkweg and Paradiso, where regularly concerts were given by underground bands, playing psychedelic music. Often liquid light shows were given during a concert, on a huge screen above the stage. This YouTube clip gives an impression.
In those days I started to buy LP records of bands and singers I liked and I still have them. Most of them are not really playable anymore, but nowadays you can listen to most of these albums on YouTube.
I have taken pictures of a number of these LP-covers and present them here with some information. Clicking on the album title links to the full album on YouTube, and when you click on the cover , a song from that album will be played .
Most of the LP records (18) are from the period 1967 -1972. I still think back with nostalgia to that period of my life. Here is a video from the Woodstock festival in 1969, with Country Joe singing I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die . It gives a good impression of the atmosphere in those years.
In 1969 I was doing research for my thesis, but also I went on holidays to Morocco, my first “exotic” destination, an unforgettable experience. One year later , in Rotterdam the Kralingse Bos festival was held, with the Jefferson Airplane, Soft Machine, Country Joe, Pink Floyd and many others. Did I go? No, because I thought I might not fit in.
Maybe I was right, but until this day I regret that I didn’t go.
Most of you will know the constellation of Orion. Here is an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright reddish star, forming the left shoulder of the Hunter, is called Betelgeuse. Recently this star has been in the news, because there were indications that it might explode in the (near) future.
With the present level of light pollution, it is often difficult to observe the colors of stars, and you will see only the brightest. Of course a star closer to the Sun will look brighter than a star many hundreds of lightyears away. Taking the distance into account, astronomers can determine the intrinsic brightness of a star, called the luminosity. When you plot the luminosity of stars against their color, you get the diagram below. It’s called the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, named after the two astronomers who created it around 1910.
As you see, the diagram has a lot of structure and it has helped astronomers a lot to understand how stars evolve. The vertical axis gives the luminosity, in units of the Solar luminosity, while the horizontal axis gives the surface temperature of the star, which is directly related to its color. Notice that the temperature decreases from left to right.
The position of some well-known stars is indicated. Of course our Sun, a yellowish star. Betelgeuse can be found in the upper right corner. it has a luminosity of ~ 100.000 times the Sun ! It is a so-called Red Supergiant Star. A giant star, it’s size is about 900 times the size of the Sun. If it would replace the Sun, we would be swallowed, it would extend to the orbit of Jupiter. The reddish color means that its surface temperature is about 3000K
Along the diagonal in the HR diagram you will find the Main Sequence Stars. Most stars are located in this band. Here is a plot of 23000 individual stars in the HR diagram
To understand what will happen in the (near) future to Betelgeuse, I must explain a bit about how stars are formed and how they evolve. Stars are born when clouds of interstellar matter (mainly hydrogen and helium) contract as a result of their own gravity. This contraction increases the temperature in the interior of the cloud until the core becomes so hot ( about 15 million Kelvin) that fusion of hydrogen becomes possible. The energy and radiation from this fusion stops the gravitational contraction, a star is born! Here is a very simplified picture of the fusion process.
Let’s look at the star nearest to us, our Sun, It was born about 4.6 billion years ago, and its total lifetime is estimated to be around 10 billion year, so at the moment it is about halfway its life. Here is a sketch, the fusion takes place in the core, the radiation is transported to the surface (photosphere), resulting for the Sun in a surface temperature of about 5800 K and an orange color.
For a heavier star than the Sun, the inward pressure due to its gravity is stronger, so the counter pressure of the fusion in the core must also be stronger to create a balance. Here are some of the effects:
The star is bigger and brighter
Its core temperature is higher, the “burning” of hydrogen faster
The surface temperature is higher, the color more blueish/whitish
The lifetime of the star will be shorter
Here is an example: Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Its mass is two times the mass of the Sun. Compared to the Sun, its radius is 1.7 times larger, its luminosity 25 times larger, its surface temperature is almost 10.000 Kelvin and its lifetime is only about 240 million years. Heavier stars will live even shorter.
We can now explain the Main Sequence in the HR diagram. It is the location of all “normal” stars, who are burning hydrogen in their core. At the lower right we find the low-mass stars, sometimes called red dwarfs , who burn their hydrogen so slowly that their lifetime is many hundred billions of years, longer than the current age of the Universe! At the top left, high-mass stars burn their hydrogen so fast, that in spite of their large mass they have lifetimes of only a few million(!) years.
What happens after the hydrogen fuel in the stellar core is exhausted? That depends on the mass of the star. We will concentrate in this post on the high mass stars (more than 8-10 solar masses), because Betelgeuse is one of them.
In these massive stars, after all hydrogen in the core has been fused into helium, gravitation will contract the core further, raising its temperature, until helium starts fusing into carbon. At the same time the outer layers of the star expand dramatically, while cooling. The star enters its (red) supergiant phase.
The triple-alpha process, as it is called, generates less energy than the hydrogen fusion. Three helium nuclei fuse into on carbon nucleus. Another simplified image.
When the core has fused into carbon, the process repeats. Gravitation contracts the core, its temperature increases , and another fusion process starts, leading to a neon core. Next an oxygen core, a silicon core and finally an iron core. Here is a sketch. A few comments. Notice the difference in scale. The outer layers of the red giant extend to the orbit of Jupiter, whereas the core has about the size of Earth! As you see, the central core is surrounded by layers of lower temperature where still fusion of hydrogen helium, etcetera is going on. It’s like the layers of an onion.
The red supergiant phase doesn’t last long, astronomically speaking, the energy of these fusion processes is much less than the hydrogen fusion. Here is an estimate of the time spent in each of the phases for a star of 25 solar masses. Notice the columns for temperature and density.
When the core has become iron , no more energy can be obtained from fusion and the end of the star is near. Gravity will finally win, the core implodes into a neutron star or a black hole while the outer layers are blown away in a cataclysmic explosion. It is called a (Type II) supernova. During a couple of weeks, the supernova may outshine the galaxy it belongs to and release more energy than the Sun during its whole lifetime. If the supernova is not too far away from us, it may become the brightest star in the sky, even visible during daylight. It looks like a new star (nova = new in Latin), but actually we are watching the last throes of a dying star.
Supernovas are extremely rare, they occur about once every 50 years in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way. A few have been recorded in human history, nowadays many more have been observed in other galaxies. In 1054, Chinese astronomers observed a new star, so bright that during a few weeks it was visible during daylight. Their accurate description made it possible for modern astronomers to conclude that it was a supernova (SN1054) and to identify the Crab Nebula as the remnant of this supernova. Here is the Crab Nebula. At its center a neutron star has been found, the Crab Pulsar.
Click here for a list of supernovae that are of historical significance. The most recent one in our own Milky Way galaxy was Kepler’s Star, observed in 1604, more than 400 years ago!
Time to go back to Betelgeuse. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, it is a red supergiant star at a distance of about 640 lightyear from us. Its mass is about 12 solar masses and its estimated lifetime about 8 million year. It has fused all the hydrogen in its core and is now burning helium in its core. Here is a computer animation of how Betelgeuse might look like.
The gigantic (convection) bubbles are characteristics for this kind of stars. Our Sun has them too, but on a much smaller scale.
Betelgeuse is a variable star, it changes its brightness in a rather irregular way. Here is a graph showing the brightness of Betelgeuse between 1990 and now..
From the right part of this graph you may understand why first astronomers and later the media and the general public became so excited about Betelgeuse. Starting October 2019, the star began to fade more than usual, and by the end of January 2020 it had dropped almost a factor 3 in brightness. A very noticeable difference, here are two photos.
Could it be that this dimming was a signal that Betelgeuse was on its way to become a supernova? It would be a spectacular event, the star might become as bright as the moon and be visible in daylight for many weeks. A harmless event too, the distance of 640 lightyear is too far away. By the way, light from Betelgeuse takes 640 year to reach us, so it could have been exploded already, without us knowing it yet 😉 .
Here is an example of a newspaper headline, in this case the Daily Mail , 23 December last year.
Not surprisingly observers from all over the world have been looking at Betelgeuse the last few months, as you can see in the graph below, notice the density of observations in the last three months :-).
I am sure it must have been a disappointment for many that the last month, the fading stopped and Betelgeuse started to become brighter again.
The last few weeks scientific papers are appearing with possible explanations for the unusual dimming. Probably it has been caused by dust. Supergiant stars regularly spew out some of their material into space, where it may condense into grainy particles, temporarily blocking the light of the star.
So, no supernova? Well, on the long term, it will. Betelgeuse is dying and will go supernova. That can happen in our lifetime, but it can also take 100.000 years or even more (see the table above with lifetimes of the various fusing phase).
I will end this post with two short paragraphs about related topics.
This blog is about massive stars. Our Sun, a dwarf star, has not enough mass to become a supernova. After exhausting the hydrogen in its core (in about 5-6 billion year) , it will start fusing helium into carbon and oxygen and become a red giant star, swallowing the inner planets, Earth included. But there the fusion stops. Gravity takes over, and the Sun will end as a white dwarf.
In massive stars, fusion ends when the core has become iron & nickel, because further fusion would need energy instead of releasing it. However, during the supernova explosion so much energy is released that elements heavier than iron can be created. Our Sun is a second-generation star, it was formed from an interstellar cloud that contained, besides hydrogen and helium, already material from earlier supernovae. Earth and everything in it, consists of atoms that have been formed in the interior of stars. We are Star Children, each atom in our body (except hydrogen), has been created inside a star!
In a recent post, I reported about a trip to Kuala Selangor with our UK friend Rodney. He had also never visited Taiping, my 2nd hometown.! A good reason to plan a short trip, only 3D2N, because he was flying back to UK on 24 February. A bit too short for me, so I booked 2 nights in Furama for Aric and Rodney, and two more nights for me. Therefore this report is in two parts 🙂
We started early on 20 February, because our first destination was Penang. Rodney’s longtime Malaysian partner, Keng, had passed away in the UK, a few months earlier and Rodney had brought his ashes to scatter them in the sea near Penang, where Keng was born. We had offered to help and support him.
On our way North we had breakfast in Tanjung Malim. We had half-boiled eggs with ice coffee, where the ice was made of coffee in the shape of a heart, so it would not dilute the coffee, while melting. A clever trick.
Traffic was smooth, we reached Penang in time to have lunch at the Taman Emas restaurant we had visited before, with good char kuey teow and assam laksa.
We continued to Teluk Bahang near the northwestern tip of Penang Island, where Aric had, with the help of a friend, booked a boat.
We had bought yellow and white chrysanthemum flowers to scatter with the ashes.
It was a simple, moving farewell ceremony.
The road ends here. There used to be a restaurant here, aptly named The End of the World.
From Teluk Bahang we drove back to Taiping, where we arrived in hotel Furama around 4 pm. After a short rest we walked to the nearby Lake Gardens. Usually it rains in the afternoon in Taiping, but this time it was beautiful weather. We enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere.
A few more pictures. Top right flowers of the Rain Trees (Samanea Saman) that border the Lake. Bottom left the fruits of the Cannon Ball Tree, not all Taipingites may be aware that a few of these strange trees are growing in the Lake Gardens.
The sunset was very nice. Look at this picture, isn’t it beautiful? The Lake Gardens are fascinating, any time of the day.
Compare it with this video. The famous Chinese Pagoda Bridge in the Lake Gardens has been recently decorated with gaudy LED-lights. Many people are happy with it, personally I think it doesn’t go well with the atmosphere of the Lake Gardens. Feel free to comment.
After this long day we had our dinner at the outdoor food court of Prima. With beer, satay, rojak, otak otak and other delicacies.
The next morning we started with breakfast in a small hawker center near my hotel, often called the Circus Ground by locals, because in earlier days circus shows were given here. The grassy field in the center is surrounded by palm trees and recently “decorated” with “I Love Taiping”. Hmm. We had delicious Chee Cheong Fun in the stall of my friend Mr Tong, 4th (!) generation owner.
Our morning program was to visit the Ayer Hitam waterfall, near Batu Kurau, the rural backyard of Taiping. My last visit was three years ago, it is a 45 minute drive from town. Approaching the trail head, I got a bit worried because quite a lot of development had taken place, a new resort was still under construction. Notice the concrete reinforcement of the river slopes!
The road ends at a small water catchment where we parked our car. Fortunately the trail was still unspoiled, although I noticed some work going on to widen the trail.
It is only a 20 minutes walk on a clear, partly cemented trail, to have a view of the waterfall. From there a small trail brings you in a few minutes down to the base of the fall.
A short video of the impressive and still pristine waterfall. Better don’t wait too long to visit this fall, before “development” takes over.
It was an easy half-day trip, we were back in town for lunch at the Yut Sun restaurant in Jalan Pasar. Of course we had the famous Hainanese Chicken Chop 🙂 .
After a long rest in our hotel, we drove to Kuala Sepetang (former Port Weld). It has become quite touristic, but when you cross the river on a pedestrian bridge to the other side, it is still quite unspoiled. From the bridge you have a good view of the fishing village.
We walked the (only) street until the end, to a big Taoist temple, the Shang Di temple, dedicated to the Emperor of Heaven. Recently built, maybe because the villagers have more income these days? Richly decorated with a huge statue of the Dragon Turtle.
Beautiful tile tableaus, illustrating the dangers of the sea and the importance of paying respect to the gods.
We stayed quite some time at a jetty, watching the sunset and the traffic on the river. Very relaxing.
On our way back to Taiping we stopped in Matang for dinner. There are a few popular seafood restaurants in this small village. We chose the Light House Seafood restaurant where we had a nice seafood porridge.
Almost back in our hotel we came across a Hindu procession. A chariot was pulled by two impressive buffalos. Asking which deity was venerated, I was told that it was Shiva Lingam. I leave it to the reader to find out what a lingam is 🙂 .
Of course I had to show Rodney the mural of Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator, commemorating that she had landed In Taiping on 20 June 1937 to refuel. A beautiful mural, only problem is that she never did! Read more in my two posts Amelia Earhart and Taiping and Amelia and Taiping (Part Two) .
The next morning we decided to have our breakfast in Casual Market. But before walking there, we first made a detour to have a look at a bungalow, a few hundred meter from the hotel.
Why? Mr Foo, working at Furama and, like me, interested in Taiping and its history, had told me about this bungalow, that until a few months ago it was almost completely invisible because of “jungle” surrounding it. Now the land had been cleared and a beautiful bungalow had come into view. Abandoned, but still in good condition. Built in 1932.
Here is a close-up of the bungalow and a screenshot from Google Street View, taken last year. You can just see part of the roof. An interesting discovery, I know more about its history, but will keep that for another post.
We didn’t take my usual route to Casual Market and passed on our way a small Chinese temple, which I had never noticed before. Notice that the “deities” are wearing a songkok! It is a so-called Datuk Kong temple. A mixture of Chinese folk religion with Malay influences, there are many of them in Malaysia. The right picture shows the Peace Hotel, opposite the Casual Market. Built in 1928, it has a rich history. Nowadays there are food stalls on the ground floor.
Stairs lead up to the first floor. As far as I know that is the domain of the ladies of the night 🙂 . I climbed up to have a look, didn’t meet any ladies, but the wooden interior was nice.
Casual Market is another favourite food court of mine. There are two popular stalls with Char Keow Teow, this time I chose the fishball version.
After our breakfast I showed Rodney and Aric a few of the heritage sites of Taiping, both the positive and the negative ones. Here is the Central Market of Taiping, an iconic building (1884/85).
There are several separate sections. Left a stall in the pork market, I wonder how old this stall is. Right the fish market.
Front view of the Market. Good news, there are plans (and funds!) to restore the market in its old glory (not like Pasar Seni in KL, I hope).
Taiping has many famous schools. This is Saint Georgius Institute (SGI), one of them.
To be honest, it is the mixture of restoration and decay that attracts me in my 2nd hometown… 🙂 . Left the attractive restoration of the Ceylon Association Building. Right the remains of the Rest House.
The government buildings next to the Rest House are still easily accessible. Am I too negative in suspecting that the authorities leave it like this, hoping that drug addicts who are still staying there, will cause a fire one of these days that will destroy the whole building? See my detailed reports Taiping Bandar Warisan and Taiping, October 2019 . Don’t worry , I did not climb up to the first floor 🙂 .
Two more pictures. A nice mural and the skeleton of what once must have been a nice house. As I wrote, the mixture of development and decay attracts me.
After this morning visit of Taping, Aric and Rodney drove back to KL.
The second part of my stay. A nice lotus flower at the entrance of Furama and a picture of me and a huge tree, around the corner of the hotel.
In the afternoon I visited with my friend Halim two quite different kinds of graveyards. First the large Prestavest cemetery in Tupai. I thought that these huge rows of tombs were graves, but the space is too small, they are rest places for the urns of cremated people!
So it is an elaborate (and very expensive!) version of the traditional columbarium, where we also had a look. The caretaker must have thought that we were potential “customers” 🙂 Nice statues of the Buddha give the place a serene atmosphere.
There was still time to visit the tomb of Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang. He was a Malay nobleman who supposedly (accidentally) discovered tin in the Taiping region. The tombs are well kept, but from his fort nothing remains.
On our way back we enjoyed assam laksa in a roadside stall near Bukit Gantang.
The next day I had breakfast with my friend George. He introduced me to Taiping, many years ago. He suggested the Ee Ee Fatt 128 coffee shop in Tupai. I had Chee Cheong Fun again, not bad, although I still prefer Mr Tong’s 🙂
After breakfast we visited the Botanical Gardens of Taiping next to the Lake Gardens. I had been there when it was still under construction and wondered why to create a botanical garden, with the beautiful Penang one so nearby. Better a botanical garden than a new residential area, my friend Yeap said, and I think he was right 🙂 .
The garden is still under construction,, many trees and palms have been planted already, and there are several scenic spots.
Here is an example, a Fan Palm. I have enlarged the name tag, because I am wondering who has designed the format. Why is the name Taman Botani Perak so dominating? The name of the plant, PALAS KIPAS should be on top in large capitals. Below it, in a slightly smaller font, the Common name : Fan Palm, the Official name, Licuala grandis, the Family name, Arecaceae . Missing the country of origin, Vanuatu. Last lines, in a small font, plant id number, planting date and Taman Botani Perak. Why not Taman Botani Taiping, by the way?
Not yet many flowering shrubs, I found a few.
Next to the Botanical Garden, but now separated from it, one of the oldest heritage sites of Taiping can be found, the communal tomb of the Hai San. The Hai San and the Ghee Hin were two Chinese factions, fighting each other in the Larut wars.
For lunch George and I were invited by Girlie and Yeoh, two other Taiping friends.
I still had some energy left for another trip to the Ayer Hitam waterfall, this time with Halim. Two times the same waterfall? As access is so easy, I had sent a WhatsApp message to my Taiping Heritage friends, if they were interested to join me for another visit. But only Halim responded.
Left the start of the trail, right one of the several sheds where locals stay during the durian season, to guard the king of fruits.
Halim had never visited this fall before and, being an adventurous guy, suggested that we should come back another time and camp overnight. An attractive idea, but I feel a bit too old for it.
Walking back, I found this ginger flower, an Etlingera coccinea , one of my favourites. It looks like the flower just grows from the earth.
We passed again the new resort, Chalet Latip D’Ayer Hitam and had a chat with the people working there. Modern, colorful design, but I have my reservations about building the chalets so close to the river that you have to reinforce the river banks with concrete.
An beautiful old-fashioned Malay house that reminded Halim of his younger years .
In Batu Kurau we had a teh tarik and apom balik. Batu Kurau has a volunteer fire brigade, the stall was next to it, and our table in front of the “bomba” truck. Fortunately no fire alarm went of during our stay.
Taiping is famous because of its Lake Gardens, so neighbouring Kamunting also wanted one. A nice try, but they can not compete. This is the most interesting part, a lotus pond, crossed by a bridge. Two metal towers at both ends of the bridge. No idea if they ever had a function.
Next morning I had breakfast with Yeap in Lian Thong , soft-boiled eggs on toast, named roti goyang in Malay, “shaking toast” Do I have to explain the name? Later, Yeap picked me up from Furama to bring me to the station, but first we had lunch in the restaurant, that is part of the Ceylon Association building. Nice Tom Yam fried rice. During our lunch a lady joined us, a friend of Yeap, but also a karaoke partner of my friend George. Proving once again that Taiping is a very small world 🙂 .
Waiting for the train back to KL. One of the reasons that I feel so at home in Taiping, is the hospitality of its inhabitants. Will go back soon 🙂
It has become a tradition that Aric organises a family party on day 3 of the Chinese New Year in Parit Baru, his hometown. The year of the Rat started on 25 January 2020 and a few months earlier Aric began thinking already about this party.
The Chinese character for Rat is the same as that for Mouse, so he decided to use the mouse as a theme. All family members had to wear a t-shirt with a mouse, a Mickey Mouse or at least something in the shape of a mouse.
For the decoration of the house, Aric had bought a large quantity of multi-colored LED-lights. When I arrived, on day 2, he had already made a lot of mouse-like decorations. Here he is standing in front of the kampong house, where he was born and grew up.
Three families have been living in this house, Aric’s father and two of his uncles. During CNY, children, grandchildren and relatives come back to this house, resulting in a big crowd. All families have their own rooms and in the common kitchen they prepare their own meals. Quite interesting.
I had chosen a t-shirt, combining my interest in stars and planets with a kind of mouse shape. But… I forgot to bring it to Parit Baru! Officially there was a penalty of RM 50 for not wearing a mouse shirt, but fortunately Jenny, Aric’s sister in law, could not attend the party and gave her t-shirt to me.
WHen I arrived, Aric was still busy preparing more decorations, here with his nephew Andrew. The (air-conditioned) office of the house was occupied by several of Aric’s nieces.
The LED decorations are not so special in daylight, but in the dark they become very attractive.
After editing the picture to the right, I have created a CNY-wish with it and sent it to friends and family 🙂 .
Here is the designer with the final result.
That evening we had a steamboat dinner with the family in the kitchen, while in the living room others were playing card.
Sleeping can be a problem for me, during these meetings, I am a sensitive sleeper and need some privacy. Fortunately the family has a bungalow, a few km away, and we could have an undisturbed sleep there 🙂 .
Next morning started with coffee.
In the morning more family members arrived from KL and preparations started for the steamboat lunch. Parit Baru is surrounded by fishing villages, so the fish , prawns etc can not be more fresh. With so many people we had to eat in shifts 😉 .
In the afternoon a stage was constructed in front of the house, using two lorries and material from the hardware shop.
While Aric and his helpers were busy, it was a good time to take some pictures. Notice that everybody is wearing a mouse shirt (including me haha).
When the construction of the stage was completed and it was still light enough, Aric arranged everybody for the traditional group photo. Almost fifty people!
We had a buffet dinner outside, using a catering service. Later there were several games and there were fireworks.
The grand finale of the evening was a show were many attendees showed their skills, karaoke, wushu, dancing, singing. Not easy to take acceptable photos, quite dark.
It was another successful CNY celebration. Here are some group photos from earlier years.
Rodney, a UK friend of us has been in Malaysia many times, but never visited Kuala Selangor! A good reason to bring him there on a half-day trip.
On our way, near Bukit Rotan, we passed a Hindu temple that I had never visited myself. The present Sri Shakti Temple was consecrated in 2013 and is a monumental building, unfortunately closed during our visit.
The front of the temple has beautiful statues of elephants.
Because of the time of the day (3 pm) it was almost impossible to take good pictures of the temple. We will have to come back another time to visit the interior.
Our next stop was the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. We were the only visitors, maybe because it was very hot, but also because Malaysians and tourists hardly know about its existence. It is a mixture of secondary forest and wetlands.
After paying an entrance fee of RM 5 at the visitor center, we entered the park.
We climbed the view tower. During my last visit you could see a lake, with many egrets, but trees had grown, obscuring the view.
There was another visitor on the top floor, enjoying its siesta. We didn’t disturb it, but we were sure our presence was noticed.
It was a pleasant walk. We crossed a mangrove forest on a concrete walkway. Sturdy, but less romantic than the wooden plankway we remembered from an earlier visit.
It was low tide, there were only a few places where we could see water. The whole walk was about 3.5 km, we were very thirsty, almost dehydrated, luckily the visitor center was still open ,so we could buy some cool drink.
Our next stop was at Bukit Melawati, the main attraction of Kuala Selangor. From the top of the hill you have a good view of the countryside.
The cannons are a memory of the past, when there was a fort here. Of course Rodney and I had to prove our manhood 🙂 .
The present lighthouse was built in 1907, the original one was built in 1794 when the Dutch were still ruling this part of the peninsula.
The attractive lighthouse is a good background for pictures. We met a friendly Malay couple there. Left Rodney and me, right with Zarina and Rosni.
And there are monkeys, a few macaques, but mainly the silvered leaf langurs. The young ones are beautifully golden/orange, Zarina told us that there were no babies at the moment, but we were lucky to find a single one, down the road. Changing into an adult, its face grey already.
Bananas and beans are for sale, you can feed the langurs, and they are not shy, some even climbing on your shoulder.
A hidden, almost unknown, gem is the nearby Bukit Belanda (Dutch Hill). From the Dutch fort Utrecht, on top of the hill, not much is left, but the small lake at its foot is very scenic.
Before dinner we drove to the fishing village of Kuala Selangor, at the other side of the Selangor river. We watched the sunset from the Chinese temple there.
The Kuala Sungai (Ah Yu) restaurant in Pasir Penambang, chosen by Aric, has a splendid view of the Selangor River.
And the food was high quality too. Rodney and I could not resist the temptation of big bottles of Carlsberg.
Here is the food we ordered. Forgot to take a picture of the fish ball soup.
After our dinner we visited the Fireflies of Kampung Kuantan, before going home. It was almost full moon and the sky was clear, not a favorable time to see the swarms of tiny fireflies, blinking on and off in a synchronous way. But as it was a first visit for Rodney, still a nice experience.
Last year we came in contact, through WeChat, with Dong Dong, a Chinese from Guangzhou. This resulted in inviting him to visit us in Malaysia, from 8-14 January. How to communicate? For Aric of course no problem, either in Mandarin or in Teochew. I had to use Google Translate, because I don’t speak Chinese and Dong Dong only a little bit of English :-).
On 8 January afternoon we picked him up from the airport. Our plan was to show him, during his short stay, as many tourist attractions as possible. And also to introduce him to as many Malaysian food specialities as we could 🙂
We decided for Hokkien Mee, the first evening. There are two famous Hokkien Mee restaurants in Damansara Uptown, almost next to each other. Tiong was full, so we chose the other one.
We ordered four dishes, all very nice, huge serving of mee, we could not finish it 🙂 . A good introduction to Chinese Malaysian cuisine.
In our chats I had told Dong Dong that I often went to IKEA for my RM 1 breakfast and to meet friends. He was interested , so the next morning we first went to IKEA.
After our breakfast I showed him the Curve shopping center. As CNY was approaching, there was already a festive atmosphere.
I am still not very experienced with taking selfies, but I am making progress.
Back home we waited for Aric, who had been busy in his shop. We had asked Rodney, a UK friends, to join us for a visit to KL. First we had lunch in restaurant Kin Kin, supposedly serving the best Pan Mee in KL. Spicy!
After our lunch we walked in the colonial district of Kuala Lumpur. In my blog KL Heritage I have written extensively about the many gems of architecture that can be found here. During this short walk we only had a look at a few.
Contrasts: from left to right an Art Deco detail of the Central Market, the beautiful “Islamic” Dayabumi building, and the Merdeka 118 tower, the world 2nd largest building when completed.
We visited the Kuala Lumpur gallery and this time were disappointed. The light show at the scale model of Kuala Lumpur was quite boring.
Getting more and more touristic. But there is a nice cafe with delicious (and expensive) durian cream puffs. In the left picture you can see how the future Merdeka 118 building will dwarf the Petronas twin towers.
In the afternoon we went to Ampang and from there we took the road to Ulu Langat. This road crosses the hills and has a viewpoint from where you have a beautiful view of the KL skyline.
Heavy rain at the horizon, but we kept it dry.
A bit farther than this viewpoint a side road leads to the Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant, where we had our dinner. Aric and I have been to this romantic place several times, the food is always nice and fresh, the restaurant is surrounded by fishponds.
Here some of the dishes we ordered. Left Thai mango salad, tilapia and lamb. Right sotong (cuttlefish).
There was toddy, one of my favourite drinks. A rewarding end of a successful day!
The next day we left for Melaka, where we arrived around lunchtime. One of the food specialties of Melaka is Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls. The famous shop in the center of town was closed during our last visit, but Aric had found a hidden gem in the outskirts of Melaka, Huang Chang.
We had booked rooms in the Puri Hotel, a Peranakan house in Heeren Street. The interior looks like a museum.
The Puri Hotel has a beautiful facade, and opposite is the even more posh Chee Ancestral Mansion, unfortunately not open to the public.
After checking in, we walked around in the historical center of Melaka, now a Unesco World Heritage site. First we had Cendol at the popular Jonker 88 shop.
Here are two tombs, the left one of Hang Kasturi, the right one of Syamsuddin Al-Sumatrani. Even many locals will not know where this second tomb is located 🙂 .
This is the ruin of Saint Paul’s Church, originally built in 1521 by the Portuguese, the oldest church of Malaysia. Many tombstones, some of them dating back to the time that Melaka was a Dutch colony.
Christ Church and the Stadthuys are the center of the town. The gaudy trishaws are characteristic for Melaka. Always crowded with tourists.
Another food specialty of Melaka is the Satay Celup (Steamboat Satay) and the most famous restaurant for it is Capitol. Often we have been queueing here, waiting for a table. Therefore we decided to have an early dinner and that worked out well 🙂 . You select your sticks from a buffet and dip them in the boiling satay sauce. You pay for the number of sticks used.
After our dinner we walked along the Melaka River. In the past the river was quite dirty and unkept, now it has been cleaned, promenades have been created at both banks of the river. Beautiful led lighting in the evening.
It was Friday evening, the popular Jonker Walk night market was busy with tourist. And, sad to say, getting less interesting every time we visit it. Being a Unesco WHS has its disadvantages. Blacksmith street used to be a street full of old-fashioned workshops. Rent increased, they had to leave and instead came boutique hotels and nyonya restaurants. You can see this all over the town. Pity.
The next morning we enjoyed our buffet breakfast in Puri and checked out.
Before leaving Melaka we visited a number of places of worship. Buddhist temples, a Hindu shrine and a Mosque are all located near each other in what is sometimes called Harmony street (mistakenly suggesting that there are no conflicts between the various religions in Malaysia).
The Straits of Melaka mosque is located a bit outside the historical center, you have to go by car, but it is worth the effort. Another example of what is called a floating mosque. A modern building, the opening ceremony was in 2006.
Then it was time to go back to Kuala Lumpur. It was a very short visit, I have written several times about Melaka, here is an earlier report: Melaka Minitrip March 2013.
We arrived back in KL around 3 pm, Aric was busy that afternoon, he dropped us at the Kelana Jaya LRT station, from where we took a train to KLCC.
A visit to Malaysia is not complete without the Petronas Twin Towers 🙂 . I chose the most impressive approach, walking through the shopping center, taking the exit to the park and the lake, then asking Dong Dong to turn around and look up.
The towers are so high that from that location it is difficult to take good pictures. We walked around the lake to take better shots
We walked to the wading pool, only for children, but refreshing to watch.
Of course everything was already in Chinese New Year mood. In front of KLCC a Chinese pagoda was constructed with the signs of the Chinese zodiac. We are both Monkeys and asked a friendly gentleman to take our picture with our sign 🙂
Lots of decorations inside the shopping center, of course with images of the Rat (Mouse) everywhere, the sign of the coming New Year.
From the top floor you have a beautiful view of the park, the lake and the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.
We did not stay long, as we were both tired, and took public transport back, first the LRT, then the MRT and finally a feeder bus to our condo. Dong Dong was happy to experience the various forms of transport.
That evening we had Claypot Chicken Rice in a food court near our condo, and the next morning Roti Canai, both Malaysian specialties.
The next day, after our breakfast, we drove to Penang. With a short stop for a light lunch, we arrived at 2:30 pm at the Airbnb Aric had booked for two nights. And what an Airbnb it was! A complete house, two floors, on each floor a bedroom, lots of antique stuff. One of the best Airbnb’s we have ever stayed in.
After a small rest we went out for a first exploration. Same as in Melaka, the three major religions of Malaysia have their houses of worship in the same street, but the name of the street is here not Harmony Street, but Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, which may be more appropriate for the actual relation between the three religions 🙂 . By the way, Keling (Kling) is the old-fashioned name for an Indian Muslim and nowadays considered derogatory 🙂 .
One of the major tourist attractions in Penang are the murals created in 2012 by Zacharevic, see my report Penang Street Art. With our limited time we could only visit a few.
Before taking our dinner we visited the Tan Jetty, one of our favourites.
We had dinner in the Jetty Food Court, a popular place with a large variety of food.
We continued after our dinner and visited the modern Hean Boo Thean temple, another temple dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. If the access route to the temple was not so clearly signposted, it would have been difficult to find.
Views of the waterfront are spectacular and unobstructed. We stayed a considerable time, relaxing and enjoying the views
After sunset everything becomes even more scenic. It was the first time we visited this temple, it was opened only in 2012. We will promote it to our friends and guests.
Walking back to our Airbnb, we passed a few colonial buildings. For more info about Penang’s colonial heritage, see my report Penang Colonial Architecture.
The next day we had breakfast at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. I had Roti Goyang which translates as shaking toast (because of the half-boiled eggs on top of the toast)
The weather was perfect, we walked around a bit. The KOMTAR tower is still the highest skyscraper in Penang. The minaret of the Lebuh Aceh mosque looks even more beautiful with the surrounding Chinese New Year decorations.
We passed another Zacharevic mural and decided to visit the Khoo Kongsi, the most elaborate and grand Chinese clan house of Georgetown. I have been there many times, my last visit was in July 2019, here is a report.
For lunch we went to Hong Xiang, where we had Bak Kut Teh. Another famous Malaysian dish. Usually the different pork parts are put together in the herbal soup, but here your order the ingredients separately. Not a bad idea. We took pork ribs, pork soft bone, tofu, two kinds of mushrooms and veggie. All very tasty.
In the afternoon we drove around the island, stopping for a while at the beach near Batu Ferringhi.
We skipped some other locations we had in mind. Not enough time, winding roads, and we wanted to visit the Kek Lok Si temple before it closed at 5:30 pm. This main Guan Yin temple of Penang is a huge complex of halls, gardens, pagodas etc.
We walked up as high as we could.
A few more pictures.
We climbed the pagoda (right picture), I counted the steps, ~ 190 .
The next day we drove back. In the afternoon Dong Dong was flying back from KLIA, we didn’t want to take risks with traffic jams on the Penang bridges, so we woke up early and started before the rush hour.
Good plan, traffic was smooth. It gave us enough spare time to have breakfast in Taiping, my 2nd hometown :-). I showed Dong Dong the Lake Gardens and he liked the atmosphere very much.
We arrived at KLIA 2 in time, he checked in for his flight back to Guangzhou and we had a farewell lunch at Nando’s. More South African than Malaysian, but the alternative would have been McDonalds 🙂 .
A very successful visit, only too short. Hopefully we will meet again in the future, for example in Guangzhou!
A few months ago, Aei Yong, one of Aric’s sisters, came with the idea to celebrate Christmas with the family in Langkawi! She asked Aric to plan the trip, as she knows that he is a good organiser. He booked an Airbnb in Kuah, 23-25 December.
It turned out that not everybody was available, so finally we went with the two sisters and their family, ten people in total. The ferry to Langkawi leaves Kuala Perlis at 1 pm and it is about a 6-7 hour drive from KL, so he decided that we would leave one day earlier and stay overnight in Kangar on the 22nd.
We went in two cars and met in Tanjung Malim for breakfast. I had my favourite eggs on toast, creatively prepared 🙂
Chinese names are not easy for me to memorise 😉 . Left Aric’s nephews Zhen Ee and Chun Yee. , right his two sisters Aei Ling and Aei Yong and in the middle a Kwai Loh, my nickname.
Around 4 pm we arrived in Kangar, the capital of Perlis, where Aric had booked comfortable rooms in Federal Hotel Kangar.
After a short rest we went to Kuala Perlis for our dinner in the Hai Thien seafood restaurant. Aric and I had been here a few times before and we liked the (Thai style) food very much. It was crowded, we had to wait a bit for a free table.
The food was delicious as usual. The advantage of eating with a larger group is that you can order many different dishes!
The next morning we had time to explore Kuala Perlis. There is not much to see, but there is a nice pedestrian bridge, crossing the Perlis river, with good views of the surroundings.
The Al Hussain mosque is quite attractive, and sometimes nicknamed Floating Mosque.
The ferry is relatively small, it was interesting to see how the experienced crew managed to fit so many cars and lorries.
The crossing to Langkawi takes a few hours. The weather was perfect and there was a small canteen where you could buy drinks and snacks.
Around 4 pm we arrived at our Airbnb, a nice, modern house, located in the outskirts of Kuah.
Spacious, many rooms to accommodate our group.
Usually we decorate our condo in Damansara Perdana during Christmas and this time we had taken all the Xmas stuff with us.
The plan was to have our Christmas Eve dinner in Western style. There are not that many restaurants in Kuah that serve Western food, but Aric had found one, the ARTS Cafe. He called them to make a reservation and they asked us to come over already to select what we would like to eat the next day.
After we had made our choice, we looked for a suitable restaurant for our dinner. Our original choice , the Wonderland Food Store , was too crowded, we found a good alternative in seafood restaurant TEO.
Another elaborate selection of tasty food
The next day, after our breakfast we first visited the Durian Perangin waterfall on the slopes of Gunung Raya, Langkai’s highest mountain. I had visited this waterfall in September 2007. Now there was a lot less water, but still enough to enjoy a nice bath.
I took a lot of pictures. It was a good place to frolic around.
The waterfall was a very suitable background for modelling photos 🙂
After spending almost two hours at the fall, we drove to the top of the Gunung Raya, at 881 m the highest point of Langkawi. There is a view tower from where you are supposed to have a 360° view of the island. We were also expecting a cafe there for lunch. But everything was closed, already since February 2018!
Next we drove to Cenang Beach for KFC(!) lunch and the tax-free shopping malls. After that back to our Airbnb for a short rest.
Before we left for our Christmas Eve dinner, there was time to take an official family picture.
The ARTS cafe had prepared all the food we had ordered, I forgot to take pictures of all dishes, some people had ordered pasta, others pie, grilled salmon, lamb shank, fish and chips, etc. Nice food.
Many paintings on the walls of this cafe, another occasion for some more modelling photography.
Back home, it was time to wish each other a Merry Christmas.
On Christmas day we visited the Langkawi Sky Bridge and of course we were not the only ones. First we had to use the Cable Car. Well organised, we had to stand ready for the gondola, which doesn’t stop, not much time to jump in 🙂
The cable car has a station halfway, where you get out and can view the surroundings. In the picture you can see behind us the summit station and the sky bridge.
Another gondola brings you to the top.
There is a viewing platform, from where you have a good view of the sky bridge. Notice that the sky bridge is quite a bit lower than the cable car station. It is possible to use the so-called Sky Glide, a short funicular railway, but you have to buy tickets separately for it and there was a long queue. Here is a negative comment of a visitor: Don’t use the SkyGlide.
We decided to walk down, in about 20 minutes. A much better option, although it was rather hot :-). Walking on the sky bridge was a worthwhile experience, for me the first time, because during an earlier visit it was closed for maintenance.
We spent considerable time at this major tourist attraction, so it was almost 5 pm when we arrived at the second destination for the day, the beach at Tanjung Rhu. Crystal clear water, a sandy beach, casuarina trees for some shade, a nice place to relax and take a sea bath.
We had read that at low tide it was possible to walk from the beach to one of the rocky islands (the middle one in the picture below). It was low tide and indeed, you could walk quite far out, as you can see, and on the Internet I have seen pictures that there was even a dry “sand road”, leading far out. But when we were there this was impossible.
We could walk quite far, shallow water, swimming was not easy.
Almost sunset. A romantic beach. This picture was taken at 6:30 pm
Aric had planned our last dinner at Laman Padi Langkawi , a Malay restaurant, surrounded by rice fields. We arrived a bit too late, it was dark already, but we could still see the nice surroundings.
The next day we took the ferry back to Kuala Perlis.
From Kuala Perlis it was a long drive back, we stopped in Bukit Mertajam for lunch in the Sentosa Corner, a very popular eatery, famous for its yam rice.
A relative of the family was living nearby, we paid the couple a short visit.
It was a very successful, but also exhausting trip 🙂
On 5 December we took the Aeroline Bus from KL to Singapore. It is a comfortable way of traveling, but it takes time, about 7 hours (with an unexpected 1 hour queue at Singapore immigration)!
From the bus terminal at Harbourfront is was only a few stops by MRT to our hotel Keong Saik in the heart of Chinatown. We had stayed in this hotel before, friendly staff, free coffee in the lobby, breakfast included.
Our program for this trip was mainly social and food, mixed with some culture.
After some rest, we walked around in Chinatown.
The Keong Saik road has been beautifully renovated. Difficult to imagine that in the sixties of the last century this was Singapore’s red-light district!
Later that night, our friend Beng Hooi picked us up from our hotel. He brought us to Toa Payoh Central, where we had Penang food and later Yam Bubble tea with him and a few of Aric’s diving friends.
One reason for our visit, was to meet our friend ST Lee. In July 2018 I had visited him and stayed a few days in his Pearl Bank apartment, click here for a report. He was recovering from flu, but feeling fit enough to have breakfast with us and Benny, another friend, in the Chinatown Complex, near to our hotel.
A few more nice buildings in Chinatown, near our hotel. The Jinrikisha Station was a station for rickshaw carts, carrying one passenger and pulled by one man, popular in those days. Kreta Ayer road , around the corner from our hotel was another street with brothels and prostitutes 😉
Beng Hooi knows about Aric’s interest in laksa, he had found some interesting places and took us for lunch to a famous laksa stall, Sungei Road Laksa at Jalan Besar. A long queue, delicious curry laksa, that is eaten with a spoon only, because the laksa has been cut into pieces already !
Before Beng Hooi drove back to work, he took us to the Masjid Sultan, passing on our way two modern architectural buildings on Beach Road, the iconic Concourse and the brand-new City Gate complex.
The Sultan mosque was built in 1932 on the location of an earlier mosque in Kampong Glam, the center of the Malay community in Singapore.
Pity that we could not enter the mosque because it was Friday. Must keep Kampong Glam in mind for a next visit, it is an interesting, bustling neighbourhood, with a rich history.
Beng Hooi dropped us at the Fort Canning park. During my last visit I had spent many hours exploring the hill, this time we only walked around a bit.
Aric was interested to take “artistic” pictures of a pedestrian underpass in Fort Canning, nicknamed the “Tunnel of Love”, but when we arrived, the name became clear, bridal couples were queueing for a photoshoot, so we gave up 🙂
On our way back to our hotel, we passed the impressive Majestic, originally built in 1928 as the Majestic Theatre , a Cantonese Opera house. Almost back, Aric received a message from his Singapore uncle David, that he was having coffee in the Chinatown Complex. Of course we joined him, to make our visit even more social 😉
And that was not yet the end of our socialising.. 😉 . ST Lee had asked us if we were interested to join him that evening to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake in the Esplanade. We accepted his invitation gratefully and met him that evening in the Singapore Cricket Club for drinks and dinner.
After our dinner we walked from the Club to the Esplanade , enjoying the Singapore skyline and the many open-air activities taking place. Singapore is a vibrant city!
Taking pictures during the performance is not allowed. Here one picture before the start and one taken after the finale.
We enjoyed the ballet very much, actually more than I expected. I am a lover of modern ballet, see for example my blog Le Sacre du Printemps, but had never seen a classical ballet! Here is one of the gems of Swan Lake, by the Royal Ballet. Captivating!
After the show we walked home. The left picture shows the Esplanade Theatre, making clear why it is nicknamed the Durian. The right picture has the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel as background.
The next morning we had first breakfast with Aric’s diving friend Letitia, again in the Chinatown Complex. This time at Jia Ji Mei Shi, famous for its yam cake.
Waking around Chinatown, we had passed already a few times a monumental temple. It is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, we decided to visit it. A new temple, construction started in 2005.
Very impressive, both the outside and inside. It has become a major tourist attraction, we only visited the ground floor.
During our visit, there was praying and chanting going on. Will visit in more detail during my next trip.
After this visit we took the MRT to Woodlands where Beng Hooi was waiting for us. He brought us to a nice restaurant, the Anson Town Bistro, where we had a delicious assam laksa.
We visited the apartment where he is living with his family and walked a bit in the Woodlands Waterfront Park, from where you can see the skyline of Johor Bahru.
In the afternoon we visited ST Lee’s new apartment in The Quayside. Built in 1998, along the Singapore river. Nice location.
After our dinner ST dropped us at Orchard Road, where we had a look at the “famous” Christmas decorations. We had been warned already that it was not as spectacular as in the past, and indeed, it was rather disappointing.
The next morning we had breakfast with half-boiled eggs and toast, before taking the MRT to Changi airport.
We wanted to see the Jewel, and we were not the only ones, quite a crowd was admiring the Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
On our way back, we had lunch at Chew Kee Eating House. The original one, we almost went to the “wrong” one, Chew Kee Noodle House, a few doors away. Nice soy sauce chicken noodles. Click here for a comparison of the two eateries 😉 .
Dinner that evening in the Chinatown Complex with David and his wife. We had warned him not to order too much, but, as usual, that didn’t really help. Vert nice food, very nice people.
To lose some calories, we decided to visit the Gardens by the Bay and have a look at the Christmas Decorations there. Approaching the Gardens you pass this lake with mysterious floating decorations.
The Gardens are free but for Christmas Wonderland you have to pay an entrance fee of 10 S$, really worth the money.
The Walk of Peace tunnel
Artificial snow 😉
Christmas Angels 😉
Walking back from the Gardens to the MRT station, we passed Sol Lewitt’s mural painting. I had planned to visit Singapore’s National Gallery again, but we had been too busy with food and social activities. Next time.
The next day we took the bus back. No queueing at the immigration this time, but still it takes about 6 hours.
A list was prepared of 112 exoplanets and each exoplanet was assigned to an IAU member state. The member states had to organise a public competition to find a suitable name for the exoplanet and its host star. The campaign started in June 2019 and on 17 December the chosen names have been published.
The exoplanet assigned to the Netherlands was HAT-P-6b, orbiting the star Hat-P-6 . Hat-P-6 is a star in the constellation Andromeda, at a distance of 910 lightyear, 30% more massive and also hotter than our Sun. The exoplanet Hat-P-6b has been discovered in 2007 through the transiting method.
It is a gas giant, slightly heavier than Jupiter, orbiting in less than 4 days around its host star. It is an example of what are called Hot Jupiters. Not suitable for life. Here is an image how Hat-P-6b might look like. Much larger because it is hot.
In the Netherlands the public came with more than 6000 suggestions. Most popular were the names Nijntje (for the planet) and Moederpluis (for the star). They are Dutch cartoon characters, famous all over the world. Here is a Japanese version.
A problem was that theses names are copyrighted, so finally number 2 on the shortlist was chosen. Night Watch for the planet and Starry Night for the star.
The Night Watch is a world famous painting by Rembrandt (1642).
And Starry Night is another famous painting, by van Gogh (1889). Now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Are you interested about other exoplanets in the list? Click here and type the country name in the search box.
Or maybe you want to know which names other countries have chosen for their planet and star? Click then here .
As Malaysia is my 2nd home, I will show the results for Malaysia. Here are the exoplanet and the host star
HD 20868 is an orange dwarf star in the constellation Fornax, 156 lightyear away from us and 25 % smaller than the Sun. Its planet HD 20868b is also a gas giant, but orbiting farther away from its star in about 1 year. In the habitable zone, but as it is a gas giant, probably not very suitable for life.
I have no info about the campaign, apparently 1635 proposals have been made. Here is the final choice: the planet and star have been named after the Malay names of gemstones , Baiduri (Opal) for the planet and Intan (Diamond) for the star.
It is quite fun to see what other countries have chosen!
Do you know that there is a commemorative stone for Birch, up Maxwell Hill, my friend Wan Amril asked me, when I met him in Taiping, May 2017.
Of course I knew about J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Parak, appointed 4 November 1874 after the Pangkor Treaty and assassinated 2 November 1875. I knew that there was a memorial clocktower for him in Ipoh, but I had never heard about a monument in Taiping.
Wan Amril, who is very knowledgeable about Taiping and its history, had seen a photo of the monument in 2009 and had visited it in December of the same year. Here is the very readable report written by him about what he called a mini-expedition: The Forgotten Memorials .
He was willing to bring me to the monument and of course I accepted his invitation. Aric and I were staying in the Nest, enjoying the hospitality of Suet Fun and Peter, together with another friend, Law Siak Hong, president of the Perak Heritage Society.
From the Nest bungalow it is less than 1.5 km along the tar road to where the trail starts. The tar road ends at the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884.
It is easy to miss the trail. And you must be prepared for leeches.
After about 200 meter you reach the monument.
This is the text on the monument: THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO CLIMB THIS HILL WAS MR T.W.W. BIRCH. FIRST BRITISH RESIDENT OF PERAK IN 1875 . In 2009 Wan Amril had already noticed the mistake, the T should have been a J.
Next to the commemorative stone, there is a metal plaque, not easy to decipher, Wan Amril gives: LAWATAN PERTAMA KALI D.Y.T.M. RAJA MUDA PERAK KA BUKIT INI PADA 23.7.73 JAM 8.02 PAGI. Translated: Inaugural visit by His Highness the Raja Muda of Perak to this hill on 23-7-73 at 8:02am
An interesting monument, leading to several questions. When was it placed here and by whom? Who was responsible for the spelling mistake and why was it never corrected? And of course the most important question, did J.W.W Birch indeed climb Bukit Larut during the short period (less than one year!) that he was the Perak Resident? If he did, for what purpose? Adventure? Looking for a possible hill resort 🙂 ?
Back home in Petaling Jaya, I searched Google for more info and discovered that Birch had kept a journal during the period that he was Resident of Perak! In 1976 an annotated edition of these Journals has been published, out of stock, but the National Library of Malaysia has copies!
I visited the Library in December 2018 and found the book with the help of friendly library staff.
I coud not borrow it, so I sat down and soon found the passage in which Birch describes his visit to Taiping. I made photocopies, here they are. Interesting reading, this is Birch’s private diary and he doesn’t always mince his words :-). Click to enlarge.