The Ig Nobel Prizes

Last week for the 24th time the yearly Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded. The ceremony took place at the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts , USA

The Ig Nobel prizes?

Here is what the supporting foundation for Improbable Research says about it:

IG Nobel prizes are awarded for research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK

This year the Ig Noble prize for physics has been given to the Japanese scientist Kiyoshi Mabuchi of Kitasato University for studying the hazards of stepping on a banana peel!  Here he is, during the official ceremony

Ig Nobel prize

 

Don’t underestimate his research! Here is the official paper: Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin.

A few more examples of Ig Nobel prizes.

2014 Neuroscience:  to Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

2013 Biology/Astronomy: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

2012 Medicine: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopy how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode

Click here for the complete list. In the beginning the prizes sometimes had a sarcastic undertone, like for example

1998 Physics: Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Center for Well Being, La Jolla, California, for his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness

But now it has become more serious, the prize winners eagerly travel (at their own expenses) to Harvard to attend the ceremony and the prizes are given by “real” Nobel Prize winners.

There is even one scientist who has won BOTH the Ig Nobel prize AND the Nobel prize! Andre Geim, a Soviet-born Dutch-British (!) physicist, won the Ig Nobel prize for physics in 2000 experimenting with magnets to levitate a frog. Here is a picture of the poor critter. If you are wondering how this is possible, it is because of diamagnetism

Levitating frog

Ten years later, in 2010, Geim received the Physics Nobel prize for his research about the new wonder material of graphene, a two-dimensional layer of carbon atoms.

Graphene

The way he and his collaborator Novoselov managed to make a single layer of carbon atoms? They used Scotch tape!

Ok, here is one more Ig Nobel prize…:-)

2009 Public Health: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, US, for inventing a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks—one for the wearer and one to be given to a needy bystander

bra_gasmask

By the way, ever heard about the Darwin Awards?  Maybe a suitable topic for another post…:-)

Elusive Batangsi

In my last Journal I mentioned an unsuccessful hike to a remote waterfall, where we went back because I felt “discomfort”. After my cardiologist had given me a clean bill of health, of course I wanted to go back and give this Batangsi waterfall another try..:-) This time with Aric, Edwin, Janine, Nick and Siang Hui as our guide. We met at Sg Long for breakfast, after which we bought our lunch at the lively pasar pagi.

Before I start the report about our hike, it may be useful to explain first why we are so interested in the mysterious Batangsi waterfall…:-) Here is a Google Map of the region (click to enlarge). At the top you see part of the Semenyih reservoir. The green marker gives the location of the well-known Nirwana Memorial Park and to the right you see the border between Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. And in the middle of nowhere there is a marker for the Batangsi Falls!

Could there really be a waterfall there, or is it just a mistake of the map maker? On the topo map of the region there is no mention of a waterfall.

Google Map

Intrigued by this mysterious fall, we have been exploring the region several times during the last ten (!) years. We found the Batangsi river with a few cascades and small waterfalls. It resulted in a webpage Batangsi Fall on my Waterfalls of Malaysia website. Here are two of the small waterfalls/cascades we found.

Batangsi

Batangsi

Were there more waterfalls upstream? In 2008 I joined Aurelius and his friends, we followed a farm road until the end. From there we river trekked upstream for about three hours. Nice hike but no waterfalls.

Batangsi Aurelius

Here is a Google Map with our hike. Black is the farm road, blue the river trekking.

Google_Aurelius

In 2012 Siang Hui and Harry (†) did another hike, following the river much further. Coming to a split in the river, they decided to follow the right branch and finally found a real waterfall…:-)

Google_SH_Harry

Batangsi Fall

During this hike they had come to a split of the Batangsi river and decided to follow the right branch. Could there be another waterfall in the left branch? Studying the contour lines of the topo maps, Siang Hui thought there might be one.

When you look at the first map picture in this blog, you will notice that there are two farm roads leading inland and for our next recce we took the other one. It ends at a temple, from where a clear trail starts. Unfortunately I did not feel well after about one hour hiking , so we turned back. Here is a Google Maps screenshot. The possible waterfall is marked with a red star.

Another Recce

The yellow marker indicates the location of the temple. As you see our hike (green track) brings us quite deep into the interior! On our way back we went down to the river for a bath (brown line)

After this “longish” introduction, here is the report about our latest hike. Again we followed the farmroad, passing flower and vegetable farms, until we reached the impressive Buddhist temple.

We started our hike from the temple at 9:15 am and were back at 5pm. It was an interesting, tough hike, but we did not reach the waterfall! However, we have now a clear idea how to proceed on our next, and hopefully final hike…:-). Here is our hike (in green) on Google Earth, only the main part is shown  (click to enlarge) and I have numbered a few points of interest. The coloring is a bit different, dark blue is my trip with Aurelius, light blue the hike of Siang Hui and Harry and red our aborted hike.

Our hike

From the temple it took us about one hour plus to reach point (1) where I went back during our last recce. Until there the trail was well kept so we were expecting that from there it would continue. But after another half hour hiking, the trail disappeared (2). We backtracked  to see if we had missed the trail, but it was really gone.

From that point Saing Hui had to do a lot of chopping. After a while we reached a small stream (3) and we decided to follow it back to the Batangsi river. In retrospect that was a mistake, as we were only about 400 meter away from the river split we wanted to reach. After we reached the river (4), we trekked upstream to a small waterfall where we had lunch and a bath (5).

It was already getting late and we decided not to continue, but river trek back. River trekking is fun, but also slow, so when we reached a run-down biker camp (6) near the river, with a trail going uphill, we decided to take that trail.

Also here we lost the trail and it took us quite a long time, after even going in a completely wrong direction (7) for a while, to reach the logging road (8)!

We were very lucky with the weather during this trip. It was only a few hundred meters before reaching the temple that a downpour started. And a real downpour it was…:-)

Siang Hui and Nick had to go back home early, so it was only the four of us who could enjoy a delicious seafood dinner in Semenyih.

A memorable trip. We are thinking about a (hopefully) final attempt. After reaching the small stream (3) not following it but chopping our way to the confluence. From there river trekking. Then basically the same way back. The black line in the map below.

Next recce

Journal 1-9-2014

Time flies. My last journal was published seven weeks ago, just after I came back to Malaysia. After recovering from jet lag (not so difficult this time), I settled down in my usual routine. A morning walk in Bukit Kiara followed by breakfast (RM 1 only!) at IKEA. Spending a lot of time with my laptop, actually too much, especially now that I have become addicted to acomputer game called  Hay Day  :-(

But of course also quite a lot of social activities, like meeting friends and enjoying food. Here is a selection of (food) pictures.

Soon after I was back home and acclimatised, the urge came to visit a waterfall. So I eagerly accepted my friend Siang Hui’s invitation for a recce to a remote waterfall in the Semenyih region. It would be a long hike, we had to leave early. Three of us, my friend Teoh also joined. Maybe because I did not sleep well the night before, but after about one hour on our way, I did not feel well, a tight feeling in my chest. After a discussion with my friends, we decided to go back.

I was worried (and not only I…haha), so I made an appointment with my cardiologist for an echo and a stress test. I could see him only after Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan), so I kept quiet a bit for a while.  Quite relieved when the results were ok!

With Hari Raya we visited Aric’s hometown. It is an old Malay custom to fire impressive coconut palm canons, celebrating the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festival. And impressive it was, I was worried for a while that it might affect my hearing. I wrote a separate blog about it: Boom Boom!!

Hari Raya

After I had received my clean bill of health, I was looking forward to meet Akke and Pim and show them a few nice places in my 2nd home…-).  Akke is the daughter of friend of mine, who, with her future husband, was traveling in Malaysia. We visited the Kanching waterfalls and the Batu Caves and completed it with a delicious dinner, prepared by Aric.

Here are a few recent pictures of Bukit Kiara, where I have my daily exercise. I have written many blog posts about it, you can find them here . I am quite pessimistic about its future, JLN (the National Landscape Department) is trying to transform it into a concentration camp, including barbed wire fencing ..:-(  But still beautiful, along the budding Penchala river I have hidden another of my geocaches.

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society. I joined them in May on a trip to Lenggong. A few weeks ago they organised a members night and asked me to give short talk about this trip. Here are some pictures. I had prepared too much material for my talk, so I have published this material in a separate blog post  Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

On my way back from Taiping, I decided to stop at Pos Dipang to meet my Orang Asli friend Jinnah and his family. Recently he has been our guide to the spectacular Pos Dipang waterfalls.Very nice people. They belong to the Semai tribe, my Bahasa (Malay language) is bad, but we could communicate quite well in broken English.

Jinnah & family

To end this journal, a few pictures of a trip made with Aric to a Hot Springs near Bentong. I had passed the place before several times, the hot springs were not well maintained. But now some renovation had taken place, itr looked a lot better. The water was not too hot and you could use the mud from the bottom to scrub your skin…:-)

 

Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

In May the Taiping Heritage society has organised a trip to the Lenggong valley, see my blog THS excursion . Last week THS organised a members night and they had asked me to give a talk about the trip. Preparing for my talk, I  collected a lot of information from the Internet, but I had not enough time to present everything in my talk…:-) That is the reason for this post.

In 2012 the Lenggong valley was declared a Unesco world heritage site, because of the many archaeological discoveries made during the last decades. Most notably, the discovery in 1991 of the Perak Man, a well preserved skeleton, dating back to ~ 11.000 BP where BP stands for Before Present and Present is defined as 1-1-1950. In Geology and Archaeology  BP has replaced BC (Before Christ) and the politically correct BCE (Before Common Era)

Here is a GE map of the Lenggong region with the location of the various archaeological sites (click to enlarge). The mighty Perak river is clearly visible. The green track is from a trip made in 2007 with my friend Liz Price, Caves and Waterfalls Google Earth Map

Some comments about the various locations.

The skeleton of the Perak Man has been found in the Gua Gunung Runtuh. It is now exhibited in the Lenggong Museum. The Gunung Runtuh cave is at the moment closed to the public, but in 2007 we could still enter the cave after a steep climb..:-)  The skeleton was originally surrounded by grave gifts, in the museum now it is surrounded by high-tech gadgets to control humidity, etc!

In 2004 another skeleton has been found in the nearby Gua Teluk Kelawar, now called the Perak Woman, dated ~ 8000 BP. I will not be surprised if more discoveries will be made in the future. Because it is clear that this region around the Perak river has been very suitable for human habitation throughout the ages! Limestone caves for shelter, a river (in the past a lake) nearby, etc

The other archaeological sites in the Lenggong valley have until now only shown evidence of human activity in the form of tools and “tool shops”, where these tools were manufactured.

The oldest of these sites is Bukit Jawa,  a palaeolithic tool workshop site on the shores of an island in a lake now long ago disappeared. About 200.000-300.000 years ago. Who made those tools? This is before our species, Homo Sapiens sapiens, started the emigration out of Africa. We will only know when fossil remains of hominins are found. We visited Bukit Jawa in 2007, there is not much to see.Bukit Jawa Bukit Jawa

The toolshops at Kota Tampan are younger, about 70.000 year old. Also here no fossils of human remains have been found, but it is quite possible that the people making these tools, belonged to our species (see below). Activity in these workshops came to an abrupt end when the Toba volcano erupted, Kota Tampan tools have been found covered wit the thick layers of ash. At the Kota Tampan location the Lenggong Museum has been built.

Next in age are the toolshops at Bukit Bunuh, about 40.000 years old. Followed by the two caves where the Perak Man and Woman were found.

Much younger, about 4000-3000 BP are the graves found in Gua Harimau. And in the nearby Gua Badak, rock paintings have been found, made by the Negrito Orang Asli. Very recent, maybe only 100 year old. But interesting as rock paintings are rare in Malaysia

Altogether an impressive collection of archaeological sites, hopefully they will be preserved well after being declared a World Heritage Site.

Human migration, Out of Sundaland ?

It is about 200.000 years ago that our species, homo sapiens sapiens evolved in Africa. All humans, living these days, have a common ancestor, both in the maternal line (Mitochondrial Eve) and the paternal one (Y-chromosomal Adam). Between 95.000 and 75.000 year ago one of their descendants (Eurasian Adam), started to migrate to Europa and Asia. By analysing the mutations in the DNA of the Y-chromosome of present humans, it is possible to get an idea about the migration route followed by the ancestors.

A few years ago both Aric and I had our DNA analysed (by the Genographic Project). Here is the route followed by our (paternal) ancestor. Our routes split about 35.000 year ago, in what is now called Tajikistan. My line developing into a Caucasian, Aric’s line into a Chinese…:-) See my blog My ancestors for more information about this fascinating topic. Our ancestor

What has this to do with Lenggong, you may ask. Well, the theory of human migration is still a developing theory, with many variations. In the prevalent version, humans migrated to South East Asia from around Taiwan, going south. An alternative option is that  the migrants followed more or less the coastal line, via India, arriving in Sundaland, from there spreading in northern direction

migration

Sundaland? Yes, in the period we are talking about, the world was in what is called the Ice Age. The huge amount of ice covering the Arctic and Antarctic resulted in very low sea levels, more than 100 meter lower than nowadays. Present day Sumatra, Borneo, Malaysia formed one land mass, called Sundaland Sundaland

In the map above, the location of the Toba eruption is indicated. This dismal eruption and the following volcanic winter may have had a dramatic effect on the still very small global homo sapiens population, killing most of them and causing what is called a genetic bottleneck It is estimated that the global population of our species at that time was no more  than 10.000 – 20.000! It certainly stopped the operation of the Kota Tampan tool shops. But the people living there may have survived in small numbers, because the prevailing winds were westwards. Could it be that after the Toba eruption, further migration took place out of Sundaland?

A fascinating, though rather controversial theory, proposed by the British geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer. No surprise that USM, responsible for much of the archealogical research in the Lenggong valley, is quite happy with this theory.  Malaysia as the cradle of humanity!

A meteorite impact at Bukit Bunuh

In 2009 USM announced a spectacular discovery at  Bukit Bunuh. At this location many boulders were found of a very special material, called suevite. Suevite can be formed when a meteorite collides with the earth. The ages of these rocks, using fission track dating, has been determined as 1.8 ± 0.6 million year. There are indications of circular craters in the Bukit Bunuh region, so it could well be that between 1.2 and 2.4 million year ago a meteorite has hit here. In itself already an interesting discovery. It became spectacular when in 2007 a hand-axe was found, embedded in a suevite boulder. Meaning that around the time of impact, 1.8 million year ago, hominins were already living at Bukit Bunuh! Here is a newspaper article about the discovery: Early axes found in Perak. The picture shows  Dr Mokhtar Saidin, holding up the axe. Prof Mokhtar

After the jubilant announcement in the media, now already five years ago, it has become disturbingly quiet. I have not been able to find any reference on the Internet to a scientific publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The meteorite impact was supposed to be registered at the Earth Impact Database, but that too has not yet happened. In interviews an age of 1.83 million year is mentioned, without giving the error margin of 0.6 million year, which is scientifically bad practice. Here is a typical example: Interview with Dr. Mokhtar Saidin

Honestly, I have my doubts. Here are a few more links, in case you are interested

Bukit Bunuh, oldest Paleolithic site , quote:  “There should be on-going research to get a true picture of the people who settled in this area since 1.83 million years ago and this can change several theories about the Paleolithic people such as the nomadic theory and movement of prehistoric man.

USM Discovers Concrete Evidence That Can Chance (sic!) The History Of Early Man

Where does the Moon come from?

Last week it was full moon, and not just an ordinary one, but a perigee full moon, often popularly called a “Super Moon”. The orbit of the moon around the earth is elliptical, so the distance between moon and earth varies between 363.104 km (perigee) and 406.696 km (apogee). When a full moon occurs at perigee, the moon looks larger and brighter. It’s not a rare phenomenon, 9 September this year will  be the next perigee full moon, and June 2013 there was another one. It’s a bit of a media hype.

My friend Chuan took a beautiful picture of this perigee full moon, in the middle of the night, with his point and shoot camera(!), handheld, 24x zoom.

perigee full moon

The dark regions are called Mare (Sea) because in the past people believed that there was water on the moon. Actually they are basaltic plains, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Huge craters mark the places where meteorites have hit the moon. Here is a map of the moon with the names of craters and seas.

Names of seas and craters

We can see only one side of the moon because the moon is “tidally locked” to the earth, always showing the same face to us. This interesting phenomenon deserves a separate post..:-)  So how does the other (“dark”) side of the moon look like? It’s only after the start of the space age that we were able to explore. With a surprising result. Here is the other side of the moon

Far side of the moon

A lot of craters, but no “seas”. Why so different? Which leads to another, more basic question, where does the moon come from? Was it “born” at the same time as the sun and the other planets, ~4.5 billion years ago? Many hypotheses have been formulated, here is the theory that is generally accepted at the moment. It is called the Giant Impact Hypothesis

Not long the formation of the solar system, there was another planet, about the size of Mars, which collided with the (young) Earth. Here is an artist impression of this collision.

Theia meets Gaia

This hypothetical planet has been named Theia, after a Greek goddess, the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon. The effect of this dramatic collision was that a large part of Theia and Gaia, as the young Earth is sometimes called, melted together, forming the present Earth, but another part of Gaia and Theia was thrown out during the collision and coalesced into the Moon.

So powerful was this collision that the new Moon and probably also part of the Earth consisted of molten magma. The Moon, being smaller, cooled faster, and because of the heat of Earth and the tidal locking, the near side of the moon got a thinner crust than the far side! According to this theory that might be the reason that the near side has had more volcanic activity than the far side. There are many more arguments in favour of this giant impact hypothesis.

Of course the next question is then, where did Theia herself come from? A very promising idea is that this planet might have been formed in  about the same orbit as Gaia. In 1772(!) the French mathematician Lagrange studied the properties of rotating systems, like the earth orbiting the sun. He discovered that there exist points in such a system, where other objects can exist in a stable way. There are five such points, nowadays called Lagrange points

lagrange points

In the Lagrange points L4 and L5 the gravitational force of Sun and Earth balance in such a way, that objects will corotate with Earth around the Sun. During the formation of the solar system, mass could have accumulated in for example L5 and formed Theia. Through the disturbance by other planets (Venus for example), this planet could, after millions of years, leave L5 and collide with Earth.

theia1

theia2

theia3

Just skip this last part if you find it too complicated…:-)

Rosetta meets 67P

In January I have published a post about the Rosetta spacecraft, launched in 2004 with as destination a comet, the  67P/Tsjoerjoemov-Gerasimenko. It had gone in hibernation in June 2011 and on 20-1-2014 it woke up again.

In the past six months the spacecraft has been coming closer to the comet while its thrusters have slowed it down in a number of carefully planned maneuvers.

Today (6-8-2014) was another critical moment. In a thrust of more than 6 minutes, the spacecraft should reduce its speed relative to the comet to about 1 m/s, while at a distance of ~ 100 km away from 67P.

It has been confirmed that the operation was successful. Mind you, the comet and Rosetta are at the moment moving between Mars and Jupiter, on their way to the Sun. The distance to earth is about 400 million km, so signals between Rosetta and Earth take more than 20 minutes!

Check this fascinating link to follow Rosetta in its complicated trajectory, from the start in 2004 until the end of the mission in 2015: Where is Rosetta

As Rosetta is now close to the comet its on board camera has taken pictures of the comet. Here is one, taken three days ago. Comet An amazing picture. The comet has already been nicknamed “rubber duck”. A “binary” comet, consisting of two parts! And it doesn’t look like a “dirty snowball” at all. To say that the scientists are excited, would be an understatement..:-)

Here is another interesting picture, superimposing the comet on the city of London, to give an impression of its size.

67P_London

What will happen next? Rosetta will follow a complicated triangular trajectory the coming weeks (using again its thrusters) to test and explore the gravitational field of the comet. Here is a YouTube of its proposed trajectory. Almost like an abstract ballet..:-).

The sudden orbital changes are caused by the thrusters, the curvature by the gravitational field of the comet. The complicated shape of the comet may make it more difficult to determine its gravitational field. Finally Rosetta will settle down in a stable orbit around the comet, maybe as close at 10 km,  and then, in November, it will launch its small probe Philae, to make a soft landing on the comet.

That will become another update…:-)

For more information, follow the very informative Blog of Rosetta

Boom Boom !!

The end of Ramadan, the fasting month, is a religious holiday, celebrated by Muslims all over the world. In Malaysia it is called Hari Raya Aidilfitri, often shortened to Hari Raya which is Malay for Celebration Day. Traditionally all Muslims go back to their hometown (“balik kampung”), but as it is a public holiday, also non-Muslims often do the same.

This year we went back to Aric’s hometown, Parit Baru. This part of Selangor is rural and very Malay. It is a tradition that with Hari Raya, the driveways and boundaries of farmhouses are decorated with small oil lamps, very romantic and peaceful.

Another tradition, less peaceful, actually extremely noisy, is the firing of the “meriam kelapa”, which translates as”coconut cannon” Before you reach Parit Baru, you will see this, near the mosque: Meriam Kelapa These medieval looking contraptions are made of a coconut tree trunk, sawed in two halves, which are hollowed out and then tied together again. Not an easy job!

The resulting “cannon” is tilted upward, and a mixture of carbid and water is put inside the hollow trunk. Carbid (calcium carbide) reacts with water, forming acetylene which is flammable and highly explosive. The acetylene vapor is heavier than air and fills the hollow trunk. When it is ignited through a small hole at the bottom of the trunk, a major explosion occurs.

In the right picture the remains of old meriams, the left picture shows a new one.

Meriam Kelapa Old meriam

In the night we went out to see them in action. You will find these cannons  all over the place, just follow the direction where the “boom” comes from. Not far from Aric’s house we noticed men preparing three of them.

I was taking pictures when the first “shot” was fired. And almost literally shocked. I was standing quite close, the shock wave took away my breath and for some time I was worried that the shock wave had damaged my eardrum. Fortunately that was not the case. With some tissue paper in my ears, I watched the next salvo’s. It was fascinating, but also a bit frightening, like being in a war.

Here is a video, quite dark, but I hope it gives an impression. The next evening we went to another location, where they had only one cannon, but what a monster it was! Officially it is illegal to build and fire these cannons, accidents happen, and even buildings can be damaged by the shock wave. After the first shot, neighbours were complaining loudly, so the direction of the cannon was changed. This time I had put real earplugs in my ears…:-) Spectators meriam

My iPhone has a repeat option, taking pictures every 1/10th of a second. Here is a collage of several pictures (click to enlarge) Fire! What an interesting experience!

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I have been so busy  that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild. It was an animated party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical) music and enjoy  the fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate.  We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food

 

 

Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We had decided to make a trip to Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get close to the edge…:-)

Preikestolen Preikestolen

As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle.  It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

Heiligenbergerbeek wandeling

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me leave…:-) But I was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

Rain Hokkien Mee IMG_9011

The Dutch Pilgrims Path

In medieval times pilgrims from all over Europe walked to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Nowadays there are still pilgrims, but also many people who like long-distance walking. My late friend Yian walked the Camino, as it is called, from the French border to Santiago, a couple of years ago and kept a fascinating diary of this pilgrimage. Four years ago my friend Paul and I walked a part of the Dutch Pilgrims Path, which starts in Amsterdam and connects near Maastricht to the Belgian Camino. You can find a report here. We walked from Weert to nearby Heerlen in four days. This time we wanted to continue our “pilgrimage”, so we took the train from Amsterdam to the small village of Nuth, where we had ended our walk four years ago. Walking in the southern part of the Netherlands is a pleasure, it is an undulating landscape, mainly agricultural, with picturesque villages and castles. Pilgrims Path Here is a collection of pictures showing the paths we have been walking. It is not always possible to avoid the tarmac, but most of the time we walked on unpaved roads

The Limburg province is famous for its asparagus. Easy to recognise. Potatoes also no problem. But the different kind of grains? The two grain varieties in the middle picture could be rye and oats, but I am not sure
Asparagus Grains Potatoes

Nature was in full bloom, it was a pleasure to see so many flowers. Here is a small collection

On our way we passed small villages and nice manor houses. Each village with its church and sometimes a windmill. Farmhouses in the characteristic black and white architecture.

On many crossroads you will see small shrines with a crucified Jesus. The Limburg province has a very Roman-Catholic background. Shrines We always try to find accommodation in the villages we pass, but this time there was nothing suitable, so we took a bus to the nearby town of Heerlen, where we enjoyed a beer on the main square and nice (Greek) food.

Our original plan was to walk three days and reach Maastricht, but on the first day I got painful blisters on the soles of both feet….:-(  The next morning I bought Second Skin in a pharmacy, but it did not help enough and after a few hours walking/limping I decided to stop and take a bus and train back to Amsterdam. Paul continued that day and came back later. So we still have to complete the final leg of the Dutch Pilgrims Path Limburg

Taiping May 2014

The main reason to visit Taiping was this time the excursion organised by the Taiping Heritage Society. See the separate post THS excursion. But there was more. I also wanted to visit the recently opened “Old House Museum“, located at Market Square. And an old house it certainly is, built ~ 1880 by a Chinese merchant Lim Ji You, after the big fire that destroyed much of Taiping.

Old House Museum Side view

It is a nice example of Peranakan architecture. Left a frontal view, right a side view. Notice the three storeys of the back house , unusual in those days. Inside the museum you will find a large collection of antiques. The museum is a private one, I really hope they will succeed! Here a collection of pictures

The two nights I stayed in Taiping this time, I had dinner with my friends. It is never a problem to find a suitable place for food, be it a food court, a small stall or a more posh restaurant.

Dinner Dinner Dinner

Of course a visit of Taping is not complete without a visit of the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens in Malaysia. The Lake Gardens Here a few more Taiping pictures. One of the old bridge near the Indian temple and the Coronation pool. I am still trying to find out who built this bridge and for what purpose. One picture of a rain tree. And finally a picture of one of the eyesores of Taiping. The remains of the Casuarina inn, on the location of the former British residence. Shameful that this historical place has gone down the drain.

The old bridge Rain tree Ruin of the Casuarina Inn

Mural art is becoming a trend in Malaysia these days, after the Lithuanian artist Zacharevitch created the first nice “paintings” in Penang. Here are two examples I found in Taiping. Not that special, copies of Lao Fu Zi cartoons

Street art Street art Street art

More interesting is what is happening in Gopeng, south of Ipoh. In the past a famous tin-mining town, now a sleepy hollow, but with a lot of historical interest. Along the Jalan Pasir and Jalan Tasik, unknown(?) artists have recently created a number of mural paintings and also street art in the style of Zacharevitch. Definitely worth a visit!