Singapore 2018

Regular readers of my blog may remember that during my visit to Taiping in April 2017, I met a gentleman from Singapore, Dr Lee. We are both interested in (Taiping) heritage and kept contact by email. He suggested that we should visit Singapore, not only for its cultural heritage, but also for its nature, he could show us some interesting places.

So we booked a hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown for three nights and took the Aeroline bus to travel. Quite convenient

On my to-do list were a few of the recent modern buildings and one of them we passed already in the bus…:-). The Interlace (2013) , a 1000-unit apartment complex, which looks like numerous bricks irregularly stacked upon each other

From the bus terminal we took the MRT to Chinatown. The Keong Saik hotel was a good choice, the room was not big, but comfortable, and we had a view of another building on my architecture list, the Tanjong Pagar Centre (2016), the tallest skyscraper in Singapore. Although designed by world famous  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it did not look very special from our balcony. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple nextdoor was more interesting, but we had no time to visit it.

After a short rest, we met Dr Lee and walked with him through Chinatown.

Nicely restored houses and shoplots, many consisting of three storeys, unusual in Malaysia. Also here mural art. There are several works by Zacharevic, but we had no time to look for them. Next time…:-)

During our walk passed another modern building on my to-do list, the Pinnacles@Duxton (2009), a residential complex of 50 storeys high, dominating the three storeys shoplots of Chinatown. Initiative for this development came from Prime MInister Lee Kuan Yew, who was concerned about the exodus of residents from Singapore’s center.

We walked back via Keong Saik Road, beautifully restored houses. In the 1960’s this was the red-light district of Singapore! Dr Lee told us that in those days you could not pass the street without being addressed by the ladies of the night..:-)

For our dinner we went to the foodcourt in the Chinatown Complex , where we met a few of Dr Lee’s friends. Nice food, nice company.

The next morning Dr Lee picked us up from our hotel and brought us to the “best nasi lemak shop in town” for breakfast. He was formally dressed this time because he had to work in the hospital that day.

But first he dropped us at the Botanical Gardens, where we spent the next few hours. The gardens are 158 year old and, since 2015,  an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We started with the Rainforest, a small part of the gardens, actually older than the gardens themselves! Of course Malaysia has more rainforest, but Singapore is one of the few cities with a rainforest within its borders.

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

On many places you can find sculptures, Here are two of them, Change Kuda (2011) by Chong Fah Cheong and Girl on a Bicycle (1987) by Sydney Harpley.

A few more pictures. To the right the Bandstand (1930), no longer used for musical performances, but still an iconic landmark of the gardens.

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

After our rest we had again enough energy to continue…:-)

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

The gardens are free and open all day but for the famous National Orchid Garden you have to pay an entrance fee. After some hesitation we bought tickets and entered. Very worthwhile. Never in my life seen so many orchid species!

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

First we wanted to take a “wefi”, then a friendly visitor offered to take the picture. Even better..:-)

It would have been no problem to spend the whole day in these gardens, but we had decided to spend the afternoon in another beautiful garden, the Gardens by the Bay, created in 2006 on reclaimed land. The public transport in Singapore is well-organised, we took the MRT to the Bayfront station and walked via an underground corridor to the gardens.

This passage has a few remarkable works of art. Left in the upper picture is a painting by Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing#915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular bands (1999). Further on both walls are covered with mirrors, which gives multiple reflections. Could not find the name of the artist

Perfect location to take a wefi..:-)  Can you find out who of us has taken this picture?

When you exit from the underground passage and look backwards, you see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel towering above you. One of the most impressive buildings I have seen in my life. I have stayed once there, expensive but it was worth the money..:-).

Entering the gardens you pass three smaller gardens, Malay, Chinese and Indian, Singapore is proud to be a multi-racial country. Far away the surrealistic Supertree Grove, but first we had a simple lunch at a snack bar.

Also in these gardens you can spend easily a full day. We had only limited time and decided to visit one of the two domes in the Gardens, the Cloud Forest dome. Expensive but 100% worth it.

Inside the dome a “misty mountain” has been created, with a waterfall, and pathways leading up and round the structure. Amazing and fascinating, just look at the pictures.

Of course flowers, mosses, ferns everywhere. These are fuchsia flowers, a favourite of mine.

Look carefully, two pictures show real flowers, the other two are fake!

In between the Lego “artworks”, there are real pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants.

A lot of maintenance is needed, but the result makes it worthwhile.

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

When we bought tickets for the Cloud Forest, we thought about combining them with tickets for the “canopy walk” at the Supertree Grove, but the friendly lady at the ticket counter advised us to wait, because there might be rain in the afternoon and then the walk is closed. Good advice, there was a downpour while we were inside the dome, when we came out we noticed that the canopy walk around the trees was empty.

We went back to our hotel and had some rest. Later Dr Lee picked us up and with two of his friends we went to the Kent Ridge Park, to have a view of the harbour. Nice surprise, his friends had brought pulut & mango for us. Delicious

Next we went to Labrador Park, where we walked a part of the boardwalk. Nice view of another building on my list: Reflections at Keppel Bay (2011), a luxury residential complex designed by Libeskind, another famous architect. Singapore knows how to choose…:-)

Here is the boardwalk

TIme for dinner. We went to the Alexandra Village Food Centre, where we had a tasty soup and claypot chicken rice from the well known Tai Liok restaurant . It really is an advantage to go out with Singaporeans, they know where to find the good food!

The next day, after breakfast in our hotel, we took a bus to the Southern Ridges for a long hike, from the Alexandra Arch bridge to the Henderson Wave. Surprising that Singapore has so many hiking and walking opportunities. On the map you can see also the location of the Labrador Park.

The bus passed two buildings I had seen before already, the Reflections and the Interlace

It was an interesting walkway. We met many student groups on a Learning Journey, as it is called.

We continued until the Henderson Wave, a pedestrian bridge with a unusual artistic design

From this bridge we had a nice view of the Singapore skyline. Dark clouds again, it was quite rainy during our visit

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

After this walk we took a bus to the city center, as we had planned to visit the National Gallery in the afternoon. There were still remnants of the Christmas celebration. Again we had a very simple lunch

We walked around and had a look at Singapore’s landmark, the Merlion.

View of the Theatres on the Bay, colloquially known as the big durians. Memories came back of a “concert” by MozART Madness, attended many years ago…:-)

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

We walked around in what is called the Civic District. Here many of the heritage buildings are located. Left another “wefi”, right the St Andrews Cathedral (1861)

The Victoria Hall began as Town Hall in 1862, the Asian Civilisations Museum is housed in what originally were the Government Offices (1864). The Old Parliament House, possibly the oldest surviving building of Singapore was built in 1827 as a mansion for a Scottish merchant. The National Gallery occupies two more recent buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall, both built in the first half of the 20th century

We decided to keep the National Gallery for the next day, and walked a bit more along the padang in the direction of two conspicuous buildings. The left tower is part of the Raffles CIty (1986) designed by architect I.M. Pei who has been responsible for many of Singapore’s skyscrapers. The right building was new for me, and it was only after I came  back home that I found out that it is  the South Beach development.

Looking back from the padang, the skyline of Singapore, the National Gallery, the Victoria hall with in front of it the Singapore Cricket Club.

It was in this club , the oldest one of Singapore (1852), that Dr Lee invited us for our farewell dinner. The club has a dress code, fortunately we had brought long pants, shirts, shoes. We started with an aperitif and what could be a better choice than a Singapore Gin Sling?

After our dinner we walked to the Singapore river for a few night view pictures. The majestic look of the Fullerton hotel suggest that is one of the prestigious old hotels of Singapore like the Raffles. Not true, the building is from 1928 and for many years it has been the Post Office of Singapore. It was only in 2001 that it became a five-star hotel!

After the posh dinner in the club, we enjoyed at a stall coconut ice cream as a dessert…:-)

The next morning we visited the National Gallery. There was so much to see and admire that I decided to write a separate post about this impressive museum: National Gallery, Singapore

 

In the afternoon we took the bus back and arrived home around 11 pm, tired but very satisfied. There is much more to do in Singapore and we are looking forward to come back soon.

 

National Gallery, Singapore

On November 2015 a new museum was opened in Singapore, the National Gallery, with a collection of over 8000 artworks. It is housed in two national monuments, the Old Supreme Court Building and the City Hall. They are adjacent, facing the padang, City Hall was built from 1926 to 1929, the Supreme Court a decade later, both in neoclassical colonial style.

In 2005 it was decided to convert the two buildings into a new museum. An architectural design competition was launched and Studio Milou Singapore came out as the winner. In their design, the two buildings are connected by a curtain like canopy roof and two skybridges. The right picture shows an evening view from the Singapore Cricket Club

Here is a scale model of the National Gallery

On the last day of our recent trip to Singapore, before taking the bus back to KL, we decided to visit this museum. Here is a view from one of the skybridges. Left the City Hall, right the Former Supreme Court. Ticketing counter and entrance to the galleries are in the basement.

I like the design, the contrast between the old heritage buildings and the modern link. In the left picture you see the tree-like structure supporting the curtain roof, in the right picture the two skybridges. There were many (very disciplined!) groups of students.

We were lucky that there was a special exhibition going on, Century of Light, consisting of two parts, Colours of Impressionism, with masterpieces from the Paris Orsay Museum, and Between Worlds, dedicated to two 19th century Asian painters who were strongly influenced by European Art.

First we visited the Colours of Impressionism. The Musée d’Orsay, specialising in 19th century art, is one of my favourites, it was an interesting experience to view the artworks here in Singapore.

I don’t know why, but I am always happy when I see a painting of Caillebotte. On my own website I have a page, dedicated to him

Gustave Caillebotte, Vue de toits (Effet de neige) (1879)

Several paintings by Monet were exhibited. In 1886 he visited the Netherlands and of course he had to paint the tulip fields…:-)

Claude Monet, Champs de tulipes en Hollande (1886)

More paintings of Monet, Signac, Renoir, Sisley and others

The gallery design was quite attractive, nice colours, good lighting

We continued with the second exhibition. Raden Saleh was born in 1811 on  Java in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). He traveled in 1829 to the Netherlands, where he became a well-known painter. He returned in 1852 to the Dutch East Indies and died in 1880.

I had never before heard about him!  What a pleasant surprise. Here I am admiring his painting Boschbrand (Forest Fire), painted in 1849. A vivid depiction of wild animals trying to escape a forest fire.

Searching information about him,  I found that this painting until a few years ago belonged to the Dutch royal family. It was presented in 1850 to King William III, and in 2014 sold in “deplorable” condition by 14 grandchildren of former queen Juliana to the Singapore National Gallery! Read the curious story here: Experts critical after Royal Family makes millions from private art sales

He was 18 when he arrived in the Netherlands where he got most of his training. It is interesting to see how his style develops

The second painter in the Between Worlds exhibition is Juan Luna, born 1857 in the Philippines, a Spanish colony in those days. He died young, in 1899. He traveled to Spain when he was young and stayed many years in Europe.

I found this painting impressive and intriguing. It is called “Les Ignores” (“The Unknown Ones”) and he painted it in 1889-1890. It depicts a funeral of humble people. A real masterpiece.

Also here a variety of styles, compare the classical romantic “Death of Cleopatra” with the impressionist “Picnic in Normandy”, both painted around 1880!

Then it was time for lunch. We had a look at the top floor, where there is a roof “garden” and a restaurant, but we only wanted a simple sandwich, so we went down to the basement

From the top floor there is a nice view of the padang and the Singapore skyline.

One of the interior courtyards and the food we had in the cafetaria

After our lunch we walked over to the Former Supreme Court. Here the large UOB Southeast Asia collection is housed in fifteen galleries. We could only get an impression in the limited time we had.

The interior of the building itself is very impressive.

From Wikipedia:  “the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will present the history of Southeast Asian art through artistic impulses shared across the region. Starting in the 19th century, the history of Southeast Asian art is characterised by negotiations between the region’s traditions and modernity. ”

Here a collection of pictures, to show the variety of art styles and nationalities. Hidalgo was Filipino and a contemporary of Juan Luna, Mori Kinsen was Japanese (1888-1959), Inguimberty was French but worked in Vietnam (1896-1971), Chua Mia Tee is Singaporean (1931 – ), Jose Tence Ruiz is Filipino. Just to name a few.

Many of the artworks have social/political connotations. An interesting collection

When I will visit Singapore again, I will plan at least a full day for this museum.

Waterfall Nostalgia

In January 2003 Aric and I went camping at the Gombak river and during our hike I noticed a sign to the Pisang waterfall. Back home I searched the Internet and found a webpage about this Pisang waterfall, maintained by a guy named Khong. I decided to write to him and immediately got an enthusiastic reply. We met and soon became friends. He had published many waterfall pages, but recently had become more interested in birdwatching. We decided that I would manage and develop further  a website Waterfalls of Malaysia (WoM)

That was the start of what became my waterfall addiction…:-). I have collected in this blog many of the waterfalls I have visited from March 2003 until March 2006, more than a decade ago. The pictures of fauna and flora have been taken during these trips. Clicking on a link will bring you to the corresponding waterfall page of WoM.


Lata Berembun, Pahang, 6-3-2003

Lata Kijang, Negeri Sembilan, 23-3-2003

Serendah Fall, Selangor, 8-4-2003

Tanglir Fall, Pahang, 8-4-2003

Chiling Fall, Selangor, 20-7-2003

Takah Tinggi, Johor, 31-8-2003

Kanching Falls, Selangor, 12-12-2003

Gabai Fall, Selangor, 11-6-2004

Tekala Falls, Selangor, 11-6-2004

Lepoh Fall, Selangor, 12-6-2004

Lata Iskandar, Perak, 11-7-2004

Jeriau Fall, Pahang, 15-7-2004

Jerangkang Falls, Pahang, 18-7-2004

Lower Cemerong Fall, Terengganu, 14-8-2004

Pandan Fall, Pahang, 9-8-2004

Berkelah Falls, Pahang, 14-8-2004

Chamang Fall, Pahang, 15-8-2004

Titi Kerawang Fall, Penang, 28-8-2004

Siong Fall, Selangor, 5-9-2004

Upper Ampang Fall, Selangor, 21-12-2004

Trong Fall, Perak, 27-12-2004

Tebing Tinggi, Perak, 28-12-2004

Templer Fall, Selangor, 6-1-2005

Sekayu Falls, Terengganu, 29-3-2005

Lata Tembakah, Terengganu, 30-3-2005

Lata Rek, Kelantan, 31-3-2005

Gapoi Fall, Pahang, 6-4-2005

Lata Khong, Pahang, 9-4-2005

Sendat Fall, Selangor, 13-4-2005

Damak Fall, Perak, 23-7-2005

Batu Hampar Fall, Kedah, 3-8-2005

Mengkuang Fall, Kedah, 4-8-2005

Bukit Hijau Falls, Kedah, 4-8-2004

Lata Bayou, Kedah, 4-8-2005

Tanjung Kala Fall, Perak, 5-8-2005

Pisang Fall, Selangor, 22-8-2005

Lata Kinjang, Perak, 25-8-2005

Chelik Fall, Perak, 26-8-2005

Jeram Toi, Negeri Sembilan, 7-9-2005

Pulai Fall, Johore, 15-12-2005

Sg Yong Fall, Johore, 16-12-2005

Lentang Fall, Pahang, 22-12-2005

Strata Fall, Perak, 27-2-2006

Taiping, December 2017

“Do you have a plan for your next Taiping visit”, a friend asked me. “Not really”, I replied, “I just like to visit my second hometown, meet friends, enjoy the food, see what is new (and what is still ruined)”.

I booked three nights in my favourite Furama Hotel and went by train to Taiping. Aric and his family traveled to Thailand, using the same train, an opportunity to practice my selfie (wefie) skills.

At the Taiping station my THS (Taiping Heritage Society) friend Tung Lay Chun was waiting for me. She had arranged a (preview) visit to the new Telegraph Museum, but first she showed me the work going on at the future Botanical Garden of Taiping. A botanical garden in Taiping? It was the first time I heard about it

In this Google Earth map I have sketched, with a red contour, the location of the proposed Botanical Garden. The green markers indicate existing buildings and points of interest. As you see, it is a huge project, compare it with the size of the Lake Gardens

The banner suggests that the Taiping Town Council (MPT) is responsible for the project and I was told that funding is by the Federal Government. RM 10 million for the first phase!

Here is a plan of the garden. The supervisor, a nice Malay lady, explained a bit about the garden

According to a signboard, the first phase should be completed in November 2018, but when I look at the present situation, I wonder whether that is feasible. Here are some pictures.

A large parking lot, they must expect many visitors

To be honest, I have my reservations about the  project. Penang has its famous Botanical Gardens (1884), Taiping its equally famous Zoo (1961), the oldest in Malaysia. Why create another botanical garden in Taiping?  Will  Penang follow with another Zoo? A friend said that it may be better to have a Botanical Garden there than buildings and condos and of course I agree, but the money could also be used to upgrade/beautify/renovate Maxwell Hill and its heritage bungalows.

After this visit it was time for lunch. Nasi Arab, delicious!

The Telegraph Museum is not yet open to the public, but the friendly supervisor Athira didn’t mind showing us around. Most of the exhibits are already there, but they are still working on the explanatory notes.

It is apt that Taiping has been chosen as the location for a telegraph museum, as the first telegraph line was opened in 1874 between the Deputy Resident in Taiping and the Residency in Kuala Kangsar. The building, housing the museum, was built in 1884 by the department of Posts and Telegraph and has been beautifully renovated. In the beginning it was also the post office.

Here I am standing in front of the museum, in the left picture with a mail coach and in the right one with  Athira (in black) and three interns, who are helping her.

We had a look of the interior, with some machinery, digital displays, you could practice Morse code etc. It will become an interesting museum when everything is finished.

That evening I had dinner with Lay Chun’s husband in a food court near the Beverly hotel, chilli pan mee. Good food, nice company! The friendly owner of the stall was happy to be in the picture with me…:-)

The next morning, on my way to breakfast, I passed the row of dobi (laundry) shops, which use the field in front to hang and dry the laundry. Often very colorful and photogenic.

I had asked Suet Fun and Peter, the tenants  of the Nest bungalow, to join me for breakfast at the Chee Cheong Fun stall in the Taiping hawker center.

After my visit in September I had whatsapped on and off with Tong, the owner of the stall. The CCF was delicious and it turned out that Peter and Suet had met Tong before. Taiping is an even smaller world than Malaysia…:-)

I had no specific plan for the rest of the day, so when Wan Amril called me and told me that he was going to his cafeteria at the 6th Mile on Maxwell Hill, I asked him if I could join him. The 6th mile is the end point of the jeep service. Beside the cafetaria, there are a few bungalows.  As it was school holidays and also weekend, there were quite a few visitors, good business for the cafeteria.

It was a nice day, the view was quite good, deep down you could see Taiping town and far away the coastline of the Straits. Pleasant atmosphere

While Amril was busy I walked around a bit and took pictures..Left a view of the 6th Mile “village” and right a walking path, recently constructed.

Here a few pictures of one of the bungalows in the 6th mile village. According to Amril the original name was the Doll. Now it is being renovated by his mother, the wife of the OBJ.

A few other bungalows at the 6th mile are probably beyond repair.

I had my lunch at the cafeteria

There was time enough to walk the ~1 km uphill to Speedy’s bungalow, where I celebrated my 60th birthday, 13 years ago. Guna was the caretaker then. Later there has been a failed attempt to create a biodiversity center here. Now it is closed, such a pity.

It was a nice and refreshing afternoon. Maxwell Hill deserves to become a more popular tourist attraction in Taiping.

That evening I had dinner with my friend May, as usual in Siang Malam. Later we walked to the Cross Street Bazaar and the District Office, we had a look at the Ho Hsien Ku temple and we had our picture taken in front of the I Love Taiping sign. Coffee in a nearby stall was the end of a rewarding day.

Where to have breakfast the next morning? I was in the mood for half-boiled eggs and toast and decided to go to the Lian Thong shop in Jalan Kota, but it was closed on a Sunday. So I ended up in Prima, also not bad.

Time for a walk in the Lake Gardens. On my way I passed two historical landmarks, the Government Offices (now District Office) and the Chartered Bank (now Public Library). See my blog Taiping, old and new .

it is always a pleasure to walk around in the Lake Gardens

During my last visit in September I had met a gentleman at the Ansari cendol stall, see my report Taiping September 2017 . Because of our shared interest in Taiping Heritage we had kept in touch and when he heard that I was visiting Taiping again, he suggested that I should visit his sister, Mrs Kim Long, who is living in Barrack Road and who I had met for a short while in September.

After my walk I called her and I was welcome. It was a fascinating meeting with a very vital elderly lady, a treasure trove of memories about Taiping and its past. Looking forward to meet her again

I could not resist the temptation to take a wefie with her.

After my visit I had lunch in OK and cendol in Ansari. I had tasty char siew rice in nearby restaurant OK, only later I read in a review that their speciality is soup noodles. Next time!

After my lunch I had a look at the building of the Ceylonese Association, nearby at Station Road. Built in 1901, it is now being restored!  Left the front facade, right the back.

Also at Station Road, opposite the iconic buildings of the King Edwards VII school, are what I have called the  Shame of Taiping,  the former Rest House and the former PWD department (originally the Railway headquarters) . I wrote that report more than four years ago and not much has changed.

The Rest House has been cleaned up inside and fenced off, but it is still easy to enter. This time I even ventured up the first floor.

The PWD building, opposite the former First Galleria (another failed project) is actually quite attractive.

It has been cleaned inside and fenced off, but you can still enter it through the adjacent building (i anybody knows its original function, please let me know. To remove all the trees and rubbish, one entrance was widened and later repaired (left picture), but it is wide open and from there you can enter the PWD building. Before the cleaning operation, squatters were living inside this building, now there was only one, using the former ticket counter (?) as a makeshift house (right picture). He was sleeping, I didn’t disturb him. A sad situation.

The reason that squatters don’t live inside the building anymore, can be seen in the picture gallery below. Most of the flooring has disappeared! Has this been done by the owner (MPT?) or has there been illegal looting, as the wooden floor boards are valuable according to my friend Yeap.

Will be continued during my next visit. Taiping Bandar Warisan!

That evening I had invited friends for dinner at the New Bee Guan restaurant, Jalan Maharajalela, around the corner from my hotel. Food was not really special but the company was pleasant

The next morning I had dim sum for breakfast with Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society. We talked about heritage and that it would be nice if Ipoh, Taiping and the Kinta valley could get Unesco World Heritage status, with tin mining as central theme.

I had booked a train ticket for the afternoon, time enough to walk around a bit and take some more pictures

One of my friends wondered why I didn’t move to Taiping permanently…:-). There are many reasons why I will stay in PJ, but I hope to revisit Taiping many more times.

Two Senior Gentlemen in the Jungle

Here is a nostalgic report about two waterfall trips, made  with my friend George Tan, in 2009 and 2011. During a recent visit to Taiping I talked with Jenny, a mutual friend, about these trips, she thought it had been irresponsible for two senior citizens to venture so deep into the jungle on their own. And although everything went well, in retrospect I think she was right.

The first trip took place in 2009 when I was 65 year old and George 63. My waterfall friends had told me about a waterfall, north of Taiping in the Batu Kurau region. From Kampung Jelai a small road  leads to a water catchment area, where we parked the car and started walking. Here is the Google Earth map (click to enlarge)

We followed a clear trail high above the river, but to reach the waterfall we had to scramble down a steep slope. A parang came in handy and George knew how to use it.

Not surprisingly this was leech country. There are several cascades and smaller waterfalls, we did quite a bit of esploration

Here we are, two senior citizens in the jungle.

And this is the impressive Air Hitam waterfall

The hike took us about three hours, during which we did not meet a single soul, although we saw signs of life along the trail, a shelter here, a motorbike there. But ok, when something would have happened during our scrambling down, we would have had a problem.

The situation has changed, after I published the Air Hitam waterfall on my website. I have revisited the fall several times and there is now a clear trail leading down directly to the main fall. Fortunately the fall is still relatively unknown and pristine.

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Two year later we went to the Nyior waterfall in the Bubu mountain range. A much more serious adventure.

Ladang Allagar is a plantation between Terong and Beruas. Crossing the plantation you enter a Forest Reserve. The road ends at a water catchment, where the trail starts.

At first there is still a trail but soon you reach the river and from there you have to river trek

River trekking is fun, but not always easy. You have to be careful with slippery rocks

And you will get wet…:-)

Finally we reached the main Nyior waterfall. Far from civilisation, worth the effort

We stayed at the fall about one hour, enjoying ourselves. Pity there was no pool.

Walking back the same way, we had a look at a few smaller falls

Altogether the hike took us almost 5 hours, it was not a difficult one, again we met nobody but this time there were also no signs of human activity. If one of us would have had an accident, we would have been in serious trouble.

That was six years ago. For George this trip was a reason to say, enough is enough, no more remote waterfall hikes. And I decided only to go to remote waterfalls in the company of 2, preferably 3, strong, (young) men… 🙂

So, yes, it was a bit irresponsible what we did  🙁  🙁

Physics Nobel Prize 2017

Last month  the Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to three American physicists for their ” decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Here they are, from left to right Rainer Weiss (85), Barry Barish (81), Kip Thorne (77) .

All are retired professors and quite old, not unusual for Nobel Prize winners…:-; More unusual is that this Nobel Prize has been awarded for the observation of gravitational waves in September 2015, only two years ago! The time between a discovery and the Nobel Prize is often 10-20 years and tends to increase

In this case the physics community was pretty sure that the Nobel Prize would go to  LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, where the gravitational waves were observed. Problem is that a Nobel Prize (with the exception of the Peace Prize) can not be awarded to an organisation but only to a maximum of three individuals (and never posthumously). And the article in Physical Review Letters, where the discovery was published in February 2016, has more than 1000(!) authors. Here is the beginning of the author list

In this blog I will explain why these three people were selected. But first I must tell a bit more about gravitational waves, and why physicists are so excited that they have been observed.

In 1687 Newton publishes his  masterwork “Principia” in which he presents the three laws of motion  and the universal law of gravitation.

Motion takes place in 3-dimensional space as a function of time. Both space and time are absolute concepts, independent of each other.

Newtonian mechanics works extremely well, but there is one disturbing fact, the speed of light c in vacuum turns out to be always the same, no matter how fast the light source is moving itself. Einstein  “solved” the problem in 1905 by accepting the constancy of c as a fact, which resulted in  his Theory of Special Relativity (TSR)

But it came at a price! Space and time are no longer absolute and independent in this theory, together the three dimensions of space and the single dimension of time form a 4-dimensional continuum, called spacetime .

Gravitation doesn’t play a role in the TSR, but in 1916  Einstein publishes his Theory of General  Relativity (TGR). In this theory gravitation is described as a curvature of  spacetime. A massive object like the Sun curves the spacetime in its surroundings and a planet like Earth just “follows” this curvature.

A consequence of this theory is that even light would follow this curved spacetime and will be deflected when it passes close to the Sun. This prediction was successfully confirmed only a few years later. During a solar eclipse the stars near the Sun became visible and their position was shifted in complete agreement with the TGR. It was front page news and made Einstein world famous.

 

Another prediction of the TGR was that (accelerated) motion of massive objects could produce waves and ripples in this fabric of spacetime. Mind you, in spacetime itself ! However, these waves and ripples were estimated to be very small, maybe only measurable if  those objects were extremely massive.

For example, two black holes or neutron stars, orbiting each other.

Here is an artist impression of the gravitational waves caused by two orbiting black holes. I have hesitated to include this image, because I find it very confusing, suggesting that the cells of the spacetime fabric are moving up and down, whereas the cells themselves are changing shape, stretching and contracting. But the image comes from LIGO, so who am I…:-)?

After this long(?) introduction it is time to go back to LIGO and the three Nobel Prize winners.

LIGO has a long and complicated history, starting in the 1960!  Here are some important dates. The names of the three Nobel Prize winners in blue.
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In 1968, almost 50 (!) years ago, Kip Thorne (Caltech) did calculations about the gravitational waves of black holes. Which, by the way, had not yet been discovered at that time, but their existence followed from the TGR! He came to the conclusion that detection should be possible. Also in the 1960s, Rainer Weis (MIT) proposed to use interferometry to detect the incredibly small variations in the fabric of spacetime. See below for more about interferometry.

In 1980, under pressure of the American National Science Foundation (NSF) , MIT and Caltech joined forces in the LIGO project. But progress was slow and funding not easy.

In 1994Barry Barish (Caltech) was appointed director of the project. He was a good organiser, proposed to build the LIGO detector in two phases. This proposal was approved by NSF and got a budget of  USD 395 million,  the largest project in NSF history!

In 2002, the first phase of LIGO became operational, but no gravitational waves were detected.

In 2004, funding and groundwork started for the second phase, “Enhanced LIGO”, four times more sensitive than the first phase.

In September 2015, after a 5 year overhaul of USD 200 million was completed, Enhanced Ligo started operating.

Within days, on 14 September at 9:50:45 UTC,  Enhanced LIGO detected gravitational waves for the first time in history.
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So, what is an interferometer? Here is a sketch of the LIGO interferometer

And who could better explain how it works than Rainer Weis himself?

What may not be fully clear from the video is the huge scale of this LIGO project.

Two “identical” interferometers have been built in the US, about 3000 km apart

Here is an aerial view of  the Hanford interferometer, each of the arms is 4 km long!

Both interferometers can be seen easily on Google Earth. Left Hanford, right Livingston.

As Weis explained, gravitational waves cause small differences in the length of the arms. Very, very small. In the order of  10-19 m, that is about 1/10.000 part of the size of a proton. Read that again and again, I still find it difficult to believe..:-)

The sensitivity must be about 1/10.000 part of the size of a proton.

New technology had to be developed to reach this sensitivity. Ultra-high vacuum, very precise mirrors, extremely stable lasers. Noise reduction (thru seismic vibrations, a passing truck, etc) is the main problem. That is also the main reason that two interferometers were built. Accidental noise should be different in both detectors, but a gravitational wave should reach both (with a slight time difference, because of the distance between the two detectors).

Critical is the suspension of the mirrors. They must be absolutely stable. Here two images of the damping and suspension systems. Click here for details

What kind of signal do we actually expect? Let’s concentrate on orbiting back holes (it is called a binary), like Thorne did. As shown in the earlier image, they produce gravitational waves, but those are way too small to be detected. However, the binary will loose energy sending out these waves, as a result over time the two black holes will get closer and closer. Until they come so close that they will merge into one larger black hole, a cataclysmic process that may take less than a second! It is during this phase that the gravitational waves are much stronger and might be detectable.

Here is a computer simulation of the merger of two black holes. The simualtion has been SLOWED down about 100 times, in reality the merger occurs in a split second. The “moving” background stars are a result of the extreme distortion of spacetime.

Click here to see the gravitational waves, sent out during the merger.

You will notice that before merging the two black holes spin faster and faster, distorting the fabric of spacetime more and more. It is a bit similar to a bird chirp: increasing frequency and loudness.  After they merge into one, no more gravitational waves.

So, what happened on 14 September 2015? The two interferometers were to start the first research run on 18 September and were already in fully operational “engineering mode”, when at 9:50:45 UTC both detected  the typical “chirp” signal.  For testing purposes sometimes “fake” signals were injected, to test the alertness of the system and the scientists. It took a few hours before it became clear that this was a real signal and not a test!

Here is the “Nobel Prize winning” signal. The red graph is from Hanford, the blue one from Livingston (the Hanford signal is also shown, inverted and shifted in time)  Notice the time scale, the whole merger takes place in a few tenths of a second!

The lower two graphs show a fit to the data, using Numerical Relativity. It is surprising how much information can be extracted from these two graphs. Here is a (partial) result

Two black holes, with a mass of 35 and 30 M☉. (solar mass) , at a distance of about 1.4 billion lightyear away from Earth, merged into a single black hole of 62 M☉. .

The mass difference of 3 M , was radiated during the merger as gravitational waves. That is an awful lot of energy!  The estimated peak emission rate was greater than the  combined power of  all light radiated by all the stars in the observable universe! If you don’t believe me, click here.

This first event has been named GW150914. GW stands for Gravitational Wave and is followed by the detection date 14-9-2015. In the past two years more gravitational waves have been detected, here is a list

If you look at the location, you see that in the first five events the location of the binary is not well-defined. The reason is that you need more detectors to determine the location accurately, two is not enough.

The sixth event, GW170814 was not only detected by LIGO, but also by Virgo , the European counterpart of LIGO. This interferometer is located near Pisa in Italy. Same setup as LIGO, slightly smaller arms (3 km)

Virgo was also designed in two phases. The first phase did not detect gravitational waves. In 2106 Advanced Virgo became operational and is now cooperating with LIGO.  Another interferometer will be built in India: INDIGO .

The last event, detected until now, GW170817 (about three months ago), is an interesting one, because it is not a merger of black holes! For the first time a merger of two orbiting neutron stars has been observed. The masses of the two stars are comparable with the Sun and the binary is closer to Earth, although still a respectable 130 million lightyear!  It is not sure if the merger resulted in a neutron star or a black hole. But anyway, a merger of neutron stars should result in visible light coming from the debris after the merger.

Because of the detection with three interferometers, it was possible to narrow the region of space where the gravitational waves came from.  The location predicted by LIGO/Virgo was still large, about 150 times the area of a full moon. Within hours after detection, alerts were sent to astronomers all over the world and a massive search started.

A few hours later the Swope telescope in Chili reported they had found  the source in galaxy NGC 4993  , 140 million lightyear away. This was soon confirmed by other observatories.

Here is an image of this elliptical galaxy. The inset shows the light coming from the merger, getting weaker and weaker, as expected.

More interesting discoveries can be expected in the future, this is just the beginning.

When you want to learn more about this fascinating new field of astronomy, you should read the book Ripples in Spacetime, written by Govert Schilling

 

More museums in Den Haag

In my last blog post I visited the MORE museum in Gorssel , where MORE stands for MOdern REalism. In this post I visit more museums in Den Haag, where more stands for two…:-). I went there with my soulmate Inez, who suggested to visit the Gemeentemuseum and the Mauritshuis

The Gemeentemuseum is a masterpiece of the Dutch architect  Berlage. Built in Art-Deco style, 1931-1935. It is a spectacular building, both from the outside and the inside

We visited the exhibition Tumult in the City, one day before it closed!

In the 1880’s a group of young artists  no longer painted the countryside, like the Hague School, but became interested in city life. George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israels, Willem Witsen and others explored the city, especially Amsterdam, so they are sometimes called the Amsterdam impressionists

Here are a few examples of their style. They painted the everyday life of the city, street action, fashion ladies, entertainment, labourers, construction sites.

And more paintings

We had our lunch in the museum restaurant

There is a lot more to see in the Gemeentemuseum, for example the world-famous collection of Mondriaan paintings, but we left that for another visit and went to the Mauritshuis. This magnificent building was built as a home between 1636 and 1641 by Jacobus van Campen (his masterpiece was the Townhall of Amsterdam)

It now houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings

A visit to this museum is really a joy of recognition. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Avercamp, the famous bull of Paulus Potter…:-)

Here are more paintings

In 2007 the museum announced that it needed to expand. The architect Hans van Heeswijk designed the expansion, the project started in 2010 and the museum was reopened in 2014. This is the same architect who designed the MORE museum in Gorssel!

Here a few pictures of the expansion. Nice combination of new and old

It was an interesting museum excursion

MORE Museum in Gorssel

Five years ago, in 2012, business tycoon and art collector Hans Melchers bought more than 1200  artworks from the bankrupt DSB bank. He owned already a large number of paintings by Carel Willink and wanted to create a museum for his collection. He found a suitable location in Gorssel, a village south of Deventer in the province of Gelderland. The MORE museum was opened in 2015 and is now the largest museum  for Dutch Modern Realism.

When I am back in the Netherlands, I always try to meet Nellie, my friend of more than 55 (!) years. We both like art and this time we decided to visit this new museum. She traveled from Friesland where she is living, I took the train from Amsterdam, we met in Deventer, took the bus to Gorssel, and started with coffee in a nice cafe opposite the museum

The museum is housed in the former town hall of Gorssel and a new extension. A very successful combination of old and new.

A few months ago Melchers opened a second museum in nearby Ruurlo, specially dedicated to Carel Willink, the most famous Dutch “magic realist” painter. We decided to keep this museum for a next visit, fortunately quite a few of Willink’s masterpieces were still on view in this museum.

Carel Willink (1900-1983)

Zeppelin (1933)

Terrace with Pergola (1951)

City Square (1958)

Towards the Future (1965) and Landing on Mars (1969)

Willink’s Imaginary Realism is easily recognisable, it was a surprise for me to see that he has been experimenting with other styles when he was young. This is also Willink, when he was 24 year old!

The Silver Wedding (1924)

The ground floor of the museum houses (part of)  the  permanent collection. Well-designed exhibition halls

Here are  a few examples of Dutch “modern realist” artists. Still-lifes are a popular genre. Click on the links for Wikipedia info.

Raoul Hynckes (1893-1973)

Jan van Tongeren (1897-1991)

Wim Schuhmacher (1894-1986)

Portraits are also common

Philip Akkerman (1957- )   He painted thousands of self-portraits!

Charley Toorop  (1891-1955) Easily recognisable style…:-)

Pyke Koch  (1901-1991) Another favourite of mine..:-)

Resting Somnambulist (1930)

The Signal  (1975)


Herman Gordijn (1932 – 2017)

And of course various other subjects

Co Westerik (1924 -)

Jan Mankes  (1889-1920)

One hall is dedicated to photography. Not my main interest

But I am a fan of Erwin Olaf…:-)

Erwin Olaf (1959 – )

We had lunch in the museum cafe and continued with the first floor of the museum.

 

The first floor is for temporary exhibitions. We were lucky, a retrospective of the versatile artist Herman Berserik had just opened.

Herman Berserik (1921 – 2002)

When we left, the weather had become clouded, I could not really take pictures from the outside. I have to come back, it is really a very interesting museum, worth a second visit.

Summer in October!

When I decided to come back to  the Netherlands in October, I knew the weather could be unpredictable, hesitating between autumn and winter. In old times October was called the aarselmaand    (hesitation month)

So it was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise that my first weekend was warm and sunny, even breaking records!

Here is a report about three summer days in October. Click on a picture to enlarge it

Saturday 14 October

With my brother Ruud I visited the Spaardammerbuurt, famous for its Amsterdamse School architecture. First we had coffee and cake in the Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen. This “farm within the city” dates back to 1880, was almost demolished around 2001, but just in time saved by a group of concerned citizens. More about this interesting story can be read here (in Dutch). It is amazing that such a rural enclave exists, sandwiched between two railway lines.

We walked from the Buurtboerderij to Het Schip following this route. Not the shortest one, but worthwhile, you don’t realise that you are surrounded by development

When we arrived in the Spaarndammerbuurt, we were a bit disappointed to see that Het Schip, the famous creation of architect de Klerk, was being renovated, so I took only a few pictures. You can find more  in an  earlier blog Amsterdam Architecture

During my last visit the Schip museum was closed, fortunately it was was open now.  It is housed in a former school building and worth visiting.

We ended our trip at the Central Station. Beautiful weather and the forecast for the next day was  even better…:-)

Sunday 15 October

The second day I went with my friend Yolanda to the Utrecht Hill Ridge, a  forested ridge of low sandhills, created 150.000 years ago as a moraine during one of the glacial periods. We followed a marked hiking trail of 12 km, indicated on the Google Earth map below.

It was a pleasant, easy walk.

Our hike took us to the Beerschoten and Houdringe estates and to the Pan forest. Stately lanes, beech and oak forest

Many  trees had beautiful autumn colours.

Mushrooms all over the place.

Hard to imagine that in winter this nice lake will become a skating rink.

The former coach house of the Beerschoten Estate now houses  an information center

It was a Sunday and with the sunny weather there were many visitors. There is also a sculpture garden

Monday 16 October

The third day I walked on my own in the region of Alphen, my birthplace. A polder walk of about 10 km. Green in the map below. Also indicated (in red) is one of the numerous Dutch polders . A polder is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes. This polder was created around 1785. Because they are low-lying, the rainwater must be pumped out by windmills into a river, in this case the river RIjn.

I took a bus to Aarlanderveen, where I started my walk. Nowadays Aarlanderveen has no shops and only one cafe. The cafe was officially closed, but the friendly owner was willing to serve coffee  with apple pie. A good start of the day.

The landscape can not be more Dutch…:-) Meadows, cattle, windmills.

You walk on narrow trails through the meadows, sometimes crossing fences

The polder marked in red needs 4 windmills, because in its deepest point it lies about 5 meter below sea level and one windmill can “lift” the water only about 1.5 meter. So they have to work together, like in the sketch below. The Dutch word for it is a Molen-viergang and it is the only viergang in the world that is still operating.

Mill no 4 uses an Archimedes’ screw, the other three have scoop wheels.

Here is windmill no 4, the Putmolen, built in 1801. later than the other three, because one more mill was needed to drain the lowest part of the polder. That explains the odd numbering..:-)

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Here is Mill no 1, when you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see no 2 and 3 in the background. This windmill discharges the water in the Rijn river.

Some details of this windmill. The right picture shows part of the scoop wheel.

Windmill 2 and 3

On the GE map you see that there is an (older) polder between the “red one”and the Rijn river. The easiest way to remove  the water from the new polder would be to discharge it in this old polder, which had its own windmills.But understandably the owners of the old polder refused this, so for  the new polder a separate drainage channel had to be created to the Rijn. Such a drainage channel is called a “wetering” in Dutch.

The problem is that the wetering of the new polder has to cross the wetering of the old polder. The left picture shows the location where this happens. The yellow line marks the wetering of the old polder, the red line is the wetering of the “red” polder. It passes UNDER the old wetering via a siphon (a duiker in Dutch). The right image shows how it works. This siphon was built in 1786.  Amazing.  I have marked the location of this siphon on the GE map

Not many birds in this time of the year. I noticed a heron and a cormorant. And of course many swans..:-)

A few more pictures.

It was a very interesting hike. A very informative website about the Molen-viergang (in Dutch can be found here.

De Nollen

It has become a tradition that we organise a reunion with my siblings and their partners during my visits to the Netherlands. This time my sister was the host and she had planned a visit to a museum in Den Helder, about 20 km north of where she lives.

A museum?  In Den Helder? Some of us were slightly skeptical, but it turned out to be a fascinating visit of De Nollen , the life work of a Dutch artist, Ruud van de Wint (1942-2006).

A nol is the Dutch word for a sand hill, a dune. In this Google Earth image you can still see these sand dunes. Once this was an island! From 1980 until his untimely death, van de Wint has been transforming this wasteland into a Land Art park.

Here is a view of the Nollen. Van de Wint not only put his artworks here, he also did a lot of landscaping.

A monumental gate forms the entrance of the park, a good location for a family picture..:-)

After paying an entrance fee, you can walk around in the park on your own, but to enter the structures, you need a guide. We had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, a friend of my sister.

She took us on a 2-hour walk through the park. It was stormy autumn weather with an occasional shower, but we were lucky, during a rainy spell we were inside a structure…:-)

Visible from far away are three needle-like structures.

Notice the small “tunnel” in the foreground.

Created by the artist, so you could have a view of the needles, looking through this peeping hole.

 

 

Stormy weather, nice cloudscapes…:-)

The needles look solid, but on closer inspection it turns out that they have been made of wound copper wire!

Many of the artworks are made of corten steel

This structure which looks like an orange peel, was very suitable for a group picture, taken by our guide.

These green structures were slowly moving in the wind, but very sturdy.

The Nollen terrain contains many bunkers, some of them dating back to Napoleonic times, others to WWII. Some of them have been transformed in artworks, like this dome structure with an oculus at the top of the dome.

The interior of the dome has been painted and is lit by the light falling through the oculus. Fascinating

Here is another spectacular structure. On the Google Earth image a whitish lemniscate-like shape can be seen. This artwork is not based on a bunker but has been built by the artist. In the left picture we are walking to this construction.  A narrow passage leads to  the two entrances.We visited one of the halves

Here I am standing in one half of the lemniscate. No windows, the light enters  through a transparent roof. Beautiful, it made me think of Mark Rothko

Another structure. Two thatched domes, which can be entered through tunnels and spiral staircases

Here is the last structure we entered, constructed in corten steel and accessible through tunnels and again a spiral staircase.

 

The interior looks like a cathedral, with one single (tiny) painting behind a monumental grille.

The painting looks not accessible, but…

It can be opened 🙂

 

The grille was of course another good location for a family picture “in prison”

The most impressive work of art was this structure in corten steel.

It can actually rotate on a pivot! Unbelievable..:-)

You need quite a few people to bring it in motion. Fascinating.

On our way back to the entrance we passed another artwork of the artist

Back in the entrance hall we had a look at scale versions of his artworks. Van de Wint has been a prolific artist. An exhibition hall for his paintings is under construction. And we had coffee and cake, another family picture…:-)

It was a very rewarding excursion, advisable to anyone who is interested in art!

Here is an article about the Nollen project in English: Project De Nollen  And an article in Dutch (pdf file): De Nollen: grote kunst in een klein kustlandschap