Taiping Bandar Warisan

In 2013 I wrote a blog Shame on Taiping! about a few of Taiping’s heritage sites which were in a bad condition. Especially the former Perak Railway buildings and the Rest House, both along Station Road, opposite the King Edwards VII school

Since that time I have been visiting these buildings regularly when I visited Taiping, taking many pictures, both inside and outside. Here is a (large) collection. I have indicated the year that they were taken. Click on a picture to enlarge.

First the Perak Railway Buildings. Here is a scan from Anuar Isa’s report Taiping’s Many Firsts, published by the Taiping Municipal Council (MPT) in 2013.

In 2016 I took this picture of the whole complex, the old timber structure (1885) in the foreground and the (newer) brick building to the left.

Front and side facade of the old timber structure (PWD 269)

Same for the two-storey brick building (PWD 267)

More pictures of the decaying front facade of PWD 269. Without comment, only the year I took the picture.

Between the two buildings there is a nice gate. Notice that sometimes there was an attempt to block the entrance, so that squatters etc could not enter.

This counter must be familiar to Taipingites πŸ™‚ Nowadays it is often occupied and the squatter living there does not always welcome your visit.

A few photos of the interior of PWD 267. Abandoned but still in reasonable condition. I could even venture to the first floor. Notice the nice iron columns.

The courtyards of the two buildings were taken over by jungle.

In 2017 there was some activity. My Taiping friends told me that one of the entrances had been widened, so a bulldozer could enter the courtyards. When I visited the building, I noticed of course that Donald Duck had disappeared ;-). The entrance had been professionally repaired. A good sign?

The courtyards had been thoroughly cleaned, shrubs and trees had been removed. Of course the ruined state of the buildings became more visible now.

Only later that year I had time to visit the interior of the buildings and I was shocked. The interior had been vandalised, the wooden floorboards had been removed! Was that the real reason for the earlier activity?

It was still possible to climb up (carefully!) to the first floor. The damage is even more clearly visible. Later I asked around, but I was not able to find out who was responsible for this destruction.

In July 2018 I only had a look at the courtyard, there was an unfriendly squatter, I didn’t want to get into an argument with him.

Not surprisingly the jungle is fighting back already.

In December I came again, this time I had no problem entering. Not much change. I am not an expert, but I think these two buildings are beyond repair.

Next to the Perak Railway Building is the Rest House, the Rumah Rehat. Here is what Anuar Isa’s report says about it.

I have been staying in the Rest House, many years ago. At that time it was called Lagenda Hotel. A budget hotel, but quite acceptable, nice colonial atmosphere.

Around 11 years ago the hotel was closed. In the beginning hardly any fencing, you could just walk in, and of course squatters did. Later there came haphazard fencing like in this picture. Still very easy to trespass.

Here two pictures of the iconic main facade, in 2009 and in 2018. Not too much deterioration. But that is only appearance.

In 2012 there was a fence, but very easy to enter. Some decay, mainly in the ceilings.

One year later, still a fence with gaps, main entrance still looks ok.

Inside the building there are signs that people are living here.

People were complaining about the lack of proper fencing and in 2015 a prominent fence was erected, promoting Taiping as heritage town !

A bit ironical in my opinion. Look at the right picture, with the Rumah Rehat as it was and as it is now.

Even with this new fencing it was still possible to sneak in. The entrance still looks quite good and the stairs to the first floor are solid. But walking around there are clear signs that people are living here, even making a fire!

A short visit in 2017. Some signs of decay.

In 2018 I visited Taiping several times. Not much was left of the “heritage” fence.

But a signboard still tells about the Rumah Rehat, one of the many Firsts of Taiping. And a heritage plaque has been attached to the facade.

There are more signs of decay, although it looks that some repair work has been done. These picture have been taken December 2018, less than one year ago.

As a laymen I think the Rest House can still be saved, but fast action is needed.

Here is a drone video of the two buildings, taken last year.

For a long time already I have been planning to write a blog post with a selection of the pictures I have collected during the past 7-8 years, but it didn’t materialise yet. Until today when my heritage friends pointed me to this article in the Harian Metro: Ikonik usang jejaskan imej Taiping . With these two pictures:

Finally the Perak Railway Building and the Rest House have been fenced off. Let’s hope that this is the start of a positive development!

Amelia and Taiping (Part Two)

The conclusion in my blog post Amelia Earhart and Taiping was that she had never landed at Tekah airport. I am a contributor to Wikipedia and, after a discussion with (THS) friends, I decided to edit the history section of the Wikipedia entry for Taiping Airport, removing ” and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling

I left the part “Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya. “, although I was wondering if this statement was correct, because I could not find any other independent reference on the Internet.

I was also intrigued that she mentioned a few times Alor Star in her notes, but never Taiping.

In this post I will try to answer/solve both issues.

After publishing my post, I searched the Internet again and I was lucky, I found another reference in the Wikipedia entry Federated Malay States Here it is:

Notable event
The Federated Malay States were within the flight path of American aviator Amelia Earhart on the Thailand–Singapore leg of her final and fatal attempt to cross the globe in 1937. She was given permission to enter FMS airspace with provision to land at Taiping Airport on 7 June 1937.

Contributor Bukhrin added this passage about Amelia Earhart on 14 January 2007. Notice the differences. Main point is that she got permission to enter FMS airspace.

That night, before I fell asleep (!), I remembered that Purdue University has an Amelia Earhart Archive ! The next morning I searched the Archive and, lo and behold, this is what I found:

Authorisation to fly through the FMS airspace, and permission for the aircraft to land at the Taiping Aerodrome. Signed 7 June 1937!

So, after all, Taiping IS special? Not really.

In those days before the war, British Malaya comprised three entities, the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Melaka, Penang and the Dindings), the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang) and the Unfederated Malay States (Kedah, Johore, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan).

During her flight, Amelia Earhart passed all three , so she needed authorisations for each of them. They were handled by the American Consulate in Singapore. Here are the letters of the Consul to Amelia with the permits attached.

And here are the permits, one for the Straits Settlement, and separate ones for Johore and Kedah. Click to enlarge. For the FMS permit, see above.

All give permission to enter the airspace and a provision to land at the respective aerodrome(s). For the Straits Settlements in Penang and Singapore, for Kedah in Alor Star , for Johore in Batu Pahat and for the FMS in Taiping.

Five airports. Could it be that she had in her mind to land at Taiping airport. And why did she mention Alor Star in her notes?

Today I found the missing puzzle piece in the Purdue archive!

It is the flight plan for her first (failed) attempt in March 1937, where she was planning to circumnavigate the globe in the opposite direction. She will have used the same flight plan in June. Starting on 20 June in Rangoon, two options are shown, a) From Rangoon to Alor Star and then to Singapore or b) From Rangoon to Bangkok, then to Alor Star and finally to Singapore.

She chose option b), landed in Bangkok for refueling, and then decided to skip Alor Star and fly directly to Singapore.

In that case the remark in her notes: We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop, and headed for Singapore, makes complete sense.

Case closed for me.

I think Taiping Heritage Society should completely rewrite the History section of the Taiping Airport entry. Because the source of the confusion is located there. The info in the FMS entry is correct, although you may argue that it is not really that notable πŸ™‚

Of course a more general problem is, how reliable is Wikipedia? It is a collective effort with more than 100.000 active contributors. Read more here about Wikipedians . There are checks and balances against vandalism, wrong info etc. But especially with “minor” entries, like Taiping Airport, errors can go unnoticed for a long time.

Precession of the Equinox

Don’t be put off by the title of this blog, I’ll try to keep it simple πŸ™‚

In Greek/Roman times it was thought that Earth was the center of the Universe. The Sun , the planets, the stars were all rotating around Earth.

Now we know that Earth itself is rotating, in 24 hours (although we keep saying that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West).

We also know that Earth is orbiting around the Sun in 365 days. As seen from Earth, the Sun seems to be moving across the sky. This apparent path of the Sun throughout the year is called the ecliptic.

If Earth would be rotating like in the picture below, then during the whole year, the Sun would be above the Equator and there would be no seasons. . Day and night would be both 12 hour, everywhere on Earth, throughout the year.

But everybody knows that this is not the case. In the Northern hemisphere. daylight will be longer than night in summer and shorter in winter, whereas in the Southern hemisphere it is just the other way around. The reason is that the axis of rotation of the Earth is slightly tilted, about 23.5Β° .

Notice that during Earth’s orbit, the direction of the rotation axis remains the same (pointing to the North Star).

In the picture below we can see what happens in a bit more detail. Let’s start with the 1st Day of Spring (20/21 March), when the tilt is not directed towards the Sun and the Sun is directly over the equator. Day and night are equally long all over Earth, it is called the March Equinox. The same happens on the 1st Day of Autumn (22/23 September), the September Equinox.

From March until June, the Sun moves North, days become longer and nights shorter until the 1st Day of Summer, 21/22 June, the Summer Solstice, after which the Sun moves back to the Equator. From September to December, the Sun moves South, days become shorter and nights longer, until the 1st Day of Winter, 21/22 December, the Winter Solstice, after which the Sun moves back again to the Equator. All this has been described from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere everything is opposite.

So the axial tilt of Earth is responsible for the seasons and there are scientists who believe that this tilt has been critical for life: Axis Tilt is Critical for Life , but this is quite controversial.

Until now I have been rather vague about the apparent position of the Sun. “Above the Equator”, “moving North”, “moving South”. Actually, we can be much more precise nowadays, using a coordinate system similar to what we use on Earth, with latitude and longitude. But how did the Greek and Romans do that?

To describe the location of the Sun against the backdrop of stars, the Greeks used the concept of constellations, patterns of stars that were given a name, often based on their myths and religion. A constellation most of you will know is Orion, the mythological Greek hunter. The left photo was taken by the Hubble telescope and shows the characteristic shape of Orion. Right an antique star chart, published in 1824. To guide the eye, I have connected the main stars with blue lines

During a year, the Sun crosses twelve of these constellations , as indicated in the image below. These twelve constellations are called the Zodiac. The names of the constellations may be familiar to you, if you know your (Western) horoscope πŸ˜‰ .

At the moment that this post has been published , the Sun has left the Leo constellation and entered Virgo.

Nowadays many more constellations have been defined (88!), covering the whole sky. Below you see a map of the celestial globe. The Celestial globe is similar to the Earth globe, but everything is projected to the “sky”.

Notice that the horizontal scale (Right Ascension) is not in degrees, like longitude on the Earth globe, but in hours and going from right to left. Same as on the Earth globe the choice of the origin (zero) is arbitrary. On the Earth globe it is the Greenwich meridian, on the Celestial Globe it is the March Equinox. The traditional name for this origin is the First Point of Aries.

The name was coined by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived from c 190 BC until c 120 BC. At that time the Sun had just entered the Aries constellation during the Spring Equinox. The March Equinox is indicated by the Aries symbol ♈︎ .

The ecliptic is shown, with the constellations (in white) which the Sun is passing throughout a year. Following the ecliptic from right to left, you will notice that it starts at 0h in Pisces, the Sun moves North until 6h (Gemini) then back to the equator at 12h (Virgo), going down South until 18h (Sagittarius) and back to Pisces for the next cycle.

Do you notice the contradiction? The First Point of Aries is now located in Pisces! How can that be? Time to talk about the Precession of Earth!

Above I wrote that the rotation axis of Earth, during its orbit around the Sun, is always pointing in the same direction (to the North Star). That is correct at the moment, but not forever, because there is a third movement of Earth.

Probably many of you have been playing with spinning tops. When a top (or a gyroscope) is spinning, it will often “wobble” under the influence of the force of gravity. The same happens with the Earth under the influence of the gravitational force of Sun and Moon. This wobble is called Precession.

Here is a short video about the precession of a gyroscope

The Precession of Earth is a very slow process. One round takes about 25800 year. Here is an animation of the process.

The red line connects the two equinoxes, the March Equinox is marked with the Aries symbol. Notice how the March Equinox passes all signs of the zodiac during one precession. 360Β° in ~ 25800 year, means a shift of 1Β° every 72 year. Since Hipparchus’ time, the First Point of Aries has shifted ~30Β° , it is no longer in Aries, but in Pisces and will cross over to Aquarius
around 2600 AD.

The second part of the video shows how the North pole points to different stars during a precession. In the picture you see that “today” it is pointing at Polaris (the North Star) , but in 3000 BC it pointed at the star Thuban, and in 14000 AD it will point close to the bright star Vega.

To summarise, here is a picture, with the three movements of Earth, the daily rotation (24 hours), the yearly orbit around the Sun (~365 days) and the precession of the rotation axis (~25800 years).

Notice that the rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are counterclockwise , while the precession is clockwise! So the yearly motion of the Sun through the Zodiac goes from Pisces to Aries to Taurus etc. But the Spring Equinox has, since Hipparchus , shifted back from Aries to Pisces and will shift to Aquarius around 2600 AD.

Let me end this post with some explanation about why I decided to write it.

Everything written above belongs to the realm of astronomy. Unfortunately there exists also astrology, a pseudoscience. Basically astrology states that the position of the heavenly bodies affects our lives. For example, an important factor is the location of the Sun on the day that you were born. That becomes the sign of your horoscope. Here is an example:

I was born on 17 April, therefore I am a Ram. But that is nonsense, maybe true in Hipparcos’ time. Because of the precession I was actually born when the Sun was in Pisces (12 March – 19 April)

Of course astrologers are aware of the precession, see for example
Sidereal and Tropical Astrology. for various “solutions”.

Directly related to precession is the concept of Astrological Ages. As explained above, during one precession of 25800 year, the March Equinox traverses all 12 signs of the Zodiac, staying in one sign on average 2150 year. Such a period is called an Astrological age. At the moment we live in the Age of Pisces.

Astrologers claim that each age is characterised by certain properties. For example the Age of Pisces is the age of religion, the Age of Aries was the age of war and the coming Age of Aquarius will be the age of freedom.

You will not be surprised that in my opinion these Astrological Ages are even more nonsense than horoscopes.

A few months ago a friend told me about Matias de Stefano, who calls himself an Indigo Child and has memories from an earlier life in Atlantis. He is 29 year old and has many followers. I listened to his video lecture Total Recall. Here is a transcription. One quote to give you an impression of the lecture:

We are Beings (indigo/crystal) that come from the 6th to 13th dimension, to try to promote the 4th and 5th dimension inside the 3rd.

But the following statement is so ridiculous that I decided to write this post.

Earth spins around the sun in a process which lasts about 365 days, but at the same time, our Sun spins around another sun which is a lot bigger, called Syria, about every 26,000 years. As a year on Earth, the Sun’s year has its seasons, equinoxes, solstices and ages, too.

Apparently he has not the faintest idea what the Precession of the Equinox means.

I will end this post with a famous song from the 1967 musical Hair. ” This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius “

Amelia Earhart and Taiping

This blog post will have a different format. I will describe chronologically what made me a detective the last three months πŸ™‚

It started with this article in the New Straits Times of 17 June: Historical aerodrome make Taiping what it is today, say experts, conservationists . In this article it says:

The Taiping Aerodrome became famous when aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart made a refuelling stop there on June 7, 1937, before continuing her journey to Singapore and New Guinea in her historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

I had heard about Amelia Earhart, that she disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but I knew not much more than that. So I checked Wikipedia, it has a detailed article about her. Here is part of her 1937 flight route:

Of course I directly saw a problem. Refuelling in Taiping on 7 June? On 7 June she crossed the Atlantic! On 20 June she flew from Bangkok to Singapore. Could it be that on that day she made a refuelling stop in Taiping?

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and asked them :

There was no response, and I left it at that.

Fast forward to 30 August, when a THS friend wrote: “Wow! There’s a mural being painted on a wall at the corner shop next to the Taiping hospital complete with her face and an aeroplane. 👏👏👏”

Another THS member sent me a picture of the, still unfinished, mural.

Of course my curiosity was raised again and I repeated my question, does anyone know where this claim comes from. This time there was more response πŸ™‚ . A THS member wrote that there was a separate Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. Here is a quote:

The airport also achieved fame through the famous American aviator, Amelia Earhart in 1937, when she was doing her world flight and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling. Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya.

This solved part of the puzzle. It doesn’t say that Amelia LANDED at Tekah on 7 June, but that on 7 June she got PERMISSION TO LAND at Tekah . I will come back to this Wikipedia article later.

Next I used Google to find information about Amelia and Bangkok, Taiping and Singapore. Amelia Earhart & Taiping gave a few hits only, for example this one and this blog, but they basically just copied the info from the Wikipedia article about Tekah.

Earhart & Singapore gave more results. Especially this one: Kallang Airport put S’pore on global aviation map, visited by legendary pilot Amelia Earhart Here is an picture from this link:

Interesting detail: Kallang Airport in Singapore was opened on 12 June, one week earlier than Amelia’s arrival! I will come back to that later. The newspaper clippings show how famous she was.

My Google search for Amelia Earhart & Bangkok struck gold πŸ™‚ . The website This Day in Aviation describes important dates in aviation history, and, not surprisingly, has many pages about Amelia Earhart.

Here is the page about her flight from Rangoon to Singapore: 20 June 1937 .

From Rangoon, yes! When you look at the route planning, shown above, you will see that there are TWO entries for 20 June. First from Rangoon to Bangkok, where she landed for refuelling, then from Bangkok to Singapore.

There were two other planes that day, from Rangoon to Singapore. She left Rangoon after the two others, all three stopped in Bangkok, but she arrived first at Singapore, BECAUSE WE CUT STRAIGHT AND DID NOT STOP ALONG THE WAY.

Here are her notes:

Though we did not sight them, there were two transport planes that day on the same route which we flew. The Imperial Airways machine left Rangoon first and the K.L.M. Douglas at daybreak. Our Wasp-motored Lockheed left fifteen minutes later. All stopped at Bangkok, then followed different courses to Singapore. We arrived there first, at 5:25 P.M. local time, because we cut straight and did not stop along the way.”

SO THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A STOP AT TEKAH AIRPORT!

When I communicated these findings with my TH friends, most of them were convinced, but some of them wondered if those notes where authentic.

Then a THS friend pointed out that a few months after Amelia’s disappearance a book was published by her husband (and manager) Palmer Putnam: Last Flight.

The book is out of stock, but fortunately it has been digitalised and is available as an Amazon e-book . I bought it, it is very interesting reading and of course I was especially interested in her route from Rangoon to Singapore. Here are scans of the relevant chapter.

I have color marked the passages which are of interest for this blog. Click to enlarge.

If you wonder how these notes have survived her disappearance, keep in mind that her whole trip was followed eagerly by public and press. Regularly she communicated her notes with Putnam and the press by telex, cable, telephone. Personally I am convinced that the notes are authentic.

What struck me, reading these pages, is that she mentions three times Alor Star. Why Alor Star and not Taiping?

“… on a course south toward Alor Star …” , “…. along the eastern coast of Malay and then across the peninsula to Alor Star….“, “We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop….”

A few concluding remarks:

I think that much of the confusion has been caused by the Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. I checked the history of that item and found that it has been created in 2007 by Wikipedia user Andrew Kidman. He also modified and edited it. In 2009 he added the history section, see the quote above. A few month later he stopped contributing. I have found no other mention of a permission to land on 7 June 1937 and think that it might be erroneous. I have contacted him via Wikipedia, but no reply until now.

Kallang airport was opened only a week before Amelia arrived. In “her” book it is described how much preparation was needed, months before she started. Could it be that her landing at Kallang was a last-minute decision?

Here are some recent pictures of the Amelia Earhart mural in Taiping.

The statement that Tekah airport was the first airport in South East Asia also comes from the Wikipedia article, and is incorrect, I think. Both Thailand (1914) and Indonesia (1924) were earlier.

Penang Trip, July 2019

A report about a 3D2N trip to Penang with my friends Paul and Fahmi. Our target was to enjoy food and culture. I have already written separate posts about Penang Mural Art, Penang Colonial Architecture and Penang Museums. In this post I will write about our trip and about food.

We traveled by ETS train from KL Sentral to Butterworth, a very comfortable journey. From Butterworth we took the ferry to George Town. This way of reaching the island is more romantic, compared to the usual way (by car and bridge).

Our hotel was on walking distance from the jetty, but we were hungry and needed lunch first . We found a busy food court, where I had Penang Assam Laksa. The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is very well located in the heart of the historical town.

After some rest we went out to explore the town. We started with the Khoo Kongsi. More photos .

And of course we saw a lot of mural art. More photos .

The weather was nice. We walked past many houses of worship, in the Guan Yin Temple a celebration was going on with a performance of Chinese opera.

George Town is a haven for foodies, in 2014 I wrote a blog about it, Penang Food. This time we were looking for halal food. We first walked to the Esplanade. because we remembered that there was a Malay food court there, but it was closed already. Beautiful views of the floodlit colonial buildings!

Walking back we ended up at the popular Kapitan restaurant, where we had an acceptable Tandoori Chicken.

The next morning we were in the mood for a dim sum breakfast, but of course most dim sum places are not halal. We were lucky to find a gem: Dim Sum Valet . Delicious dim sum, a very friendly Malay couple, they started the shop beginning of this year. Worth visiting!

We still had some space left for a dessert. Our friends Pat and Roger had visited George Town recently and were very enthusiastic about the durian ice cream of Kek Seng. They were right, it was delicious.

Our first target for the day was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A wonderful museum, surprising that I had never heard about it earlier! More photos .

We spent considerable time in the museum, there was a lot to see. For lunch we went back to the food court at the Esplanade that was closed yesterday evening. Now it was open, we had the famous Mee Sotong of Hameed Pata . A long queue, but worth waiting for it

In the afternoon we explored the colonial architecture of Beach Street. One bank building after another prove that in those colonial times George Town was the financial center of Malaya. But not only banks, also emporiums, shops, opulent residences. More photos .

We visited a few more mural artworks, and we were not the only ones. Actually I am not happy about the mushrooming of mural art in Penang (and in the whole of Malaysia!). Not always is it high quality and the economical Law of Diminishing Returns is valid also here. More photos .

After a short rest in our hotel we went out for dinner to the New Lane Hawker Center. I had good memories about this place from earlier visits, but this time I was rather disappointed. Too many tourists, too expensive. We had popiah, oyster omelet , kerang and stingray.

Our last day in George Town already. We had breakfast with Roti Goyang at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. The soft-boiled eggs were really shaking (goyang) surrounded by the pieces of toast. Very nice.

The Sun Yat Sen Penang Basee was the last museum on our list. Sun Yat Sen had his office here in 1912 when he was looking for support for the Chinese revolution. More photos .

A last round of more mural art. Some of them quite nice, in the humoristic Zacharevic style. More photos .

Before taking the ferry back to Butterworth, we had lunch near our hotel, in restaurant Jawi . Peranakan food, friendly service.

After lunch we took the ferry back to Butterworth. Paul and Fahmi went back to KL, I stayed in Taiping for couple of days more, see my report Taiping, July 2019 .

It was nice to visit George Town. But as a result of being a Unesco Heritage Site, it has become very touristic. Fancy museums, I may be old-fashioned, but for me it doesn’t add value.

Penang Museums

During my recent trip to Penang, I visited three museums.

The first one was the Khoo Kongsi, a large Chinese clan house in George Town. I had visited this kongsi already several times during earlier visits, so only a few pictures here. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of George Town.

The present complex was rebuilt in 1906, after an earlier version was destroyed by lightning. Could it be that the gods were angry because it was too grand, resembling an imperial palace? So the present kongsi is more modest, although you would not say so, when you visit it πŸ™‚ .

The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful stone reliefs and carvings.

The temple contains de ancestral tablets. There is also a gallery with portraits of the Khoo family.

The second museum we visited was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion . Last year I had visited the Peranakan Museum in Singapore, click here for a report. But to be honest, I was not aware that there existed a Peranakan Museum in Penang! And the museum opened its doors already in 2004!

Now that I have visited it, I agree that it is one of the top attractions of George Town, not to be missed by any visitor!

The building is old, it was built in the 1890s as residence of Chung Keng Quee, the leader of the Hai San secret society . Irony of fate: the site was formerly used by its rival Ghee Hin secret society. That alone made my visit worthwhile already, because as a virtual “Taiping Boy”, I have read a lot about the fighting between the Hai San and the Ghee Hin during the Larut Wars !

Entrance fee is RM 20, not cheap, but worth the money. You can visit the mansion on your own, there is a lot to see. Or you can join a free guided tour.

For those not familiar with Malaysian history, the Peranakan , also known as Baba-Nyonya or Straits Chinese, are descendants of Chinese settlers who arrived from Southern China in the 15th-17th century. Their rich culture contains Chinese, Malay and European elements.

Here is a collection of photos I took during my visit.

Chung Keng Quee even built his own private temple next to his mansion.

The last museum I visited was the Sun Yat-sen museum. Sun Yat-sen was the
leader of China’s republican revolution, overthrowing the Qing dynasty and the first president of the Republic of China. To get support from the overseas Chinese, he moved with his family to Penang in 1910 and organised his activities from this house.

The house was constructed circa 1880 and is a beautiful example of a Peranakan merchant home.

I had only limited time to visit the museum, will spend more time there during my next visit, because Mr Alvin, who takes care of the museum, is a gifted storyteller.

Actually Sun Yat-sen has also a link with Taiping! He had a house there in what is now the Antong Coffee Mill. His concubine lived there for many years and he visited it occasionally. See my report (scroll down).

Penang Colonial Architecture

During my recent visit to Georgetown, I took some pictures of colonial architecture. There is a lot to see!

On our first evening we walked to the Esplanade. On our way we passed St George’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia, built in 1818.

The Esplanade is dominated by two magnificent buildings, the Town Hall and the City Hall. The City Hall, completed in 1880, is the oldest municipal building of George Town. It housed the Municipal Commission until 1903 when the Commission moved to a larger building next to it, the Municipal Offices. The Town Hall kept its function as meeting place for the European Elite. Nowadays it is used for public events, art exhibitions etc.

The Municipal Offices were one of the first buildings fitted with electrical lights! After Georgetown got city rights in 1957, the Municipal Offices were renamed to City Hall

The next day we explored Beach Street, where a concentration of impressive colonial architecture can be found. We started with the Jubilee Clock Tower, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee.

The next building, now housing the Penang Islamic Council, is all that remains of the Straits Settlement Government Buildings, destroyed by allied bombing in 1945 during the Japanese occupation.

Notice the eyesore next to the building. It is the Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce, I wonder who gave permission to build it.

The next building, now housing the Bank of China, is of special interest for a Dutchman, because it was built by the Nederlandse Handel-Maatchappij in 1905.

Next to it the Penang office of Tourism Malaysia. I was wondering if this was a colonial building or a modern one. Could not find much information until I stumbled on a blog George Town’s heritage bank buildings . Originally it was a Mercantile bank, later taken over by HSBC. Recently renovated. So it is an old building in a modern outfit.

The Saw Seng Kew building was originally known as the British India House. Built in the 1920, it has been used by many different companies. In 1965 Rubber Tycoon Saw Seng Kew started the Southern Banking Ltd in this building that now has been renamed after him.

At the right side of the above photo you can just see the corner of the India House. It was built in Art-Deco style, completed in 1941 and forms an striking contrast with the surrounding “older” architecture.

Next to the India House, this Philip Capital Building again dates back to the 1920s. I was wondering at first where the entrance of the parking was, until I noticed that the P is actually the logo of the company πŸ™‚ .

The 1886 building is the oldest commercial building along Beach Street that has kept its original form. In the past it housed the Goon Yen emporium, nowadays it is part of the OCBC. A very attractive building.

Another gem, the Thio Thiaw Siat building. Named after a Chinese tycoon, who is better known under his Cantonese name Cheong Fatt Tze (who lived in the famous “Blue Mansion”). This building was built by his estate after he passed away in 1916.

The GeorgeTown Dispensary nextdoor, the main pharmacy of Penang in those days, wa originally located where now the TTS building is.

The Central Fire Station was built in 1908. Notice the mix of architectural styles, with a Classical facade and a Moghul-style tower πŸ™‚

This building is not on Beach Street, but on Bishop Street. I could not find more information about this Cornfield building.

Finally a photo of the Penang Adventist Hospital (1924), nowadays a hotel, located on Muntri Street.

The website of Timothy Tye, Penang Travel Tips, has lots of information about heritage buildings of Penang. And George Town World Heritage Incorporated has published a guide book George Town’sHistoric Commercial & Civic Precincts, that can be downloaded from the Internet as a pdf file.

I am planning to visit Penang again soon and with the help of this guide book, explore many more architectural gems of George Town.

Penang Mural Art

Five years ago, I visited Penang to have a look at the Mural Art, created by the Lithuanian artist Zacharevic in 2012. Here is my report: Penang Street Art. I like Zacharevic, his sense of humour, the way he is using existing objects for his creations. Even then there were already more artists active, some copying his style, sometimes good, more often mediocre.

I went back to Penang with my friends Paul and Fahmi, and to be honest, I was shocked by the proliferation that has taken place in these five years. There is hardly an empty wall anymore, mural art in almost every street. Really too much, IMHO. But I may be an exception in not appreciating this epidemic πŸ™‚ . Here is a quote from Tripadvisor :

The highlight of Penang is literally the street arts. They are everywhere, every street, every corner. I have tons of photos of them. You don’t need a map but just don’t miss any street there. πŸ™‚ .

And there has even been published a coffee-table book already: Street Art Penang Style .

Here are a few of Zacharevic’s creations. When you compare the pictures with those in my report, you will see that several of them have faded. Some even have been destroyed. Zacharevic has no problem with this, he is not making art for eternity. I like his attitude.

A few pictures of Mural Art in Zacharevic style, where you can interact with the artwork

Using existing elements.

Many more. Actually not bad, just that there are too many of them

Two artworks on the Chew Jetty. An original Zacharevic on this jetty has been destroyed.

There are many, many more, which often did not really appeal to me.

Taiping, July 2019

Recently I visited Penang for a 3D2N trip and I decided on my way back to stay in Taiping for a couple of nights. My friend Lay Chun picked me up from the station on arrival, late afternoon. She invited me for dinner in Matang. When we arrived at the Lemon Tree restaurant, I was surprised to find a large group already waiting for us. Lay Chun explained that a group of her friends was having regular gatherings and that my arrival coincided with one of those. I knew a few of them already , the atmosphere was pleasant and the food delicious. A good start of my visit.

The next day, early morning, my friends Henry Chan and Soon Lay picked me up from Furama hotel, for a day trip to caves and a waterfall in the Ipoh region. I have reported about this rewarding outing in a separate post: Two caves and a waterfall . Here three pictures to give you an impression.

The following day I finally met Syed Bakar ;-).

Taiping has two New Villages , Aulong and Pokok Assam, created around 1950 during the Malayan Emergency , to separate the villagers from the communist guerrillas in the jungle. With the help of my friends I have tried to find people who have been living in those villages and could tell me about life there, when the village was still fenced off with a gate and a curfew.

Last year I met a man who has been living in Aulong, but not from the beginning, click here (scroll down) to read more about it . Lay Chun suggested I should contact Syed Bakar, who has been living in Pokok Assam. I did, by phone and whatsapp, and it clicked immediately πŸ™‚

But meeting him was not so easy, because, even at 83 years old, he is a busy man. An art teacher (formerly in Malay College), now still giving classes in Penang and Kota Kinabalu, often not at home.

This time he was at home and free to chat !

First I had breakfast, Chee Cheong Fun at Mr Tong’s shop. You have to be early, otherwise it is sold out.

I walked back to my hotel, where Syed picked me up and took me to Assam Kumbang where he is living now. I liked his place, full of paintings and books.

We chatted for several hours, he is a very good storyteller! He moved to Pokok Assam with his family in 1950 when he was a teenager. Life was not easy, they had to start building a house on the assigned plot of 90 x 45 feet, timber was not easy to obtain. I should have recorded our conversation πŸ™‚

After our chat Syed drove me around in Pokok Assam. Of course a lot has changed, he pointed out a few houses that still are more or less original. The medical post is an abandoned ruin now. The last picture is of the house where he was born, outside Pokok Assam.

It would be a good idea for the Taiping Heritage Society to invite him to give a talk!

After this fascinating meeting, I went for lunch to Doli, a restaurant close to Furama, famous for its Malay Kuey Teow Goreng.

Walking back to my hotel, I passed this former cinema, abandoned already as long as I visit Taiping. I was wondering if it could be one of the Iversen cinemas If one of my readers has more info, please let me know.

I had a relaxed Sunday afternoon. The Lake Gardens, the Raintree Walk, the Playground, what else do you need to be happy?

Later I had dinner with my friend Amril. He is very knowledgeable about everything that is going on in Taiping πŸ™‚ . Last year I visited the history gallery of St George’s, but did’t manage to visit the history gallery of King Edwards VII, see my report Taiping again. Amril told me that there are actually two history galleries in KEVII, one in the Primary school and one in the Secondary school! Just go to the office, explain your interest and ask permission to visit the gallery, he advised

And that’s what I did. Next morning, after breakfast with my friend Yeap at Lian Thong (yummy eggs on toast), he dropped me at KEVII .

First I went to the office of the Secondary school, very friendly people, Mr Siva went with me, opened the gallery (normally closed) and guided me around. He is an old Edwardian, has also been teaching there, and knows a lot about the school .

An interesting collection of various school paraphernalia and photos. For example a photo gallery of all the principals of the school. I took a picture of Mr Long’s photo , because I was planning to visit Mrs Long, who is a friend of mine.

Mr SIva presented me with a coffee table book, published in 2008, about the history of the school, from 1883 until 1983. Much appreciated!

From the Secondary school I walked to the Primary one, where the reception was equally friendly. Here it was Mr Fadzil, an art teacher who guided me around.

The first railway in Perak, from Port Weld to Taiping had its station at the present school grounds. When this station was moved to its present location, King Edwards was built. The most interesting exhibit in the gallery, was the collection of artefacts, discovered during construction of new halls, remnants of the railway.

The school was expecting other visitors from a teacher training college, students were busy cleaning and arranging trophies etc.

One picture for the album πŸ˜‰

After my visit he joined me to the nearby Ansari Cendol where I had cendol and pasembor for lunch. We had a very pleasant conversation, about many different topics.

One of our topics was durian, the King of Fruits, which we both love. I don’t trust myself to buy them, so I was pleased when Mr Fadzil told me that he would join me, later in the afternoon, after he had picked up his kids from school.

We had kampung durian, very nice, and surprisingly cheap, I paid only RM 10 for a big durian !

Before walking back to my hotel I visited Mrs Long, showed her the photo of her late husband, and had a nice chat with her. She is a good story teller too!

After a short rest, I went out again to have dinner with my friend May Cheah. We went to the restaurant in the Shun Tak Association building. Good food and another pleasant chat.

My last day, time was going fast with all my “social” activities :-). My friend Halim had invited me for breakfast at his place, with Yeap. Both are committee members of the Taiping Heritage Society.

After breakfast Halim drove me around the town and showed me some places, he liked. Here we are at Austin Pool.

He brought me back to the hotel and after my check out, picked me up again to drop me at the station.

One reason that I feel so at ease in Taiping is the friendliness and hospitality of the Taipingites.

And more durians!

Two days after the durian trip to Bentong, my Kiara friend Margaret organised another trip, this time to Titi in Negeri Sembilan, and asked me if I would like to join. My first response was to decline the invitation, because I thought two durian parties in three days might be a bit too much. But on second thought I accepted, not only for the durians, but also for the fellowship πŸ™‚ .

Titi is only about 50 km away from KL, as the crow flies, but it took us about two hours to reach the village, because you have to drive either via Ulu Langat, or via Kuala Kelawang.

The durian farm is a private farm, where we met friends of Margaret and were welcomed by the caretakers. Many varieties of durians are grown here, it was a pleasure to walk around and pick up durians that were lying on the grass everywhere.

The caretakers had prepared boxes with many different “cultivars” to taste, D24, 101, Tekka, Bright Red, Thai, Mun Chin Hoong.

I love durians, but I am not an expert, it was nice to listen to my friends describing the various fruits as creamy, bitter, sweet etc.

To open durians is not easy, but here they used a nice gadget !

We could buy durians to tapau for very reasonable prices, and many of us used this opportunity, some even bought quite a lot πŸ™‚

The orchard has also rambutan and pulusan trees. Before we looked for them, we were advised to wear a helmet, in case a durian would fall down.

Of course we followed the advice…-)

The rambutans were hanging a bit too high, but the pulasan were easy to collect.

One last picture before we left.

In Titi we walked around a bit. Also here mural art has found its way. The village is known for its sweet pineapples, so not surprisingly you find pineapples in the mural paintings.

Even the Chinese temple has been decorated!

Before going home, we had a drink and some food in restaurant Sin Wong Kok. After all the durians I was not really hungry but thirsty πŸ™‚ .There was toddy!

While I was pouring my drink, I didn’t realise that there was somebody behind me, pulling faces!

It was a very nice outing. Here is what I bought to take home, one Tekka durian and one D24.