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.
__________________________________________________________________

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.
__________________________________________________________________

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..:-)

.

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

Grit & Grace

Grit & Grace is the title of a photography exhibition, running at the moment in the former OCBC building near Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. The photographer is  S.C. Shekar and the subtitle of the exhibition is “The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia”

Under the same title he has published a 330-page photobook (5 kg, RM 800!) with black and white photos, covering all aspects of Malaysia. The text accompanying the photos has been written by our friend Suet Fun and that was one more reason to visit the exhibition.

We decided to use public transport ..:-) The new MRT line connects the Curve shopping center with Central Market (near the OCBC building) and feeder bus 809 took us from near our condo to the MRT station. In less than 45 minutes we arrived at Central Market!

From the MRT station it is a short walk to the OCBC building. Beside Central Market a kind of up-market copy of Petaling Street has been created, full of tourists even on this Sunday morning. A big contrast with the austere beauty of the OCBC  building  (Art Deco, 1937, designed by Coltman) at the end of this gaudy street.

The exhibition is open daily from 10 am until 8 pm (until 16 October) and admission is free.

A selection of 50 photographs is shown in the exhibition. They are impressive and show many aspects of Malaysia, landscapes, people, culture.

It was pleasantly quiet on this Sunday morning.

Many of the nature photographs show aerial views. We were wondering if they were taken by a drone, but at the reception they told us that a helicopter was used.

This is a view from Georgetown

Here is a drone picture of the same region, recently taken by Aric. To remain in style, I have made it black and white..:-)

It is a very attractive exhibition, showing the power of monochrome photography in the hands of a gifted photographer. If you have a chance, visit the exhibition.

The exhibition will also go on a roadshow to different regions of the country in the first half of 2018.

On our way back to the MRT station, I could not resist the temptation to take a few  pictures  :-).  See my report KL Heritage for more.

 

 

 

 

Trip up North 2017

Earlier this year we bought a drone. What to do with a drone…:-)? Aric came with a plan: take drone videos of all the fishing villages in Peninsular Malaysia and combine them into a documentary. An ambitious project..:-)

The plan was to start in Kuala Perlis, near the Thai border. Quite far from KL, about 500 km, we decided to drive first to Ipoh, stay overnight in the Ipoh Bali hotel and meet a friend for dinner.

We had stayed before in the Ipoh Bali hotel and liked the place. Your own private balcony, where you can feed the koi fish, a nice breakfast, pleasant atmosphere.

In the evening we met our friend and had dinner with him. Of course the Ipoh specialty, chicken hor fun with taugeh…:-) The restaurant he had in mind was closed, so we went to Ong Kee , also very good and less touristy than Lou Wong, opposite the street

The next morning we left early, still 300 km to go. We had left KL with nice weather, but now the skies became dark, and soon heavy rain started, which did not stop. No way you can drone when it is raining. Was the monsoon starting already? Only the next day we read in the news that the downpour was related to the typhoon Doksuri, that had hit VIetnam!

We arrived in Kuala Perlis for a lunch with Assam Laksa. Malay style, not bad.

Here is the quite attractive mosque of Kuala Perlis.

Our plan was to start taking drone videos here, then slowly go down south, visit a few more fishing villages and stay overnight, halfway to Penang. The heavy rain messed things up. We waited for quite a while, but the rain continued, with strong winds.

Finally, a bit disappointed, we decided to stay overnight in Kuala Perlis. A good decision because around 6 pm finally the rain stopped and the wind became less strong.

While Aric was starting his drone, I walked to the lookout tower, from where I had a nice view of the mosque.

Here is a drone view from the village. We were happy that we could at last have one drone result after our long drive…:-). Note the pedestrian bridge, crossing the Perlis river.

We walked to this bridge and found a large crowd there, watching longboat races. Very interesting, actually they were training for the Perlis Water festival in November

In February 2016 we had also made a Trip up North and we had enjoyed the food at the Hat Thien restaurant in Kuala Perlis so much that we went back there for our dinner. Good decision.

After our dinner we walked back to our hotel. It was dry, no wind, we were optimistic about the weather the next day.  Kuala Perlis is well known for its horseshoe crabs. Next visit we must try them.

We woke up the next day not by the sun shining in our room, but by rain pounding the windows. Bad luck. Useless to visit fishing villages…:-(

Instead we decided to have a look at the one and only waterfall in Perlis, north of Kangar. It had been one of the main targets of  our 2016 trip up North. It is a seasonal waterfall and during that trip there was no water at all. We expected that it would be different now, and we were right. Quite impressive.

For comparison.  The left picture shows the situation in 2106, nice flowstone but no water. The right picture has been taken from roughly the same angle. What a difference.

We decided to drive back to Penang. On our way we passed one of the fishing villages, Simpang Ampat, the rain did not stop. Scenic views of the paddy fields, but look at the dark clouds.

It is really a small village, finally we found the only coffee shop, where we had a drink and some food. The cat is hoping for some leftovers, Aric is hoping that the rain will stop

We knew that the situation in Penang that morning was chaotic, flooding, landslides, cars floating in the water, and when we crossed the bridge, the situation looked quite threatening.

We decided to try our luck and go to Balik Pulau for its famous assam laksa.

Balik Pulau is on the West side of Penang, you have to cross the hills on a winding road. There had been a few minor landslides, but the road was not blocked.

Still heavy rain in Balik Pulau, but the assam laksa was nice.

We expected a traffic jam on our way to our hotel in Georgetown, but actually there was not a lot of traffic, probably many Penangites had stayed at home that day.

We had booked accommodation in the Chulia Heritage hotel . The outside and the lobby look nice, a traditional Chinese hotel, but probably during renovation they have split the huge hotel rooms into smaller units. Still ok, though, and not expensive

End of the afternoon the weather finally started  improving. We walked to the clan jetties, passing the Kapitan Keling mosque (left). The Tan jetty (right) extends far out, a perfect location to drone.

In this picture you see theTan jetty (where we are standing, near the red temple) and the large Chew jetty.

Georgetown with the ferry terminals.

We had dinner that evening with a friend who is living in Penang, so he knows the good food places…:-)

He suggested for breakfast the next morning Moh Teng Pheow a famous nyonya kuih stall, near to our hotel. It opens a bit late, at 10:30 am, but it was worth waiting. Popular place, friendly staff, nice food.

Our next destination was a fishing village, Teluk Kumbar, at the southern point of the island. On our way we visited another waterfall, suggested by my friend Siang Hui. Usually it is just a trickle of water, but he expected that it might now be more powerful after the heavy downpour. And he was right, as usual..:-).

In front of the waterfall there are two temples, an Indian and  a Chinese one, next to each other. Unusual.

Here is the drone picture of Teluk Kumbar

Aric is collecting data about assam laksa shops in Malaysia and had discovered one in Bukit Mertajam, so leaving Penang we went to this shop for lunch. Only open during weekends and run by a family in their own home in a residential area.. Take off your shoes, before you enter! Nice assam laksa, friendly service

After our lunch we continued to Guar Petai, a.k.a. Frog Hill. We had visited this spectacular mining landscape in 206 during our trip up North last year. Very suitable for droning, although even without a drone, you have a nice view from the hill in the middle of all the lakes

In the left picture you can see Aric on top of the hill, directing his drone. The right picture is taken by the drone, and when you enlarge the picture and look carefully, you may see me at the right, on the ridge…:-)

Here is one more drone shot, taken from a higher altitude.

Ater this Frog Hill we drove back to Taiping. I had booked two nights there, Aric went back to KL. My activities in Taiping this time were mainly related to heritage, which may be a bit too detailed for the average visitor of this blog. Therefore I decided to write a separate blog  Taiping September 2017 , about how I spent these two days.

Taiping promotes itself proudly as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) and it is true that you can find many beautiful historical buildings there.

But there are also many ruined and run-down buildings, and during this visit I have concentrated on this darker side of my second hometown.

As I had no transport this time, I had booked a train ticket from Taiping to KL Sentral. Nowadays there is an efficient and fast ETS (Electric Train Service) between Gemas and the Thai border.

Food and beverages can be bought on board, tickets can be bought online. It took me only 3 hours and 20 minutes between Taiping and Sentral. Kudos for Malaysia!

Although we had to modify our plans, the  6D5N trip was very interesting and full of variety, as usual..:-)

Taiping September 2017

At the end of our Trip up North, Aric dropped me in Taiping, where I stayed two nights in my favourite hotel Furama. My last visit was in May (read the report here) and I was missing my “second hometown” :-).

After a shower and some rest, I had dinner with Tung Lay Chun and her family. Later that evening I met Wan Amril for a drink. Both are members of the Taiping Heritage Society and knowledgeable about Taiping heritage .

Four years ago I have written a blog post Shame on Taiping! about the pitiful condition of several historical buildings in a town that proudly presents itself as  Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). In the meantime these buildings have deteriorated further, but recently there has been some activity and Lay Chun and Amril updated me about the present situation

The next morning I went out for breakfast. A bit early, because I wanted to try the “most famous” Chee Cheong Fun in town..:-). During my last visit I had also gone to stall 37 in the Taiping hawker center near to the Bomba, but the CCF was sold out early in the morning. This time I was lucky and just in time.

Delicious food. I chatted a bit with the friendly owner of the stall, his family had been operating this stall for many decades already. Will sure come back.

After my breakfast I walked to the Lake Gardens.  In January 2017 I published a blog report Taiping Old and New in which I compared old photographs and postcards with recent pictures taken from the same location.  One of those buildings was the Standard Chartered Bank, now the Public Library. The Lake Gardens are beautiful any time of the day. I passed the Peace monument, the THS has tried to beautify this monument by planting flowering plants around it, but that was not a success. Now it looks better, with new tilings around the  brick posts, each carrying a peace message in various languages

My first target was the ruined Casuarina Hotel on the hill where once the Residence stood. According to Amril there were (serious) plans to build a 4-star boutique hotel here. The hotel has no heritage value, it was built after Merdeka. No sign of any recent activity here yet.

I was not in a hurry, so I checked the number of pillars and their location, the only remains of the former Residency. In total there are 32 pillars, see the GE image below.  This imagery was obtained in 2007, when the Casuarina hotel was still operating!

Walking back I passed the (former) First Galleria. After a few successful years it was taken over by MPT because of mismanagement. Now it is called the Taiping Municipal Gallery. It was closed. Note the sloppy way they have kept the old sign, just removing “will” (and forgetting to add an “s” to function). My Taiping friends tell me there is nothing of interest inside. Pity.

Behind this Gallery is the soon to be opened Telegraph Museum. The first telegraph line in Malaysia line was built between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, so it makes sense to have a museum about the history of the telegraph here. Hopefully it will be managed better.

I continued my walk to the biggest eyesores of Taiping, the Old Rest House and the former PWD building. During my last visit you could enter the PWD building through all doors, no fencing at all. Squatters were living there and trees were growing in the courtyard. Recently they have cleared the interior, removed the trees and bushes. They had to destroy one of the entrance doors, so a bulldozer could enter. After the cleanup the destroyed door was rebuilt, in itself a good sign.

Also the doors have been closed in a primitive way, and in Malaysia that means you can still enter..:-). The courtyard is clean now, which makes the ruined state of the building only more obvious. The same holds for the Rest House, it is fenced off, but you can still enter. Also here the undergrowth  around the building has been cleared. According to Amril this building is designed to become a boutique 3-star hotel.

My breakfast had been quite filling, so I decided for a light lunch with cendol and pasembor at Ansari, one of the two famous cendol stalls in Taiping.

Before I ordered my food, I got into a conversation with two gentlemen, who had just finished their meal. We came to talk about Taiping heritage and one of them was the owner of two beautiful heritage houses, in Barrack Road  around the corner. We had a look at these houses and will keep in touch with each other, because of our shared interest!

I had been walking quite a lot, so I took a long rest in the afternoon. I decided to have popiah for my dinner, so I walked again to the Taiping hawker center. No popiah there, but interesting preparations for the last day of the Hungry Ghost month. During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the ghosts of the ancestors are permitted to return to the world of the living. At the end of this month they have to go back and Taai Si Wong (his effigy is shown in the right picture), takes care that they do…:-)

When I reached the stall of the Famous Omar Popiah near the Central Market, they were just closing. So no popiah, I went to a nearby stall and ordered satay and ketupat, also nice…:-).

After my dinner walking back, I came across a Caucasian couple and we started chatting. Not very often I meet Mat Salleh’s  in Taiping…:-). They are from New Zealand, traveling in SEA, and were  pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of Taiping. Of course I agreed and we decided to have a drink together. We walked back to the Taiping hawker center, where we had three big Heineken for RM 21 only. Just behind Taai Si Wong…:-)

A nice day. I don’t know why, but it is easy in Taiping to meet interesting, friendly people.
The next morning I met Yeap, the president of the THS. A few months ago the Malay Mail Online published an interview with him about the deplorable state of many heritage buildings in Taiping.

He was willing to show me some of these buildings. In the GE map I have indicated with letters the locations we have visited (click to enlarge)

In the center of the town, one block behind the Old Rest House (A in the map), a dilapidated facade, overgrown by trees and greenery. Decaying for how many years already?

Two examples of shoplots. This one (B) is located on Jalan Lim Tee Hooi. MPT has put a warning sign, AWAS (Be careful)

Here is the second one (C) opposite Central Market. Again a useful warning sign by MPT…:-)

Next we visited the area around Swettenham Road (now Jalan Istana Larut). In colonial times many sumptuous bungalows could be found here, and also more simple government and army quarters. Here is what is left of an impressive bungalow (D on the map). Note the pillar structure. No fence, you can just enter. I explored the ground floor, the upper floor is no longer accessible, look at what is left of the stairs.  No wonder that useful parts of the building will disappear. It would be interesting to find out more about the history of this building.

Here are a few more pictures of deserted government quarters (E, F, H). Not fenced off, you can just enter and explore.  G is special, a gate with two posts is all that remains of what once must have been a big bungalow on a huge plot of land.

Thanks to Yeap for an interesting excursion. Next time I will explore more.

Taiwan, August 2017

We like Taiwan. Our first trip to Taiwan was in 2014, Aric went again in 2015 with his family. Both times to the Northern part of Taiwan.

This time we first visited the Penghu islands, off Taiwan’s West Coast.

Back on the mainland  we rented a car to travel to the southernmost point of Taiwan and from there, following the East Coast, we drove back to Taipei.

In the GE map I have indicated the locations where we have spent one or more nights

It was an amazing trip, full of variety

 

I took (too) many pictures, in this report I will just give an impression of what we have been doing. Nevertheless it will be a long report…:-)

On 1 August we took an Air Asia flight to Kaohsiung, a big town in south-western Taiwan. A few days earlier Taiwan had been struck by typhoon Nesat, followed by tropical storm Haitang. Nesat had cause considerable damage, many flights were cancelled, so we were a bit concerned, but we arrived without problems, although it still was raining heavily.

This is the spectacular accommodation Aric had booked in Kaohsiung

A studio on the 33th floor of the 85 Sky Tower. A room with a view, where we stayed two nights. Here is the view from our room (taken later when the rain had stopped).

Our first Taiwanese dinner. Many people in spite of the rain. We shared a table (and a conversation) with a Taiwanese family. The first experience of Taiwanese friendliness, many more would follow..

We had only one day to explore Kaohsiung. The day we arrived, we could not do much because of the rain, but the next day we only had some drizzle.

In the morning we visited the harbour, the lighthouse and the old military fort

The most famous tourist attractions of Kaohsiung are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. They were built in 1976 in the Lotus Lake and can be reached by a zigzag bridge.

Kaohsiung is a big town, we used the metro often. One of the main stations is Formosa Boulevard, where we admired the Dome of Light, 30 meters in diameter and  made of 4,500 glass panels.The largest work of glass art in the world.

The next day we went back to the airport to take a flight to Qimei, one of the Penghu islands. Nice experience to fly in a Twin Otter (19 pax). It took only 40 minutes to reach Qimei.

At the airport, our host was already waiting for us, with the motorbike Aric had rented for the next two days. He took us to Cheng Village, a collection of traditional (renovated) Penghu houses. Our room was in one of them, but as there were no other customers, we had the whole house to ourself.

A splendid accommodation. Aric had brought his drone, the right picture shows an aerial view of the Cheng Village. Click to enlarge and you can spot us in the courtyard of our “mansion”

When we started talking about another trip to Taiwan, Aric was adamant that he wanted to visit the Penghu islands. What is so special about these islands, was my question. The Twin Hearts of Qimei,  he replied.

Here they are. It is actually an ancient fish trap made by stacking stones to form a trap that resembles a flying heart. The main tourist attraction of Qimei, every day many hundreds of tourists arrive  by ferry from the main Penghu island. After they have left, it becomes quiet, when we visited the place in the evening no one else was there. Very peaceful and romantic.

Aric used the drone to take a spectacular sunset picture of the Twin Hearts. The other drone photo has been taken the next day. It shows another tourist destination of Qimei: little Taiwan. With some fantasy the rocky platform looks like Taiwan.

The island itself is not very interesting, rather flat and barren. But the rocky coastline is quite attractive

And then there is the food, seafood of course. Exotic seafood often…:-)  It was our first experience with Sea Urchins. You eat only the gonads (sex organs !) of these spiny critters.

On our way back from the restaurant to our homestay, we found a few  beautiful flowers just beside the road. We were quite excited, but discovered later that this night-blooming cactus is quite common, actually related to the dragonfruit !

After two nights on Qimei, we took a ferry to Magong, the main town of the Penghu archipelago. Several of the islands are connected by bridges, Aric had booked  homestays on two of them, and rented again a motorbike.

On arrival at the Magong jetty, the owner of the first homestay was already waiting for us. He drove us to his place where we dropped our suitcases and continued on the motorbike to the second homestay.

 

It looked complicated but it worked very well. Again the people are so friendly!

It was still quite some distance to the homestay on Xiyu island. An isolated house in the middle of nowhere. The friendly lady was living downstairs, the first floor was ours, as there were no other guests.

From our terrace we had a wide view of the surroundings and of course Aric used the drone to take an aerial picture

Soon after arrival we went out again to visit the basalt cliffs of Xiyu. Really spectacular.

We continued to the Yuwengdao lighthouse to watch the sunset.

The next day, after a traditional breakfast of oyster noodles, we first visited the Xiyu Western Fort, built in 1887. In 1895 it played a role in the Japanese invasion of Formosa, as Taiwan was called in those days. Next we had a look at another basalt formation and the nearby traditional village of Erkan, where we had lunch. Finally we drove back  across the Great Bridge of Penghu to the other homestay where we arrived sunburnt and almost dehydrated.

This homestay was the most luxurious (and expensive!) of our Taiwan accommodations.

The next day we first visited a memorial for the Taiwanese singer Pan An-Bang in Magong. Aric likes very much one of his songs, which is related to his life as a child on this island. Here is the song  外婆的澎湖湾 on YouTube.

In the afternoon we went to the “Mozes bridge” as we have called it. The official name is Kuibishan Geopark. A small island, Chiyu island, can be reached on foot, but only  at low tide. A popular tourist attraction, our homestay had a notice board where the exact times of low and high tide were indicated.

Quite interesting. When we arrived the “road” was not yet visible. A large crowd was was waiting (in the hot sun!) and slowly the passage appeared. Here is a drone image of the “road”.

That evening we had a rather adventurous dinner. Aric had kept it secret for me. First we had to ride to a meeting point at a 7-11 shop, where we met the other guests.  A guy took the group to the nearby harbour where a boat was waiting for us. Our destination was a “restaurant ship”, located in the middle of the bay!

You have to book weeks in advance, it was very well organised, a table for two had been reserved for us. You had to bring your own drinks

Of course the menu was seafood, seafood and seafood…:-) Most dishes were delicious, only the squid skin I found uneatable…:-0

The next day we took a ferry to the mainland. Departure was in the afternoon, so we had the morning to walk around in Magong and have lunch. The most important temple of Magong is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and supposedly the oldest Mazu temple of Taiwan, dating back to the 15-16th century

The ferry took us in about two hours to the fishing town of Budai, where we spent the night.

Budai has a unusual tourist attraction, the High-Heel Wedding Church

The town is well known for its oysters, which in Taiwan are usually taken out of their shell before they are served. Here two drone pictures, one of the oyster farms and one of the iconic schurch

So we had oysters for dinner, supper and breakfast…:-)

The next morning we took a taxi to the Avis Car Rental office, where the second part of our Taiwan trip started.

There is a lot of geothermal activity in Taiwan, resulting in many hot springs. During the Japanese occupation (1895 – 1945) the Japanese introduced in Taiwan the onsen culture, public bath houses using the water of hot springs. We have become addicted to onsens…:-) Hotels in this region often have their own in-house onsen. Several times we had even a private onsen on our balcony. But the most interesting are the old-fashioned public bathhouses, which unfortunately become more and more rare.

Our first destination was the Water and Fire Cave . For at least more than 300 years a fire has been been burning here, fed by methane gas bubbles escaping from the water.

We continued to Sichongxi, a famous hot spring location. Aric had read about a traditional public bath house there, and after some walking around we found it.

For those not familiar with onsens, men and women bathe in separate sections, naked. There are many do’s and don’ts, we have enough experience now…:-)  One of the rules is that you don’t take pictures inside an onsen. This one was almost empty, so I broke the rule. Often an onsen has several baths, of different temperature, here there was only one. Notice the milky color of the water, due to the mineral content.

We stayed overnight in a hotel near the southernmost point of Taiwan. Nice location, beautiful view and a private hot spring bath on our balcony!

We had dinner in a small village nearby, a nice seafood restaurant. Here we had our ultimate sea urchin experience. The left pictures shows them in the tank. To prepare them, the upper part of the animal is cut away, most of the innards are removed, only the five gonads remain, which you spoon out. The spikes are still moving a bit while you eat. Not suitable for vegetarians..:-)

The rest of the food was also quite special…:-)

Here you see me drinking and eating…:-)

For a change we had a “normal” breakfast the next morning. The friendly owner told us that they had started this resort to give their children a healthy environment. A beautiful place, would have been nice to stay longer.

But we had to continue our trip…:-) First we visited the cape that we had seen from our balcony. Steep cliffs.

Rocky coast, impressive views.

It so happened that a friend of ours was also visiting Taiwan at the same time. He would like to visit the monument at the southern tip of Taiwan, but public transport was not easy. So we picked him up from the (nearby) town where he stayed and we went together.

We were not the only visitors of the monument. Everybody wanted to have a picture taken with him/her in front of the monument.

After waiting for some time, I managed to take a picture of the monument, almost without people:-)

The monument is part of the Kenting National Park, the oldest national park of Taiwan. More interesting was the coral cliff forest, where we walked around a bit

After a late lunch with our friend, we continued our journey to another famous hot spring village, Zhi Ben. We had booked a room in one of the hotels, again with our own private onsen…:-)

Taiwan takes care of its aboriginal people much better than Malaysia, imho. In this region the aboriginals belong to the Amis tribe.  We had dinner in a restaurant where they served local food, served by waitresses in Amis costume

Aric had discovered a waterfall in the region, but when we tried to find it the next morning, a friendly man on a motorbike told us that there was a much better one, and didn’t mind guiding us there. Taiwanese friendliness at its best! Quite a distance away, but it was worth the effort. Probably only locals know about it. Nice vertical fall, of course Aric also took a drome picture of it.

Our next destination was Sanxiantai , famous for its 8-arch footbridge leading to an island. Unfortunately the footbridge was being repaired, so we could only watch it from afar (and from the air). Pity, we have to come back to Taiwan…:-)

How to describe our next destination? In Chinese it is written 男人石, which translates as “man stone”. Probably even most Taiwanese locals are not aware of it.

Coming closer to the big rock makes clear what is meant with the “man stone” 🙂 Sprinkling water on it, is supposed to bring luck.

Driving further north, we passed the Tropic of Cancer . A monument marks the location of the most northerly circle of of latitude at which the Sun can be directly overhead (during the Summer Solstice).

 .

It was a long day and we were tired when we reached our next hotel, not far from the Taroko Gorge, one of the main targets of this trip. This hotel had its hot spring bath in the bathroom..:-)

The next day we explored the Taroko Gorge. The gorge has been eroded by the Liwu river and the walls of the gorge almost touch each other at some places . It is one of the nine National Parks of Taiwan, and truly spectacular. Access is free of charge, but for some of the trails you have to apply for a permit.

You need people in the pictures you take, to appreciate the scale. This picture shows the most dramatic part of the gorge.

It is advised to wear safety helmets, which you can borrow free of charge! My helmet did not really fit my big head…:-) Of course we returned the helmets after our visit

Here are two more pictures of what is called the Swallow Grotto Trail

There are several (pedestrian) hanging bridges to cross from one side to the other. A road also has been constructed through the gorge. We parked our car at several places, to walk and admire.

It was a fascinating day. With a very unexpected, “dramatic” ending. On our way back, we stopped near one of the hanging bridges. While I walked across the bridge, Aric decided to take a drone video of the bridge and me. He decided to fly the drone  below the bridge. That was no problem, I could see the drone pass under me. After that he wanted the drone to turn right to have a look at a waterfall. But instead it turned left and I saw it crash against the left cliff wall.

When you enlarge the third picture, you can see, within the circle, two white spots, lights of the drone. The location looked absolutely inaccessible. As it was getting dark, we decided to come back early the next morning to have a closer look. Rather despondent we drove to our hotel. The drone chip contained all the videos Aric had taken! Only the still shots had been transmitted to his phone.

The next morning we went back to the crash site and at once saw that it was out of the question to rescue the drone.  It will still be there. We have to come back to Taiwan to retake the videos…:-)

We continued our trip up North along Taiwan’s East coast. Slow driving with all the time beautiful views of the rocky coastline.

It is amazing to see how they have managed to construct a road here. Also a railroad track, mostly using tunnels.

Beautiful weather. No horizon, sea and sky just merge in shades of blue. We look quite happy, after the “tragedy” of the day before…:-)

We had lunch in a fishing village Su Ao in a popular, crowded shop: 阿通伯魚丸 . We had to wait quite a long time for a free table.

The food was , how shall I say it, “special”. Apparently many people like it, they even come here from Taipei.  Not my favourite. Most of it is related to smoked shark

Here is a comment, translated from Chinese: Signature fish soup shop, but is the most difficult to eat the product, another on the flavor should not also be the hardest I’ve ever eaten fish soup to drink

We drove on along the coast until we reached  Jiaoxi, a township with many hot spring resorts. We had visited this town also in 2014, now we stayed in a different hotel, of course with its own onsen…:-)

During our first visit we had taken our dinner in Weng Yao, one of the several restaurants where they  specialise in roasted chicken, using clay ovens. We went again, the chicken is nice and very juicy, but really too much for two persons.

The following day our destination was Taipei where we would return the car. But  before we left the Yilan county, we visited the Lanyang Museum. That was a pleasant surprise. The exterior of the museum, designed by Taiwanese architect  Kris Yao, is stunning, inspired by the common, tilted, rock formations in the region. Construction started in 2004 but it was only opened to the general public in 2010.

The museum is dedicated to local culture and nature and really a pleasure to visit.

We returned our car to the Avis office in a suburb of Taipei and took a taxi to our hotel. Another gem discovered by Aric. Quite far from the center of Taipei, but next to a subway station and with a spectacular view of the iconic 101 tower;.

This is the Amba hotel, where we had book an upper floor room, with a view of the 101 tower.The skybridge connects directly to the Songshan metro station.

Nearby, on walking distance, is one of the popular Taipei night markets: Raohe , where we walked around to have a snack food dinner

We stayed two nights in the Amba hotel, because we wanted to visit the National Palace Museum. This museum contains nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world.

The most popular artwork is the Jadeite Cabbage, a piece of jade sculpted in the shape of a Chinese cabbage. Here it is.

Here is the museum and a picture of the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of this actually not very impressive work of art…:-)

 

Personally I found many of the other exhibits more beautiful.

In the afternoon we visited another onsen nearby. When we arrived, they told us that it was closed for cleaning until later that afternoon. No problem to spend some time in the adjoining park. This onsen was a popular one, with a crowd of senior citizens..:-)

During our first visit, we had met a nice taxi driver. Aric had used his services also during his second visit with his family, so we had become quite friendly.

For our last day we had asked him to pick us up from the Amba hotel, show us some interesting tourist attractions in North Taiwan, drop us in Jiufen where Aric had booked accommodation, and then send us to the airport the next day. That plan worked very well.

It was a full day. First he took us to the Yangmingshan National Park, north of Taipei. An interesting volcanic landscape, in this region there have been sulphur mines in the past

Of course there are several onsens in the region..:-) We visited one of them, a very attractive one. Several baths, varying in temperature between 38 and 48 C. Friendly atmosphere.

For lunch, Lyu, our taxi driver, took us to his favourite shop, easily overlooked when you don’t know the joint..:-)

In the afternoon he took us to some interesting rock formations. This one is called the Elephant. It looks like my position is quite exposed, but actually it is very safe…:-)

Here are a few more bizarre rock formations.

A long evening walk before he dropped us at Jiufen

In 2014 we had also stayed in Jiufen, a very attractive (but touristic) mountain village. Aric had booked accommodation with the same owner, but this time a different location. From the bedroom a nice view of the sea, deep down.

The next morning Lyu brought us to the Taipei airport. A very nice guy. After checking in there was enough time for lunch. NO seafood…:-)

A long report, with many pictures, because we did so many things…:-)

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Are you using Whatsapp and did you recently receive this picture? Getting excited already, that in a few weeks time you will observe a unique event?

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is complete nonsense. Yes, on 21 August 2017 there will be a total solar eclipse, and to watch it is an experience of a lifetime. But solar eclipses are common, almost every year there will be a solar eclipse visible, somewhere on Earth..:-)

Here is a list of solar eclipses between 2011 and 2020. In the third column the type of eclipse is given. Twenty four eclipses in total, five of them total. The last column gives the geographic region where the eclipse will be visible.

I do not want this blog to be very technical, but some explanation may be useful..:-)

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth.

The moon orbits the earth in about 29 days, so you would expect a solar eclipse roughly every month. But the orbital plane of the moon is tilted 5 degrees, therefore the shadow of the moon will not touch the earth every month. Also, because of the (big) size of the sun, the shadow of the moon (the white lines) just reaches a small part of the earth. The pink lines mark the region where the moon blocks the sun only partially.

Another effect is that the orbit of the moon is slightly elliptical, so the distance of the moon to the earth is not always the same. If the moon passes between the sun and earth while it is farther away from the earth, it can not block the sun completely, resulting in an “annular” eclipse.

Let us look in a bit more detail at the 21 August eclipse. The blue band is where you can see the total eclipse. Weather permitting of course…:-) The light blue lines parallel to the blue band indicate the regions where you have a 75%, 50% and 25% partial eclipse.

Is there anything special about this eclipse? Yes..:-)  It will only be visible from the Unites States of America and no other country!  AMERICA FIRST…:-)  Probably Trump will  twitter one of these days that it is one of the successes of his administration…;-)

Of course there is a lot of interest in the USA for this Great American Eclipse . Here are a few advertisements, taken from the Internet.

But also for the USA it is not a unique event. The last total eclipse, visible in mainland USA, was on 26 February 1979 and the next one will be on 8 April 2024.

Total eclipses are spectacular. It gets dark, and the solar corona becomes visible. A reason for many people to travel to a region where the total eclipse can be watched.

Actually I was one of them, 8 years ago!

Friends  told us about a total eclipse, visible in China on 22 July 2009.  Here it is

We decided to visit China, Hangzhou region, around that time, hoping for clear skies. The full report you can read here: China July 2009 part I: Hangzhou.

Many people, locals and tourists,  full of expectation.

Actually it was rather cloudy. Here you see pictures during the start of the eclipse. We kept our fingers crossed.

And we were lucky. The clouds were breaking, it was not completely clear, but enough to see the “diamond ring” and the corona

It was an unforgettable experience. As it will be for the Americans (and the many foreign tourists) on 21 August.

When you compare the two eclipse maps, you see in the lower right corner the duration of the totality.  The China one 6m 39s, the American one “only” 2m 40s. CHINA FIRST!

The maps come from a very informative website about solar (and lunar) eclipses, EclipseWise.com