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

KL Heritage

Kuala Lumpur, now a bustling metropolis, had a very modest start around the middle of the 19th century. It began as a small hamlet at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers. In nearby Ampang rich tin mines were opened and Kuala Lumpur was the place from where the tin could be transported by boat to Klang.

Here is how Kuala Lumpur looked in 1884. The open field at the left (the padang) is what today is Dataran Merdeka !

The wooden houses with atap roofs were prone to fire, and several times the whole village was razed. Kuala Lumpur also got heavily involved in the Selangor Civil War (1867-1874).  After this war Selangor became a British protectorate and in 1880 Kuala Lumpur replaced Klang as the capital of Selangor.

In 1884 Frank Swettenham, at that time the British Resident of Selangor, decided that future buildings should be constructed of brick and tile, to reduce the risk of fire. Yap Ah Loy,  Capitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur, started a brick industry in what now is called Brickfields. He can be considered the founder of modern Kuala Lumpur.

When in 1895 the British government decided to establish the Federated Malay States (FMS), a federation of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, Kuala Lumpur became the capital in 1896.

Here is a map of Kuala Lumpur, as it was in 1895. Worthwhile to study it in detail!

Regular visitors of my blog know my interest in history and heritage (Taiping, Klang) and may have been wondering why I never posted about Kuala Lumpur. Well, here is the result of two heritage walks in Kuala Lumpur.

We will start at the padang (Dataran Merdeka) where many of the heritage buildings are located. Here is a fascinating aerial view of colonial KL, taken circa 1930. What a beautiful town KL was in those days, without all the modern high-rise buildings! I have numbered the heritage buildings.

____________________________________________________________
Selangor Club (1)

The Selangor Club was founded in 1884 as a meeting point for educated and high-ranking members of British colonial society. It started as a small wooden building with an atap roof, near the north eastern corner of the padang. In 1890 it was replaced by a two-storey structure,  designed by A.C.A. Norman in Mock Tudor style . Later, in 1910, it was enlarged by Arthur Benison Hubback

____________________________________________________________
Government Printing Office (2)

Built in 1899, designed by Norman in Moorish Revival (Neo-Mughal) style. In the 1895 city map an earlier building was still located west of the padang, where nowadays the Police HQ can be found. The building has been used for various purposes, at present the KL City Gallery has its premises there. There is a gallery about the history of Kuala Lumpur, a souvenir shop, a cafe and on the first floor a scale model of KL. Quite touristic, but worth a visit.

____________________________________________________________
Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (3)

Designed by  Norman, built in 1909, replacing an older structure at the same location (see city map). Again in the Neo-Mughal style that was popular in those days. Originally there were two single-floor side wings, the left one was was removed when the road had to be widened. After being used as a bank, it became the Museum for National History and later a restaurant. At the moment it is closed for renovation and will house the Museum of Music.

____________________________________________________________
Federated Malay States Railways (FMSR) Headquarters (4)

After the Federated Malay States were formed in 1896,  Frank Swettenham,  the newly appointed Resident-General of the FMS, proposed a master plan to extend and connect railway networks within the FMS and Province Wellesley. In 1905 architect Arthur Benison Hubback designed the FMSR headquarters in Neo-Mughal style. A spectacular building, but it served as headquarters for a limited time only, because in 1917 they moved to the Railway Administration building, opposite the main Railway Station (we will visit it later in this blog). At the moment the Textile Museum is housed in this building.

____________________________________________________________
General Post Office (5)

The (Old) General Post Office is another Hubback creation, dating from 1896. It served as post office until 1984.

____________________________________________________________
Government Offices (6)

This impressive building dominates the east side of the padang. The first stone was laid in 1894 and it was officially opened in 1897. The building was originally designed by Norman in Neo-Classical style, but C. E. Spooner, since 1891 State Engineer of the Selangor Public Works Department (PWD), was unhappy with the design. It was then reworked by Bidwell and Hubback, young assistants of Norman in Neo-Mughal style.

It has housed the Federal Secretariat of the FMS and many other departments. After 1974 (when Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory) it has been the seat of various Courts and got its present name: Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Here a beautiful picture from 1902.

____________________________________________________________
(Old) Supreme Court (7)

A beautiful building, designed by Hubback in Neo-Mughal style and completed in 1915. More details can be found in an interesting blog by Zain Abdullah,  Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

There are plans to open a tourism gallery in the building. At the moment a lot of construction and renovation is taking place around the building.

____________________________________________________________
Former Town Hall (8)

The Municipal Offices and Town Hall of Kuala Lumpur were designed by A.B. Hubback in 1901 and built in 1904. It contained an auditorium and nowadays has become the KL City Theatre Hall.

Here is the monumental entrance and an old postcard of the Town Hall

____________________________________________________________
St. Mary’s Cathedral (9)

Built in 1894 and designed by A.C.A Norman in Neo-Gothic style. An unimpressive building, when compared with the exuberant creations of A.B. Hubback. You would at least expect a tower.

____________________________________________________________
FMS Survey Office (10)

Designed by A.B. Hubback, constructed in 1910.  (1904? 1914? See final note). A magnificent building with its long (120m!) colonnade. Later it housed the Sessions and Magistrate Court. At the moment it is abandoned. Not easy to take pictures of the building because the elevated LRT is obstructing a good view.

____________________________________________________________
Masjid Jamek (11)

This mosque is one of the oldest in Kuala Lumpur, designed again by Hubback. The foundation stone of the mosque was laid by the Sultan of Selangor in 1908 and the mosque was officially opened one year later. Compare it with St Mary’s Cathedral!

In the 1895 map there was still a Malay cemetery at the confluence of Klang and Gombak river. It was the main mosque of Kuala Lumpur until the Masjid Negara was built in 1965.

Dwarfed now by the surrounding skyscrapers, it is not easy to imagine its former splendour. You can enter the mosque, but it was Hari Raya during my visit and the mosque was closed. Here a collection of old pictures and postcards

We have completed a (wide) round of the old padang (now Dataran Merdeka) and I hope you will agree with me that there is a lot to see. . But there is more…:-). Let us first continue with A.B. Hubback. There are two more buildings in Kuala Lumpur, designed by him. The Old Railway station and the FMS Railway Head Administration Office. About 1 km south of Dataran Merdeka and opposite each other. In the background the modern Dayabumi Tower (1984)

____________________________________________________________
FMS Railway Head Administration Office (12)

As mentioned before, the FMSR Headquarters were originally in what is now the Textile Museum. But already in 1913 work started on new headquarters.  Delayed by WWI it was finally completed in 1917. It is a monumental building, in characteristic “Hubback” style.

____________________________________________________________
The Railway Station (13)

Finally, the Railway Station, in my opinion Hubback’s most impressive design. Completed in 1910, it served as Kuala Lumpur’s main railway station until 2001. Considered by many one of the world’s greatest railway stations.

Without exaggeration we can say that Hubback’s contributions dominate the heritage architecture of Kuala Lumpur. Of course that doesn’t mean that there were no other architects in the same period. We have mentioned already Norman and Bidwell.

Another architect in those days , less well known, was Abdul Kader Moosdeen. Here are two views of one of his works, a row of shop houses at Medan Pasar. Recently beautifully restored. Built c.1906.

____________________________________________________________
Shophouses Medan Pasar (14)

The Gian Singh Building, built in 1909, was probably also designed by Moosdeen. Two views of this building, hardly recognisable as heritage due to all the billboards.

____________________________________________________________
Gian Singh Building (15)

To view Moosdeen at his best, we must go back to the North side of Dataran Merdeka and from there cross under the Jalan Kuching to Jalan Tangsi.  Here in 1903 a sprawling mansion was built for the Chinese business tycoon Loke Chow Kit, designed by Moosdeen. Already after a few years Loke sold the property, which then was transformed into a hotel which later became another hotel until 1973, when the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) took over. Below is the headquarters of PAM, a real gem.

____________________________________________________________
Loke Hall (16)

Next to it a large renovation/restoration is still going on. This building will become the Kuala Lumpur Tourism bureau. It will be a real beauty, when finished!

____________________________________________________________
Loke Hall (17)

On the corner of Jalan Tangsi  another interesting heritage building can be found. In a very different architectural style, Art Deco. This “modern” style started in Europe in the 1920s and spread all over the world in the following decade.

Kuala Lumpur has quite a large number of Art Deco buildings and almost all of them were designed by the same architect, Arthur Oakley Coltman, a British architect who worked in Malaysia between 1925 and 1957.

Here are a few examples of Coltman’s Art Deco designs. The building in Jalan Tangsi was built in 1937 as the headquarters of the Anglo-Oriental Mining Corporation, the general managers for a large number of tin mines in Malaya. In 1995 it was  acquired by  a property developer, Ekran Berhad, and renamed Wisma Ekran. More information can be found in Zain Abdullah’s blog

____________________________________________________________
Anglo-Oriental Building (18)

Anther creation of Coltman is the Oriental Building, completed in 1932. Headquarters of the Oriental Life Assurance Company Ltd and in those days the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur. Later it housed Radio Malaya until 1968. Not easy to take pictures of the imposing building, because the view is blocked by the LRT.

____________________________________________________________
Oriental  Building (19)

The OCBC building was designed by Coltman and built in 1937 to house the headquarters of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited in Malaysia. It is a masterpiece of the Art Deco style.

________________________________________________________
OCBC Building (20)

The clock tower in Market Square, also designed by Coltman, was built in 1937  to commemorate the coronation of King George VI

____________________________________________________________
Clock tower  (21)

Coltman has been designing more buildings in Kuala Lumpur. And he was not the only Art Deco architect in those days. The most beautiful Art Deco gem of Kuala Lumpur, Central Market, was designed by another architect, T.Y. Lee

The Central Market of Kuala Lumpur started in 1888 as a wet market . The present building was built in 1937

____________________________________________________________
Central Market (22)

Near Merdeka Square a brightly coloured building with many Art Deco elements, houses the Children’s Library. I could not find information about architect and when it was built.

____________________________________________________________
Children’s Library (23)

Two more buildings near the Railway Station to end this long blog about KL Heritage.

The Majestic hotel was completed in 1932 and designed by the architectural firm Keyes and Dowdeswell in a mixture of classical and art deco style. In its heyday it was the largest and grandest hotel in Kuala Lumpur, but by the 1970s it got overshadowed by more modern and luxurious hotels. In 1983 it closed its doors and became home to the National Art Gallery from 1984 until 1998. Now it has been restored to its former grandeur.

____________________________________________________________
Majestic Hotel (24)

Finally the Sulaiman Building, built in 1933 and originally known as the New Railway Offices, as it belonged to the FMS Railways. It now houses the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA). Neo-Classsical style with Art Deco elements

____________________________________________________________
Sulaiman Building (25)

Here is a Google Earth map, where the location of the various heritage buildings is indicated. Click to enlarge.

Final remarks.  I have spent more time on this post than on any other in  my blog…:-). A lot of relevant material can be found on the Internet. Of course Wikipedia and the online editions of the STAR and NST newspapers. Also quite a number of blogs, for example:

  1.  Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail
  2. Standing the test of time
  3. Lost Legacy-Disappearing Malaysian Architecture
  4. Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

However, comparing these various sources was sometimes confusing, especially about dates, sometimes also regarding architectural style. I had to make a choice and may have made mistakes…:-)

One of the choices I had to make was how to call the architectural style of the various Hubback buildings. Indo-Saracenic Revival,  Mughal, Moorish, Mughal-Gothic? Spooner himself used “Mahometan”  :-). I decided for Neo-Mughal.

Of course there are more heritage sites in Kuala Lumpur. That may become another post.

 

A relaxing trip

A few weeks ago friends told us about an interesting jungle resort, called The Sticks, between Kuala Kubu Bharu and Fraser’s Hill. Accommodation in so-called tendoks (a cross between a tent and a pondok). We decided to give it a try, stay overnight and visit the next day the nearby Chiling waterfall.

We stopped for lunch in KKB as Kuala Kubu Bharu is commonly called. KKB is a charming little town with many eateries. We went to Xin Yuen Kee, where we had Loh Mee, Fish Cakes and delicious Stewed Chicken Feet.

We had left KL with sunny weather, but when we walked back to our car after lunch, we felt the first raindrops, which soon became a heavy downpour. I had just time enough to take some pictures of the mural art, which is mushrooming all over Malaysia these days. It is not Zacharevic standard here in KKB, rather primitive, but with a certain charm.

The downpour became so heavy, that we skipped our plan to take some drone video at the Selangor Dam. Instead we continued to the Sticks parking, where our host Rubin was already waiting for us with umbrellas (we had messaged him from KKB about our arrival time). It was a short, romantic footpath to the resort, crossing the Selangor river on a sturdy hanging bridge.

We received a hearty welcome from our hostess Michelle and were shown our tendok. Named the Riverside tendok, because it is located almost above the river…:-). Attached bathroom, hot shower, fan, mosquito nets, very private location, surrounded by jungle.

After the rain stopped, we explored  the surroundings. The hanging bridge is close by, from there you could see how strong the water flow was after the heavy rain. From our tendok a few cemented steps led down to the river. A nice place to take a bath, but it was a bit too chilly after the rain.

We had a few hours to spend before dinner. No wifi, no computer! Finally I could finish Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind. Ok, I had it as an iBook on my iPad…:-).

When the evening came,  clouds and mist made the surrounding landscape even more romantic

Dinner was served in the community hall, where we met a few more guests. It was a barbecue dinner , served on banana leaf. A variety of fish, chicken, beef and lamb, attractively presented.

We went to bed early, but woke up around 11 pm because it started to rain again. Not just rain, a huge downpour with thunder and lightning. The sound of the rain drops on the roof of our tendok was so loud, that we could not hear the sound of the river anymore and it was almost impossible to talk to each other. Fortunately our tendok turned out to be 100% rainproof. But when we woke up the next morning, the water level in the river was still high and the colour brownish.

To reach the Chiling waterfall you have to cross another river (a tributary of the Selangor river) many times. Also the weather did not look very stable. And we felt lazy. We decided to skip the waterfall and instead to relax in the resort until checkout time.

The service at The Sticks is personal and friendly. The night before, after dinner, Michelle had asked us how we liked our breakfast. Omelet, fried eggs or half-boiled eggs? Beef or chicken sausage?  Ham ? Beans? Tea or coffee? There were cereals, toast, jam, butter. So we had a full English breakfast in the jungle! The only thing that was missing was a glass of orange juice…:-) And of course it was halal.

After our breakfast we enjoyed our tendok, walked around to take pictures and I talked with Rubin about the history of the place. The resort is not old, in the past there was tin mining at this location and later a (failed) fish farm project. The present owners have done a good job, replanting trees and landscaping the terrain. Here is a picture of the community hall. The tendoks (7 at the moment) are in the jungle behind the hall

Some pictures of flowers, a harmless millipede and an old water pipe, dating back to the tin mining period. According to Rubin,  remains from that period can still be found in the jungle, but access is not easy.

Then it was time to leave our temporary home and cross the bridge back to the main road.

The main reason to visit Chiling this time (I have visited the waterfall 15 times already during the past 14 years!), was to take a drone video of the fall. Pity that we could not do that, we must come back another time.

Instead, on our way back passing the Selangor dam, we stopped at the visitor center to take a video there. But soon a friendly girl came to warn us that droning was not allowed there. So we drove up to kampung Gerachi uphill, from where you have a nice view of the reservoir and the spillway. The reservoir was full and the spillway was impressive, an artificial waterfall.  It is nice to see everything from the air.

Here is a short video of the spillway

On our way back we stopped in Serendah for lunch. A nameless Thai restaurant on a slip road beside the trunk road has a reputation for its Tom Yam. Very tasty, we combined it with refreshing Leng Chee Kang

The Google Earth image shows the location of KKB and the Sticks resort

Jupiter and Juno

This post is about the planet Jupiter and the spacecraft Juno, launched in August 2011 and orbiting Jupiter since July 2016. The image shows both the planet and the spacecraft.

But we will start with some Roman (Greek) mythology. Jupiter (Zeus) was the king of the gods and Juno (Hera) his wife. Jupiter was an promiscuous god with numerous extramarital affairs and Juno was a jealous spouse, always keeping a eye on her adulterous husband.  Here are a few of his affairs

  • He lusted for Io, and transformed the girl into a cow, to hide her from  his wife. In vain, Juno asked him to give her the cow as a present.
  • He abducted Europa, disguised as a bull. King Minos of Crete was one of their children
  • He fell in love with the nymph Callisto and took the shape of virgin goddess(!) Artemis to seduce her.
  • He was so enchanted of Ganymede, that, in the shape of a raven, he took the beautiful boy(!) to Mount Olympos.

You will understand that as schoolboys we were always happy when our Latin and Greek  teachers told us about these myths…:-)

Back to astronomy. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. The planet is so big that all the other planets would fit in it. It is the second-brightest planet (after Venus) in the night sky.

In 1610, Galileo discovered that Jupiter has four moons. In the image you can see their size, compared to Jupiter. They look small beside the planet, but they are actually big. The largest one, Ganymede, is bigger than the planet Mercury!

The four moons were named after the four lovers of Jupiter named above! Below you see a (resized) image of each moon and a painting with Jupiter in action.

Since Galileo observed the four moons, many more (smaller ones) have been discovered. At the moment 67  moons have been observed, of which 53 have been named, often after Jupiter’s girlfriends and boyfriends…:-) Here is the complete list of Jupter’s moons

It may now be clear why the spacecraft has been named Juno  🙂  After the launch of the spacecraft, NASA published a mission statement in which they explained the name of the spacecraft:

The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.”

Actually the mission of Juno is to explore Jupiter and not his moons…:-) Much is still unknown about this gas giant. Does it have a solid core? Does its atmosphere contain water? An important part of the mission will be the study of Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields.

So, let us follow Juno on her exploration of Jupiter. It took her five years to reach Jupiter. Why so long? Here is the reason:

To give the spacecraft enough speed at launch to reach Jupiter would cost too much energy. Therefore it is first launched in an (elliptical) orbit around the sun.

The Deep Space Maneuvers one year later will bring it back very close to Earth, which will give it a gravitational slingshot. See my Rosetta blog for an explanation.

As a result the orbit becomes a hyperbole, at the right moment crossing the orbit of Jupiter, where it will be captured by the planet.

Here is a fascinating animation of the whole process.

Jupiter has to be approached carefully because of its intense radiation belts. The magnetic field of a planet traps charged particles like electrons and protons in a doughnut-shaped region around the planet. Earth has these radiation belts, they are called the Van Allen Belts. For Jupiter they are many thousand times stronger and can seriously damage the spacecraft.

To protect the instruments of Juno, the most sensitive ones have been placed in a titanium container with 1 cm thick walls and a weight of 18 kg.

Here is an image of the spacecraft during assembly. The Radiation Vault is the brown box on top of the spacecraft.

Note the size of the human!

To minimise the radiation risk, Juno has to be captured carefully in a polar orbit. Here is a YouTube animation:

The capture orbit is very elliptical with a period of ~ 54 days. The original plan was to reduce the period to 14 days, after two capture orbits (1 and 2). The first reduced orbit (3) would be a clean-up orbit, followed by 32 “science” orbits (4-36), each of them slightly shifted, so the whole surface of Jupiter would be covered.The image gives an impression of these science orbits. Mind you, during each 14 days only a few hours before and after perijove (the point of shortest distance to Jupiter) can be used for science!

However, during the second orbit, a few days before the planned Orbit Reduction Maneuver on 19 October 2016, a problem was found with some helium valves needed to operate the main engine, and a few hours before perijove, the spacecraft went into “safe mode”, because the onboard computer encountered unexpected conditions. The next two orbits were used for testing and diagnostics.

Finally, on 17 February 2017, mission control decided it was too risky to perform the Orbit Reduction Maneuver. So the  spacecraft will remain in  its 54 day orbit. Totally 12 science orbits will be performed until July 2018. The next perijove (orbit 7) will occur on 11 July.

It must have been quite a disappointment for the scientists, instead of new data every two weeks, they now have to wait almost eight weeks.

Are there results already? The instruments that are measuring the magnetic field of Jupiter and the composition of the Jovian atmosphere are collecting data, it seems the magnetic field is more lumpy than expected.

The most spectacular results come from the on-board camera Junocam. Here is an image of Jupiter’s south pole, not observable from Earth. Amazingly complex and turbulent.

And last week NASA published another picture, taken 19 May, just after Juno passed perijove 7. Keep in mind that these images are color enhanced! Part of the south pole region is visible. The white spots are part of the “String of Pearls”, massive counterclockwise rotating storms.

The next orbit will pass over the famous Great Red Spot, a storm on Jupiter that has lasted already for several hundred years and is so big that Earth would fit inside it. Will be interesting to see images.

At the end of the Juno mission,  the spacecraft will be directed into the Jovian atmosphere, where it will be completely destroyed. This will be done to avoid any chance that material of Juno might “contaminate” one of  Jupiter’s moons. If ever life forms are found on these moons, there must not be any doubt about its origin.

To end this post in a lighthearted way, the Juno has three passengers on board! Figurines, specially crafted by Lego in the shape of Jupiter (with a lightning bolt), Juno (with a magnifying glass) and Galileo (with a telescope and Jupiter in his hand)

Preparing this post, I have made extensive use of a very informative web page: Juno Mission and Trajectory Design . Very detailed and sometimes quite technical, but worth reading.

 

 

The Chaconne

A chaconne is a musical dance form in triple metre, popular during the Baroque and consisting of a theme with variations. Just to name a few composers, Telemann, Pachelbel, Couperin, Vivaldi have written chaconnes (the links refer to YouTube).

But when music lovers talk about  The Chaconne.  they mean the last movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin.

Yehudi Menuhin called it “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”

And Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history”

Over the years I have heard Bach’s chaconne numerous times and still it affects me deeply. There has been a time that I thought it would be perfect music for my funeral, but later I decided that it might take too long.. :-).

Of course you can find numerous versions on YouTube.  Here is beautiful one, performed by talented violinist Hilary Hahn.

She plays the chaconne quite slowly (almost 18 minutes), most performers play it faster, in about 14 minutes. For example Yehudi Menuhin in a recording from 1956.

Not surprisingly, there are also plenty recordings where the chaconne is played on other instruments. An obvious choice is the guitar. In the opinion of some the chaconne sounds even better on a guitar. Personally I don’t agree, but I must admit that for example this performance by John Feely is brilliant and moving.

Here are a few other recordings I found on YouTube. First four recordings on single instruments: flute, clarinet, organ, accordioncello and marimba.

In my opinion woodwinds are not suitable for this work. The marimba recording is actually quite nice. Organ and accordion are too massive for me. The cello recording is not bad, but I find the range of the violin more suitable.

There are also recording for several instruments. Here are a few:  4 cellos, 9 saxophones, 4 violas, 4 double basses and 1 octobass. I will not comment on them…:-)

In 1930 the English conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the chaconne for symphony orchestra. More transcriptions exist, but this is probably the most famous one. Very romantic and dramatic, but emotionally it has no effect on me. Listen to this recording, put the volume on maximum and fasten your seat belts :-). The recording is from 1950 and conducted by Stokowski himself.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the piano until now. That was on purpose. Of course there are many recordings for piano. Most pianists play the transcription of Ferrucio Busoni. He was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, etc, who has transcribed many of Back’s work in a romantic way. More a recreation than a transcription, that’s why it is often called the Bach-Busoni Chaconne.  Here is a brilliant recording by .Evgeny Kissin. You can follow the score.

An impressive performance of Kissin, but still I think something is missing.

There exists another transcription, created by Brahms. He wrote it for the left hand alone! A brilliant idea, listen to Daniil Trifonov.

De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes differ), but for me this is the recording that comes close to the original in transparency and emotional power.

The last week I have been listening to dozens of recordings of the chaconne, never boring. It remains for me one of the pinnacles of human culture.

Five times Lepok

Recently I visited the Lepok waterfall in the Ulu Langat region with a group of friends. Checking my archive I found that this was my fifth visit!

The first time was in June 2004, 13 years ago. One year earlier I had met Khong, the webmaster of a website about Malaysian waterfalls. He had become more interested in bird watching and we agreed that I would take over his waterfall site. Of course I had to revisit many waterfalls and update the description and pictures. One of them was Lepok. Have a look at Khong’s original Lepok Waterfall page.

Here are some of the pictures I took during my first visit. It was durian season, the orang asli told us we could eat what we found…:-) The waterfall was pristine, but not a lot of water. When you look at  the updated Lepok Fall page you will see that there are many comments, a sign that the fall has become popular.

The second time was in September 2008. This time there was a lot more water. We discovered that there is a lower Lepok fall, a few hundred meter before the main fall. In a narrow gorge, not easy to access, but we have seen people abseiling there.

My next visit was in January 2013. One of my waterfall friends had told me that there was another waterfall, about one hour upstream from the main Lepok fall. He was willing to guide us there. We crossed the river and climbed up on the left side of the fall. It was an interesting hike, partly river trekking. And the upper fall was worth the hike.

One year later, the same friend told me that he had discovered a nice waterfall in a tributary of the Lepok river. Of course I was interested to see this fall, so I joined him and his friends in November 2014. Quite a lot of water in the main fall. Access was not that easy, we needed hands and feet ..:-). The tributary waterfall was quite tall but probably  only worth visiting when it has been raining a lot.

For my fifth visit I joined a  Hash Walk to Lepok. A Hash Walk is similar to a Hash Run, there is a paper trail, but it is not competitive and everybody can join. Actually I prefer to hike with only a few people, but since I have developed an allergy for bee stings, I feel it is safer to join a larger group, just in case of emergency.

It was quite a big group this time, but because of the paper trail there is no need to hike as a group, everybody can walk at one’s own pace.

I walked with Suat, my Bukit Kiara friend. The trail is clear and well-defined, in the first part there are a few forks, but after you have reached the water pipe, you can not go wrong.

I showed Suat the lower Lepok fall and I also took a short video

The Lepok waterfall is still nice, but there were swarms of bees, so I felt uncomfortable and went back after a quick bath.

After the hike we went to the Langat Seafood and Beer Garden for lunch. Nice food and pleasant company.

Tour guide again.

In my last post, Taiping 20-23 May, I reported about my recent Taiping  visit. On 23 May Aric joined me with a friend from Hong Kong. We stayed one night in the Flemington hotel in Taiping and then drove back to KL in three days, showing our guest the beauty of Malaysia. Of course we also enjoyed the Malaysian food, I have collected the food pictures at the end of this post.

A few weeks ago we bought a drone,  a Mavic Pro , and of course we were eager to try it out. At the end of this report you will see a collage of videos, taken by Aric

After their arrival and lunch with assam laksa , we walked in the Lake Gardens. A light afternoon drizzle did not bother us and created a peaceful atmosphere.

Back in Flemington we of course had to experience the rooftop swimming pool…:-)

From our room and of course from the rooftop we had a nice view of the Lake Gardens. To the left an evening view, the right picture was taken in the morning. We went out for dinner to Siang Malam, where we had mamak food.

Our friend is a hiker and was interested to visit a waterfall. I took him to the Air Hitam waterfall, north of Taiping. An easy hike and a spectacular fall, remote and unspoiled.

After lunch in Batu Kurau with roti canai, we started our drive back. Our destination was Brinchang in the Cameron Highlands, where we had booked an airbnb apartment. The first impression of the CH, when you arrive via the Simpang Pulai road,  is quite shocking. Grey plastic coverings of agricultural farms, as far as the eye can see. Completely spoiled landscape…:-(. Fortunately the view from our apartment was not too bad.

In the CH you must have steamboat, but in Brinchang town the prices are high and the quality low. We went to the Jin Jin restaurant, outside Brinchang and had a delicious steamboat, one of the best I have ever tasted.

The next morning we decided to have breakfast in the Sungai Palas Tea Garden. The tea plantations are still beautiful. Of course we had scones with our tea…:-)

After our breakfast we had a quick look at two bungalows, the Lutheran Mission Bungalow (left pic), where I have stayed overnight several times in the past, and the Moonlight Cottage (right pic), from where Jim Thompson disappeared in 1967. In 2010 I have written a blog about this fascinating story: What happened to Jim Thompson . The Moonlight cottage is now a guest house and has been renamed Jim Thompson cottage.

We took the same (Simpang Pulai) way back, because we wanted to have lunch with freshwater prawns in Tanjung Tualang. On our way we passed Kellie’s castle.

Of course Aric wanted to take an aerial video of this castle. Here you see him preparing the drone and launching it.

We continued to another of my favourites, the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. Our guest was impressed and got associations with the Transformer movies…:-)  Of course Aric had to take another drone video here.

We had a late lunch in restaurant Lung Seng in Tanjung Tualang with very nice udang galah and continued to the Felda Residence Hot Springs, where we had booked a villa with our own private Jacuzzi. We had been here nine years ago, see my report Paradise (has its price 🙂 ) And it was still a paradise

The next day we drove home and our guest to the airport.

Here is the drone video. Click on Full Screen and Enjoy!

And here is a collection of the food we had.

 

Taiping, 20-23 May 2017

After my visit to Maxwell Hill I stayed a few more days in Taiping. Main reason was to join a THS excursion to the Klian Pau church on Monday 22 May. As I had no car this time, I did a lot of walking. That is no problem in Taiping with its compact town center, where almost everything is within walking distance.

In the evening I walked to the Cross Street Bazar , thinking to have some snack food there, but I was a bit too early. The District Office looked beautiful, without the cars parked in front of it during daytime.

Walking back along Jalan Kota, I noticed that a crowd of people had assembled, apparently waiting for something to happen. Soon floats appeared, it was a temple procession, similar to the Cingay parade in Johor Baru, although on a smaller scale. In JB it is a famous tourist attraction, here even many of my Taiping friends were not aware of the event. Strange.

The next morning I went to a hawker center opposite the Taiping Mall for my breakfast. One of the stalls (no 37) is famous for its chee cheong fun, but at 10 am it was already sold out! I had curry mee instead with coffee, also not bad and cheap too for only RM 4.60.

After my breakfast I started my walk through the town, first looking for mural paintings.

The last few years Mural Art has become very trendy in Malaysia. It started in Penang , followed by Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Gopeng (he links connect  to blogs I have written about it). Of course Taiping did not want to stay behind. Personally I like the Zacharevic style (Penang, Ipoh) best, where often the specific structure of a wall is used to create the mural. In Taiping (like in KL) the walls are used as a huge “canvas”.

For example this recent one on a wall of the Kwangtung Association behind the district office. Students of the USM Penang were still working on it during my visit.

The artworks depict scenes related to Taiping’s past, the tin mining, the first railway, the central market. I have given the approximate location of the murals. Technically well done, but I miss the Zacharevic sense of humor.

Taiping presents itself proudly as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). But walking around, I was wondering if it really deserves that name. Too many of the heritage buildings are in a delapidated condition. For example the Town Rest House, one of the many “Firsts” of Taiping. The left picture shows the ruins of the Rest House behind a  wall with a pretentious text on the fence. The right picture shows a description of this “First”, built by the British in 1897 and upgraded to a double-storey brick building in 1894 (six!)

Four years ago I have written a blog “Shame on Taiping” and not much has changed since then. Here a few pictures of the building next to the Rest House. You can enter the building, but AYOR, because squatters live inside.

Of course there are also positive things to say. Look for example at this beautiful facade of Ng Boo Bee”s house at,81, Jalan Kota. Ng Boo Bee was a rich Chinese businessman, who rebuilt almost half of Taiping after the disastrous fire of 1880 and this was his residence.

Here are a few more pictures of buildings that drew my attention during my walk. The Peking hotel was built in 1929 as premises for the rubber dealer’s association. It was used by the Japanese Kempeitai during WWII. Now an affordable hotel,  the friendly manager allowed me to have a look at the interior. The Peace hotel (1928) also looks good.

I had a look inside the Central Market, built in 1884/85 and still in use. The future of this heritage building is uncertain, there are plans to relocate the Central Market and then renovate the building. Hopefully it will not become like the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.

Of course I also spent some time in the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens of Malaysia. During my many visits to Taiping I must have taken hundreds of pictures, it never gets boring.

And I discovered something new! A few Cannonball Trees , easily to be missed, because they are not located near a path, but in the middle of a field. They are native to Central and South America, but have been cultivated in many tropical regions. I had seen them in the Penang Botanical Gardens. Interesting flowers and fruits

That evening Yeap, the president of THS had invited me for a concert by a Polish accordion player, in the hall of St George’s Institution. It was an interesting performance  of classical pieces, arranged for accordion by Waclav Turek himself. I was very impressed by one of the first pieces he played, Bach’s toccata and fugue in d minor. I recorded a small part of this masterwork, originally written for organ.

The next morning, Yeap picked me up from my hotel for the THS event. The Klian Pau church is the oldest Catholic church in Taiping. Built in 1875 as a simple wooden structure on top of a hill, it was replaced by a stone building at the foot of the same hill in 1884. The official name is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church.

THS member Rocky explained the history of the church and showed us around.

The hill behind the church is called Calvary Hill.  Read more about the interesting story of this hill  here. It was completely overgrown and in preparation for this trip, Yeap and his workers had done a good job to clear the path up the hill.

On our way up, we passed several Stations of the Cross.  In the past there may have been a view of Taiping from the top of the hill, but now it was blocked by trees.

We  also had a look at the nearby cemetery. On the slope of a hill, very Chinese (Feng Shui). Old and new graves next to each other. I was wondering if it was possible to get more information about the old grave of J. Mc.Namara, who died 18 June 1894. Surprisingly I found a reference in The Chronicle and Directory of China Etc. 1892 ! He was an Inspector Second Class in the First Battalion, Perak Sikhs, stationed at Batang Padang. His commander?  R.S.F Walker, whose statue can be found at the Perak Museum.

After a brunch in front of the church, we went back to Taiping and visited the Shun Tak Association, one of the successful restoration projects in Taiping. There is a cafe  inside, where we had lunch. The rest of the day I was lazy, only went out for Hainanese Chicken Chop in Yut Sun with friends and had coffee with Wan Amril in the Greenhouse. Next morning roti canai in the hawker center near my hotel. Food is one of the attractions of Taiping…:-)

After my breakfast I decided to try the Heritage Bus, a new initiative. According to my map, there should be a bus stop opposite the Taiping Mall. Asking around, nobody knew about it, they directed me to the starting point, near the Peace Hotel. There I found a shabby waiting area and an ultra-modern bus. I paid one Ringgit and entered the bus, with a few more locals. After about half an hour we were back, we had done the Heritage Trail, without any information or explanation. Completely useless, but nice air-con in the bus. Simple changes could make it a lot better.

In the afternoon, with friends who had arrived from KL, I visited the Antong coffee mill. We had a look at the mill, where they were roasting the coffee, and tasted a few varieties of coffee.

Located on the Antong grounds is a nice house, where in the beginning of the 20th century Sun Yat Sen’s mistress has been living.

I had visited the Coffee mill and the Sun Yat Sen house earlier, but I was interested to see a recent mural near the factory. Again large-scale, 100 meter long, maybe it will be included in the Malaysian Book of Records as the Longest Heritage Street Mural. But will it become a tourist attraction, as suggested by the TTA (Taiping Tourist Association)? I have my doubts.

The last night in Taiping we stayed in Flemington, where we enjoyed the rooftop swimming pool and the nice view of the Lake Gardens.

A Taiping visit, as usual full of variety…:-)