CNY 2020

It has become a tradition that Aric organises a family party on day 3 of the Chinese New Year in Parit Baru, his hometown. The year of the Rat started on 25 January 2020 and a few months earlier Aric began thinking already about this party.

The Chinese character for Rat is the same as that for Mouse, so he decided to use the mouse as a theme. All family members had to wear a t-shirt with a mouse, a Mickey Mouse or at least something in the shape of a mouse.

For the decoration of the house, Aric had bought a large quantity of multi-colored LED-lights. When I arrived, on day 2, he had already made a lot of mouse-like decorations. Here he is standing in front of the kampong house, where he was born and grew up.

Three families have been living in this house, Aric’s father and two of his uncles. During CNY, children, grandchildren and relatives come back to this house, resulting in a big crowd. All families have their own rooms and in the common kitchen they prepare their own meals. Quite interesting.

I had chosen a t-shirt, combining my interest in stars and planets with a kind of mouse shape. But… I forgot to bring it to Parit Baru! Officially there was a penalty of RM 50 for not wearing a mouse shirt, but fortunately Jenny, Aric’s sister in law, could not attend the party and gave her t-shirt to me.

WHen I arrived, Aric was still busy preparing more decorations, here with his nephew Andrew. The (air-conditioned) office of the house was occupied by several of Aric’s nieces.

The LED decorations are not so special in daylight, but in the dark they become very attractive.

After editing the picture to the right, I have created a CNY-wish with it and sent it to friends and family πŸ™‚ .

Here is the designer with the final result.

That evening we had a steamboat dinner with the family in the kitchen, while in the living room others were playing card.

Sleeping can be a problem for me, during these meetings, I am a sensitive sleeper and need some privacy. Fortunately the family has a bungalow, a few km away, and we could have an undisturbed sleep there πŸ™‚ .

Next morning started with coffee.

In the morning more family members arrived from KL and preparations started for the steamboat lunch. Parit Baru is surrounded by fishing villages, so the fish , prawns etc can not be more fresh. With so many people we had to eat in shifts πŸ˜‰ .

In the afternoon a stage was constructed in front of the house, using two lorries and material from the hardware shop.

While Aric and his helpers were busy, it was a good time to take some pictures. Notice that everybody is wearing a mouse shirt (including me haha).

When the construction of the stage was completed and it was still light enough, Aric arranged everybody for the traditional group photo. Almost fifty people!

We had a buffet dinner outside, using a catering service. Later there were several games and there were fireworks.

The grand finale of the evening was a show were many attendees showed their skills, karaoke, wushu, dancing, singing. Not easy to take acceptable photos, quite dark.

It was another successful CNY celebration. Here are some group photos from earlier years.

Kuala Selangor trip

Rodney, a UK friend of us has been in Malaysia many times, but never visited Kuala Selangor! A good reason to bring him there on a half-day trip.

On our way, near Bukit Rotan, we passed a Hindu temple that I had never visited myself. The present Sri Shakti Temple was consecrated in 2013 and is a monumental building, unfortunately closed during our visit.

The front of the temple has beautiful statues of elephants.

Because of the time of the day (3 pm) it was almost impossible to take good pictures of the temple. We will have to come back another time to visit the interior.

Our next stop was the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. We were the only visitors, maybe because it was very hot, but also because Malaysians and tourists hardly know about its existence. It is a mixture of secondary forest and wetlands.

After paying an entrance fee of RM 5 at the visitor center, we entered the park.

We climbed the view tower. During my last visit you could see a lake, with many egrets, but trees had grown, obscuring the view.

There was another visitor on the top floor, enjoying its siesta. We didn’t disturb it, but we were sure our presence was noticed.

It was a pleasant walk. We crossed a mangrove forest on a concrete walkway. Sturdy, but less romantic than the wooden plankway we remembered from an earlier visit.

It was low tide, there were only a few places where we could see water. The whole walk was about 3.5 km, we were very thirsty, almost dehydrated, luckily the visitor center was still open ,so we could buy some cool drink.

Our next stop was at Bukit Melawati, the main attraction of Kuala Selangor. From the top of the hill you have a good view of the countryside.

The cannons are a memory of the past, when there was a fort here. Of course Rodney and I had to prove our manhood πŸ™‚ .

The present lighthouse was built in 1907, the original one was built in 1794 when the Dutch were still ruling this part of the peninsula.

The attractive lighthouse is a good background for pictures. We met a friendly Malay couple there. Left Rodney and me, right with Zarina and Rosni.

And there are monkeys, a few macaques, but mainly the silvered leaf langurs. The young ones are beautifully golden/orange, Zarina told us that there were no babies at the moment, but we were lucky to find a single one, down the road. Changing into an adult, its face grey already.

Bananas and beans are for sale, you can feed the langurs, and they are not shy, some even climbing on your shoulder.

A hidden, almost unknown, gem is the nearby Bukit Belanda (Dutch Hill). From the Dutch fort Utrecht, on top of the hill, not much is left, but the small lake at its foot is very scenic.

Before dinner we drove to the fishing village of Kuala Selangor, at the other side of the Selangor river. We watched the sunset from the Chinese temple there.

The Kuala Sungai (Ah Yu) restaurant in Pasir Penambang, chosen by Aric, has a splendid view of the Selangor River.

And the food was high quality too. Rodney and I could not resist the temptation of big bottles of Carlsberg.

Here is the food we ordered. Forgot to take a picture of the fish ball soup.

After our dinner we visited the Fireflies of Kampung Kuantan, before going home. It was almost full moon and the sky was clear, not a favorable time to see the swarms of tiny fireflies, blinking on and off in a synchronous way. But as it was a first visit for Rodney, still a nice experience.

A rewarding outing!

Visit Dong Dong, 2020

Last year we came in contact, through WeChat, with Dong Dong, a Chinese from Guangzhou. This resulted in inviting him to visit us in Malaysia, from 8-14 January. How to communicate? For Aric of course no problem, either in Mandarin or in Teochew. I had to use Google Translate, because I don’t speak Chinese and Dong Dong only a little bit of English :-).

On 8 January afternoon we picked him up from the airport. Our plan was to show him, during his short stay, as many tourist attractions as possible. And also to introduce him to as many Malaysian food specialities as we could πŸ™‚

We decided for Hokkien Mee, the first evening. There are two famous Hokkien Mee restaurants in Damansara Uptown, almost next to each other. Tiong was full, so we chose the other one.

We ordered four dishes, all very nice, huge serving of mee, we could not finish it πŸ™‚ . A good introduction to Chinese Malaysian cuisine.

In our chats I had told Dong Dong that I often went to IKEA for my RM 1 breakfast and to meet friends. He was interested , so the next morning we first went to IKEA.

After our breakfast I showed him the Curve shopping center. As CNY was approaching, there was already a festive atmosphere.

I am still not very experienced with taking selfies, but I am making progress.

Back home we waited for Aric, who had been busy in his shop. We had asked Rodney, a UK friends, to join us for a visit to KL. First we had lunch in restaurant Kin Kin, supposedly serving the best Pan Mee in KL. Spicy!

After our lunch we walked in the colonial district of Kuala Lumpur. In my blog KL Heritage I have written extensively about the many gems of architecture that can be found here. During this short walk we only had a look at a few.

Contrasts: from left to right an Art Deco detail of the Central Market, the beautiful “Islamic” Dayabumi building, and the Merdeka 118 tower, the world 2nd largest building when completed.

We visited the Kuala Lumpur gallery and this time were disappointed. The light show at the scale model of Kuala Lumpur was quite boring.

Getting more and more touristic. But there is a nice cafe with delicious (and expensive) durian cream puffs. In the left picture you can see how the future Merdeka 118 building will dwarf the Petronas twin towers.

In the afternoon we went to Ampang and from there we took the road to Ulu Langat. This road crosses the hills and has a viewpoint from where you have a beautiful view of the KL skyline.

Heavy rain at the horizon, but we kept it dry.

A bit farther than this viewpoint a side road leads to the Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant, where we had our dinner. Aric and I have been to this romantic place several times, the food is always nice and fresh, the restaurant is surrounded by fishponds.

Here some of the dishes we ordered. Left Thai mango salad, tilapia and lamb. Right sotong (cuttlefish).

There was toddy, one of my favourite drinks. A rewarding end of a successful day!

The next day we left for Melaka, where we arrived around lunchtime. One of the food specialties of Melaka is Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls. The famous shop in the center of town was closed during our last visit, but Aric had found a hidden gem in the outskirts of Melaka, Huang Chang.

We had booked rooms in the Puri Hotel, a Peranakan house in Heeren Street. The interior looks like a museum.

The Puri Hotel has a beautiful facade, and opposite is the even more posh Chee Ancestral Mansion, unfortunately not open to the public.

After checking in, we walked around in the historical center of Melaka, now a Unesco World Heritage site. First we had Cendol at the popular Jonker 88 shop.

Here are two tombs, the left one of Hang Kasturi, the right one of Syamsuddin Al-Sumatrani. Even many locals will not know where this second tomb is located πŸ™‚ .

This is the ruin of Saint Paul’s Church, originally built in 1521 by the Portuguese, the oldest church of Malaysia. Many tombstones, some of them dating back to the time that Melaka was a Dutch colony.

Christ Church and the Stadthuys are the center of the town. The gaudy trishaws are characteristic for Melaka. Always crowded with tourists.

Another food specialty of Melaka is the Satay Celup (Steamboat Satay) and the most famous restaurant for it is Capitol. Often we have been queueing here, waiting for a table. Therefore we decided to have an early dinner and that worked out well πŸ™‚ . You select your sticks from a buffet and dip them in the boiling satay sauce. You pay for the number of sticks used.

After our dinner we walked along the Melaka River. In the past the river was quite dirty and unkept, now it has been cleaned, promenades have been created at both banks of the river. Beautiful led lighting in the evening.

It was Friday evening, the popular Jonker Walk night market was busy with tourist. And, sad to say, getting less interesting every time we visit it. Being a Unesco WHS has its disadvantages. Blacksmith street used to be a street full of old-fashioned workshops. Rent increased, they had to leave and instead came boutique hotels and nyonya restaurants. You can see this all over the town. Pity.

The next morning we enjoyed our buffet breakfast in Puri and checked out.

Before leaving Melaka we visited a number of places of worship. Buddhist temples, a Hindu shrine and a Mosque are all located near each other in what is sometimes called Harmony street (mistakenly suggesting that there are no conflicts between the various religions in Malaysia).

The Straits of Melaka mosque is located a bit outside the historical center, you have to go by car, but it is worth the effort. Another example of what is called a floating mosque. A modern building, the opening ceremony was in 2006.

Then it was time to go back to Kuala Lumpur. It was a very short visit, I have written several times about Melaka, here is an earlier report: Melaka Minitrip March 2013.

We arrived back in KL around 3 pm, Aric was busy that afternoon, he dropped us at the Kelana Jaya LRT station, from where we took a train to KLCC.

A visit to Malaysia is not complete without the Petronas Twin Towers πŸ™‚ . I chose the most impressive approach, walking through the shopping center, taking the exit to the park and the lake, then asking Dong Dong to turn around and look up.

The towers are so high that from that location it is difficult to take good pictures. We walked around the lake to take better shots

We walked to the wading pool, only for children, but refreshing to watch.

Of course everything was already in Chinese New Year mood. In front of KLCC a Chinese pagoda was constructed with the signs of the Chinese zodiac. We are both Monkeys and asked a friendly gentleman to take our picture with our sign πŸ™‚

Lots of decorations inside the shopping center, of course with images of the Rat (Mouse) everywhere, the sign of the coming New Year.

From the top floor you have a beautiful view of the park, the lake and the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.

We did not stay long, as we were both tired, and took public transport back, first the LRT, then the MRT and finally a feeder bus to our condo. Dong Dong was happy to experience the various forms of transport.

That evening we had Claypot Chicken Rice in a food court near our condo, and the next morning Roti Canai, both Malaysian specialties.

The next day, after our breakfast, we drove to Penang. With a short stop for a light lunch, we arrived at 2:30 pm at the Airbnb Aric had booked for two nights. And what an Airbnb it was! A complete house, two floors, on each floor a bedroom, lots of antique stuff. One of the best Airbnb’s we have ever stayed in.

After a small rest we went out for a first exploration. Same as in Melaka, the three major religions of Malaysia have their houses of worship in the same street, but the name of the street is here not Harmony Street, but Β Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, which may be more appropriate for the actual relation between the three religions πŸ™‚ . By the way, Keling (Kling) is the old-fashioned name for an Indian Muslim and nowadays considered derogatory πŸ™‚ .

One of the major tourist attractions in Penang are the murals created in 2012 by Zacharevic, see my report Penang Street Art. With our limited time we could only visit a few.

Before taking our dinner we visited the Tan Jetty, one of our favourites.

We had dinner in the Jetty Food Court, a popular place with a large variety of food.

We continued after our dinner and visited the modern Hean Boo Thean temple, another temple dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. If the access route to the temple was not so clearly signposted, it would have been difficult to find.

Views of the waterfront are spectacular and unobstructed. We stayed a considerable time, relaxing and enjoying the views

After sunset everything becomes even more scenic. It was the first time we visited this temple, it was opened only in 2012. We will promote it to our friends and guests.

Walking back to our Airbnb, we passed a few colonial buildings. For more info about Penang’s colonial heritage, see my report Penang Colonial Architecture.

The next day we had breakfast at the  Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. I had Roti Goyang which translates as shaking toast (because of the half-boiled eggs on top of the toast)

The weather was perfect, we walked around a bit. The KOMTAR tower is still the highest skyscraper in Penang. The minaret of the Lebuh Aceh mosque looks even more beautiful with the surrounding Chinese New Year decorations.

We passed another Zacharevic mural and decided to visit the Khoo Kongsi, the most elaborate and grand Chinese clan house of Georgetown. I have been there many times, my last visit was in July 2019, here is a report.

For lunch we went to Hong Xiang, where we had Bak Kut Teh. Another famous Malaysian dish. Usually the different pork parts are put together in the herbal soup, but here your order the ingredients separately. Not a bad idea. We took pork ribs, pork soft bone, tofu, two kinds of mushrooms and veggie. All very tasty.

In the afternoon we drove around the island, stopping for a while at the beach near Batu Ferringhi.

We skipped some other locations we had in mind. Not enough time, winding roads, and we wanted to visit the Kek Lok Si temple before it closed at 5:30 pm. This main Guan Yin temple of Penang is a huge complex of halls, gardens, pagodas etc.

We walked up as high as we could.

A few more pictures.

We climbed the pagoda (right picture), I counted the steps, ~ 190 .

I kept taking pictures πŸ™‚

We stayed until closing time and then drove to the Super Tanker food court in Bayan Lepas for our dinner.

The next day we drove back. In the afternoon Dong Dong was flying back from KLIA, we didn’t want to take risks with traffic jams on the Penang bridges, so we woke up early and started before the rush hour.

Good plan, traffic was smooth. It gave us enough spare time to have breakfast in Taiping, my 2nd hometown :-). I showed Dong Dong the Lake Gardens and he liked the atmosphere very much.

We arrived at KLIA 2 in time, he checked in for his flight back to Guangzhou and we had a farewell lunch at Nando’s. More South African than Malaysian, but the alternative would have been McDonalds πŸ™‚ .

A very successful visit, only too short. Hopefully we will meet again in the future, for example in Guangzhou!

Langkawi, Christmas 2019

A few months ago, Aei Yong, one of Aric’s sisters, came with the idea to celebrate Christmas with the family in Langkawi! She asked Aric to plan the trip, as she knows that he is a good organiser. He booked an Airbnb in Kuah, 23-25 December.

It turned out that not everybody was available, so finally we went with the two sisters and their family, ten people in total. The ferry to Langkawi leaves Kuala Perlis at 1 pm and it is about a 6-7 hour drive from KL, so he decided that we would leave one day earlier and stay overnight in Kangar on the 22nd.

We went in two cars and met in Tanjung Malim for breakfast. I had my favourite eggs on toast, creatively prepared πŸ™‚

Chinese names are not easy for me to memorise πŸ˜‰ . Left Aric’s nephews
Zhen Ee and Chun Yee. , right his two sisters Aei Ling and Aei Yong and in the middle a Kwai Loh, my nickname.

Around 4 pm we arrived in Kangar, the capital of Perlis, where Aric had booked comfortable rooms in Federal Hotel Kangar.

After a short rest we went to Kuala Perlis for our dinner in the Hai Thien seafood restaurant. Aric and I had been here a few times before and we liked the (Thai style) food very much. It was crowded, we had to wait a bit for a free table.

The food was delicious as usual. The advantage of eating with a larger group is that you can order many different dishes!

The next morning we had time to explore Kuala Perlis. There is not much to see, but there is a nice pedestrian bridge, crossing the Perlis river, with good views of the surroundings.

The Al Hussain mosque is quite attractive, and sometimes nicknamed Floating Mosque.

The ferry is relatively small, it was interesting to see how the experienced crew managed to fit so many cars and lorries.

The crossing to Langkawi takes a few hours. The weather was perfect and there was a small canteen where you could buy drinks and snacks.

Around 4 pm we arrived at our Airbnb, a nice, modern house, located in the outskirts of Kuah.

Spacious, many rooms to accommodate our group.

Usually we decorate our condo in Damansara Perdana during Christmas and this time we had taken all the Xmas stuff with us.

The plan was to have our Christmas Eve dinner in Western style. There are not that many restaurants in Kuah that serve Western food, but Aric had found one, the ARTS Cafe. He called them to make a reservation and they asked us to come over already to select what we would like to eat the next day.

After we had made our choice, we looked for a suitable restaurant for our dinner. Our original choice , the Wonderland Food Store , was too crowded, we found a good alternative in seafood restaurant TEO.

Another elaborate selection of tasty food

The next day, after our breakfast we first visited the Durian Perangin waterfall on the slopes of Gunung Raya, Langkai’s highest mountain. I had visited this waterfall in September 2007. Now there was a lot less water, but still enough to enjoy a nice bath.

I took a lot of pictures. It was a good place to frolic around.

The waterfall was a very suitable background for modelling photos πŸ™‚

After spending almost two hours at the fall, we drove to the top of the Gunung Raya, at 881 m the highest point of Langkawi. There is a view tower from where you are supposed to have a 360Β° view of the island. We were also expecting a cafe there for lunch. But everything was closed, already since February 2018!

Next we drove to Cenang Beach for KFC(!) lunch and the tax-free shopping malls. After that back to our Airbnb for a short rest.

Before we left for our Christmas Eve dinner, there was time to take an official family picture.

The ARTS cafe had prepared all the food we had ordered, I forgot to take pictures of all dishes, some people had ordered pasta, others pie, grilled salmon, lamb shank, fish and chips, etc. Nice food.

Many paintings on the walls of this cafe, another occasion for some more modelling photography.

Back home, it was time to wish each other a Merry Christmas.

On Christmas day we visited the Langkawi Sky Bridge and of course we were not the only ones. First we had to use the Cable Car. Well organised, we had to stand ready for the gondola, which doesn’t stop, not much time to jump in πŸ™‚

The cable car has a station halfway, where you get out and can view the surroundings. In the picture you can see behind us the summit station and the sky bridge.

Another gondola brings you to the top.

There is a viewing platform, from where you have a good view of the sky bridge. Notice that the sky bridge is quite a bit lower than the cable car station. It is possible to use the so-called Sky Glide, a short funicular railway, but you have to buy tickets separately for it and there was a long queue. Here is a negative comment of a visitor: Don’t use the SkyGlide.

We decided to walk down, in about 20 minutes. A much better option, although it was rather hot :-). Walking on the sky bridge was a worthwhile experience, for me the first time, because during an earlier visit it was closed for maintenance.

We spent considerable time at this major tourist attraction, so it was almost 5 pm when we arrived at the second destination for the day, the beach at Tanjung Rhu. Crystal clear water, a sandy beach, casuarina trees for some shade, a nice place to relax and take a sea bath.

We had read that at low tide it was possible to walk from the beach to one of the rocky islands (the middle one in the picture below). It was low tide and indeed, you could walk quite far out, as you can see, and on the Internet I have seen pictures that there was even a dry “sand road”, leading far out. But when we were there this was impossible.

We could walk quite far, shallow water, swimming was not easy.

Almost sunset. A romantic beach. This picture was taken at 6:30 pm

Aric had planned our last dinner at Laman Padi Langkawi , a Malay restaurant, surrounded by rice fields. We arrived a bit too late, it was dark already, but we could still see the nice surroundings.

The next day we took the ferry back to Kuala Perlis.

From Kuala Perlis it was a long drive back, we stopped in Bukit Mertajam for lunch in the Sentosa Corner, a very popular eatery, famous for its yam rice.

A relative of the family was living nearby, we paid the couple a short visit.

It was a very successful, but also exhausting trip πŸ™‚

Singapore 2019

On 5 December we took the Aeroline Bus from KL to Singapore. It is a comfortable way of traveling, but it takes time, about 7 hours (with an unexpected 1 hour queue at Singapore immigration)!

From the bus terminal at Harbourfront is was only a few stops by MRT to our hotel Keong Saik in the heart of Chinatown. We had stayed in this hotel before, friendly staff, free coffee in the lobby, breakfast included.

Our program for this trip was mainly social and food, mixed with some culture.

After some rest, we walked around in Chinatown.

The Keong Saik road has been beautifully renovated. Difficult to imagine that in the sixties of the last century this was Singapore’s red-light district!

Later that night, our friend Beng Hooi picked us up from our hotel. He brought us to Toa Payoh Central, where we had Penang food and later Yam Bubble tea with him and a few of Aric’s diving friends.

One reason for our visit, was to meet our friend ST Lee. In July 2018 I had visited him and stayed a few days in his Pearl Bank apartment, click here for a report. He was recovering from flu, but feeling fit enough to have breakfast with us and Benny, another friend, in the Chinatown Complex, near to our hotel.

A few more nice buildings in Chinatown, near our hotel. The Jinrikisha Station was a station for rickshaw carts, carrying one passenger and pulled by one man, popular in those days. Kreta Ayer road , around the corner from our hotel was another street with brothels and prostitutes πŸ˜‰

Beng Hooi knows about Aric’s interest in laksa, he had found some interesting places and took us for lunch to a famous laksa stall, Sungei Road Laksa at Jalan Besar. A long queue, delicious curry laksa, that is eaten with a spoon only, because the laksa has been cut into pieces already !

Before Beng Hooi drove back to work, he took us to the Masjid Sultan, passing on our way two modern architectural buildings on Beach Road, the iconic Concourse and the brand-new City Gate complex.

The Sultan mosque was built in 1932 on the location of an earlier mosque in Kampong Glam, the center of the Malay community in Singapore.

Pity that we could not enter the mosque because it was Friday. Must keep Kampong Glam in mind for a next visit, it is an interesting, bustling neighbourhood, with a rich history.

Beng Hooi dropped us at the Fort Canning park. During my last visit I had spent many hours exploring the hill, this time we only walked around a bit.

Aric was interested to take “artistic” pictures of a pedestrian underpass in Fort Canning, nicknamed the “Tunnel of Love”, but when we arrived, the name became clear, bridal couples were queueing for a photoshoot, so we gave up πŸ™‚

On our way back to our hotel, we passed the impressive Majestic, originally built in 1928 as the Majestic Theatre , a Cantonese Opera house. Almost back, Aric received a message from his Singapore uncle David, that he was having coffee in the Chinatown Complex. Of course we joined him, to make our visit even more social πŸ˜‰

And that was not yet the end of our socialising.. πŸ˜‰ . ST Lee had asked us if we were interested to join him that evening to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake in the Esplanade. We accepted his invitation gratefully and met him that evening in the Singapore Cricket Club for drinks and dinner.

After our dinner we walked from the Club to the Esplanade , enjoying the Singapore skyline and the many open-air activities taking place. Singapore is a vibrant city!

Taking pictures during the performance is not allowed. Here one picture before the start and one taken after the finale.

We enjoyed the ballet very much, actually more than I expected. I am a lover of modern ballet, see for example my blog Le Sacre du Printemps, but had never seen a classical ballet! Here is one of the gems of Swan Lake, by the Royal Ballet. Captivating!

After the show we walked home. The left picture shows the Esplanade Theatre, making clear why it is nicknamed the Durian. The right picture has the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel as background.

The next morning we had first breakfast with Aric’s diving friend Letitia, again in the Chinatown Complex. This time at Jia Ji Mei Shi, famous for its yam cake.

Waking around Chinatown, we had passed already a few times a monumental temple. It is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, we decided to visit it. A new temple, construction started in 2005.

Very impressive, both the outside and inside. It has become a major tourist attraction, we only visited the ground floor.

During our visit, there was praying and chanting going on. Will visit in more detail during my next trip.

After this visit we took the MRT to Woodlands where Beng Hooi was waiting for us. He brought us to a nice restaurant, the Anson Town Bistro, where we had a delicious assam laksa.

We visited the apartment where he is living with his family and walked a bit in the Woodlands Waterfront Park, from where you can see the skyline of Johor Bahru.

In the afternoon we visited ST Lee’s new apartment in The Quayside. Built in 1998, along the Singapore river. Nice location.

Later he drove us to Labrador Park , where we met William and had a refreshing evening walk before having dinner in the Alexandra Village Food Centre.

After our dinner ST dropped us at Orchard Road, where we had a look at the “famous” Christmas decorations. We had been warned already that it was not as spectacular as in the past, and indeed, it was rather disappointing.

The next morning we had breakfast with half-boiled eggs and toast, before taking the MRT to Changi airport.

We wanted to see the Jewel, and we were not the only ones, quite a crowd was admiring the Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

On our way back, we had lunch at Chew Kee Eating House. The original one, we almost went to the “wrong” one, Chew Kee Noodle House, a few doors away. Nice soy sauce chicken noodles. Click here for a comparison of the two eateries πŸ˜‰ .

Dinner that evening in the Chinatown Complex with David and his wife. We had warned him not to order too much, but, as usual, that didn’t really help. Vert nice food, very nice people.

To lose some calories, we decided to visit the Gardens by the Bay and have a look at the Christmas Decorations there. Approaching the Gardens you pass this lake with mysterious floating decorations.

The Gardens are free but for Christmas Wonderland you have to pay an entrance fee of 10 S$, really worth the money.

The Walk of Peace tunnel

Artificial snow πŸ˜‰

Christmas Angels πŸ˜‰

Walking back from the Gardens to the MRT station, we passed Sol Lewitt’s mural painting. I had planned to visit Singapore’s National Gallery again, but we had been too busy with food and social activities. Next time.

The next day we took the bus back. No queueing at the immigration this time, but still it takes about 6 hours.

Night Watch & Starry Night

Hundred years ago, in July 1919, the International Astronomical Union was founded and to celebrate this centenary, an interesting event has been organised, called NameExoWorlds.

A list was prepared of 112 exoplanets and each exoplanet was assigned to an IAU member state. The member states had to organise a public competition to find a suitable name for the exoplanet and its host star. The campaign started in June 2019 and on 17 December the chosen names have been published.

The exoplanet assigned to the Netherlands was HAT-P-6b, orbiting the star Hat-P-6 . Hat-P-6 is a star in the constellation Andromeda, at a distance of 910 lightyear, 30% more massive and also hotter than our Sun. The exoplanet Hat-P-6b has been discovered in 2007 through the transiting method.

It is a gas giant, slightly heavier than Jupiter, orbiting in less than 4 days around its host star. It is an example of what are called Hot Jupiters. Not suitable for life. Here is an image how Hat-P-6b might look like. Much larger because it is hot.

In the Netherlands the public came with more than 6000 suggestions. Most popular were the names Nijntje (for the planet) and Moederpluis (for the star). They are Dutch cartoon characters, famous all over the world. Here is a Japanese version.

A problem was that theses names are copyrighted, so finally number 2 on the shortlist was chosen. Night Watch for the planet and Starry Night for the star.

The Night Watch is a world famous painting by Rembrandt (1642).

And Starry Night is another famous painting, by van Gogh (1889). Now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Are you interested about other exoplanets in the list? Click here and type the country name in the search box.

Or maybe you want to know which names other countries have chosen for their planet and star? Click then here .

As Malaysia is my 2nd home, I will show the results for Malaysia. Here are the exoplanet and the host star

HD 20868 is an orange dwarf star in the constellation Fornax, 156 lightyear away from us and 25 % smaller than the Sun. Its planet HD 20868b is also a gas giant, but orbiting farther away from its star in about 1 year. In the habitable zone, but as it is a gas giant, probably not very suitable for life.

I have no info about the campaign, apparently 1635 proposals have been made. Here is the final choice: the planet and star have been named after the Malay names of gemstones , Baiduri (Opal) for the planet and Intan (Diamond) for the star.

It is quite fun to see what other countries have chosen!

Birch monument, Taiping

Do you know that there is a commemorative stone for Birch, up Maxwell Hill, my friend Wan Amril asked me, when I met him in Taiping, May 2017.

Of course I knew about J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Parak, appointed 4 November 1874 after the Pangkor Treaty and assassinated 2 November 1875. I knew that there was a memorial clocktower for him in Ipoh, but I had never heard about a monument in Taiping.

Wan Amril, who is very knowledgeable about Taiping and its history, had seen a photo of the monument in 2009 and had visited it in December of the same year. Here is the very readable report written by him about what he called a mini-expedition: The Forgotten Memorials .

He was willing to bring me to the monument and of course I accepted his invitation. Aric and I were staying in the Nest, enjoying the hospitality of Suet Fun and Peter, together with another friend, Law Siak Hong, president of the Perak Heritage Society.

From the Nest bungalow it is less than 1.5 km along the tar road to where the trail starts. The tar road ends at the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884.

It is easy to miss the trail. And you must be prepared for leeches.

After about 200 meter you reach the monument.

This is the text on the monument: THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO CLIMB THIS HILL WAS MR T.W.W. BIRCH. FIRST BRITISH RESIDENT OF PERAK IN 1875 . In 2009 Wan Amril had already noticed the mistake, the T should have been a J.

Next to the commemorative stone, there is a metal plaque, not easy to decipher, Wan Amril gives: LAWATAN PERTAMA KALI D.Y.T.M. RAJA MUDA PERAK KA BUKIT INI PADA 23.7.73 JAM 8.02 PAGI. Translated: Inaugural visit by His Highness the Raja Muda of Perak to this hill on 23-7-73 at 8:02am

An interesting monument, leading to several questions. When was it placed here and by whom? Who was responsible for the spelling mistake and why was it never corrected? And of course the most important question, did J.W.W Birch indeed climb Bukit Larut during the short period (less than one year!) that he was the Perak Resident? If he did, for what purpose? Adventure? Looking for a possible hill resort πŸ™‚ ?

Back home in Petaling Jaya, I searched Google for more info and discovered that Birch had kept a journal during the period that he was Resident of Perak! In 1976 an annotated edition of these Journals has been published, out of stock, but the National Library of Malaysia has copies!

I visited the Library in December 2018 and found the book with the help of friendly library staff.

I coud not borrow it, so I sat down and soon found the passage in which Birch describes his visit to Taiping. I made photocopies, here they are. Interesting reading, this is Birch’s private diary and he doesn’t always mince his words :-). Click to enlarge.

Here is a summary with some comments from me

Birch arrived in Taiping from the Dindings on Wednesday 30 June 1875. He met Captain Speedy, had discussions with Campbell about surveying matters and inspected the construction work on the road from Sempang to Qualla Kangsa. Spelling in those days was often different from the present one.

He also meets the Mantri, Ngah Ibrahim, at Bukit Gantang and has to settle Chinese disputes. About Sunday 4 July he writes: A large party of Europeans have come over to see Capt. Speedy and the place is quite lively with upwards of 30 elephants also collected. Do I detect some disapproval here πŸ™‚ ? Not surprisingly he is rather critical about the flamboyant Speedy.

On Tuesday 6 July, he starts the expedition to Gunung Hijau. Not looking for adventure or a potential hill resort, surveying is the target. Campbell and Speedy accompany him and three more Englishmen. Plus of course porters, the plan is to stay overnight at the top of Gunong Huji (Gunung Hijau), so besides surveying equipment also material for a temporary shed has to be transported up the mountain.

After “a very steep and troublesome climb” they reach the house of a “Chinaman” at about 1700 feet, where they stay overnight. The mines are very good there with lots of water around, Birch writes.

The next day they must have started early, because at 9am they reached already some Malay houses/huts, at an altitude of 2500 feet. Also here the (tin) ore was very rich and “… an enterprising man may make a fortune here in a very short time …

The Chinese house, the Malay huts, at least the lower ranges of Bukit Larut were inhabited, so there must have been reasonably clear trails. For the upper part, I think the (orang asli?) guides who undoubtedly brought Birch and his team to the top, chose basically the route which now leads to the Hill Station (at 6th mile) and continues to the Cottage on top of Caulfield Hill. Here is a topo map of the upper part of Bukit Larut. Left the Hill Station at an altitude of 3400 feet. Gunung Hijau is at 4750 feet.

Caulfield Hill is what mountain hikers call a “false peak” at 4500 feet. You think that you have reached the top, but you have to go down first and then climb up again to the real peak. Frustrating, I speak from experience πŸ™‚ In this case the saddle between Caulfield Hill and Gunung Hijau is at an altitude of 4300 feet.

After breakfast, they continue, and Birch writes: “after getting considerably higher, we had to go down a dip of about 500 feet, and then ascend again, but at last reached the top” If I am right about the route they followed, he is more or less correct, they had to go down about 200 feet and climb up again 450 feet.

At the top it is cold, there is mist and a strong wind, but there are also splendid glimpses of the land below and the sea. A shed is built, there is intermittent rain and at night it is very cold.

The next day Birch and Campbell wake up early to do their surveying work. They used instruments similar to these two, left an aneroid barometer and right a theodolite.

First they determine the height of Gunung Hijau. Probably everybody will be familiar with a barometer as an instrument to give information about the weather. Notice that the inner scale gives the air pressure (in inches Hg) and also weather descriptions, From Stormy (28 inch) until Very Dry (31 inch).

But a barometer can also be used to determine height, using the fact that the air pressure will decrease when you get higher in the atmosphere.

Birch had measured 29.42 inch for the air pressure at Mrs Marple’s house (where he was staying in Taiping) , and now he found 25.15 inch. He had also measured the temperature at both locations.

With these values he was able to calculate the difference in altitude between the two locations and found 4425 feet. Estimating the altitude of Mrs Marple’s house at 60 feet, this would give 4485 feet for the height of Gunung Hijau. And that value is not correct, more than 250 feet short, the actual height of Gunung Hijau is 4750 feet ! In an Appendix I will give more details about his calculation and about a possible explanation of the discrepancy..

The next step was to determine the actual location of Gunung Hijau. They used the Admiralty Chart number 1353, where the location of the mountain was given and also the location of several island in the Straits, Pulo Jarra, Pulo Rima, Pulo Kandy and Pulo Tellong. Is the location of Gunung Hijau on the map correct? Now the theodolite is needed. With this precision instrument you can measure angles, both in a vertical and a horizontal plane. The procedure is as follows. The theodolite is pointed to an island, and the angle is measured. Using this angle you can draw a line on the map. Repeat this for the other islands. Where the four lines intersect, is your location. In principle two lines are enough, but more will be better. Result of these measurements : “ … we found that Gunung Hiju was in correct position exactly

The view is magnificent, from the Dindings in the South to Quedah Peak (Gunung Jerai) in the North. Penang is clearly visible. Apparently they can also see Taiping, deep down, the prison, roads etc. About the view Birch writes “It is one of the prettiest bird’s-eye views I ever saw, and beats the view from Penang Hill all to nothing“.

All this during the morning hours, because at 12pm, they pack their instruments and start the descent, another 3000 feet down, to the house of the Chinese at 1750 feet, where they stay overnight again.

The next day, “with a good deal of pain in our muscles ” they descend the last part where elephants(!) are waiting, who bring Birch back to his lodgings at Mrs Marple. That night he has a fever, but the following morning he feels well and fresh again and starts works with Campbell to plot the results of the expedition .

It is his last day in Taiping, in the afternoon he goes to Bukit Gantang, on elephant, where he meets Ngah Ibrahim and has a discussion with him about debt slavery and other matters. He stays overnight in Bukit Gantang and continues the next day to Kuala Kangsar.

It is 11 July. Ten days later, on 21 July, in a meeting of Sultan Abdullah with the Malay chiefs, it is decided that Birch will be killed, not poisoned but stabbed to death. Because he has no respect for Malay culture and tradition, some say. Because he wanted to abolish “debt slavery.” other historians say.

One question about the monument has been answered. Yes, Birch climbed Gunung Hijau in 1875, together with four other Englishmen. When and by whom the commemorative stone was placed at what now is called Birch Hill, will probably remain unknown forever.

I am thinking about climbing Gunung Hijau myself during one of my following visits to Taiping. Of course not starting from the foothills πŸ™‚ There is a trail starting near Caulfield Hill and from there it should take about one hour. Probably there is no view anymore, but I want to check out myself. Anyone likes to join πŸ™‚ ?


Appendix

Atmospheric pressure depends on altitude, as you get higher it will decrease. In my university it was a standard experiment for physics freshmen to determine the height of the laboratory building, using a barometer.

So I was interested how Birch determined the height of Gunung Hijau. Here is the passage in his Journal again, where he does the calculations

The formula he uses is H = 60.000 (log R – log r) K , where R and r are the barometer readings in Taiping and on the top of the mountain, and K is a correction factor depending on the temperatures, measured at the two locations.

Where did Birch find this formula? He mentions Ranbines and Molesworth. Googling for Ranbines gave no results, but Molesworth did. A lot of hits, it must have been a popular handbook for engineers in the 19th century. First edition in 1863, here is a photo of the 19th edition, published in 1879.

The pocket book has 788 (!) pages and can be found online here. I was lucky, I only had to scroll to page 12 to find what I was looking for πŸ™‚

We have to take the logarithm of the two pressure values. Nowadays we use a pocket calculator, but in those days you had to use logarithm tables, which are included in Molesworth’s Pocket Book. By the way, during my own high school days, I still was using a logarithm table! Here are the logarithm pages in Molesworth.

Mainly for nostalgic reasons, but you may try to reproduce the values given by Birch πŸ™‚ Actually I did. Taking the logarithms of the pressure values, I noticed that he gives them in 7 decimals. The tables have 5 decimals, interpolation gives the 6th, but not a 7th. My guess is that the tables in Rambines have 6 decimals, so interpolation gives the 7th. Not that it makes much of a difference. Subtracting the two logarithms, Birch finds a value of 0.0681047, while I find 0.068109, one decimal less, using the Molesworth tables.

The final part of Birch’s calculation is a bit surprising. Birch takes logarithms again ! But there is no need for that, just fill the values in the equation for H, given above

H = 60000 x 0.0681047 x 1.083 = 4425.4 feet (with my value, I find 4425.7 feet).

Of course it is true that using logarithms you replace multiplication by addition, but at the cost of using tables, and the two (long) multiplications are basically primary school stuff.

About the difference between the 4425 + 60 feet found by Birch and the actual value of 4750 feet, the most probable explanation is a change in atmospheric pressure (weather conditions) during Birch’s trip. At least two days between the measurements at Mrs Marple’s house and the top of Gunung Hijau! Look again at the dial of the barometer. “Very Dry” and “Stormy” have a pressure difference of 3 inches!

To see the effect of a small variation in r, I redid the calculation for r= 24.95 inch and found H =4651 feet.

This is a well known disadvantage of the barometric method to determine altitude. Both measurements should be done at the same time!

Nobel Prize Physics 2019

The Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded this year to Jim Peebles for ” theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for “the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”.

It happens regularly that the Nobel Prize is split, but in this case there is hardly a connection between the two topics, and the Nobel committee must have realised that,  by adding that the prize this year was won for “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”

In this post I will concentrate on Jim Peebles, maybe in a later post I will write more about the discovery of the other two physicists.

The scientific career of Peebles is closely associated with the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, so I will first explain what it is and how it was discovered.

According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe came into being 13.8 billion year ago. Incredibly tiny, hot and dense, it started to expand, while cooling. In the beginning it was a soup of gluons and quarks, but after a few minutes (!) the temperature had dropped so much that “normal” matter, like protons, neutrons and electrons became stable and even some light elements like deuterons and alpha particles could be formed. But it was still a plasma for many thousand years, until after around 380.000 years the universe had cooled so much that electrons and nucleons could form neutral atoms, like helium and hydrogen. From that time onwards until present photons could travel freely, the Universe had become transparent.

In the 1960’s Dicke and Peebles at Princeton studied this Big Bang theory, which was still not universally accepted at that time. If the Universe started with a “primordial fireball” , remaining radiation of this fireball should still be present. But the Universe has expanded about 1000 times since it became transparent, so the wavelength of that radiation has also increased 1000 times! No longer visible (reddish) light, but microwaves with a wavelength in the order of cm/mm’s, corresponding to a temperature of only a few Kelvin.

To detect this kind of radiation you need a microwave radiometer , and two colleagues of Dicke and Peebles, Roll and Wilkinson, also at Princeton, were building one. Then they learnt that two scientists at Bell Laboratories, Penzias and Wilson, only 60 km away from Princeton, were actually working wich such a radiometer and had found results they could not explain. Here is a photo of the Holmdel Horn Antenna, used by Penzias and Wilson.

What was it they could not explain? Well, measuring microwave radiation is not easy, because there is much “noise” from many sources, which you have to eliminate or take into account. What they found was that there always remained a background corresponding to a absolute temperature of 3.5 Kelvin. It did not matter which part of the sky they pointed the horn to, and whether it was day or night, there was always this background. They even cleaned the inside of the horn, removing pigeon droppings!

When the two teams came together, the solution was immediately clear. Penzias and Wilson had inadvertently discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, predicted by Dicke and his team. “Well, boys, we’ve been scooped “, Dicke supposedly said.

The two groups decided to write separate articles for the Astrophysical Journal of 1965, referring to each other. Cosmic Black-Body Radiation by Dicke, Peebles et al. and , very modestly titled, A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Mc/s by Penzias and Wilson.

In 1978 Penzias and Wilson received the Nobel Prize for Physics “for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation” Of course many in the scientific community found that the Nobel Prize should have been awarded to both teams. But (old fashioned) Nobel Prize rules made that impossible, teams can not get the Nobel Prize, only individuals (maximum three).

Roll and Wilkinson continued with their experiment and published the results the next year in the Physical Review Letters: ” Cosmic Background Radiation at 3.2 cm-Support for Cosmic Black-Body Radiation. Searching information for this post, I found a fascinating article, written a few weeks ago by Peter Roll, now retired of course, about his perspective on the 1965 discovery of the CMB. VERY readable, also for non-physicists.

I have written in some detail about the discovery of the CMB radiation because the importance of this discovery can hardly be overestimated. It changed the Big Bang theory from a controversial hypothesis into the standard model for the evolution of the universe. Here is another very readable article in Physics Today, one year after the discovery: A Bang, not a Whimper?

Of course there were still many questions. If the radiation was really thermal, it should have a well-defined spectrum. And it was of course very convincing that the radiation was the same at each point of the sky, but actually there should be minuscule differences, how else could stars and galaxies have formed, if the early universe was completely homogeneous?

The best way to investigate these questions, was to launch a spacecraft and observe the radiation outside Earth’s atmosphere. And that’s what happened. In 1974 NASA asked for scientific proposals and in 1989 the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) was launched. Two main experiments, FIRAS by John Mather, to determine the spectrum of the CMB radiation and DMR by George Smoot to measure the miniscule differences (the “anisotropy”) of the CMB.

Here is the spacecraft. Dimensions (without solar panels) ~ 4,5 x 2,5 m. The experiments are indicated, the Dewar contained liquid helium to cool especially FIRAS to near absolute zero temperature.

Here are the results. The CMB spectrum fits so perfectly the shape of a thermal source (“blackbody”) that it received a standing ovation when it was presented to the American Astronomical Society in January 1990.

The temperature of the CMB is 2.728 K, but Smoot found indeed tiny differences, depending on the location in the sky. Here is a map of the sky, with the temperature differences indicated in red (slightly warmer) and blue (slightly colder). When these results were published in 1992, they were frontpage news in the New York Times and Stephen Hawking in an interview called it “the greatest discovery of the century, if not of all times”.

In 2006 Mather and Smoot received the Nobel Prize for Physics “for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation”

Through the CMB we are looking back to the very young universe, 380.000 year old, before stars and galaxies were formed. Exploring these temperature differences, may help us to understand the evolution of the universe. But then a more detailed map of this anisotropy is needed!

In 2001 the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) was launched. Until 2009 data have been collected, resulting in maps like this one, much more detailed.

And in 2009 the Planck observatory was launched. The instruments on board were cooled until 0.1 Kelvin, making it the coldest object in the universe..:-) Here is the Planck map, even more detailed.

You may wonder about the shape of these maps. It is called the Mollweide projection and it minimises the distortion you always get when you project a sphere on a plane. For comparison, here is the Mollweide projection of Earth.

There are two other discoveries in cosmology during the past 50 years that I have to mention, before I can finally come back to Jim Peebles and his Nobel Prize πŸ™‚

The first one was the discovery of Dark Matter. In the 70s the American astronomer Vera Rubin studied the rotation of galaxies like the Andromeda galaxy and found that the outer regions of the galaxies were rotating much faster than expected, based on the visible matter of the galaxy and Kepler’s laws. An explanation could be that galaxies are surrounded by a halo of invisible (“dark”) matter. The existence of this Dark Matter has been widely accepted by the scientific community, but we still do not know yet what it is. According to many physicists, she deserved a Nobel Prize for her research, but she never got it. Because she was a woman? She passed away in 2016, Nobel Prizes can not be awarded posthumously. Here is a necrology: Vera Rubin, invisible to the Nobel Committee.

The second discovery was made in the 90s by two teams of astronomers who were studying the expansion of the universe. The Big Bang theory predicted that the expansion would slow down, because of the force of gravity. The crucial question was: will this force be big enough to stop the expansion, followed by a contraction, ending in a Big Crunch, or will the expansion go on forever. The result of their research was shocking: the expansion is not slowing down, but accelerating! There must be a repulsive force, which was called Dark Energy. Also here we do not know what it is. In 2011 the leaders of the two teams were awarded the Physics Nobel Prize “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”. I wrote a blog about it: Physics Nobel Prize (2011).

So, what did Jim Peebles discover? Nothing actually, and that may have been a reason that he received the Nobel Prize so late in life (he is now 84 year old) as the Nobel Committee has a preference for (experimental) discoveries.

But Jim Peebles rightly deserves the Nobel Prize because he has been instrumental in developing the theoretical cosmological framework for what is called physical cosmology. In 1982 he published a groundbreaking article about a cosmological model with dark matter in it and in 1984 an article in which he added the cosmological constant Ξ› (now called dark energy) to his model. This model , the Ξ› CDM  model, is at present the standard model of cosmology. For this work Peebles could (should) have been awarded the Nobel Prize many decades ago! Well, better late than never πŸ™‚

With this Ξ› CDM model, using the properties of the CMB radiation and other experimental results, it is possible to determine how much normal matter, dark matter and dark energy there is in the Universe. The best fit to the (Planck) CMB data is obtained with the following values:

  • Atomic matter 4.9 %
  • Dark Matter 26.8 %
  • Dark Energy 68.3 %

Probably most of you will have seen this result. Everything we observe around us, our earth, the sun, the planets, the galaxies, it is only ~ 5% of our universe. About the other 95% we know basically nothing. Astonishing and mind-boggling.

Let me finish this post with two images. Below is an overview of the Big Bang expansion. The CMB is seen to the left, called the Afterglow Light Pattern. To the left you see “Inflation” and “Quantum Fluctuations”. The present theory is that in the first ~ 10βˆ’32 (!) second, the universe expanded exponentially. I don’t feel qualified to write a post about it, see the Inflation article in Wikipedia.

When the universe became transparent after 380.000 year, there were no stars and galaxies yet, the universe was dark, except for the afterglow! It took hundred millions of years, before the first stars were formed. More info in Wikipedia’s Chronology of the universe.

In 1980 Peebles published a book Large-Scale Structure of the Universe and that has always been his primary interest. There are about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, are they just randomly distributed? The answer is no, they are part of what nowadays is called the Cosmic Web. They are concentrated along filaments, with huge voids in between. In this artist impression, each light dot is a galaxy. Another mind-boggling image. πŸ™‚ .

In 2013 I have written a post : Largest Structure in the Universe discovered, very readable if I may say so πŸ™‚

APPENDIX

How is it possible to extract the values for dark matter, dark energy etc from a map of the sky with minuscule temperature differences?

The first step is to “translate” the temperature differences into what is called a power spectrum. The CMB map has cold and warm patches in various sizes. A power spectrum gives the intensity of these patches as function from their (angular) size.

Here is the power spectrum of the PLanck CMB map. The largest temperature fluctuations are found in patches of around 1 degree. Notice that the angular scale runs from left (large patches) to right (small patches). The red dots come from the CMB map. The green line is the best fit from the Ξ› CDM model, using the parameters given above.

Here is an instructive video, how the different parts of the power spectrum correspond from left to right to increasingly detailed structures.

The calculations are complex and need powerful computers.

In this simulation: Build a Universe you can play around with the various parameters. To run it on your computer, you need to have Flash installed. Not everybody will have Flash, so I have taken two screenshots. The first one, shows the “fit” for a universe with only normal matter. The second one uses parameters like given above.

Taiping, October 2019

This time I visited Taiping to see the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. About the procession and the fire walking I have written a separate post, Nine Emperor Gods Festival . But during my 4D3N visit there was enough time left to walk around Taiping, visit friends and enjoy the food. Here is a report.

After the procession and lunch on Saturday 5 October , I decided to walk to the Amelia Earhart mural at the junction of Jalan Abdul Jalil and Jalan Taming Sari. On my way I passed the Central market and had a look inside. In the morning bustling with activity, but now quiet. Good news: plans for renovation of this iconic building have been accepted and a dilapidation survey has started. The “modern” clocktower in front of the market is quite interesting.

Here is the Amelia Earhart mural. A large mural to commemorate that she landed at Taiping airport on 20 June 1937. The problem is, she never did, as I have explained in two blog posts, Amelia Earhart and Taiping and Amelia Earhart and Taiping (part 2)

The mural is well done and her plane accurately depicted, but the text captions are wrong. She did not land at the Taiping aerodrome, but flew directly from Bangkok to Singapore on 20 June 1937. And the Taiping aerodrome may have been the first one in the Federated Malay States, but definitely not in South East Asia. Read my posts for more background information.

Walking back to my hotel, I passed two buildings that epitomise Taiping for me and actually are a reason that I love the town so much πŸ˜‰ . The contrast between attractive old buildings and ruined structures appeals to me.

The building of the Ceylon Association is another example of successful restoration. And continuing my walk, I could not resist the temptation of a cendol at Ansari πŸ™‚

Last month I have published a post Taiping Bandar Warisan about two ruined buildings along Station Road, the Rest House and the Perak Railway Buildings. I ended this report with:

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

I am afraid that I was too optimistic. The Rest House looks fenced off quite well.

But you can still enter easily, as one of the entrance gates is unlocked

I was rather shocked when I saw the fencing of the Railway buildings. Only the front facade is fenced off, the side facade is just open as usual! My friend Yeap gave the explanation. Merdeka Day, 31 August, was celebrated this year in Taiping and the parade was passing the buildings along Station Road. The partial fencing was to cover the eyesore from view! Shame on MPT if that is true.

The main entrance (left photo) is “locked” in a very provisional way. Notice how the fence ends.

But from the other side you can. The fence is a solid construction, but completely useless this way. I entered from the side facade and took several pictures. I took care not to wake up the squatter who was living there and sleeping πŸ™‚ !

I have sent my report about these two buildings to the Taiping Municipal Council and to the Perak Exco for tourism, arts and culture. No reply (yet).

Next two large scale murals. one related to the Central Market, the other one to the Port Weld railway. Well done by the same artist, apparently sponsored by Koridor Utara and MPT. You can find murals nowadays all over Malaysia, good that Taiping seems to “specialise” in large ones.

Almost back in my hotel, I crossed one of my favourite food courts, opposite the Taiping Mall, where I had enjoyed my Chee Cheong Fun breakfast earlier that morning. It seems that in the past, this was the place where they held circus shows. No idea who came with the idea to “add value” to this relaxed place by erecting a useless I LOVE TAIPING .

After a rest in my hotel, it was time for my usual walk in the Lake Gardens . I had taken my umbrella, because the sky was threatening. But with the sun still present, the result is enchanting.

It was a Saturday afternoon, people were enjoying their boat rides, as I was enjoying my walk.

Just a few more photos of plants, flowers, fruits and fresh leaves. Life is good in Taiping.

I have walked numerous times in the Lake Gardens, and never noticed that there is actually a dinosaur near the lake side! After part of the Circular Road became the pedestrian Raintree Walk, people can use it for their exercises.

In the evening I went out for dinner. First I walked to the Casual Market, forgetting that they are not open in the evening. Walking back, passing the nicely illuminated clock tower, I went to another favorite food court of mine, Prima, where I had my Char Kuey Teow.

I was not the only customer πŸ™‚

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend Yeap in Lian Thong, eggs on toast and coffee. Another nicely restored building.

I had rented a bicycle from Furama hotel, because I was planning to visit the Taiping Aerodrome. But first I visited Mrs Long, the sister of my Singapore friend ST Lee. She is the wife of the late Mr Long, headmaster of King Edwards VIII and it has become a tradition to have a chat with her in her beautiful house at Barrack Road. She is a very good story teller.

When I was doing my research about Amelia Earhart and her supposed landing at the Taiping Aerodrome, I became interested in what was left of the aerodrome. I found a so-called aviation map of British Malaya (1935), with a detailed map of the Taiping Aerodrome. Compare it with the Google Earth screenshot. The left corner of the airfield has been developed already and there is concern that the rest of the airfield may follow. Protests have been hold, until now successfully.

Here is a view of the airfield. It would be great if a destination could be found in line with the original function of the field. For example an airfield for glider planes, or a skydiving school. Bus as you can see on the GE map, the field is now surrounded by residential development, so there might be safety issues.

Not much is left from the original buildings. This might have been the control tower.

A few more pictures. Could the building in the bottom pictures have been a hangar? First I thought that the concrete track in the top right picture could have been a runway, but on the GE screenshot you can see that the runway ran diagonally across the airfield (and has been been extended later, after the 1935 map was made).

On my way back to town, I stopped for a while at another mega-mural, near Antong’s coffee mill. Well done, but not a very good location, not many visitors will come and see it.

Back in town, I visited the Taiping city gallery, where I met Puan Jamilah, who still recognised me from an earlier visit. The planning is that this nice building should become a tourist information center for Taiping, but there is a lack of funding. Pity.

I met Yeap again for lunch, now in the company of Halim. After our lunch we visited the antique shop of Kapitan Tan, where Halim of course had to try the old Vespa πŸ™‚

In the afternoon I took a rest in my hotel . Later Yeap picked me up and together we went to the Tupai temple for the fire walking. Here is the link again: Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

The next morning I had breakfast with Keseven, a Taiping Heritage Society (THS) member who like me is very interested in the Taiping Aerodrome and rather upset about the Amelia Earhart mural. Taiping is a small town, so it was no surprise that we met there Neal, another THS member. Of course we talked/gossiped about Taiping and THS πŸ™‚

Halim was free that morning and willing to drive me around Taiping. So I walked back to my hotel, passed the dobi lines, always a colorful spectacle, packed my stuff and checked out.

Halim has been very active in tourism, so we made another stop at the Taiping city gallery and talked a bit more with Puan Jamilah.

Our next stop was at the pillars of the former Residency with the ruins of the ruined Casuarina hotel . Six years ago I have published a report, Shame on Taiping! , about this location. Nt much change, but of course more decay.

A few pictures. Halim told me that he and his wife had managed the restaurant of the hotel when it was still operating, about 12 years ago, so this visit was a kind of nostalgic experience for him.

Halim is quite adventurous and wanted to explore the first floor of the hotel, now resembling a jungle.

He was even more adventurous when we visited the New Club swimming pool, our last destination.

Before dropping me at the station, we had lunch in the Old Railway Station with Mee Rojak and Cendol.

Then it was time to take the ETS train back to Kuala Lumpur. A very convenient way of traveling!

It was a very rewarding trip. Thanks to all my Taiping friends. Looking forward to come again.

Nine Emperor Gods Festival

Last month one of our friends told us that he would have vegetarian food during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. This Taoist festival is yearly held during the first nine days of the ninth lunar month. The largest celebration takes place in Ampang, but there is also one in Taiping, which I had always wanted to see, but never had πŸ˜‰ .

I asked my Taiping friends about details, and they told me that the main procession would be held on Sunday 6 October, and the fire walking on the last evening, Monday 7 October. So I booked my usual hotel Furama and arrived by train Saturday 5 October afternoon.

Taiping has become a warm nest for me, friends were already waiting at the station, and before sending me to my hotel, we had lunch in restaurant YES.

After a short rest in my hotel, and in spite of the drizzle, I decided to have a look at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple. There are three Kew Ong Yah (Nine Emperor) temples in Taiping, the original one is in Tupai, on walking distance from my hotel.

A lot of activity was going on. Devotees were praying in the temple and having (free) vegetarian food. Many of them were wearing traditional white clothes.

In the temple compound I saw already the floats and chariots that were going to be used during the procession.

That evening I had dinner again with my friends, this time in restaurant 8383 in Pokok Assam. As I said, Taiping is a warm nest for me. The food was delicious and really value for money.

The next morning was the procession. The husband of my friend Bok Kin is a descendant of Ng Boo Bee, the famous tycoon. In April they had taken me to Ng Boo Bee’s tomb, click here for the report. Ng Boo Bee’s town house is in Kota Road., the procession is always passing by there and it is a tradition that the family prepares an offering table in front of the house. Bok Kin invited me to watch the parade from there and of course I accepted her invitation.

Before the procession started, I joined the family in burning joss sticks, not surprisingly nine sticks this time πŸ™‚

Many people were waiting for the arrival of the parade. The cream-colored building is Ng Boo Bee’s townhouse

Start of the procession. In the background the iconic Taiping clock tower.

When the chariots were close to the house and the offering table, they made a left turn and almost ran to the table, stopping just in time.

Many participants were carrying whips, using them to make a cracking sound. There were also quite a few devotees, dressed in tattered monk robes, a fan in one hand and often a bottle of beer in the other. They personify Ji Gong. Fascinating to watch.

Rocking the chariot is a common practice. I had seen it before at the Chengay festival in Johor Baru.

I kept taking pictures πŸ™‚ .

Most of the chariots were carried by men. This one was an exception.

This Ji Gong entered the house to pay his respect to the house altar and wrote something on a piece of paper before he continued.

Another Ji Gong. His robe is tattered. His cap is covering his eyes. Holding a bottle of beer in one hand and a fan in the other. The original Ji Gong (1130-1209) ate meat, drank alcohol and did not care about his clothing… πŸ™‚

The most fascinating part of the procession are the many men, often still teenagers, who have been piercing their cheeks, walk with hooks in their backs etc. They are called masong. Most piercing is done with long, thin, metal poles, but there were a few devotees who had used heavier stuff, like this guy who was using two swords, and the guy to the right, using a gun. Can not imagine how that can heal easily.

Here are more pictures. One guy using an umbrella, another one a tyre pump, even one carrying a ladder! Notice how all of them have one or two helpers, carrying a stool. Understandably, sometimes they have to sit down for a while πŸ™‚

An Indian drum band added to the festive atmosphere. My friends said that this year the procession was longer than before. Several temple are contributing, and also Indians take part in the parade.

Here is another way of self-mortification , similar to what I have seen at Thaipusam, where devotees pull a chariot with ropes attached by hooks to their back. No chariot here, but other boys, pulling back, while the masong are more or less hanging forward.

More piercing of cheeks.

The last part of the procession. Devotees are carrying kavadis. Both the kavadis and the piercing have their origin in the Hindu Thaipusam tradition. Actually, there is a Hindu festival, Navaratri, during the same nine days of the ninth lunar month, but not related, as far as I know.