Taiping, July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time he was at home and free to chat !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One picture for the album ūüėČ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journal Dutch trip 2019

On the 15th of April I arrived in Amsterdam and seven weeks later, on the 4th of June, I flew back to Malaysia.

I have written already quite a few blogs about this visit and I will give links in this final post. But there is still a bit more to report ūüôā

The first two weeks Aric”s sister joined us, it was her first visit to the Netherlands, we visited many tourist attractions, here are some highlights.

Detailed report here : Aei Ling’s visit. We also spent a few days with her in Paris, resulting in a separate report: Paris.

After Aei Ling had gone back to Malaysia, Aric stayed two more weeks. We visited a photo exhibition in Den Haag: Erwin Olaf in the Gemeentemuseum

And we spent five days in Italy, here is the report: Cinque Terre.

After Aric went back. I stayed for another three weeks. During that period I visited my family and friends. I wrote a report about three of these visits: Family Visits. Here a few pictures, one of each visit.

I also visited a friend in Utrecht and walked around a few hours in this beautiful town. It resulted in another post: Utrecht 2019 .

And finally I wrote a post about an open-air art exhibition in Amsterdam, which I visited just a few days before I flew back to Malaysia : ArtZuid

Altogether seven (!) blog posts ūüėČ . About some of my other activities I will report in this final post.

Aric and visited the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Aric had never been there yet. In 2016 I have written a detailed report about the Royal Palace, Amsterdam. Here a few pictures taken during our visit.

During an earlier visit, Aric had found on the Internet information about an interesting sculpture near the Leidseplein, the Little Saw Man. The artist is unknown, and has created more artworks in the past decades. We found two more.

Each time I come back to Amsterdam, I fall in love again with the town ūüôā .

There is a lot of beautiful architecture, old and new. From left to right, the Westerkerk, the hardware store of Gunters & Meuser and the hotel Nhow, still under construction.

And there are so many beautiful museums! The Stedelijk Museum is one of my favourites. They have a large collection of Malevich paintings

Like many museums do nowadays, often different art forms are combined in the exhibitions, which adds to the pleasure of walking around.

I like the German Expressionists, the museum has quite a large collection.

A few more of my favourites.

My followers will expect that I also write something about food and the meals I enjoyed :-). I had many lunches and dinners with friends, at home or in a restaurant, but I don’t always take pictures nowadays.

Let me start with a YouTube where I show how to eat a raw herring. It was on Kings Day, normally I am not dressed like this ūüôā

My usual dinner with Yolanda took place this time in restaurant Entrepot . Casual, relaxed atmosphere. We ordered the chef’s menu, 5 courses, and everything was delicious. Each dish looked as an artwork ūüėČ

I had also a lunch with ex-colleagues from my school. In restaurant Merkelbach. a 3-course lunch menu. Beautiful weather, and here too each dish was a work of art (and delicious as well).

Two more “social” pictures. Left a lunch with friends from my school, right a dinner with friends from my university past.

I will finish this post with a few pictures of my apartment and its direct environment. Here is the livingroom and my study annex guest room.

This is the view north from my apartment.

And here the view west during sunset.

From my apartment it is a 5 minutes walk to a big shopping center, where I almost daily go for my grocery items. On my way I have to cross a small park, with a pond where I noticed a Common Coot who had built a nest. In the right picture the bird was standing up for a short while, so I could see that there were six eggs.

The nest was only a few meter away from a footpath and often people were standing there watching the bird.

On the first of June, three days before my departure, the eggs had hatched! In the video you can see three chicks and the father bringing food. Very interesting. Unfortunately on the last day, the nest was empty and only one chick was swimming beside the parents. Probably the other had been eaten by the seagulls who are frequenting the pond. That’s life

Seven wonderful weeks, though sometimes a bit hectic. After I came back to Malaysia from my “holidays”, I needed time to recover ūüôā

Family Visits

During my visits to the Netherlands, my siblings and I often organise a reunion, see for example my blogs De Nollen and Family Gathering .

This time it was not possible to find a date that was suitable for everybody, so instead I met my siblings separately. My sister Lous and brother Pim, I had met already with Aei Ling and Aric, see my earlier report.

On 16 May I visited my brother Arie, who is living in Alkmaar. During an earlier visit in 2015 he had guided me around in this historical town: Alkmaar. This time we visited the Broeker Veiling, north of Alkmaar.

Here is a Google Earth image of what has been called the Realm of the Thousand Islands. From the 13th century farmers have created these small islands to cultivate vegetables, like onions, potatoes, cabbages.

In 1887 the first vegetable auction took place, in the open air! In 1912 an auction building was constructed, built over the water, so the boats could sail through it.

The real auctions do not take place here anymore, but the building has been beautifully preserved and is now part of the Museum Broekerveiling.

The walls of the modern main building have been decorated with photos of the thousand islands and the giant cabbage in front of the museum is of course an obvious photo object ūüôā

The museum gives an interesting history of vegetable farming in the region. There are interactive displays and videos of people telling about their experiences when they were kids. It must have been a harsh life.

The auction building is surrounded by “lighallen” (mooring halls) where the farmers could wait until it was their turn, to sail through and have their cargo auctioned.

Although the real auctions don’t take place here anymore, the atmosphere is still very authentic. The blackboards mention the name of the farmer, the weight and other specifics about the cargo.

No real auctions, but regularly demonstrations are given in the auction hall. For me it was the highlight of our visit.

First the auctioneer explained the procedure. The starting price for a load is high, then the clock is going down and down to lower prices, until one of the buyers pushes a button in front of his seat. He will pay that price, so he must take care not to push too early :-). On the other hand, if he waits too long, another buyer will have pushed his button!

The Dutch expression is “veiling bij afslag”, when I searched for the English translation, I was quite surprised to find that it is : Dutch Auction !

We, the visitors, could bid ourselves! Of course not on huge quantities of onions etc, but on small bags of carrots, apples, strawberries, etc. I bought two pears, for 1.35 Euro, probably more expensive than in the supermarket. Big fun!

The lady auctioneer and the couple that played the role of farmers, gave a perfect, entertaining performance. She didn’t mind to have her photo taken with us, probably she will be in thousands of pictures..:-)

Back home, Ineke had prepared a Dutch meal, not with cabbage, but with asparagus. Delicious.

A few days later Otto, my youngest brother, visited me in my apartment in Amsterdam. We had dinner and, as usual, a long, interesting conversation about many different topics, like the universe for example ūüôā

He stayed overnight and the next morning, after breakfast, we drove back to Alphen a/d Rijn, our hometown. We had lunch in the family house. The weather was nice, so in the afternoon we decided to go for a walk through the polders. When I was a teenager, it was my playground, a lot has been changed since then. Here is a Google Earth image with our walk in green.

We walked through beautiful polder landscape. Part of the polder here has been “given back” to nature. Lots of flowers everywhere. A coot was swimming around with a single chick, probably the rest had been eaten already.

Part of the walk took us to the Bedelaarsbos (Beggars Forest). Not much of a forest actually :-). Sixteen years ago, my siblings and I have hidden a so-called geocache here, Bedelaarsbos. The geocache was a small container, hidden in a hollow tree trunk. It was a popular geocache, found about 150 times yearly. Otto took care of the cache regularly, because I was living in Malaysia most of the time. When he told me that the hollow space was closing up, getting too small for the container, we decided to archive the cache, now four years ago.

I did not have the coordinates of the cache location, so we tried to find the tree trunk, using our memory…:-). Not easy, but we thought it might be the tree in the right picture. Later, checking the website, I found that we were right!

It was a pleasant walk, about 3.9 km.

There was still time enough before I had to go back to Amsterdam. Otto suggested that we could visit our parents’ grave. First we went to a garden center to buy some plants, because he said the grave was a bit barren.

The cemetery was established during the thirties of the last century,
I had never noticed the nice sculptures at the entrance gate!

Left Otto as gardener, right the result of his work ūüôā

At the end of the afternoon I took a bus back to Amsterdam

Ten days later I took the train to Groningen to visit my brother Ruud. During my stay in the Netherlands I always spend a few days with him, see for example my report Groningen 2018. This time he suggested to have a look at Blauwestad, a “new” village in the east of the province of Groningen.

During our trip we passed several “old” villages, where we took pictures of churches and windmills. The locations are indicated in the Google Earth map

Our first stop was at Harkstede. The church in this village was built at the end of the 17th century by Henric Piccardt, a fascinating character, adventurer and diplomat (the link is in Dutch). He built the church also for himself, beneath the church there is a mausoleum for his family, and he had his own study and library in the church!

Above the church entrance the coat of arms of the Piccardt family. The tower in the right picture is much older than the church, dating back to about 1250.

Next we visited the church of Slochteren. The original cruciform church was built in the 13th century, nowadays only the transept remains, with a separate church tower

A bit confusing. Anno 1650, but the inscription mentions MDCCLXXXIII = 1783.

In Schildwolde, the church tower, separate like in Slochteren, belongs to the original 13th century church. It is an impressive, 48m tall structure. The church itself was built in 1686 and is a simple hall church.

We continued to the Oldambtmeer, where we had lunch. The Oldambtmeer is an artificial lake of about 800 hectares in the Oldambt region. Compare the two maps below. In the center of the right map you can see the new village Blauestad.

A few pictures of the lake. Its purpose is recreation, for the population of Blauestad and the other villages around the lake.

Here is a part of Blauestad, still under construction. Not really a place where I would like to live, but probably perfect for people who love sailing, fishing etc ūüôā

We passed two flour mills on our trip. The first was Stel’s Meuln in Harkstede. Built in 1851 as “grondzeiler”, a windmill where the blades almost reach the ground. Later raised on a platform to become a “stellingmolen”. This was often done in a built environment, so the blades could catch the wind better.

The other windmill is the Edens in Winschoten, built in 1763, the oldest windmill of the province Groningen. Raised several times because of the buildings, surrounding the mill. Looked very impressive.

Back in Groningen town, we finished the day with a nice dinner in restaurant De Branderij.

The next morning I took the train back to Amsterdam

A meeting of pensionados

In 1976 I started teaching physics at the Snellius school in Amstelveen. I was 32 year old and had just graduated from the Free University in Amsterdam. Left I am defending my thesis, right I am teaching my students, in a different outfit. And yes, my hair was long..:-)

Here is a photo of the school team in 1990-91. After a merger with other public secondary schools in Amstelveen, the school was renamed Nieuwer Amstel school. I am wearing contact lenses and have less hair.

Two years later. Can you find me?

This photo is from 1995-1996. I am wearing a brown jacket.

The next year, 1996-97, was my last regular teaching¬† year.¬† Here is my last “Lerarenagenda”, I still have the complete collection ūüôā

The following years, until 2002, I worked part-time at my own alma mater, the Free University, on education-related topics. In 2002, at the age of 58, I became a full-time pensionado..:-)

So, it is more than 20 years ago that I was in daily contact with my colleagues, although several of them have become friends, whom I meet regularly when I am back in the Netherlands.

One of them told me in May that there was a plan to organise a reunion of pensionados, who had retired from one of the schools which now, after another merger, form the Amstelveen College.

The date proposed was 5 October, and I was so eager to attend this reunion that I decided to prolong my yearly visit to the Netherlands a few weeks…:-)

In the afternoon of 5 October I went to the Amstelveen College, the old Snellius school building has been demolished quite a few years ago.

The meeting of pensionados was well organised. About sixty of them were present, basically from the schools that had merged into the Amstelveen College, but more than half of them had been working at the Snellius, so there were many familiar faces and fortunately in almost all cases I still could remember their name ūüôā

There was a short introduction about the present status of the Amstelveen College.

But of course the main interest of the attendees was social, meeting former colleagues and chatting about their shared past.

Left three colleagues who were already working for many years at the Snellius, when I arrived in 1976. The right picture shows me with a few colleagues of the former Casimir school, in the past the rival public school in Amstelveen.

It was a pity that there was no “official” photographer. In between conversations with former colleagues, I managed to take some pictures but they are not representative for the group. Here are my pictures.

During the meeting old photos , taken in the period 1976 to 1988, were shown on a big screen. They belong to the collection of Dick Vader, who worked at the Snellius during the 70s and 80s and who was (and still is) an avid photographer.

He has given me permission to use these photos and below you will find a¬† selection, with persons who also appear in the color pictures above. It will be an interesting exercise to compare the two sets and find out the corresponding images…:-)

I have cropped most photos to show only one specific person.

Because most attendees were busy chatting with each other, many of them may not have paid full attention to the photo presentation of more than 500 photos.

That’s why I have put a representative selection of these photos in a separate album Snellius 1976-1987¬†(text in Dutch)

It was a very successful meeting, worthy of a repeat.

 

France 2018, part II

Status

See France 2018, part I , for the first part of our trip to France. Here is again a map of the places we visited.

In 1976(!), after my graduation, I applied for a position as a physics teacher at a school in Amstelveen. The rector (headmaster) in those days was Dr B.C. Poeder, he interviewed me and decided to give me the job. He retired long ago, but we had become friends and kept in touch. Therefore I knew that he was now living in France, in the region that Aric and I were going to visit.

I wrote to him, and he invited us to stay a few days in his house, in the small village of Robiac, about 50 km north of¬†N√ģmes. Take the road via¬†V√©z√©nobres, he suggested.

I had never heard about that village, but we followed his advice and decided to have lunch there . A romantic, medieval village, no cars allowed, we had to park quite far outside the walls

Walking around we were wondering if there was a place to have some food. We were lucky, found a nice shop where they prepared crepes and galettes. I had a glass of cider. Very nice people too.

When we arrived in Robiac, Carel was already waiting for us at the roadside, otherwise we might have missed the small road leading to his house. The nameplate on the letterbox still refers to his past as headmaster :-).

We were warmly welcomed by Carel and Joanne, his wife. The house is part of what before has been a school. The basement, formerly a goat stable, has been transformed in a guest room.

A big garden with many flowers.

Our hosts invited us for a nice dinner in Barjac, a nearby village.

The next day we enjoyed the swimming pool and the hospitality of Carel and Joanne, but also made a trip to a cave, the Grotte de la Salamandre. This cave was discovered in the 60s, access was possible only by abseiling through a hole above the cave! Five years ago the cave was opened to the public after an access tunnel had been excavated from the side of the hill.

You can still rappel down in the original way ( for an extra fee), we chose the tunnel..:-). A guided tour, clear explanations, the stalagmites and stalactites were illuminated with varying colors, some really very bright, but also with normal white light.

A very rewarding experience.

When you click on the left picture below to enlarge it, you can see at the top people who are abseiling from the hole in the roof!

The next day we said goodbye to our hosts and continued our trip. We had decided to follow the Gorges du Tarn, a long but very  scenic route. It is a canyon, 400 to 600 meter deep, eroded by the river Tarn. Spectacular views, like here of the village of Castelbouc, deep down.

The river is a favourite playground for kayakers.

We had lunch in La Malène

We stayed overnight in Millau, our Airbnb was a nice apartment, located in the historic center of the town.

Millau is nowadays known for its viaduct, but it turned out to be a surprisingly attractive town itself. The next morning we climbed the Beffroi, a bell tower consisting of a 12th-century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th-century tower.

It was a steep climb, but the view was worth the effort. The Millau viaduct was of course clearly visible and deep down the Halles, built in 1899.

In the Middle Ages Millau was an important town, especially because of a bridge across the Tarn river, consisting of 17 spans. Nowadays only one span remains with a house built on it, formerly a watermill. Very scenic.  In a nearby cafe we had coffee with a piece of fouace, a cake specialty of Millau.

The Millau viaduct is (at the time of writing) the tallest bridge in the world, with a height of 340 meter above the river Tarn. It is considered one of the great engineering achievements of all time.

The viaduct has become a major tourist attraction. We drove over it and also under it, when you look up at the supporting pylons from the river valley, they look so fragile!

Our next destination was Albi. Here a view of the town with the Sainte Cécile cathedral and the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) in the foreground. This bridge was originally built in 1035.

We stayed two nights in Albi in a very nice Airbnb , a complete house, a bit outside the historic center, easy parking, with a very friendly hostess, who advised us where to eat where to shop and where to park when we wanted to visit the town center. Airbnb at its best…:-)

The cathedral is an amazing building, constructed between the 13th and 15th century. Those were the days of the Cathar Heresy, and the Roman Catholic church wanted to make a clear statement of strength. What a contrast with for example the Notre Dame in Paris! It looks like a fortress and is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.

The monumental doorway was added at the end of the 14th century

The austere outside forms a strong contrast with the flamboyant interior.

Next to the cathedral the fortress of the¬†Palais de la Berbie, the Bishops’ Palace, dating to the end of the 13th century

Nowadays it is the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. We had a quick look , I am not really a fan of him..:-)

But the gardens of the Palace are beautiful.

For dinner, our hostess had advised us  restaurant Lautrec in Albi and that was a good choice!

Albi has of course many interesting old houses. The left picture also shows the belltower of the cathedral

Another useful advice of our hostess was to visit the small village of Puycelsi, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France . There are more than 150 of them…:-)

The weather was a bit grey during our visit, here is a view of the village

We parked our car outside the walls and explored the narrow streets, visited the church and had lunch.

During our trip we had already passed  many sunflower fields, but on our way to Carcassonne we found such a beautiful field that we really had to stop to take pictures..:-)

We visited Lautrec, another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The view of Lautrec might look similar to the view of Puyselci, but careful inspection of the two pictures will show you they are not the same…:-)

The weather was beautiful again, that could be the reason that we liked this village better. The walls are still there and the 14th century market square is attractive

We had lunch in a nice restaurant , Le Clos d’Adele. Good food, pleasant service, value for money.

After lunch we visited one of the other attractions of Lautrec, a 17th century windmill. A steep climb, but worth the effort, we could enter the mill and had a nice view of the surroundings. When there is enough wind the mill is still operating.

With Airbnb the host often doesn’t live in¬† the same building, so you have to contact him/her about your arrival time. That works well in general, but in Carcassonne it took us some time, the apartment also looked more like a hotel room. But it was ok, from our window we could see the medieval fortress in the evening light. But what were those strange yellow surfaces on the walls and towers?

The next day we explored the old town. It  the largest walled city in Europe and really impressive.

Not surprisingly it is a major tourist attraction with crowds of visitors in the narrow streets. We were lucky to find a restaurant with a secluded garden, where we had a nice lunch, again value for money

The name of the restaurant is Le Jardin du Carcasses, it has good reviews

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus was built in its Gothic form at the end of the 13th century on the site of an earlier church. It was the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803. Beautiful interior. But keep in mind that this church and also the citadel itself have been “renovated” in the 19th century by the French architect¬†Viollet-le-Duc!

Access to the medieval city is free, but to access the fortress and the walls you have to pay an entrance fee.

Carcassonne is  a Unesco World Heritage site already for 20 years and of course that had to be celebrated. The Swiss artist Felice Varini was asked to create a project.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‚Äėbroken‚Äô fragmented shapes.”

In this case he projected concentric circles on the walls and towers of the citadel. They look broken, only from one vantage point they are circles. Quite spectacular, of course many specatators, not easy to take a picture without people.

In the evening we came back especially to admire Varini’s work

Our trip was coming to an end, our last destination was the naturist village of Cap d’Agde. On our way we passed this strange landscape, the¬†√Čtang de Montady, a wetland, drained in the 13th century.

What to say about Cap d’Agde? Here is a picture of the beach, when you enlarge it, you will see that the sunbathers are naked…:-)

Nudist beaches are common in Europe, but Cap d’Agde is a nudist village, where you walk around, have a drink/ food on a terrace, go to the supermarket etc, all in your birthday suit..:-)

We had booked a room (Airbnb) with Bernard and that was a lucky choice, because he had been living there for many years and could tell us the do’s and don’ts. One don’t is that you can not take pictures of other naked people. Another one is that at night, during dinner, you are supposed to be a bit dressed at least…:-)

Bernard had two other guests, Christiane and Alain, a nice couple who had been regular visitors of Cap d’ Agde for many years. We became friends almost immediately…:-) The village itself is a nondescript conglomerate of concrete apartment complexes, but the company made our visit very enjoyable.

The second (also last) night of our stay we were invited to join our new friends to a dinner in a nearby restaurant. There was music, there was drag, and both Aric and I have been dancing! A fun evening and a worthy ending of our trip

It is amazing how much you can do in twelve days. After our return ot Amsterdam we needed several days to recover…:-)

Singapore 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

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

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

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

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

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

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

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

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

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

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

Here is the boardwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

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

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

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

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

CNY 2017

On 28 January 2017 the Year of the Rooster started. I had created a New Year card, using a picture of a magnificent rooster belonging to a friend of mine.

The Chinese zodiac has 12 signs and 5 elements (water, fire, earth, wood and metal). This time it is the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Sometimes it is also called Year of the Chicken or even Year of the Cock, because the Chinese character used, ť∑Ą or ťõ쬆 , is gender-neutral

2017 is a leap year, with 13 months, the sixth month will be repeated.

As usual Aric had gone back to his hometown Parit Baru a few days earlier, to organise the festivities for day 3 of the CNY. Each year there is a dress code, this time everybody had to wear a flowery shirt, else you had to pay a fine…:-). There would be a BBQ party, a lottery¬†and a¬†¬†competition for the¬†most original/beautiful shirt.

When I arrived on day 3 late in the afternoon, the preparations were already in full swing. It is a tradition that I visit a waterfall with my friends on day 3, but this time we failed to reach the planned waterfall after a long hike. Here is my report: An unsuccessful waterfall trip. So I was rather exhausted when I reached the family house. But in this picture I still look quite fresh with my new shirt and surrounded by flower girls..:-).

Aric had bought my flower shirt, told one of his cousins about it, who liked it so much that she bought an identical shirt for her husband…:-).

Of course many, many pictures were taken. Aric, as MC, was very busy, but still found time for some pictures. He is very popular with all the nephews and nieces

In the kampung house in Parit Baru three families have been living together, Aric’s late father and two of his uncles. That explains that¬†there is such a crowd during CNY, when all the children and the (many!) grandchildren are¬†coming back to their hometown.

Before it gets dark, group pictures had to be taken. Here is a picture with everybody in front of the kampung house.

In the next¬†picture, Aric, ¬†who was the photographer, ¬†has split¬†the group¬†in families. He has five uncles, nr 1,3 and 6 are living in Kuala Lumpur. To the right the family of Uncle no 4, then the family of Aric’s father (no 2), followed by the family of Uncle no 5. To the left Uncle no 3 and 6 with a few family members. Uncle no 6 and three Aunties are not present. Nine siblings! ¬†I find it not always easy to remember who belongs to which family, so this is a useful picture for me …:-)

Two more group photos, one with  all the ladies, and one with Uncle no 5 and his family.

Aric had planned a few fun activities. One was a competition for the most original/beautiful floral shirt. In the left picture the seven selected competitors. The guy at the right could not find a suitable shirt and had asked his daughter to paint flowers¬†with watercolors on a white t-shirt. Not surprisingly he won the first prize…:-)

Then it was time for food, lots of food. For example 500 sticks of satay….:-)¬†And there ¬†were oysters! Huge¬†size, most people liked them barbecued, I preferred them raw. Delicious.

The last activity was a lottery. Ang pow envelopes were attached to the wall of the house in two sections, one for the kids and one for the adults. Everybody had to pick an envelope, and three  envelopes contained a piece of paper with a number written on it. I am never lucky with this kind of games, but this time I had a paper with a 2, meaning the second prize!

Although very busy, Aric had still found time to create his own CNY-card

 

I wish all my followers

Gong Xi Fa Cai

CNY 2016

On 8 February, the Chinese year of the monkey started. I am a monkey myself, when you are familiar with the Chinese zodiac, you know that I will celebrate my 72nd birthday this year…:-). Oh, you thought it was my 60th? Don’t play play, lah!

This year I decided to join Aric in his hometown for the traditional steamboat dinner on CNY eve. He had gone to Parit Baru already a few days earlier to help his mother with the preparations. As usual there was a big crowd, dinner in two rounds.

Second round. In the right picture Aric’s mother and his older sister with her two children.

 

After the dinner it was time for the traditional Yee Sang¬†ceremony.¬†Yee Sang¬†is a¬†Teochew-style raw fish salad. Actually yee sang means “raw fish”, but the pronunciation is similar to the Chinese word for “abundance”. The ceremony is that the family members gather around the yee sang and toss the salad with their chopsticks. The higher you toss the salad, the more abundance you will get…:-) ¬† It is a very Malaysian Chinese tradition.

On day 3¬†of CNY I was planning to visit a “new” waterfall between Beruas and Trong, with my waterfall friends Siang Hui, Nick and Rani. First I was thinking to stay in Parit Baru until then, but would I survive the crowd…:-)? Aric advised me that it would be better to “escape” for a few days, and come back on day 3¬†for the traditional family¬†¬†party.

So¬†I went to Taiping on day 1. I had booked a hotel in Taiping already, when my friend May protested, told me¬†that the hotel was haunted and convinced me¬†to stay with her in what she calls the “Maywarmers Lodge”. Of course Rani was welcome too. Malaysian hospitality!

By the same Malaysian hospitality I was invited for two CNY open houses…:-). I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and both Yeap, the president and¬†Sharon, an active committee member, invited me as soon as they heard that I would be in Taiping.

I arrived in Taiping just in time for the¬†open house lunch at Yeap’s¬†residence

After the lunch I met Rani in town, he had traveled on his bike. Also Paul and Fahmi, who happened to stay in Taiping. We spent a nice afternoon together, visited the Burmese pool (really too crowded) and had a look at the ruined New Club swimming pool. We had a drink in the Lake Garden food court, before Paul and Fahmi went back to KL.

Later Rani and I had our dinner in the same food court, one of my favourites. And the next morning we had a dim sum breakfast with our hostess May.

Originally our plan was to visit Kuala Sepetang, but we felt lazy and only had a look in the afternoon at some of my “favourite”¬†eyesore places in Taiping. I must have a¬†¬†masochist streak..:-)

That evening Rani joined me to Sharon’s open house. In the picture you see Sharon’s husband, Dr Chan Ah Lak and his nephew Henry Chan, who also happens to be a friend of mine. As usual Malaysia is a small world….

May had warned us that she was giving a CNY party for her former school mates that evening, so we were a bit shy to go back to her house…:-) ¬†Of course a picture had to be¬†taken, but after a while we could escape to our room..:-)

2016-02-09 21.53.51

The following day we had arranged to meet Siang Hui and Nick (coming from Teluk Intan) at the entrance of the Allagar Estate, between Trong and Beruas. From there a plantation road would take us to the trail head. Siang Hui had discovered the waterfall a few years ago and baptised it Lata Hui..:-).

But what a disappointment. When we arrived at the trail head, we were stopped by an armed soldier, who told us that the region was out of bounds because of a military training. What to do? The only alternative was the Trong waterfall. We decided to go to the Upper Trong Fall, but we were not really in the mood, there were many leeches, we got lost a bit, and rather dispirited returned to the Trong Fall. A nice fall, we had our lunch there and a bath. But still a pity, we were so full of expectations.

Here is a short video of the waterfall

After our lunch, we all went our way, Rani back to Meru, Siang Hui and Nick to Teluk Intan, and I back to Parit Baru. Where I caused quite a sensation, entering the kitchen..:-)  Leeches, somebody screamed and yes, I had not checked my sandals and brought a few of these critters in the house. Immediately they were covered with salt, but I felt quite embarrassed.

It was a nice evening. With the traditional firecrackers, a lucky draw, gambling and of course lots of food. Each year Aric likes to take an “official” picture and this year had decided for a location¬†on the road outside the house. Not easy to control a crowd, but he managed…:-)

Here is the official picture of CNY 2016. The rule this year was to wear either a blue or a yellow shirt.

And here are the firecrackers. Illegal, but hey, this is Malaysia!

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Middelburg

Middelburg is a town in the south-western part of the Netherlands and capital of the Zeeland province. It takes about 2.5 hour by train from Amsterdam, very remote according to Amsterdam standards…:-). So ¬†I have visited Middelburg (en Zeeland) a few times¬†only. A friend of mine, Henk, ¬†is living in a small village near Middelburg, we know each other from our University days, more than 40 years ago! Since a few years we have a more or less regular contact again, ¬†because we are both interested in astronomy and cosmology.

Finally this year¬†we met for the first time in many decades. I could stay overnight in their “garden house”.¬† ¬†Did I like mussels, Henk’s wife Nel asked me? Sure, I did and Zeeland is famous for its seafood.

Henk met me at the station and had planned a walk in the historical center of Middelburg. Nice weather. MIddelburg has a rich historical past, in the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) it was after Amsterdam the most important trading center. Many lavish 17th and 18th century merchant houses and storehouses (some of them  restored after bombing in WWII) can still be admired. Center of the town is the Abdij (Abbey) with the Lange Jan (Long John) tower, built in the 14th century

We decided to climb the tower, one of the highest monumental towers in the Netherlands (91 meter). Beautiful view of the town , the abbey and the impressive town hall

We continued our walk, admired the Town Hall and had coffee on a terrace at the Market square. I tried the Zeeland specialty, a cinnamon bun called bolus. Bolus means “turd” in English, quite an apt name, I think…:-) ¬†In May 1940 part of the historical center of Middelburg was destroyed by bombing and fire. I include¬†one¬†picture of the St Joris Doelen as it looked like in 1940. What a beautiful restoration. The same holds for the Abdij.

After our lunch we had a look at the beautiful sundial of the Stadsschuur.¬†Not everybody looking at this sundial will understand the meaning of the figure eight “decorations”. They are analemma’s. See the Equation of Time for technical details.

From Middelburg it was only a short drive to Serooskerke where Henk and Nel are living in an attractive bungalow, with a beautiful garden. When they told me I could stay overnight in their “garden house”,¬†I expected simple accommodation, so I was quite surprised that it was actually a full-fledged apartment.

We had a very pleasant evening. Nel apologised that the mussel season was over, instead we had lobster. Yummy!  And a dish with zeekraal (Salicornia, glasswort in English) and baked mussels. And ice cream with strawberries. What a treat.

We had a lot to talk that evening…:-) Memories from our shared past, stories about our respective family backgrounds. We will hopefully meet again next year. In Zeeland or in Kuala Lumpur…:-)

My artistic sister

When you have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I have a nice family. See for example my recent report Family Gathering.  A disorderly bunch, my late parents called us lovingly. Here we are, in chronological order.

Only one sister, Lous, how she must have suffered in the past with five brothers..:-). During¬†her working life she has been¬†a teacher and counselor like me. But with an artistic streak which I completely lack ūüôĀ

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a nice routine to visit her and her husband Arend in their  bungalow in Valkkoog, north of Alkmaar. During my last visit I took pictures of a number of her creations. Judge for yourself.

As you see, she is using a large number of different techniques. I am proud of her.

23-IMG_8849