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 🙂

Chinese names are not easy for me to memorise 😉 . 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 🙂

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 360° 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 🙂

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 🙂

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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 😉

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 🙂

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 😉

And that was not yet the end of our socialising.. 😉 . 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 😉 .

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 😉

Christmas Angels 😉

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.

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 . 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 😉

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 🙂

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 😉 . 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 🙂 .

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 🙂

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 😉

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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

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 Nîmes. Take the road via Vézénobres, 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 ‘broken’ 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 Étang 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.