Taiping old and new

For quite some time already I have been  playing with the idea of creating a blog post about Taiping heritage, comparing old photographs with recent pictures .

Problem was to find suitable old photographs. Searching the Internet did not give many results. Then I discovered the book Perak Postcards 1890s-1940s  , compiled by Abdur Razzaq Lubis et al. and published by Areca Books . The book starts with a chapter about Taiping and contains numerous postcard pictures, suitable for my project. I have scanned several of these postcards and downloaded them to my iPad.

Recently I visited Taiping. Armed with my iPad,  and in the company of a few friends, we went looking for the locations from where the postcard pictures  were originally taken.

That was fun, but not always easy. We had to judge the camera position, the focal length used, etc. Landscape and townscape had changed, often dramatically

Here are the results. A scan of the book page is followed by an old postcard and a new picture.

Often the exact date of the originals can not be determined. When the postcard has been sent, sometimes the postage stamp can be read.

The Taiping chapter starts with a description of the town and a picture of the Central Market.

 

The Central Market was built in 1884/1885

The market is still in use, but there are plans to relocate it and renovate the old structure.

Hopefully the result will not become like Central Market in KL…:-(

 

This postcard was sent in 1927

The present situation. Note that a few houses to the left are still there.

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The original Taiping Railway Station was built in 1885 on the site of the present King Edward VII School. Relocated to its present location at the end of the 19th century.

The postcard is undated

 

The old railway station.And the “new” one. No longer in use as a station, now a heritage site. The modern station is situated to the right._______________________________________________________________________

 

The prestigious King Edwards School, founded in 1883 and relocated to its present location in 1905

 

 

 

 

An undated postcard. The Angsana trees in front of the school, were planted in 1910 and are already fully grown here.This postcard has a caption on the reverse side with a date: 1929And here is the present situation. Note that two of the original Angsana trees are still standing, now more than 100 years old._______________________________________________________________________

 

St George’s Institution, another famous Taiping school, opened in 1915 by the Lasallian Brothers.

 

 

 

The postcard is undated, but the building was extended with two wings in 1928, so the picture must have been taken before that time.The present building. Now a government school, but still with a cross on top of the roof.

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Opposite the original railway station a Rest House was built in 1894

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.The sad present situation. Until 2008 it has been a hotel, Lagenda,  I have been staying there a few times. Since 2008 it is closed and slowly going down the drain. I have called it the “Shame of Taiping”. ________________________________________________________________________

 

The government offices, started in 1895 and opened in 1898

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated. Present situation. It now houses the Larut-Matang District offcice. During daytime the space in front of the building is used as a parking lot. This picture was taken during the weekend. Note that in the center an extra (fake) gable has been added with the year 1897_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Perak museum, the first museum in the country, was started in 1883 in former government offices. It was expanded with the growing collection and completed in 1902

 

 

The postcard has been artificially colored and was used in 1912Present situation. Basically unchanged after more than a century!_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Standard Chartered Bank, opened in 1888.

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.Now the building is in use as the Public Library. The “messy” foreground makes a comparison complicated, but it is clear that the the building has been substantially enlarged.________________________________________________________________________

 

One of my favourite buildings in Taiping. Built as the State Engineer’s Residence in the early 1900s. Later used as the British Officer’s Mess

 

 

The postcard was used in 1911. In this picture it is still the residence of the State EngineerPresent situation. Note that center gable has been removed

 

In this postcard the building has already been transformed in the officer’s mess.

 

 

 

 

The central part has now been modified.There is hardly any difference between old and new!________________________________________________________________________

The iconic clock tower of Taiping, built in 1881 in wood, later rebuilt in brick (1900). Longtime in use as a police post

 

 

This is a real photo of the police clock tower on Kota Road. Taken late 1930sNote how the clock tower has “dwindled” in this recent picture, surrounded by large modern structures. There is at least still one original building left, try to find it.________________________________________________________________________

 

It is not easy to compare old and new in the Lake Gardens, landscape and trees have changed often beyond recognition.

Here are two postcards of one of the nice bridges.

 

A wooden footbridge in the Lake Gardens, with the Secretary to the Resident’s bungalow in the background. The card has been used in 1912 The present situation. The bungalow is no longer visible  through the trees. Note the ugly metal railing of the bridgeAnother, later view of the same bridge And the present view________________________________________________________________________

The Perak Postcards book contains many more pictures of Taiping. In this post just a selection I have made to find out if it was possible to take new pictures and compare the two. I am pleased with the result.

One scanned postcard I was unable to identify. Here it is. It is supposed to be Main Road (Jalan Taming Sari) in the direction of the government offices. But where on Main Road? We showed the picture to several locals, but without success.

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With Google I have found two pictures that are not in the Postcard Book. Both show the Clock Tower, which makes it a lot easier to identify the location of the photographer…:-)

Although it took us time to find the location from where the image below was taken. The images comes from the book Malaysia:A Pictorial History 1400 – 2004   and has as caption View of the church (sic!) and street scene, Taiping, c. 1890 
The picture must have been taken from the 5th Cross Street (Jalan Lim Tee Hooi). Left and right you still can see two gabled houses, probably the same as in the old picture!!The last picture is more recent, dating from the 70s of the last century. For sale on Ebay  (US $ 17.99)The present situation. The left side of Kota Road is hardly recognisable, the right side has not changed so much.

A friendly request for the readers of this post. If you have old  pictures/postcards of Taiping and are willing to share, please contact me.

Taiping & more

By now my interest in the history of Taiping, my 2nd hometown,  must be clear to followers of this blog..:-). I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society , which has about 600 members. It is a closed group, but you are welcome to join, if you are interested in the history of Taiping.

Surfing the Internet, I recently came across the FB page of Encik Anuar Isa, the curator of the (now closed) First Galleria . I was intrigued by this entry, published in 2014:

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Intrigued but also puzzled. The Hj Abdullah mentioned by Anuar Isa is Abdullah Muhammad Shah II , the 26th sultan of Perak. In 1875, he was accused of being involved in the murder of British Resident JWW Birch and exiled to the Seychelles in 1876. Could this be his house?

I published the picture on the THS whatsapp, asking if anybody had more info about this house. A few weeks later another THS member, Amril, also interested in the history of Taiping, replied that he had found the house and more information about it. The house was built in 1926 by a famous bomoh. Interesting but not related to Hj Abdullah and Isabella Bird never visited it.

A good reason for me to visit Taiping again and visit this house..:-)  I decided for a 3D2N trip and, as Aric was busy, asked my friends Paul and Fahmi to accompany me. Here is the report, actually about a lot more than Taiping..:-)

We left KL Friday morning and only had to be in Taiping in the afternoon, as we were invited by Amril to attend the Open House of his father, the OBJ of Larut, Matang and Selama. We decided to visit Kellie’s castle, as Fahmi had never been there.

For a history of the castle, click here. It has been renovated and embellished in recent years, making it a popular tourist attraction, although it has made the atmosphere less romantic. But still worth a visit.

Kellie's Castle

Our next destination was the Ulu Lecin waterfalls near Beruas, but when we arrived there, it started raining, so we decided to skip this and continue to Taiping where I had booked rooms in hotel Furama. Close to the Lake Gardens and within walking distance of the town center.

After a short rest and a change of clothes, we drove to the residence of the OBJ. The open house was held between 3 and 6 pm, I was expecting Malaysian timing, i.e. that it would start later. Mistake, when we arrived around 4:30, most of the food was finished already and many guests were leaving…:-)  No problem, there was still enough food and friendly company…:-) Amril was there to introduce me to his parents and I met  Abdur-Razzaq Lubis and his wife Salma, authors of many books about the history of Perak.

The Residence of the OBJ  was built in 1893 for the wife of Ngah Ibrahim. Before that time she had been living many years in what is now Kota Ngah Ibrahim in Matang. Of course both the Kota and this house have been enlarged and renovated many times. Interesting to note that the present OBJ is actually a descendant of Ngah Ibrahim.

The exterior of the residence and the main hall on the first floor.

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After the open house we went back to our hotel and walked to the Lake gardens. It often rains in the afternoon in Taiping, but this day it was very beautiful weather. Shall we make a boat-ride on the lake?  , I suggested. I have visited the Lake gardens numerous times, but never rented a paddle boat! It was fun, but more tiring than expected…:-)

A visit of Taiping is not complete without enjoying the food. Often it is Chinese food I have there, but this time it was it was mostly Indian/Malay/Mamak fare.

The next day I had arranged with Amril to meet him in the afternoon to visit the bomoh house. Our plan for the rest of the day was to visit the region around Batu Kurau, north of Taiping. Main target: the Air Hitam waterfall

We parked our car at the gate of the water catchment area.  When we were preparing for the hike, a friendly local passed us with the durians he had just harvested. He offered us one for free, and we could pick more, if we saw them on the ground.

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It is an easy walk along a clear trail until you can see the waterfall. A small trail brings you down to the river. It was a Saturday, but there were no other visitors and the waterfall was pristine, no rubbish!Air Hitam fall

It is a nice, powerful waterfall. We spent quite some time there, taking many pictures, making coffee and of course enjoying the durians. A very enjoyable morning.

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On our way back to Taiping, we had a look at “my” barbershop, near Anak Kurau. I call it “my” barbershop, because I have been there three times for a haircut and the barber knows me…:-) The shop is built against the limestone cliffs and the last time I payed RM 5 only. During my recent Taiping trip it was closed because of Ramadan. This time it was closed too, the neighbour explained that the barber had gone our for lunch. Next time, better luck..:-)

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Near to the shop, there is a cafe and a small cave. A good location to take pictures.

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A trail starting from the cafe, follows the river for a while. Beautiful limestone formations, where Fahmi could not resist to show his climbing power…:-)

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Then it was time to go back to Taiping, where we had a simple lunch in the Saiful restaurant at Changkat Jering, while waiting for Amril. He took us first to his friend, Encik Zamberi, living nearby. Zamberi could be called the local Taiping historian, he has written many books and knows a lot about the local history.

He showed us his beautiful library, apologised that it was a bit messy, because one week later there would be a wedding dinner. Then he took us to the bomoh house. The present owner, a descendant of the bomoh, is a friend of him. The friend had gone for the Hajj, the house was closed, but a caretaker opened it for us. Beautiful interior.

After this visit, Zamberi suggested to visit another old Malay house, with interesting interior details. Although coming unannounced, we were warmly welcomed by the couple living there, Malay hospitality at its best…:-)

As it was getting late, we skipped a visit to Long Jaafar’s tomb, where Amril’s ancestors are buried. It was a nice afternoon, a real pleasure to meet Encik Zamberi and Amril, I hope and expect it will not be the last time.

We went for dinner to a Yong Tau Foo foodcourt. Many shops, all serving yong tau foo. Malay style, quite different from the (Ampang) yong tau foo I am used to.

The next day, before driving back to KL, I had to show Paul the “Shame of Taiping”. Some historical buildings in Taiping (presenting itself as a Heritage Town!), are just left to themselves, decaying slowly. And not in a remote part of the town, no, just opposite the prestigious King Edwards school. Pictures without comment

The Town Rest House (1894) is another example. It has been fenced off, the fence is decorated with posters, promoting the many “Firsts” of Taiping, but one of the posters was torn. Again! In my 2nd hometown report I also wrote about a torn poster and that it was replaced after I had complained about it. Let’s wait and see if this happens again …:-)

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We had breakfast at the January cafe in the Old Railway Station. During my last visit I met Mei Chong who, with her sister Mei Chee, is running this cafe. I admire their energy and want to support them…:-)  So, when you visit Taiping ( or live there), have a coffee or some waffles in the January Cafe!  There is also a gallery next to the cafe with historical pictures of Taiping, and outside the building they have collected some old bicycles. Which we had to try of course…:-)

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After our breakfast we drove back to KL. I still had many ideas about places we could visit on our way (Pasir Salak, Batu Gajah, Papan, the Tualang tin dredge). But we had done already a lot and were getting a bit tired.

Then I got an idea. I had heard a lot about the “mysterious” Tasik Cermin, in Ipoh. Also seen pictures of this “Mirror Lake”. I knew that it was somewhere around Gunung Rapat, and could be accessed only via an active quarry and a tunnel. .According to some reports. the quarry owner did no longer allow access to the lake. Why not try to find it

How to go there? Surprisingly, by just following the Waze app on my smartphone…:-) The wonders of the Internet. When we arrived at the entrance of the quarry, there was indeed a No Entry sign. But no security guards, and we noticed a few more people walking in. So we did the same..:-)  A big quarry, we had to ask a friendly worker where the entrance of the tunnel was.

And here it is, Tasik Cermin. A mirror lake indeed. Beautiful and serene.

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The tunnel ends at a jetty with a platform where you can sit down and admire the lake. There is no path around the lake. A few pictures

Back home, I tried to find more information about this lake. One reference mentioned the coffee-table book about the history of the Kinta Valley.  I have a copy of that book, here is the relevant passage:

GunungRapat

The writers of this book?  Lubis and Salma, whom I just had met a few days earlier..:-) As I have said many times, Malaysia is a small world…:-)

It was a trip full of variety, as usual.

Taiping, my 2nd hometown

The last time I visited Taiping was during CNY 2016 , before my trip to the Netherlands. As I was missing what I jokingly call my 2nd home town, I went back last week, staying with my friends George and Jenny. We started from KL on the first day of Ramadan, not much traffic and the Tapah R&R was almost deserted.

We had lunch in the Taiping Old Railway Station, Assam Laksa and Cendol, delicious.

The Old Railway Station is located next to the modern one and is now part of the Taiping Heritage. Quite nice, don’t know who is responsible for its “renovation”, but a few eateries are operating there now, and there is a small Heritage Gallery.

One “historical” mistake struck me, the signboard says that this old station dates back to 1885. But that is not true. Yes, the first railway in Malaya was built in 1885, from Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang) to Taiping, but the Taiping station was where now King Edwards School is!  Only about a decade later,the “old” station was relocated to where it is now.

We had a look at the gallery and met the young, dynamic, manager, Soo Mei Chong, who with her sister, recently started a cafe, the January Cafe,  next to the gallery. Both gallery and cafe worth a visit.

After our lunch we passed the Rest House, another one of Taiping’s “firsts” and for many years already in a deplorable condition. Recently this eyesore had been protected by a decorative fence, illustrating the many “firsts” of Taiping (the Rest House actually being one of them..lol).

I was quite shocked to see the present condition of the fence and immediately published this picture on the Whatsapp of the Taiping Heritage Society, with a caption: Taiping Warisan?

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We had also a look at what was originally Anuar Isa’s  First Galleria, a failed project, now taken over by the MPT town council. I could enter, although it was not yet open to the public. The friendly Malay staff could not tell me much about the MPT plans. Here a few pictures of posters. Look at the prices for the planned “Hop on Hop off” bus. Another failed project in the making?

A few weeks ago the Taiping Heritage Society , had organised an event to plant new flowers around the “Peace park” in the Taiping Lake Gardens. In the afternoon George and I went there to see how it looked now. A few of the newly planted flowers had  perished already. A very Malaysian problem, how to maintain a project…

Actually the Taiping Lake Gardens could become a no 1 tourist attraction of Malaysia! BUT maintenance is needed. Instead of spending money (cronyism? ) for ugly warning signs, some of the existing landmarks could have been repaired. In the past the pillars were connected with planks, supporting colorful vegetation. And the “monument” was originally supported by Japanese Sanyo, with a digital clock, powered by solar cells on top of the structure. Sanyo was taken over by Panasonic and the monument is now a sad and sorry sight.

I had dinner  that night with my friend May, nice Indian food in Siang Malam. She told me that  a shop opposite Taiping General Hospital served a good curry mee, so the next morning George and I had our breakfast there. She was right, very nice food, a pity that the shop will close end of this year. As I forgot to take a picture of the shop, I had to use Streetview in Google Maps…:-)

What to do after breakfast? I suggested to make a short trip to Batu Kurau, north of Taiping. It is nice countryside with padi fields, limestone caves, small kampungs. Years ago I had discovered a quaint barbershop near Anak Kurau, built against a cliff. I had a haircut there for a few Ringgit and during later Taiping trips I had gone back a few times. I had left my GPS at home, so we got lost a bit and had to ask directions for “a barbershop built against a cliff”. Surprisingly everybody immediately know what we were talking about!

But the shop was closed, probably because of Ramadan. Nearby the shop there is a small cafe, also closed and a cave with nice stalactites. The footpath along the stream was new, but it ended after  a few hundred meters. Fascinating to see how the trees struggle for survival. The road continues for a few km and ends at a resort (also closed).

The resort is located next to a small stream with crystal clear water. There could well be a waterfall further upstream.

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After driving back to Taiping, we had lunch at Duncan’s Cafe. Duncan Raj is a THS-member and has recently opened this cafe as part of a boutique hotel, Maxwell Inn. I hope he will succeed as the location on Jalan Taming Sari, is a bit far outside the town center.

The THS has an active Whatsapp, where I uploaded the picture to the left, after we arrived. Not much later a few more guests came in, also THS-members…:-)  They were planning to have lunch in another shop nearby, when they received the picture, so they came over to meet me. Taiping really feels like my 2nd hometown!

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In the afternoon I (re)visited the Kota Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang, with George, Suet and her husband Peter. Suet is a member of THS and very interested in the history of Taiping. She is a friend of George and we had met the night before in Siang Malam.

It turned out that we are both fans of Isabella Bird! This intrepid English traveler has been traveling from Taiping to Kuala Kangsar, February 1880. She had to wait in Long Jaafar’s fort until the elephants arrived who would carry her to Kuala Kangsar. Read her letter XX and enjoy. Actually she made a mistake in that letter, the KOta is not in Matang but in Gantang…:-)

Not much is left of the fort, except graves with tombstones. When I first “discovered” it, in 2014, it was  ruined. Surprisingly (?), this time, it looked much better. No idea who was responsible for the renovation.

One more  example to show how small the Taiping world is…:-) Amril is another THS member, very knowledgeable about Taiping’s history and actually a descendant of Long Jaafar. I had asked him to join us to the Kota Long Jaafar, but he was busy. After our visit we wanted to have a drink, but this is a Malay region, most shops are closed. We tried our luck at Changkat Jering, where we had a look at the busy Pasar Ramadan and finally found a mamak stall that was open.

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Having our drinks there, I got a Whatsapp message from……… Amril! He had a stall at the Pasar and had seen us passing. On our way back to the car, we met him and had a chat. Looking forward to meet him after Hari Raya.

It was only a short visit, the next day I had to go back home already. After George and I had breakfast at the Casual Market, his favourite joint, we visited Taiping’s Central Market. I have been in Taping so many times, but never explored this heritage site. Fascinating, dating back to 1884 (Old Market, on the far end in the picture below) and 1885 (New Market, in the foreground). In between Siang Malam, now another popular joint, but originally meant to provide the market workers with drinks and food.

There are plans to relocate the markets to a new location and transform the old markets into something similar to KL Central Market, a tourist attraction. Heaven forbid…

Taiping markets

To the left the New Market, right picture shows the Old Market

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Fascinating architecture. I hope THS will fight to preserve these Taiping.landmarks!

Originally I was planning to drive back to PJ after my market visit. I was aware that an Australian War Veteran music band was going to perform in the New Club, but I thought it was during the evening. Actually it was a lunch concert so I decided to attend the concert.

That gave me an opportunity to bring Yeap, the president of THS in contact with Soo Mei Chong,  the manager of the January Cafe in the Old Railway Station…:-). She looks so petite between the two giants :-)! We had nice coffee there..

On our way to the New Club, we passed the Rest House, and, lo and behold, the torn banner had been repaired! Miracles do happen…:-)

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In the New Club a big crowd was waiting for the concert. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) veteran band was on a short tour of Malaysia, giving concerts in Taiping, Ipoh and Batu Gajah. I would have liked to attend the Batu Gajah concert in God’s Little Acre. Every year on the 2nd Saturday in June a memorial is held at this cemetery to commemorate the victims of the Malayan Emergency, quite a few of them were Australians. But I was not free that Saturday, and this concert was a pleasant alternative.

The RAN Veteran Band

RAN Veteran Band

They played well. Two more pictures. The left one shows that the players may be veterans, but they know how to use modern technology! The trombone player is using a tablet for the musical scores, instead of printed sheet music….:-)

The right picture shows two happy French horn players. Paul Baker, to the right, played as a guest in the band. He is the composer of the Taiping Suite

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Here is a short video of the concert.

Taiping, my 2nd hometown…:-). Looking forward to come back soon

Journal 1-9-2014

Time flies. My last journal was published seven weeks ago, just after I came back to Malaysia. After recovering from jet lag (not so difficult this time), I settled down in my usual routine. A morning walk in Bukit Kiara followed by breakfast (RM 1 only!) at IKEA. Spending a lot of time with my laptop, actually too much, especially now that I have become addicted to acomputer game called  Hay Day  🙁

But of course also quite a lot of social activities, like meeting friends and enjoying food. Here is a selection of (food) pictures.

Soon after I was back home and acclimatised, the urge came to visit a waterfall. So I eagerly accepted my friend Siang Hui’s invitation for a recce to a remote waterfall in the Semenyih region. It would be a long hike, we had to leave early. Three of us, my friend Teoh also joined. Maybe because I did not sleep well the night before, but after about one hour on our way, I did not feel well, a tight feeling in my chest. After a discussion with my friends, we decided to go back.

I was worried (and not only I…haha), so I made an appointment with my cardiologist for an echo and a stress test. I could see him only after Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan), so I kept quiet a bit for a while.  Quite relieved when the results were ok!

With Hari Raya we visited Aric’s hometown. It is an old Malay custom to fire impressive coconut palm canons, celebrating the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festival. And impressive it was, I was worried for a while that it might affect my hearing. I wrote a separate blog about it: Boom Boom!!

Hari Raya

After I had received my clean bill of health, I was looking forward to meet Akke and Pim and show them a few nice places in my 2nd home…-).  Akke is the daughter of friend of mine, who, with her future husband, was traveling in Malaysia. We visited the Kanching waterfalls and the Batu Caves and completed it with a delicious dinner, prepared by Aric.

Here are a few recent pictures of Bukit Kiara, where I have my daily exercise. I have written many blog posts about it, you can find them here . I am quite pessimistic about its future, JLN (the National Landscape Department) is trying to transform it into a concentration camp, including barbed wire fencing ..:-(  But still beautiful, along the budding Penchala river I have hidden another of my geocaches.

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society. I joined them in May on a trip to Lenggong. A few weeks ago they organised a members night and asked me to give short talk about this trip. Here are some pictures. I had prepared too much material for my talk, so I have published this material in a separate blog post  Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

On my way back from Taiping, I decided to stop at Pos Dipang to meet my Orang Asli friend Jinnah and his family. Recently he has been our guide to the spectacular Pos Dipang waterfalls.Very nice people. They belong to the Semai tribe, my Bahasa (Malay language) is bad, but we could communicate quite well in broken English.

Jinnah & family

To end this journal, a few pictures of a trip made with Aric to a Hot Springs near Bentong. I had passed the place before several times, the hot springs were not well maintained. But now some renovation had taken place, itr looked a lot better. The water was not too hot and you could use the mud from the bottom to scrub your skin…:-)

 

Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

In May the Taiping Heritage society has organised a trip to the Lenggong valley, see my blog THS excursion . Last week THS organised a members night and they had asked me to give a talk about the trip. Preparing for my talk, I  collected a lot of information from the Internet, but I had not enough time to present everything in my talk…:-) That is the reason for this post.

In 2012 the Lenggong valley was declared a Unesco world heritage site, because of the many archaeological discoveries made during the last decades. Most notably, the discovery in 1991 of the Perak Man, a well preserved skeleton, dating back to ~ 11.000 BP where BP stands for Before Present and Present is defined as 1-1-1950. In Geology and Archaeology  BP has replaced BC (Before Christ) and the politically correct BCE (Before Common Era)

Here is a GE map of the Lenggong region with the location of the various archaeological sites (click to enlarge). The mighty Perak river is clearly visible. The green track is from a trip made in 2007 with my friend Liz Price, Caves and Waterfalls Google Earth Map

Some comments about the various locations.

The skeleton of the Perak Man has been found in the Gua Gunung Runtuh. It is now exhibited in the Lenggong Museum. The Gunung Runtuh cave is at the moment closed to the public, but in 2007 we could still enter the cave after a steep climb..:-)  The skeleton was originally surrounded by grave gifts, in the museum now it is surrounded by high-tech gadgets to control humidity, etc!

In 2004 another skeleton has been found in the nearby Gua Teluk Kelawar, now called the Perak Woman, dated ~ 8000 BP. I will not be surprised if more discoveries will be made in the future. Because it is clear that this region around the Perak river has been very suitable for human habitation throughout the ages! Limestone caves for shelter, a river (in the past a lake) nearby, etc

The other archaeological sites in the Lenggong valley have until now only shown evidence of human activity in the form of tools and “tool shops”, where these tools were manufactured.

The oldest of these sites is Bukit Jawa,  a palaeolithic tool workshop site on the shores of an island in a lake now long ago disappeared. About 200.000-300.000 years ago. Who made those tools? This is before our species, Homo Sapiens sapiens, started the emigration out of Africa. We will only know when fossil remains of hominins are found. We visited Bukit Jawa in 2007, there is not much to see.Bukit Jawa Bukit Jawa

The toolshops at Kota Tampan are younger, about 70.000 year old. Also here no fossils of human remains have been found, but it is quite possible that the people making these tools, belonged to our species (see below). Activity in these workshops came to an abrupt end when the Toba volcano erupted, Kota Tampan tools have been found covered wit the thick layers of ash. At the Kota Tampan location the Lenggong Museum has been built.

Next in age are the toolshops at Bukit Bunuh, about 40.000 years old. Followed by the two caves where the Perak Man and Woman were found.

Much younger, about 4000-3000 BP are the graves found in Gua Harimau. And in the nearby Gua Badak, rock paintings have been found, made by the Negrito Orang Asli. Very recent, maybe only 100 year old. But interesting as rock paintings are rare in Malaysia

Altogether an impressive collection of archaeological sites, hopefully they will be preserved well after being declared a World Heritage Site.

Human migration, Out of Sundaland ?

It is about 200.000 years ago that our species, homo sapiens sapiens evolved in Africa. All humans, living these days, have a common ancestor, both in the maternal line (Mitochondrial Eve) and the paternal one (Y-chromosomal Adam). Between 95.000 and 75.000 year ago one of their descendants (Eurasian Adam), started to migrate to Europa and Asia. By analysing the mutations in the DNA of the Y-chromosome of present humans, it is possible to get an idea about the migration route followed by the ancestors.

A few years ago both Aric and I had our DNA analysed (by the Genographic Project). Here is the route followed by our (paternal) ancestor. Our routes split about 35.000 year ago, in what is now called Tajikistan. My line developing into a Caucasian, Aric’s line into a Chinese…:-) See my blog My ancestors for more information about this fascinating topic. Our ancestor

What has this to do with Lenggong, you may ask. Well, the theory of human migration is still a developing theory, with many variations. In the prevalent version, humans migrated to South East Asia from around Taiwan, going south. An alternative option is that  the migrants followed more or less the coastal line, via India, arriving in Sundaland, from there spreading in northern direction

migration

Sundaland? Yes, in the period we are talking about, the world was in what is called the Ice Age. The huge amount of ice covering the Arctic and Antarctic resulted in very low sea levels, more than 100 meter lower than nowadays. Present day Sumatra, Borneo, Malaysia formed one land mass, called Sundaland Sundaland

In the map above, the location of the Toba eruption is indicated. This dismal eruption and the following volcanic winter may have had a dramatic effect on the still very small global homo sapiens population, killing most of them and causing what is called a genetic bottleneck It is estimated that the global population of our species at that time was no more  than 10.000 – 20.000! It certainly stopped the operation of the Kota Tampan tool shops. But the people living there may have survived in small numbers, because the prevailing winds were westwards. Could it be that after the Toba eruption, further migration took place out of Sundaland?

A fascinating, though rather controversial theory, proposed by the British geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer. No surprise that USM, responsible for much of the archealogical research in the Lenggong valley, is quite happy with this theory.  Malaysia as the cradle of humanity!

A meteorite impact at Bukit Bunuh

In 2009 USM announced a spectacular discovery at  Bukit Bunuh. At this location many boulders were found of a very special material, called suevite. Suevite can be formed when a meteorite collides with the earth. The ages of these rocks, using fission track dating, has been determined as 1.8 ± 0.6 million year. There are indications of circular craters in the Bukit Bunuh region, so it could well be that between 1.2 and 2.4 million year ago a meteorite has hit here. In itself already an interesting discovery. It became spectacular when in 2007 a hand-axe was found, embedded in a suevite boulder. Meaning that around the time of impact, 1.8 million year ago, hominins were already living at Bukit Bunuh! Here is a newspaper article about the discovery: Early axes found in Perak. The picture shows  Dr Mokhtar Saidin, holding up the axe. Prof Mokhtar

After the jubilant announcement in the media, now already five years ago, it has become disturbingly quiet. I have not been able to find any reference on the Internet to a scientific publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The meteorite impact was supposed to be registered at the Earth Impact Database, but that too has not yet happened. In interviews an age of 1.83 million year is mentioned, without giving the error margin of 0.6 million year, which is scientifically bad practice. Here is a typical example: Interview with Dr. Mokhtar Saidin

Honestly, I have my doubts. Here are a few more links, in case you are interested

Bukit Bunuh, oldest Paleolithic site , quote:  “There should be on-going research to get a true picture of the people who settled in this area since 1.83 million years ago and this can change several theories about the Paleolithic people such as the nomadic theory and movement of prehistoric man.

USM Discovers Concrete Evidence That Can Chance (sic!) The History Of Early Man

THS excursion

When you have been following my Stuif’s adventures, you know that Taiping is my favourite town in Malaysia. So it is not surprising that I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society (THS). Recently they organised a day trip to the Lenggong region and I decided to join. Actually I had visited most of the attractions on the program already, but it was a good opportunity to get to know more THS members…:-)

Departure was at 7 am from the Taiping Tesco. About 40 members took part in the trip, so a bus was chartered for the transport. After signing an indemnity form, we received our seat number and off we went. (click on a picture to enlarge it)

Meeting at Tesco

Signing an indemnity form

Ready to go

The first stop was at Lenggong town for a dim sum breakfast. Next we went to the Lenggong Archeological Museum, where we were welcomed by the Assistant Curator, Puan Nuraidah. We watched a nice, well-made documentary about the archaeology of the Lenggong valley, where in 1991 an 11.000 year old skeleton was found in one of the many limestone caves. Now known as the Perak Man. During my earlier visit of the museum, only a copy of the skeleton was shown, but in 2012 the Lenggong Valley was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and just a few months ago, the original skeleton has been brought back to the museum.

When the museum was built, an artificial cave was created for the (copy of the) Perak Man. Now it is still there, but half in the dark, while the original has been placed in the same cave. A rather messy layout, hopefully temporary. When the Perak Man died, his grave will have been decorated by burial gifts. Now his skeleton is surrounded by modern technology. He would have been very surprised if he had known..:-)

The Perak Man

Originally the plan was to visit the Gua Runtuh, where the skeleton was found, but it is out of bounds now, probably will become a tourist attraction. When I visited the caves in 2007, you still could enter freely, although after a stiff climb. Here is a picture from my archive.

Gua Runtuh

Instead we visited another cave, the Gua Tok Giring, near Lenggong. To enter the cave you need proper equipment, so we just had a look at the outside, while our guide Neal was giving information about various aspects of caves.

Then it was time for lunch. Lenggong is well-known  for its freshwater fish restaurants and the famous fish balls. THS had booked an eight-course lunch, organiser Sharon had warned us that there were six fish balls for each of us, three fried, three in the soup…:-) Of course we obeyed her! The food was plenty and delicious.

Our next destination was the Kekabu waterfall, between Lenggong and Kuala Kangsar. The experienced bus driver managed to manoeuvre the bus to the parking near the waterfall, from where it was an easy walk to the falls. Unfortunately the hanging bridge crossing the river had collapsed. Only a few daredevils managed to reach the other side.

After the waterfall we proceeded to Sayong, a small village near Kuala Kangsar, famous for its pottery, the Labu Sayong. Here too our driver had to prove his expertise, because the factory was located deep in the countryside. We got an interesting demonstration how to decorate the pottery, for many in the group this was the highlight of the trip.

The way the guy was decorating the pot in a free style, was really remarkable.Here is a short video

Then it was time for tea, in a restaurant in Kuala Kangsar. The Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun was delicious, but the coffee….  Never in Malaysia (or even in my life…) I have had lousier coffee…:-)

The last item on the program was a visit of Kuala Kangsar, with the beautiful Ubudiah mosque and the Istana Kenangan but everybody was getting tired after a long day, so we had only a look at them from the bus….:-)

We arrived back in Taiping at 6:00 pm.  A well organised trip, looking forward to the next one. Nice group of people. What especially pleased me, as a Kwai Loh, was the racial harmony, nowadays often lacking in Malaysia.

 

Journal 6-11-2013

Back in my second home for almost three weeks already. How time flies. This time I suffered less from jet lag, maybe because I used Melatonin the first week. Melatonin is supposed to adjust your biological clock.

Melatonin

In earlier posts you have read that we are collecting KLM-houses. We bought many during our last visit, here is part of it. Next to it a sad picture of the present view from our balcony. The destruction of Bukit Lanjan has not stopped.

KLM-houses

View from our balcony

 

After two months of Western food I was craving for Nasi Lemak, Hokkien Mee (picture), Roti Chanai etc. But in the fridge there was still a smoked sausage (“rookworst”), so we had also a Western meal, with Sauerkraut and mashed potatoes..

Hokkien Mee

Sausage & Sauerkraut

After a few days of recovery I started walking again in Bukit Kiara. It is still under threat of “development”, but walking there remains a pleasure. Instead of completing the atrocious fence, the authorities should concentrate on maintenance. Personally I don’t mind the “illegal” rubber tappers, but the neglected signboard for the Sg Penchala is an eyesore.

When Aric was back in Sabak Bernam he sent me a picture of a beautiful bird, found in his mum’s garden. With a broken wing. For my birding friend Khong it was no problem to id the bird: an uncommon Black-backed Kingfisher

Black-backed kingfisher

Aric took it back to KL, then a friend brought the tiny(!) bird to a bird doctor in Shah Alam. But the bird was too weak, it died. Pity.

After recovering from the flight, as usual came the craving for jungle and a waterfall…:-) I found Paul and Rahim willing to join me to a remote waterfall in the Tanjung Malim region, the Gerehang fall. Not many people visit this fall, Rahim had to do a lot of chopping to clear a trail.

Gerehang fall

During our hike of about 5 hours we did not meet a single soul. When we arrived it started to rain for a while, but after the shower, the sun came through again, so we had coffee and our lunch. Unfortunately, with the sun came also the sweat bees, many of them, and with (or because of?) all my precautions, I got stung again. A tiny sting in my finger, but it resulted in a swelling of my hand that lasted for more than one day. I did not have to use my Epipen, but it was worrying. Maybe I must stop going to remote places in the jungle. Here are some more pictures.

Last weekend it was Deepavali, the Hindu festival of light. In the Ikana/Ikea shopping center, a beautiful, elaborate, kolam was created.

2013-10-31 11.59.21

I spent the weekend in Taiping with my friends George and Jenny. Of course we visited the Lake Gardens, but also the ruins of the New Rest House. With May, another friend, I attended a delicious Deepavali lunch, offered by her Indian friends. I also took part in the Kathina festival, see my separate post. Here are some Taiping pictures

Malaysia, my 2nd home, full of variety

 

The Kathina festival 2013

During the rainy season (Vassa), Theravada Buddhist monks don’t travel and are going on retreat in a temple or monastery. When the rainy season is over, traditionally in October/November, the end of this 3-month retreat is celebrated during the Kathina festival.

The (legendary?) background of this festival is so interesting that I can not resist the temptation to tell you a bit about it.

A group of bhikkhus (monks) was on its way to the Buddha, when the rainy season started. Not to damage the harvest, living creatures (and themselves), they decided to stay where they were, although unhappy about the delay. After the rains stopped, they continued their travel. When they reached the Buddha, to console them, gave them a piece of cloth to stitch a robe. To stitch a robe, you need a frame, which is called a kathina. A detailed account can be found here

Nowadays the devotees offer this cloth (and other items) to the monks during the Kathina ceremony. This ceremony takes place in many locations in Malaysia, but is especially popular in Taiping, in the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary. I have visited this beautiful, quiet sanctuary on the slopes of Maxwell Hill quite a few times.This time it was still beautiful, but not quiet with a few thousand visitors.

Entrance of the Sanctuary

Many visitors

We went up early Sunday morning, as Jenny was a volunteer at one of the many food stalls. Food stalls, yes, because this is Malaysia, no celebration without food…:-)  Probably many visitors mainly came for the free food.

The Kathina procedure is as follows: the monks (this time there were seventeen plus three nuns) walk along the long row of devotees, who put a bit of rice in the alms bowl of each monk. They then proceed to their seats, where the robes and other items are given to them. One of the monks then gives a talk. It is finished around noon. Officially the cloth has to be sown into robes before the end of the day, but I don’t know if that is still the case nowadays. Here are pictures of the event.

The event was organised very well, one organiser told me there were about 400 volunteers! On our way down, we passed one of the buildings of the sanctuary. This may be where the cloth is sown into robes, as I found a picture on the Internet, which seems to be taken inside this attractive building.

One of the buildings Sowing the robes

 

This was the second time I attended Kathina, it will hopefully not be the last one.

 

Journal 8-6-2013

A long post with a variety of topics.

One of Aric’s cousins got a baby recently and she and her husband invited us for lunch in the Fitou Brasserie (Desa Park city). Good Western food. Long time ago that I had a Rack of Lamb!

Lunch with Param

In my last post I have written already about my Wesak celebration in Taiping. As it had been some time ago since I visited my “hometown”, of course I had to enjoy the food! My friend George always knows new places to try out. This time we started with a dinner at the New Club, where the food is not that special, but the ambiance is nice. In the picture below you see also a dim sum breakfast, chicken/duck/pork rice and dumpling noodles.

Taiping food

We visited Kuala Sepetang, walked around in the fishing village, and went to the Matang mangrove forest, where we looked for birds, but we were not successful, as we were quite late.

Kuala Sepetang

And of course we visited the Lake Gardens. The most beautiful park of Malaysia. Early morning, in the afternoon, always fascinating. Here we saw more birds, a pair of hornbills, dollarbirds. Of course flowers. And quite a few couples, taking wedding pictures..:-)

George came with me on our way back home. After earlier “scary” adventures he had vowed never to go on waterfall trips with me. But I convinced him that a nice waterfall near Beruas was easy peasy…:-) A less than ten minute walk. After that I brought him home in Shah Akam, where we visited the shop recently opened by his daughter, and named after his wife Mary! I wish them good luck.

IMG_7629 2013-05-27 16.30.26

 

When my waterfall friend Teoh told me he could take a weekday off for a waterfall trip, it was no problem to suggest a nice destination: Ulu Rening, see my recent post. Edwin was also eager to go again, and another friend, Chadel, joined too. Again we had a fun time, beautiful weather! It was only when we took a picture “for the album” that we realised that we were all wearing a blue shirt!  Four shades of Blue…:-)

Ulu Rening

During my earlier visit, I had a few anxious moments, when I was caught in the turbulence, sliding doen the last tier of the waterfall. So this time I did not take any risk, which gave me the opportunity to video my friends while they were sliding down.

When I was in Taiping, my friends Girlie and Yeoh told me that they were coming to KL. So  I finally got my chance to invite them for lunch in my condo, after having enjoyed their hospitality so many times. As they did not know the way to my condo, but of course knew where IKEA was, I met them there for the free coffee, after which we had a Western style lunch at my place, soup, bread with salad and cheese, and tiramisu as desert.

2013-06-06 10.57.48 2013-06-06 13.31.01

Finally something quite different. For our dinner we often go the commercial district near to our condo. Many shops and eateries. Many cars as a result. Malaysian style many cars are double parked. Very annoying when you come back and your car is blocked. Solution? See the picture below. Even when you can park close to the curb, you do not. LOL

Parking Malaysian style

 

Shame on Taiping!

Now that Malaysia has become my second home, I can say that Taiping is my second hometown..:-) I am a frequent visitor and became a member of the Taiping Heritage Society.

Taiping is rightly proud about its many historical firsts: the Prison (1879), the New Club (1881), the Lake Gardens (1881), the Clock tower (1881), the King Edward VII school (1883), the Perak Museum (1883) and many more.

So why is this post titled Shame on Taiping? Because the list of firsts contains two items that are at this moment in a deplorable state, being completely neglected for years already.

The first is the (location of the) Residence. In 1877, on a hill overlooking Taiping, a residence was built for the British Assistant Resident (Maxwell). It was here that Isabella Bird wrote several letters for her book the Golden Chersonese A few years later (1884) the building was enlarged and became the residence for the British Resident (Low). Nothing is left these days of this Residence, except the stone pillars, upon which the wooden house was built. After Merdeka a hotel was built at the back of these pillars. About ten years ago I have stayed overnight in this Casuarina inn. The inn is visible in the background. Basic accommodation.

IMG_7629

Room in Casuarina

It has been closed now for many years already. Without any fencing, freely accessible, a haven for drug addicts. No wonder that every time I come and have a look, it is more ruined. It may not be possible to exploit a hotel here, but this historical location should be preserved. Shame on Taiping!

Here is a collection of pictures taken recently.

The Casuarina inn started as the New Resthouse. Why new? Because there exists another Resthouse, a real first, built in 1894. Opposite the King Edward school and not far from the Railway station. Also here I have stayed overnight, many years ago. It was at that time named the Lagenda Hotel. Quite acceptable budget hotel, good location.

Resthouse

About five years ago, the hotel/resthouse was closed. In the beginning hardly any fencing, even now it is easy to enter the premises. With a predictable effect: the place is going to pieces and is now already probably beyond redemption.  Shame on Taiping!

The last pictures have been taken of and in the buildings to the left of the Resthouse. They must be old as well, and especially the corner one looks architecturally interesting. Here too, you can just walk in, with predictable effect. Shame on Taiping!