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 ūüôā

Chinese names are not easy for me to memorise ūüėČ . 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 ūüôā

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¬į 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

Journal Dutch trip 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more of my favourites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the view north from my apartment.

And here the view west during sunset.

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

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

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

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

Family Visits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a pleasant walk, about 3.9 km.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next morning I took the train back to Amsterdam

CNY 2016

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-02-09 21.53.51

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

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

Here is a short video of the waterfall

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

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

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

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

Gong Xi Fa Cai

My artistic sister

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

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

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

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

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Family gathering

When I am back in the Netherlands, we always try to organise a family gathering. This time on 18 April, one day after my 71st birthday. First we met in the family house at the Conradstraat, where we grew up and where my youngest brother and his family are now living.

Conradstraat

Conradstraat

It was a beautiful day, so we decided to take a walk through our hometown and see how much had changed..:-). Here are the six Stuivers, as we call ourselves. A stuiver was the popular name for a 5 cent coin, before the Euro was introduced.

The Stuivers

With the perfect weather, our native village (now a town) looked very attractive with quite a few historical buildings still standing and well-conserved. For Dutch readers of this blog, our Reformed Church is the Gereformeerde Kerk, the other one is the Hervormde Kerk. In English they are both “Reformed” and it would take many pages to explain the difference..:-)

Of course also a lot of renovation has been going on. The modern town hall (2003) has an eye-catching architecture. Next to the railway station a bike storage facility has been constructed in the form of a green apple :-).There is modern sculpture and some of the new residences look quite special

We had booked for our dinner in¬†Casa Havana, a buffet restaurant inside ¬†Avifauna¬†This bird park was opened in 1950(!) as the first dedicated bird park in the world. We have been here regularly in our youth, but for me if was the first time in many decades to revisit the park. Before our dinner we had a stroll through the park. Of course birds in cages, like the hornbills and the flamingoes, but many also roaming free. Very nice, we should have come earlier, as the dinner was waiting for us…:-)

The buffet restaurant turned out to be a popular, crowded and quite noisy venue. A table had been reserved for us and we had a very friendly waitress. Starting wih a welcome cocktail, free flow of wine and beer, a large variety of food, even port with the cheese! Value for money.

“Shall I take a picture of your group”, the motherly waitress asked me. Here is the result

The family

The problem with buffet restaurants is that my stomach is not big enough..:-( Here is what I managed to consume (hm, actually there was such a variety of starters that I had two plates).

dinner

After the dinner we walked back to our cars. Spring is a few weeks late this year, so many trees still were barren. It gave the pollard willows (knotwilgen) an almost magical appearance

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Before going home, we had a farewell drink in the family house. A very nice and satisfactory reunion!

In the Conradstraat

Journal 2-1-2015

December is not a very suitable month for waterfall trips. It is the season of the East monsoon, with lots of rain not only in the Eastern states, but all over the country. Not advisable to visit remote falls with a lot of river trekking. Early December I had visited the nearby Kanching Falls, we were back just before the rain started..:-)

Kanching

One week later I visited another waterfall with Janine, Edwin, Paul and Fahmy. I had been there before with my friend Eddie Yap, who has “discovered’ this pristine and unspoiled fall. He wants to keep it that way, I promised him to keep the location secret. We started early to avoid rain and we were lucky, the weather was splendid.

When at home, I spend much of my time with¬†my computer, actually I must try not to get addicted (hey, you are already, some of my friends will tell me). Recently my computer chair broke down, I bought a new one in IKEA. Quite easy to assemble it…:-)

Chair

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My friend Chuan has recently discovered the hobby of bird photography and is a fast learner.¬†One of his pictures, a heron in flight, is very nice and I had promised him that, after some editing, I would have this picture printed and framed. Here I am handing over the result, during a lunch in our favourite Black and White stall.¬†The other¬†picture is taken at the house of my friends Joseph and Beatrice. Christmas Caroling, very enjoyable even for a non-believer¬†like me…:-)

Chuan Christmas Caroling

The weekend before Christmas I went to Sabak Bernam, to attend the wedding dinner of one of Aric’s cousins.¬†It was a big event, more than 70 tables (that is the way the size of a Chinese wedding dinner is counted, one table is for ten people). Among the more than 700 guests there was one Kwai Loh (me) and one Indian (brother in law of the groom). ¬†This time no pictures of the food (which was nice), the cutting of the cake, the uncorking¬†of the champagne bottle, the yam seng singing. Just a few pictures of me…:-)

On Christmas Day we went to KLCC with Aei Ling, Aric’s older sister. Because her husband died¬†recently, she and her kids will in general¬†not visit family and friends during the mourning period of 100 days.¬†¬†Therefore they did not attend the wedding dinner. We walked around in KLCC, crowded with everybody¬†in Xmas mood;¬† later we had a nice dinner together.

A few days later there was a big family gathering in Damansara Mutiara, near to where we live. Everybody was supposed to bring some food, I had prepared eggs stuffed with salmon and cucumber. They liked it…:-). It was a pleasant meeting, Aric is a very popular uncle with the many kids around.

Here is the official picture

Family gathering

New Year’s Eve we stayed at home, as usual. This time we had decided to prepare a gastronomic dinner for the two of us, with Aric and I each preparing 5 dishes. We started with the first course at 7 pm and finished just before midnight. Big fun. Here is what we prepared.

dinner

From left to right and top to bottom:

1. Pork Liver P√Ęt√© ¬†2. Avocado with prawns 3. Shiitake Soup 4. Scallops with vinaigrette
5. Salmon with herbs from the oven 6. Tomato stuffed with macaroni, olives and cheese
7. Salad 8. Cheese 9. Ricotta with strawberry coulis 10 Ice cream with warm berries

Wines: Merlot, Chardonnay, Sake and Monbazillac. We also had a bottle of champagne but we decided to keep it for another occasion. Don’t worry, we did not get¬†drunk.

Wine

Because of the severe flooding in several states (more than 200.000 people evacuated!), the government had decided to cancel the traditional firework celebrations. Usually we watch the fireworks from our balcony, this time it was a quiet countdown.

Happy New Year

Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year

Have you ever wondered why Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, and why the New Year starts on 1 January? Most probably because both events are close to the Winter Solstice on 21 or 22 December. A huge amount of information can be found on the Internet.

Winter Solstice

Because the Earth axis is tilted, the Sun is not always above the equator, but moves between the northern Tropic of Cancer and the southern Tropic of Capricorn.

seasons

This causes the seasons and the variability of the day length. When the Sun is above one of the Tropics, he “stands still” before moving back. This are the Solstices (latin: the sun stands still).

In Roman times after the Winter Solstice there was the celebration of the birthday of the Invincible Sun God (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) on 25 December. The day length was increasing and the Sun was growing stronger

 Christmas

The birthday and even the birth year of the historical Jesus are unknown. Probably in spring, 1BC or 4BC, a lot of theories exist. In the beginning it was not considered an important event and In the first centuries of Christianity his birthday was not even celebrated. Only when emperor Constantine (306-337) adopted the Christian religion, it was decided to let the Dies Natalis of Jesus coincide with the birthday of the Sun God on December 25.  Below are two coins from Roman times. Left with the Sun God, right with Christ.

Sol InvictusChrist

One reason for choosing this date may have been to make it easier for the “pagan” ¬†Romans to convert to Christianity. There are other theories, for example that the date was chosen, nine months after the supposed conception in March..:-)

New Year

Choosing a date for the beginning of a new year is completely arbitrary from an astronomical point of view. Therefore  there have been numerous conventions throughout the ages. The original Roman calendar started with the March equinox, had 10 months and ended in December. September, October, November and December still have (latin) 7, 8, 9 and 10 in their names.The winter days between December and March were unnamed. Only later two more months were introduced, January and February. January was named after the god Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward, the other one looking backward. Why the beginning of the year was moved from the equinox to the (winter) solstice? Possibly related to the big year-end party of the Saturnalia, held in December. Quite a wild party!

saturnalia

The Saturnalia were a kind of¬†festival of light, again related to the winter solstice. Gift giving, banqueting caroling, candles. Many elements can be found back in the present Christmas and New Year celebrations…:-;

The Roman calendar has been refined several times, by including leap days, and as Gregorian Calendar is now accepted all over the world. Even in Malaysia, where the three ethnic groups have also their own calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, so the Islamic New Year (1st day of the month Muharram) moves 11-12 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar.

The Hindu and Chinese calendars are lunisolar. The length of a month is determined by the moon. So also here the New Year shifts 11-12 days to an earlier date every year. To keep the New Year in the same interval of the solar year, leap months are introduced every now and then. A more detailed explanation of the Chinese Calendar (and other calendars) can be found on my website

So the Chinese festivals (there are many) have no fixed date on the Gregorian Calendar. In 2014 the Chinese New Year was celebrated on 31 January, in 2015 it will fall on 19 February. Not moving to an earlier date, but to a later one. Because the present¬†year is¬†a leap year, it has an extra month…:-)!

There are two exceptions, where Chinese festivals follow the solar calendar. One is the Cheng Beng festival, the festival of tombs, when Chinese honour their ancestors. It falls always on the 15th day after the Spring equinox, 4 or 5 April.

And the second one? The Winter Solstice! It is called the Dongzhi festival and it is celebrated in the family with prayers for the ancestors. Traditionally it is the time of the year the family prepares Tang Yuan, glutinous rice balls that symbolise reunion and togetherness.

This year we celebrated it with Aric’s family. Everybody helped to prepare the balls which later were¬†put for a few minutes in boiling water.

Preparing

the balls

On the day of the Winter Solstice (this year 22 December) they are served with sweet syrup

finished
Happy Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year!

Journal 17-10-2013

The last three weeks, after Aric went back to Malaysia, I have been busy with many social and cultural activities. I started with visits to my GP, my cardiologist, my diabetician, my ophthalmologist and my dentist….:-) ¬†Everything is under control.

My dentist used a new torture contraption, which made me look like a breedbekkikker (wide-mouthed frog, rana ore lato, can only be found in the Netherlands, lol).

Breedbekkikker

I visited two more musea and went to two concerts. In the Concertgebouw I listened to Maria Pires, playing Beethoven. She got an ovational applause which she rightly deserved. With a friend I went to the Gauguin, Bonnard & Denis exhibition in the Amsterdam Hermitage museum. A bit disappointing, although the museum itself is worth a visit. Another concert was given in the impressive Neo-Gothic Dominicus church in Amsterdam. My friend Yolanda sings in a choir, they performed works by Bach and Mozart. Beautiful music, especially the Bach cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir . With another friend I went to an exhibition of Hundertwasser  in the Cobra museum in Amstelveen.


The Hundertwasser exhibition was a pleasant surprise. I knew him only as an architect (here is is picture I took of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, 6 years ago), but first he became famous as a painter, in the 1950’s. Here are some of his paintings. Both from these paintings and his buildings it is clear that he did not like straight lines, he called them devil’s tools..:-)

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a tradition to have dinner with Yolanda in a ¬†‘fine dining’ restaurant. This time we went to restaurant Vandemarkt¬†and had a delicious dinner there. The presentation of the food makes it almost a work of art.The reason that in the picture the main course looks messy, is that I could not control myself, I started eating before I thought about taking a picture…:-)

vandemarkt food

Yolanda

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is a reunion with my siblings. This time it took place at my sisters place. My brother Ruud could not be there because he just had had a hip replacement operation, but in these days, with webcams and skype, he still was able to join virtually…:-)

Just before coming back to Malaysia I went to Groningen to meet Ruud and his loved ones. He was already able to walk in the garden with his crutches and could point out to Jur where the walnuts were hanging. I stayed overnight and met his two sons, my favourite nephews.

Harvesting walnuts

Two nephews

 

 

I also met many friends, former students, ex-colleagues etc. Often for a drink and food, so not surprisingly I gained weight again, will have to work hard to slim down. The weather remained nice and warm with often spectacular sunsets.

It was only during the last few days of my stay in the Netherlands that the weather became autumn-like, with some heavy rain and lower temperatures. But altogether I have been very fortunate, the weather gods must love me. On  my way to Schiphol airport I finally could take a picture of the trees near my apartment in autumn colors.

I will end this post with a picture of my new watch. It is a Pebble watch, synchronised with my iPhone. It gives a warning when a SMS or email has arrived and you can choose between many different displays of the time.

Pebble watch2013-10-16 09.36.26

Amsterdam, Alkmaar, Schagen (28-30)-8

The next two weeks we will be traveling across Europe. Preparing for the trip today, so not much time for blogging..:-) Just a short resume of the last few days, detailed posts will follow later.

After enjoying the beach, it was time for Amsterdam again. First we had a look at the iconic film museum, located at the opposite side of the IJ. Then we continued our mission, looking for the originals of the Delft Blue miniature houses.

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We took pictures of thirteen houses this time and had apple pie in cafe Winkel, reputedly the best apple pie you can buy in Amsterdam. We walked a lot again, would have been easier if we had used a horse-drawn chart..:-)

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The next morning we had to wait first for the courier service to deliver the International Driving License that Aric had forgotten to take with him. After that we took the train to Alkmaar, where a big fun fair was taking place.

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We found a few more houses, before we continued our trip to Schagen, where my sister is living. Beautiful weather, lots of brambles in the garden, delicious.

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We had a barbecue in the garden. The next morning we walked in the countryside, we saw many cows, sheep and horses.

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After a light lunch we visited one of the many windmills. Although they are not needed anymore to pump the water out of the polders, they are still in mint condition, and very impressive. The main event for this day was to make a boat trip in one of the polders. Holland is really water-land, so many small canals and waterways.

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We ended the day with a dinner, prepared by my sister, in the smallest house of the village Schermerhorn. In bygone days ten(!) people were living in this house. Now it is a nice museum

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In the next days I will try to write short updates about what we are doing.