Taiping, October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was not the only customer πŸ™‚

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Emperor Gods Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kept taking pictures πŸ™‚ .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More piercing of cheeks.

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

Heavy stuff, no wonder they sometimes have to sit down for some rest.

One of the last floats. Sprinkling (holy?) water on the crowd.

The whole parade took around 1.5 hour. After cleaning the offering table, the family invited me for lunch. Vegetarian of course πŸ™‚

The fire walking took place on the evening of the next day, so I had plenty of time to walk around in Taiping, meet other friends, enjoy (non-vegetarian) food, etc. I have written a separate post about it, Taiping, October 2019, and will continue here with the fire walking.

The next day around 7pm, my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel and we found a parking place not too far from the Tupai temple, where the fire walking was going to take place. We were early, a big space had been cordoned off, and people were preparing the bed of ashes. It was shorter than I had seen in Sri Lanka, many years ago.

We had a look inside the temple, where Yeap introduced me to Ong Hean Hai, the caretaker. He is standing second from right, with his children . Later he invited us to his office, where he gave an explanation about the Nine Emperor Gods festival.

There were many food stalls in and around the temple compound. In one of them they were making Yeow Char Kwai, a favorite of mine, specially when freshly fried. The name translates as Oil Fried Devils and here is the explanation for that strange name πŸ™‚

As we were early, we had dinner there. Vegetarian curry mee, very nice. And black coffee with Yeow Char Kwai, delicious when you soak them in the coffee. In the meantime Bok Kin and Teng Hin had also joined.

Preparing for the fire walking, the devotees, dressed in white, perform several rituals. They enter the inner temple, where other people are not allowed. They walk back and forth several times to the fire walking compound, chanting.

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is associated with rain, and this time was no exception. When the fire walking was beginning around 9pm, it had also started to rain. Maybe easier for the devotees to walk on the ashes? For us onlookers, we needed an umbrella.

The lighting was not very bright, so it was difficult to take good pictures. Here are two videos I took. The devotees are circling a few times around the ashes, before they walk.

It is interesting to watch the fire walkers. Some of them walk slowly, others almost run. Some carry a child or a bundle of clothes. Because of the rain, you could not see any glowing ashes, but it still must have been burning hot. After the first group of devotees, also others try. It is said that you can only do it if you have been vegetarian during the nine days of the festival , but I doubt if that is true

AFter the fire walking was finished, we went back to the restaurant, where also many of the fire walkers were enjoying a drink, food and company.

The festival was a memorable experience for me. I took many videos dring the procession and the fire walking. Here is a collage.

Taiping Bandar Warisan

In 2013 I wrote a blog Shame on Taiping! about a few of Taiping’s heritage sites which were in a bad condition. Especially the former Perak Railway buildings and the Rest House, both along Station Road, opposite the King Edwards VII school

Since that time I have been visiting these buildings regularly when I visited Taiping, taking many pictures, both inside and outside. Here is a (large) collection. I have indicated the year that they were taken. Click on a picture to enlarge.

First the Perak Railway Buildings. Here is a scan from Anuar Isa’s report Taiping’s Many Firsts, published by the Taiping Municipal Council (MPT) in 2013.

In 2016 I took this picture of the whole complex, the old timber structure (1885) in the foreground and the (newer) brick building to the left.

Front and side facade of the old timber structure (PWD 269)

Same for the two-storey brick building (PWD 267)

More pictures of the decaying front facade of PWD 269. Without comment, only the year I took the picture.

Between the two buildings there is a nice gate. Notice that sometimes there was an attempt to block the entrance, so that squatters etc could not enter.

This counter must be familiar to Taipingites πŸ™‚ Nowadays it is often occupied and the squatter living there does not always welcome your visit.

A few photos of the interior of PWD 267. Abandoned but still in reasonable condition. I could even venture to the first floor. Notice the nice iron columns.

The courtyards of the two buildings were taken over by jungle.

In 2017 there was some activity. My Taiping friends told me that one of the entrances had been widened, so a bulldozer could enter the courtyards. When I visited the building, I noticed of course that Donald Duck had disappeared ;-). The entrance had been professionally repaired. A good sign?

The courtyards had been thoroughly cleaned, shrubs and trees had been removed. Of course the ruined state of the buildings became more visible now.

Only later that year I had time to visit the interior of the buildings and I was shocked. The interior had been vandalised, the wooden floorboards had been removed! Was that the real reason for the earlier activity?

It was still possible to climb up (carefully!) to the first floor. The damage is even more clearly visible. Later I asked around, but I was not able to find out who was responsible for this destruction.

In July 2018 I only had a look at the courtyard, there was an unfriendly squatter, I didn’t want to get into an argument with him.

Not surprisingly the jungle is fighting back already.

In December I came again, this time I had no problem entering. Not much change. I am not an expert, but I think these two buildings are beyond repair.

Next to the Perak Railway Building is the Rest House, the Rumah Rehat. Here is what Anuar Isa’s report says about it.

I have been staying in the Rest House, many years ago. At that time it was called Lagenda Hotel. A budget hotel, but quite acceptable, nice colonial atmosphere.

Around 11 years ago the hotel was closed. In the beginning hardly any fencing, you could just walk in, and of course squatters did. Later there came haphazard fencing like in this picture. Still very easy to trespass.

Here two pictures of the iconic main facade, in 2009 and in 2018. Not too much deterioration. But that is only appearance.

In 2012 there was a fence, but very easy to enter. Some decay, mainly in the ceilings.

One year later, still a fence with gaps, main entrance still looks ok.

Inside the building there are signs that people are living here.

People were complaining about the lack of proper fencing and in 2015 a prominent fence was erected, promoting Taiping as heritage town !

A bit ironical in my opinion. Look at the right picture, with the Rumah Rehat as it was and as it is now.

Even with this new fencing it was still possible to sneak in. The entrance still looks quite good and the stairs to the first floor are solid. But walking around there are clear signs that people are living here, even making a fire!

A short visit in 2017. Some signs of decay.

In 2018 I visited Taiping several times. Not much was left of the “heritage” fence.

But a signboard still tells about the Rumah Rehat, one of the many Firsts of Taiping. And a heritage plaque has been attached to the facade.

There are more signs of decay, although it looks that some repair work has been done. These picture have been taken December 2018, less than one year ago.

As a laymen I think the Rest House can still be saved, but fast action is needed.

Here is a drone video of the two buildings, taken last year.

For a long time already I have been planning to write a blog post with a selection of the pictures I have collected during the past 7-8 years, but it didn’t materialise yet. Until today when my heritage friends pointed me to this article in the Harian Metro: Ikonik usang jejaskan imej Taiping . With these two pictures:

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

Amelia and Taiping (Part Two)

The conclusion in my blog post Amelia Earhart and Taiping was that she had never landed at Tekah airport. I am a contributor to Wikipedia and, after a discussion with (THS) friends, I decided to edit the history section of the Wikipedia entry for Taiping Airport, removing ” and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling

I left the part “Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya. “, although I was wondering if this statement was correct, because I could not find any other independent reference on the Internet.

I was also intrigued that she mentioned a few times Alor Star in her notes, but never Taiping.

In this post I will try to answer/solve both issues.

After publishing my post, I searched the Internet again and I was lucky, I found another reference in the Wikipedia entry Federated Malay States Here it is:

Notable event
The Federated Malay States were within the flight path of American aviator Amelia Earhart on the Thailand–Singapore leg of her final and fatal attempt to cross the globe in 1937. She was given permission to enter FMS airspace with provision to land at Taiping Airport on 7 June 1937.

Contributor Bukhrin added this passage about Amelia Earhart on 14 January 2007. Notice the differences. Main point is that she got permission to enter FMS airspace.

That night, before I fell asleep (!), I remembered that Purdue University has an Amelia Earhart Archive ! The next morning I searched the Archive and, lo and behold, this is what I found:

Authorisation to fly through the FMS airspace, and permission for the aircraft to land at the Taiping Aerodrome. Signed 7 June 1937!

So, after all, Taiping IS special? Not really.

In those days before the war, British Malaya comprised three entities, the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Melaka, Penang and the Dindings), the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang) and the Unfederated Malay States (Kedah, Johore, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan).

During her flight, Amelia Earhart passed all three , so she needed authorisations for each of them. They were handled by the American Consulate in Singapore. Here are the letters of the Consul to Amelia with the permits attached.

And here are the permits, one for the Straits Settlement, and separate ones for Johore and Kedah. Click to enlarge. For the FMS permit, see above.

All give permission to enter the airspace and a provision to land at the respective aerodrome(s). For the Straits Settlements in Penang and Singapore, for Kedah in Alor Star , for Johore in Batu Pahat and for the FMS in Taiping.

Five airports. Could it be that she had in her mind to land at Taiping airport. And why did she mention Alor Star in her notes?

Today I found the missing puzzle piece in the Purdue archive!

It is the flight plan for her first (failed) attempt in March 1937, where she was planning to circumnavigate the globe in the opposite direction. She will have used the same flight plan in June. Starting on 20 June in Rangoon, two options are shown, a) From Rangoon to Alor Star and then to Singapore or b) From Rangoon to Bangkok, then to Alor Star and finally to Singapore.

She chose option b), landed in Bangkok for refueling, and then decided to skip Alor Star and fly directly to Singapore.

In that case the remark in her notes: We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop, and headed for Singapore, makes complete sense.

Case closed for me.

I think Taiping Heritage Society should completely rewrite the History section of the Taiping Airport entry. Because the source of the confusion is located there. The info in the FMS entry is correct, although you may argue that it is not really that notable πŸ™‚

Of course a more general problem is, how reliable is Wikipedia? It is a collective effort with more than 100.000 active contributors. Read more here about Wikipedians . There are checks and balances against vandalism, wrong info etc. But especially with “minor” entries, like Taiping Airport, errors can go unnoticed for a long time.

Amelia Earhart and Taiping

This blog post will have a different format. I will describe chronologically what made me a detective the last three months πŸ™‚

It started with this article in the New Straits Times of 17 June: Historical aerodrome make Taiping what it is today, say experts, conservationists . In this article it says:

The Taiping Aerodrome became famous when aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart made a refuelling stop there on June 7, 1937, before continuing her journey to Singapore and New Guinea in her historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

I had heard about Amelia Earhart, that she disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but I knew not much more than that. So I checked Wikipedia, it has a detailed article about her. Here is part of her 1937 flight route:

Of course I directly saw a problem. Refuelling in Taiping on 7 June? On 7 June she crossed the Atlantic! On 20 June she flew from Bangkok to Singapore. Could it be that on that day she made a refuelling stop in Taiping?

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and asked them :

There was no response, and I left it at that.

Fast forward to 30 August, when a THS friend wrote: “Wow! There’s a mural being painted on a wall at the corner shop next to the Taiping hospital complete with her face and an aeroplane. 👏👏👏”

Another THS member sent me a picture of the, still unfinished, mural.

Of course my curiosity was raised again and I repeated my question, does anyone know where this claim comes from. This time there was more response πŸ™‚ . A THS member wrote that there was a separate Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. Here is a quote:

The airport also achieved fame through the famous American aviator, Amelia Earhart in 1937, when she was doing her world flight and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling. Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya.

This solved part of the puzzle. It doesn’t say that Amelia LANDED at Tekah on 7 June, but that on 7 June she got PERMISSION TO LAND at Tekah . I will come back to this Wikipedia article later.

Next I used Google to find information about Amelia and Bangkok, Taiping and Singapore. Amelia Earhart & Taiping gave a few hits only, for example this one and this blog, but they basically just copied the info from the Wikipedia article about Tekah.

Earhart & Singapore gave more results. Especially this one: Kallang Airport put S’pore on global aviation map, visited by legendary pilot Amelia Earhart Here is an picture from this link:

Interesting detail: Kallang Airport in Singapore was opened on 12 June, one week earlier than Amelia’s arrival! I will come back to that later. The newspaper clippings show how famous she was.

My Google search for Amelia Earhart & Bangkok struck gold πŸ™‚ . The website This Day in Aviation describes important dates in aviation history, and, not surprisingly, has many pages about Amelia Earhart.

Here is the page about her flight from Rangoon to Singapore: 20 June 1937 .

From Rangoon, yes! When you look at the route planning, shown above, you will see that there are TWO entries for 20 June. First from Rangoon to Bangkok, where she landed for refuelling, then from Bangkok to Singapore.

There were two other planes that day, from Rangoon to Singapore. She left Rangoon after the two others, all three stopped in Bangkok, but she arrived first at Singapore, BECAUSE WE CUT STRAIGHT AND DID NOT STOP ALONG THE WAY.

Here are her notes:

Though we did not sight them, there were two transport planes that day on the same route which we flew. The Imperial Airways machine left Rangoon first and the K.L.M. Douglas at daybreak. Our Wasp-motored Lockheed left fifteen minutes later. All stopped at Bangkok, then followed different courses to Singapore. We arrived there first, at 5:25 P.M. local time, because we cut straight and did not stop along the way.”

SO THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A STOP AT TEKAH AIRPORT!

When I communicated these findings with my TH friends, most of them were convinced, but some of them wondered if those notes where authentic.

Then a THS friend pointed out that a few months after Amelia’s disappearance a book was published by her husband (and manager) Palmer Putnam: Last Flight.

The book is out of stock, but fortunately it has been digitalised and is available as an Amazon e-book . I bought it, it is very interesting reading and of course I was especially interested in her route from Rangoon to Singapore. Here are scans of the relevant chapter.

I have color marked the passages which are of interest for this blog. Click to enlarge.

If you wonder how these notes have survived her disappearance, keep in mind that her whole trip was followed eagerly by public and press. Regularly she communicated her notes with Putnam and the press by telex, cable, telephone. Personally I am convinced that the notes are authentic.

What struck me, reading these pages, is that she mentions three times Alor Star. Why Alor Star and not Taiping?

“… on a course south toward Alor Star …” , “…. along the eastern coast of Malay and then across the peninsula to Alor Star….“, “We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop….”

A few concluding remarks:

I think that much of the confusion has been caused by the Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. I checked the history of that item and found that it has been created in 2007 by Wikipedia user Andrew Kidman. He also modified and edited it. In 2009 he added the history section, see the quote above. A few month later he stopped contributing. I have found no other mention of a permission to land on 7 June 1937 and think that it might be erroneous. I have contacted him via Wikipedia, but no reply until now.

Kallang airport was opened only a week before Amelia arrived. In “her” book it is described how much preparation was needed, months before she started. Could it be that her landing at Kallang was a last-minute decision?

Here are some recent pictures of the Amelia Earhart mural in Taiping.

The statement that Tekah airport was the first airport in South East Asia also comes from the Wikipedia article, and is incorrect, I think. Both Thailand (1914) and Indonesia (1924) were earlier.

Penang Trip, July 2019

A report about a 3D2N trip to Penang with my friends Paul and Fahmi. Our target was to enjoy food and culture. I have already written separate posts about Penang Mural Art, Penang Colonial Architecture and Penang Museums. In this post I will write about our trip and about food.

We traveled by ETS train from KL Sentral to Butterworth, a very comfortable journey. From Butterworth we took the ferry to George Town. This way of reaching the island is more romantic, compared to the usual way (by car and bridge).

Our hotel was on walking distance from the jetty, but we were hungry and needed lunch first . We found a busy food court, where I had Penang Assam Laksa. The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is very well located in the heart of the historical town.

After some rest we went out to explore the town. We started with the Khoo Kongsi. More photos .

And of course we saw a lot of mural art. More photos .

The weather was nice. We walked past many houses of worship, in the Guan Yin Temple a celebration was going on with a performance of Chinese opera.

George Town is a haven for foodies, in 2014 I wrote a blog about it, Penang Food. This time we were looking for halal food. We first walked to the Esplanade. because we remembered that there was a Malay food court there, but it was closed already. Beautiful views of the floodlit colonial buildings!

Walking back we ended up at the popular Kapitan restaurant, where we had an acceptable Tandoori Chicken.

The next morning we were in the mood for a dim sum breakfast, but of course most dim sum places are not halal. We were lucky to find a gem: Dim Sum Valet . Delicious dim sum, a very friendly Malay couple, they started the shop beginning of this year. Worth visiting!

We still had some space left for a dessert. Our friends Pat and Roger had visited George Town recently and were very enthusiastic about the durian ice cream of Kek Seng. They were right, it was delicious.

Our first target for the day was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A wonderful museum, surprising that I had never heard about it earlier! More photos .

We spent considerable time in the museum, there was a lot to see. For lunch we went back to the food court at the Esplanade that was closed yesterday evening. Now it was open, we had the famous Mee Sotong of Hameed Pata . A long queue, but worth waiting for it

In the afternoon we explored the colonial architecture of Beach Street. One bank building after another prove that in those colonial times George Town was the financial center of Malaya. But not only banks, also emporiums, shops, opulent residences. More photos .

We visited a few more mural artworks, and we were not the only ones. Actually I am not happy about the mushrooming of mural art in Penang (and in the whole of Malaysia!). Not always is it high quality and the economical Law of Diminishing Returns is valid also here. More photos .

After a short rest in our hotel we went out for dinner to the New Lane Hawker Center. I had good memories about this place from earlier visits, but this time I was rather disappointed. Too many tourists, too expensive. We had popiah, oyster omelet , kerang and stingray.

Our last day in George Town already. We had breakfast with Roti Goyang at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. The soft-boiled eggs were really shaking (goyang) surrounded by the pieces of toast. Very nice.

The Sun Yat Sen Penang Basee was the last museum on our list. Sun Yat Sen had his office here in 1912 when he was looking for support for the Chinese revolution. More photos .

A last round of more mural art. Some of them quite nice, in the humoristic Zacharevic style. More photos .

Before taking the ferry back to Butterworth, we had lunch near our hotel, in restaurant Jawi . Peranakan food, friendly service.

After lunch we took the ferry back to Butterworth. Paul and Fahmi went back to KL, I stayed in Taiping for couple of days more, see my report Taiping, July 2019 .

It was nice to visit George Town. But as a result of being a Unesco Heritage Site, it has become very touristic. Fancy museums, I may be old-fashioned, but for me it doesn’t add value.

Penang Museums

During my recent trip to Penang, I visited three museums.

The first one was the Khoo Kongsi, a large Chinese clan house in George Town. I had visited this kongsi already several times during earlier visits, so only a few pictures here. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of George Town.

The present complex was rebuilt in 1906, after an earlier version was destroyed by lightning. Could it be that the gods were angry because it was too grand, resembling an imperial palace? So the present kongsi is more modest, although you would not say so, when you visit it πŸ™‚ .

The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful stone reliefs and carvings.

The temple contains de ancestral tablets. There is also a gallery with portraits of the Khoo family.

The second museum we visited was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion . Last year I had visited the Peranakan Museum in Singapore, click here for a report. But to be honest, I was not aware that there existed a Peranakan Museum in Penang! And the museum opened its doors already in 2004!

Now that I have visited it, I agree that it is one of the top attractions of George Town, not to be missed by any visitor!

The building is old, it was built in the 1890s as residence of Chung Keng Quee, the leader of the Hai San secret society . Irony of fate: the site was formerly used by its rival Ghee Hin secret society. That alone made my visit worthwhile already, because as a virtual “Taiping Boy”, I have read a lot about the fighting between the Hai San and the Ghee Hin during the Larut Wars !

Entrance fee is RM 20, not cheap, but worth the money. You can visit the mansion on your own, there is a lot to see. Or you can join a free guided tour.

For those not familiar with Malaysian history, the Peranakan , also known as Baba-Nyonya or Straits Chinese, are descendants of Chinese settlers who arrived from Southern China in the 15th-17th century. Their rich culture contains Chinese, Malay and European elements.

Here is a collection of photos I took during my visit.

Chung Keng Quee even built his own private temple next to his mansion.

The last museum I visited was the Sun Yat-sen museum. Sun Yat-sen was the
leader of China’s republican revolution, overthrowing the Qing dynasty and the first president of the Republic of China. To get support from the overseas Chinese, he moved with his family to Penang in 1910 and organised his activities from this house.

The house was constructed circa 1880 and is a beautiful example of a Peranakan merchant home.

I had only limited time to visit the museum, will spend more time there during my next visit, because Mr Alvin, who takes care of the museum, is a gifted storyteller.

Actually Sun Yat-sen has also a link with Taiping! He had a house there in what is now the Antong Coffee Mill. His concubine lived there for many years and he visited it occasionally. See my report (scroll down).

Penang Colonial Architecture

During my recent visit to Georgetown, I took some pictures of colonial architecture. There is a lot to see!

On our first evening we walked to the Esplanade. On our way we passed St George’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia, built in 1818.

The Esplanade is dominated by two magnificent buildings, the Town Hall and the City Hall. The City Hall, completed in 1880, is the oldest municipal building of George Town. It housed the Municipal Commission until 1903 when the Commission moved to a larger building next to it, the Municipal Offices. The Town Hall kept its function as meeting place for the European Elite. Nowadays it is used for public events, art exhibitions etc.

The Municipal Offices were one of the first buildings fitted with electrical lights! After Georgetown got city rights in 1957, the Municipal Offices were renamed to City Hall

The next day we explored Beach Street, where a concentration of impressive colonial architecture can be found. We started with the Jubilee Clock Tower, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee.

The next building, now housing the Penang Islamic Council, is all that remains of the Straits Settlement Government Buildings, destroyed by allied bombing in 1945 during the Japanese occupation.

Notice the eyesore next to the building. It is the Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce, I wonder who gave permission to build it.

The next building, now housing the Bank of China, is of special interest for a Dutchman, because it was built by the Nederlandse Handel-Maatchappij in 1905.

Next to it the Penang office of Tourism Malaysia. I was wondering if this was a colonial building or a modern one. Could not find much information until I stumbled on a blog George Town’s heritage bank buildings . Originally it was a Mercantile bank, later taken over by HSBC. Recently renovated. So it is an old building in a modern outfit.

The Saw Seng Kew building was originally known as the British India House. Built in the 1920, it has been used by many different companies. In 1965 Rubber Tycoon Saw Seng Kew started the Southern Banking Ltd in this building that now has been renamed after him.

At the right side of the above photo you can just see the corner of the India House. It was built in Art-Deco style, completed in 1941 and forms an striking contrast with the surrounding “older” architecture.

Next to the India House, this Philip Capital Building again dates back to the 1920s. I was wondering at first where the entrance of the parking was, until I noticed that the P is actually the logo of the company πŸ™‚ .

The 1886 building is the oldest commercial building along Beach Street that has kept its original form. In the past it housed the Goon Yen emporium, nowadays it is part of the OCBC. A very attractive building.

Another gem, the Thio Thiaw Siat building. Named after a Chinese tycoon, who is better known under his Cantonese name Cheong Fatt Tze (who lived in the famous “Blue Mansion”). This building was built by his estate after he passed away in 1916.

The GeorgeTown Dispensary nextdoor, the main pharmacy of Penang in those days, wa originally located where now the TTS building is.

The Central Fire Station was built in 1908. Notice the mix of architectural styles, with a Classical facade and a Moghul-style tower πŸ™‚

This building is not on Beach Street, but on Bishop Street. I could not find more information about this Cornfield building.

Finally a photo of the Penang Adventist Hospital (1924), nowadays a hotel, located on Muntri Street.

The website of Timothy Tye, Penang Travel Tips, has lots of information about heritage buildings of Penang. And George Town World Heritage Incorporated has published a guide book George Town’sHistoric Commercial & Civic Precincts, that can be downloaded from the Internet as a pdf file.

I am planning to visit Penang again soon and with the help of this guide book, explore many more architectural gems of George Town.

Penang Mural Art

Five years ago, I visited Penang to have a look at the Mural Art, created by the Lithuanian artist Zacharevic in 2012. Here is my report: Penang Street Art. I like Zacharevic, his sense of humour, the way he is using existing objects for his creations. Even then there were already more artists active, some copying his style, sometimes good, more often mediocre.

I went back to Penang with my friends Paul and Fahmi, and to be honest, I was shocked by the proliferation that has taken place in these five years. There is hardly an empty wall anymore, mural art in almost every street. Really too much, IMHO. But I may be an exception in not appreciating this epidemic πŸ™‚ . Here is a quote from Tripadvisor :

The highlight of Penang is literally the street arts. They are everywhere, every street, every corner. I have tons of photos of them. You don’t need a map but just don’t miss any street there. πŸ™‚ .

And there has even been published a coffee-table book already: Street Art Penang Style .

Here are a few of Zacharevic’s creations. When you compare the pictures with those in my report, you will see that several of them have faded. Some even have been destroyed. Zacharevic has no problem with this, he is not making art for eternity. I like his attitude.

A few pictures of Mural Art in Zacharevic style, where you can interact with the artwork

Using existing elements.

Many more. Actually not bad, just that there are too many of them

Two artworks on the Chew Jetty. An original Zacharevic on this jetty has been destroyed.

There are many, many more, which often did not really appeal to me.

Taiping, July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time he was at home and free to chat !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One picture for the album πŸ˜‰

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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