Taiping September 2017

At the end of our Trip up North, Aric dropped me in Taiping, where I stayed two nights in my favourite hotel Furama. My last visit was in May (read the report here) and I was missing my “second hometown” :-).

After a shower and some rest, I had dinner with Tung Lay Chun and her family. Later that evening I met Wan Amril for a drink. Both are members of the Taiping Heritage Society and knowledgeable about Taiping heritage .

Four years ago I have written a blog post Shame on Taiping! about the pitiful condition of several historical buildings in a town that proudly presents itself as  Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). In the meantime these buildings have deteriorated further, but recently there has been some activity and Lay Chun and Amril updated me about the present situation

The next morning I went out for breakfast. A bit early, because I wanted to try the “most famous” Chee Cheong Fun in town..:-). During my last visit I had also gone to stall 37 in the Taiping hawker center near to the Bomba, but the CCF was sold out early in the morning. This time I was lucky and just in time.

Delicious food. I chatted a bit with the friendly owner of the stall, his family had been operating this stall for many decades already. Will sure come back.

After my breakfast I walked to the Lake Gardens.  In January 2017 I published a blog report Taiping Old and New in which I compared old photographs and postcards with recent pictures taken from the same location.  One of those buildings was the Standard Chartered Bank, now the Public Library. The Lake Gardens are beautiful any time of the day. I passed the Peace monument, the THS has tried to beautify this monument by planting flowering plants around it, but that was not a success. Now it looks better, with new tilings around the  brick posts, each carrying a peace message in various languages

My first target was the ruined Casuarina Hotel on the hill where once the Residence stood. According to Amril there were (serious) plans to build a 4-star boutique hotel here. The hotel has no heritage value, it was built after Merdeka. No sign of any recent activity here yet.

I was not in a hurry, so I checked the number of pillars and their location, the only remains of the former Residency. In total there are 32 pillars, see the GE image below.  This imagery was obtained in 2007, when the Casuarina hotel was still operating!

Walking back I passed the (former) First Galleria. After a few successful years it was taken over by MPT because of mismanagement. Now it is called the Taiping Municipal Gallery. It was closed. Note the sloppy way they have kept the old sign, just removing “will” (and forgetting to add an “s” to function). My Taiping friends tell me there is nothing of interest inside. Pity.

Behind this Gallery is the soon to be opened Telegraph Museum. The first telegraph line in Malaysia line was built between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, so it makes sense to have a museum about the history of the telegraph here. Hopefully it will be managed better.

I continued my walk to the biggest eyesores of Taiping, the Old Rest House and the former PWD building. During my last visit you could enter the PWD building through all doors, no fencing at all. Squatters were living there and trees were growing in the courtyard. Recently they have cleared the interior, removed the trees and bushes. They had to destroy one of the entrance doors, so a bulldozer could enter. After the cleanup the destroyed door was rebuilt, in itself a good sign.

Also the doors have been closed in a primitive way, and in Malaysia that means you can still enter..:-). The courtyard is clean now, which makes the ruined state of the building only more obvious. The same holds for the Rest House, it is fenced off, but you can still enter. Also here the undergrowth  around the building has been cleared. According to Amril this building is designed to become a boutique 3-star hotel.

My breakfast had been quite filling, so I decided for a light lunch with cendol and pasembor at Ansari, one of the two famous cendol stalls in Taiping.

Before I ordered my food, I got into a conversation with two gentlemen, who had just finished their meal. We came to talk about Taiping heritage and one of them was the owner of two beautiful heritage houses, in Barrack Road  around the corner. We had a look at these houses and will keep in touch with each other, because of our shared interest!

I had been walking quite a lot, so I took a long rest in the afternoon. I decided to have popiah for my dinner, so I walked again to the Taiping hawker center. No popiah there, but interesting preparations for the last day of the Hungry Ghost month. During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the ghosts of the ancestors are permitted to return to the world of the living. At the end of this month they have to go back and Taai Si Wong (his effigy is shown in the right picture), takes care that they do…:-)

When I reached the stall of the Famous Omar Popiah near the Central Market, they were just closing. So no popiah, I went to a nearby stall and ordered satay and ketupat, also nice…:-).

After my dinner walking back, I came across a Caucasian couple and we started chatting. Not very often I meet Mat Salleh’s  in Taiping…:-). They are from New Zealand, traveling in SEA, and were  pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of Taiping. Of course I agreed and we decided to have a drink together. We walked back to the Taiping hawker center, where we had three big Heineken for RM 21 only. Just behind Taai Si Wong…:-)

A nice day. I don’t know why, but it is easy in Taiping to meet interesting, friendly people.
The next morning I met Yeap, the president of the THS. A few months ago the Malay Mail Online published an interview with him about the deplorable state of many heritage buildings in Taiping.

He was willing to show me some of these buildings. In the GE map I have indicated with letters the locations we have visited (click to enlarge)

In the center of the town, one block behind the Old Rest House (A in the map), a dilapidated facade, overgrown by trees and greenery. Decaying for how many years already?

Two examples of shoplots. This one (B) is located on Jalan Lim Tee Hooi. MPT has put a warning sign, AWAS (Be careful)

Here is the second one (C) opposite Central Market. Again a useful warning sign by MPT…:-)

Next we visited the area around Swettenham Road (now Jalan Istana Larut). In colonial times many sumptuous bungalows could be found here, and also more simple government and army quarters. Here is what is left of an impressive bungalow (D on the map). Note the pillar structure. No fence, you can just enter. I explored the ground floor, the upper floor is no longer accessible, look at what is left of the stairs.  No wonder that useful parts of the building will disappear. It would be interesting to find out more about the history of this building.

Here are a few more pictures of deserted government quarters (E, F, H). Not fenced off, you can just enter and explore.  G is special, a gate with two posts is all that remains of what once must have been a big bungalow on a huge plot of land.

Thanks to Yeap for an interesting excursion. Next time I will explore more.

KL Heritage

Kuala Lumpur, now a bustling metropolis, had a very modest start around the middle of the 19th century. It began as a small hamlet at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers. In nearby Ampang rich tin mines were opened and Kuala Lumpur was the place from where the tin could be transported by boat to Klang.

Here is how Kuala Lumpur looked in 1884. The open field at the left (the padang) is what today is Dataran Merdeka !

The wooden houses with atap roofs were prone to fire, and several times the whole village was razed. Kuala Lumpur also got heavily involved in the Selangor Civil War (1867-1874).  After this war Selangor became a British protectorate and in 1880 Kuala Lumpur replaced Klang as the capital of Selangor.

In 1884 Frank Swettenham, at that time the British Resident of Selangor, decided that future buildings should be constructed of brick and tile, to reduce the risk of fire. Yap Ah Loy,  Capitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur, started a brick industry in what now is called Brickfields. He can be considered the founder of modern Kuala Lumpur.

When in 1895 the British government decided to establish the Federated Malay States (FMS), a federation of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, Kuala Lumpur became the capital in 1896.

Here is a map of Kuala Lumpur, as it was in 1895. Worthwhile to study it in detail!

Regular visitors of my blog know my interest in history and heritage (Taiping, Klang) and may have been wondering why I never posted about Kuala Lumpur. Well, here is the result of two heritage walks in Kuala Lumpur.

We will start at the padang (Dataran Merdeka) where many of the heritage buildings are located. Here is a fascinating aerial view of colonial KL, taken circa 1930. What a beautiful town KL was in those days, without all the modern high-rise buildings! I have numbered the heritage buildings.

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Selangor Club (1)

The Selangor Club was founded in 1884 as a meeting point for educated and high-ranking members of British colonial society. It started as a small wooden building with an atap roof, near the north eastern corner of the padang. In 1890 it was replaced by a two-storey structure,  designed by A.C.A. Norman in Mock Tudor style . Later, in 1910, it was enlarged by Arthur Benison Hubback

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Government Printing Office (2)

Built in 1899, designed by Norman in Moorish Revival (Neo-Mughal) style. In the 1895 city map an earlier building was still located west of the padang, where nowadays the Police HQ can be found. The building has been used for various purposes, at present the KL City Gallery has its premises there. There is a gallery about the history of Kuala Lumpur, a souvenir shop, a cafe and on the first floor a scale model of KL. Quite touristic, but worth a visit.

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Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (3)

Designed by  Norman, built in 1909, replacing an older structure at the same location (see city map). Again in the Neo-Mughal style that was popular in those days. Originally there were two single-floor side wings, the left one was was removed when the road had to be widened. After being used as a bank, it became the Museum for National History and later a restaurant. At the moment it is closed for renovation and will house the Museum of Music.

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Federated Malay States Railways (FMSR) Headquarters (4)

After the Federated Malay States were formed in 1896,  Frank Swettenham,  the newly appointed Resident-General of the FMS, proposed a master plan to extend and connect railway networks within the FMS and Province Wellesley. In 1905 architect Arthur Benison Hubback designed the FMSR headquarters in Neo-Mughal style. A spectacular building, but it served as headquarters for a limited time only, because in 1917 they moved to the Railway Administration building, opposite the main Railway Station (we will visit it later in this blog). At the moment the Textile Museum is housed in this building.

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General Post Office (5)

The (Old) General Post Office is another Hubback creation, dating from 1896. It served as post office until 1984.

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Government Offices (6)

This impressive building dominates the east side of the padang. The first stone was laid in 1894 and it was officially opened in 1897. The building was originally designed by Norman in Neo-Classical style, but C. E. Spooner, since 1891 State Engineer of the Selangor Public Works Department (PWD), was unhappy with the design. It was then reworked by Bidwell and Hubback, young assistants of Norman in Neo-Mughal style.

It has housed the Federal Secretariat of the FMS and many other departments. After 1974 (when Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory) it has been the seat of various Courts and got its present name: Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Here a beautiful picture from 1902.

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(Old) Supreme Court (7)

A beautiful building, designed by Hubback in Neo-Mughal style and completed in 1915. More details can be found in an interesting blog by Zain Abdullah,  Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

There are plans to open a tourism gallery in the building. At the moment a lot of construction and renovation is taking place around the building.

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Former Town Hall (8)

The Municipal Offices and Town Hall of Kuala Lumpur were designed by A.B. Hubback in 1901 and built in 1904. It contained an auditorium and nowadays has become the KL City Theatre Hall.

Here is the monumental entrance and an old postcard of the Town Hall

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St. Mary’s Cathedral (9)

Built in 1894 and designed by A.C.A Norman in Neo-Gothic style. An unimpressive building, when compared with the exuberant creations of A.B. Hubback. You would at least expect a tower.

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FMS Survey Office (10)

Designed by A.B. Hubback, constructed in 1910.  (1904? 1914? See final note). A magnificent building with its long (120m!) colonnade. Later it housed the Sessions and Magistrate Court. At the moment it is abandoned. Not easy to take pictures of the building because the elevated LRT is obstructing a good view.

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Masjid Jamek (11)

This mosque is one of the oldest in Kuala Lumpur, designed again by Hubback. The foundation stone of the mosque was laid by the Sultan of Selangor in 1908 and the mosque was officially opened one year later. Compare it with St Mary’s Cathedral!

In the 1895 map there was still a Malay cemetery at the confluence of Klang and Gombak river. It was the main mosque of Kuala Lumpur until the Masjid Negara was built in 1965.

Dwarfed now by the surrounding skyscrapers, it is not easy to imagine its former splendour. You can enter the mosque, but it was Hari Raya during my visit and the mosque was closed. Here a collection of old pictures and postcards

We have completed a (wide) round of the old padang (now Dataran Merdeka) and I hope you will agree with me that there is a lot to see. . But there is more…:-). Let us first continue with A.B. Hubback. There are two more buildings in Kuala Lumpur, designed by him. The Old Railway station and the FMS Railway Head Administration Office. About 1 km south of Dataran Merdeka and opposite each other. In the background the modern Dayabumi Tower (1984)

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FMS Railway Head Administration Office (12)

As mentioned before, the FMSR Headquarters were originally in what is now the Textile Museum. But already in 1913 work started on new headquarters.  Delayed by WWI it was finally completed in 1917. It is a monumental building, in characteristic “Hubback” style.

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The Railway Station (13)

Finally, the Railway Station, in my opinion Hubback’s most impressive design. Completed in 1910, it served as Kuala Lumpur’s main railway station until 2001. Considered by many one of the world’s greatest railway stations.

Without exaggeration we can say that Hubback’s contributions dominate the heritage architecture of Kuala Lumpur. Of course that doesn’t mean that there were no other architects in the same period. We have mentioned already Norman and Bidwell.

Another architect in those days , less well known, was Abdul Kader Moosdeen. Here are two views of one of his works, a row of shop houses at Medan Pasar. Recently beautifully restored. Built c.1906.

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Shophouses Medan Pasar (14)

The Gian Singh Building, built in 1909, was probably also designed by Moosdeen. Two views of this building, hardly recognisable as heritage due to all the billboards.

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Gian Singh Building (15)

To view Moosdeen at his best, we must go back to the North side of Dataran Merdeka and from there cross under the Jalan Kuching to Jalan Tangsi.  Here in 1903 a sprawling mansion was built for the Chinese business tycoon Loke Chow Kit, designed by Moosdeen. Already after a few years Loke sold the property, which then was transformed into a hotel which later became another hotel until 1973, when the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) took over. Below is the headquarters of PAM, a real gem.

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Loke Hall (16)

Next to it a large renovation/restoration is still going on. This building will become the Kuala Lumpur Tourism bureau. It will be a real beauty, when finished!

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Loke Hall (17)

On the corner of Jalan Tangsi  another interesting heritage building can be found. In a very different architectural style, Art Deco. This “modern” style started in Europe in the 1920s and spread all over the world in the following decade.

Kuala Lumpur has quite a large number of Art Deco buildings and almost all of them were designed by the same architect, Arthur Oakley Coltman, a British architect who worked in Malaysia between 1925 and 1957.

Here are a few examples of Coltman’s Art Deco designs. The building in Jalan Tangsi was built in 1937 as the headquarters of the Anglo-Oriental Mining Corporation, the general managers for a large number of tin mines in Malaya. In 1995 it was  acquired by  a property developer, Ekran Berhad, and renamed Wisma Ekran. More information can be found in Zain Abdullah’s blog

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Anglo-Oriental Building (18)

Anther creation of Coltman is the Oriental Building, completed in 1932. Headquarters of the Oriental Life Assurance Company Ltd and in those days the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur. Later it housed Radio Malaya until 1968. Not easy to take pictures of the imposing building, because the view is blocked by the LRT.

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Oriental  Building (19)

The OCBC building was designed by Coltman and built in 1937 to house the headquarters of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited in Malaysia. It is a masterpiece of the Art Deco style.

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OCBC Building (20)

The clock tower in Market Square, also designed by Coltman, was built in 1937  to commemorate the coronation of King George VI

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Clock tower  (21)

Coltman has been designing more buildings in Kuala Lumpur. And he was not the only Art Deco architect in those days. The most beautiful Art Deco gem of Kuala Lumpur, Central Market, was designed by another architect, T.Y. Lee

The Central Market of Kuala Lumpur started in 1888 as a wet market . The present building was built in 1937

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Central Market (22)

Near Merdeka Square a brightly coloured building with many Art Deco elements, houses the Children’s Library. I could not find information about architect and when it was built.

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Children’s Library (23)

Two more buildings near the Railway Station to end this long blog about KL Heritage.

The Majestic hotel was completed in 1932 and designed by the architectural firm Keyes and Dowdeswell in a mixture of classical and art deco style. In its heyday it was the largest and grandest hotel in Kuala Lumpur, but by the 1970s it got overshadowed by more modern and luxurious hotels. In 1983 it closed its doors and became home to the National Art Gallery from 1984 until 1998. Now it has been restored to its former grandeur.

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Majestic Hotel (24)

Finally the Sulaiman Building, built in 1933 and originally known as the New Railway Offices, as it belonged to the FMS Railways. It now houses the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA). Neo-Classsical style with Art Deco elements

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Sulaiman Building (25)

Here is a Google Earth map, where the location of the various heritage buildings is indicated. Click to enlarge.

Final remarks.  I have spent more time on this post than on any other in  my blog…:-). A lot of relevant material can be found on the Internet. Of course Wikipedia and the online editions of the STAR and NST newspapers. Also quite a number of blogs, for example:

  1.  Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail
  2. Standing the test of time
  3. Lost Legacy-Disappearing Malaysian Architecture
  4. Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

However, comparing these various sources was sometimes confusing, especially about dates, sometimes also regarding architectural style. I had to make a choice and may have made mistakes…:-)

One of the choices I had to make was how to call the architectural style of the various Hubback buildings. Indo-Saracenic Revival,  Mughal, Moorish, Mughal-Gothic? Spooner himself used “Mahometan”  :-). I decided for Neo-Mughal.

Of course there are more heritage sites in Kuala Lumpur. That may become another post.

 

A relaxing trip

A few weeks ago friends told us about an interesting jungle resort, called The Sticks, between Kuala Kubu Bharu and Fraser’s Hill. Accommodation in so-called tendoks (a cross between a tent and a pondok). We decided to give it a try, stay overnight and visit the next day the nearby Chiling waterfall.

We stopped for lunch in KKB as Kuala Kubu Bharu is commonly called. KKB is a charming little town with many eateries. We went to Xin Yuen Kee, where we had Loh Mee, Fish Cakes and delicious Stewed Chicken Feet.

We had left KL with sunny weather, but when we walked back to our car after lunch, we felt the first raindrops, which soon became a heavy downpour. I had just time enough to take some pictures of the mural art, which is mushrooming all over Malaysia these days. It is not Zacharevic standard here in KKB, rather primitive, but with a certain charm.

The downpour became so heavy, that we skipped our plan to take some drone video at the Selangor Dam. Instead we continued to the Sticks parking, where our host Rubin was already waiting for us with umbrellas (we had messaged him from KKB about our arrival time). It was a short, romantic footpath to the resort, crossing the Selangor river on a sturdy hanging bridge.

We received a hearty welcome from our hostess Michelle and were shown our tendok. Named the Riverside tendok, because it is located almost above the river…:-). Attached bathroom, hot shower, fan, mosquito nets, very private location, surrounded by jungle.

After the rain stopped, we explored  the surroundings. The hanging bridge is close by, from there you could see how strong the water flow was after the heavy rain. From our tendok a few cemented steps led down to the river. A nice place to take a bath, but it was a bit too chilly after the rain.

We had a few hours to spend before dinner. No wifi, no computer! Finally I could finish Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind. Ok, I had it as an iBook on my iPad…:-).

When the evening came,  clouds and mist made the surrounding landscape even more romantic

Dinner was served in the community hall, where we met a few more guests. It was a barbecue dinner , served on banana leaf. A variety of fish, chicken, beef and lamb, attractively presented.

We went to bed early, but woke up around 11 pm because it started to rain again. Not just rain, a huge downpour with thunder and lightning. The sound of the rain drops on the roof of our tendok was so loud, that we could not hear the sound of the river anymore and it was almost impossible to talk to each other. Fortunately our tendok turned out to be 100% rainproof. But when we woke up the next morning, the water level in the river was still high and the colour brownish.

To reach the Chiling waterfall you have to cross another river (a tributary of the Selangor river) many times. Also the weather did not look very stable. And we felt lazy. We decided to skip the waterfall and instead to relax in the resort until checkout time.

The service at The Sticks is personal and friendly. The night before, after dinner, Michelle had asked us how we liked our breakfast. Omelet, fried eggs or half-boiled eggs? Beef or chicken sausage?  Ham ? Beans? Tea or coffee? There were cereals, toast, jam, butter. So we had a full English breakfast in the jungle! The only thing that was missing was a glass of orange juice…:-) And of course it was halal.

After our breakfast we enjoyed our tendok, walked around to take pictures and I talked with Rubin about the history of the place. The resort is not old, in the past there was tin mining at this location and later a (failed) fish farm project. The present owners have done a good job, replanting trees and landscaping the terrain. Here is a picture of the community hall. The tendoks (7 at the moment) are in the jungle behind the hall

Some pictures of flowers, a harmless millipede and an old water pipe, dating back to the tin mining period. According to Rubin,  remains from that period can still be found in the jungle, but access is not easy.

Then it was time to leave our temporary home and cross the bridge back to the main road.

The main reason to visit Chiling this time (I have visited the waterfall 15 times already during the past 14 years!), was to take a drone video of the fall. Pity that we could not do that, we must come back another time.

Instead, on our way back passing the Selangor dam, we stopped at the visitor center to take a video there. But soon a friendly girl came to warn us that droning was not allowed there. So we drove up to kampung Gerachi uphill, from where you have a nice view of the reservoir and the spillway. The reservoir was full and the spillway was impressive, an artificial waterfall.  It is nice to see everything from the air.

Here is a short video of the spillway

On our way back we stopped in Serendah for lunch. A nameless Thai restaurant on a slip road beside the trunk road has a reputation for its Tom Yam. Very tasty, we combined it with refreshing Leng Chee Kang

The Google Earth image shows the location of KKB and the Sticks resort

Five times Lepok

Recently I visited the Lepok waterfall in the Ulu Langat region with a group of friends. Checking my archive I found that this was my fifth visit!

The first time was in June 2004, 13 years ago. One year earlier I had met Khong, the webmaster of a website about Malaysian waterfalls. He had become more interested in bird watching and we agreed that I would take over his waterfall site. Of course I had to revisit many waterfalls and update the description and pictures. One of them was Lepok. Have a look at Khong’s original Lepok Waterfall page.

Here are some of the pictures I took during my first visit. It was durian season, the orang asli told us we could eat what we found…:-) The waterfall was pristine, but not a lot of water. When you look at  the updated Lepok Fall page you will see that there are many comments, a sign that the fall has become popular.

The second time was in September 2008. This time there was a lot more water. We discovered that there is a lower Lepok fall, a few hundred meter before the main fall. In a narrow gorge, not easy to access, but we have seen people abseiling there.

My next visit was in January 2013. One of my waterfall friends had told me that there was another waterfall, about one hour upstream from the main Lepok fall. He was willing to guide us there. We crossed the river and climbed up on the left side of the fall. It was an interesting hike, partly river trekking. And the upper fall was worth the hike.

One year later, the same friend told me that he had discovered a nice waterfall in a tributary of the Lepok river. Of course I was interested to see this fall, so I joined him and his friends in November 2014. Quite a lot of water in the main fall. Access was not that easy, we needed hands and feet ..:-). The tributary waterfall was quite tall but probably  only worth visiting when it has been raining a lot.

For my fifth visit I joined a  Hash Walk to Lepok. A Hash Walk is similar to a Hash Run, there is a paper trail, but it is not competitive and everybody can join. Actually I prefer to hike with only a few people, but since I have developed an allergy for bee stings, I feel it is safer to join a larger group, just in case of emergency.

It was quite a big group this time, but because of the paper trail there is no need to hike as a group, everybody can walk at one’s own pace.

I walked with Suat, my Bukit Kiara friend. The trail is clear and well-defined, in the first part there are a few forks, but after you have reached the water pipe, you can not go wrong.

I showed Suat the lower Lepok fall and I also took a short video

The Lepok waterfall is still nice, but there were swarms of bees, so I felt uncomfortable and went back after a quick bath.

After the hike we went to the Langat Seafood and Beer Garden for lunch. Nice food and pleasant company.

Tour guide again.

In my last post, Taiping 20-23 May, I reported about my recent Taiping  visit. On 23 May Aric joined me with a friend from Hong Kong. We stayed one night in the Flemington hotel in Taiping and then drove back to KL in three days, showing our guest the beauty of Malaysia. Of course we also enjoyed the Malaysian food, I have collected the food pictures at the end of this post.

A few weeks ago we bought a drone,  a Mavic Pro , and of course we were eager to try it out. At the end of this report you will see a collage of videos, taken by Aric

After their arrival and lunch with assam laksa , we walked in the Lake Gardens. A light afternoon drizzle did not bother us and created a peaceful atmosphere.

Back in Flemington we of course had to experience the rooftop swimming pool…:-)

From our room and of course from the rooftop we had a nice view of the Lake Gardens. To the left an evening view, the right picture was taken in the morning. We went out for dinner to Siang Malam, where we had mamak food.

Our friend is a hiker and was interested to visit a waterfall. I took him to the Air Hitam waterfall, north of Taiping. An easy hike and a spectacular fall, remote and unspoiled.

After lunch in Batu Kurau with roti canai, we started our drive back. Our destination was Brinchang in the Cameron Highlands, where we had booked an airbnb apartment. The first impression of the CH, when you arrive via the Simpang Pulai road,  is quite shocking. Grey plastic coverings of agricultural farms, as far as the eye can see. Completely spoiled landscape…:-(. Fortunately the view from our apartment was not too bad.

In the CH you must have steamboat, but in Brinchang town the prices are high and the quality low. We went to the Jin Jin restaurant, outside Brinchang and had a delicious steamboat, one of the best I have ever tasted.

The next morning we decided to have breakfast in the Sungai Palas Tea Garden. The tea plantations are still beautiful. Of course we had scones with our tea…:-)

After our breakfast we had a quick look at two bungalows, the Lutheran Mission Bungalow (left pic), where I have stayed overnight several times in the past, and the Moonlight Cottage (right pic), from where Jim Thompson disappeared in 1967. In 2010 I have written a blog about this fascinating story: What happened to Jim Thompson . The Moonlight cottage is now a guest house and has been renamed Jim Thompson cottage.

We took the same (Simpang Pulai) way back, because we wanted to have lunch with freshwater prawns in Tanjung Tualang. On our way we passed Kellie’s castle.

Of course Aric wanted to take an aerial video of this castle. Here you see him preparing the drone and launching it.

We continued to another of my favourites, the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. Our guest was impressed and got associations with the Transformer movies…:-)  Of course Aric had to take another drone video here.

We had a late lunch in restaurant Lung Seng in Tanjung Tualang with very nice udang galah and continued to the Felda Residence Hot Springs, where we had booked a villa with our own private Jacuzzi. We had been here nine years ago, see my report Paradise (has its price 🙂 ) And it was still a paradise

The next day we drove home and our guest to the airport.

Here is the drone video. Click on Full Screen and Enjoy!

And here is a collection of the food we had.

 

Taiping, 20-23 May 2017

After my visit to Maxwell Hill I stayed a few more days in Taiping. Main reason was to join a THS excursion to the Klian Pau church on Monday 22 May. As I had no car this time, I did a lot of walking. That is no problem in Taiping with its compact town center, where almost everything is within walking distance.

In the evening I walked to the Cross Street Bazar , thinking to have some snack food there, but I was a bit too early. The District Office looked beautiful, without the cars parked in front of it during daytime.

Walking back along Jalan Kota, I noticed that a crowd of people had assembled, apparently waiting for something to happen. Soon floats appeared, it was a temple procession, similar to the Cingay parade in Johor Baru, although on a smaller scale. In JB it is a famous tourist attraction, here even many of my Taiping friends were not aware of the event. Strange.

The next morning I went to a hawker center opposite the Taiping Mall for my breakfast. One of the stalls (no 37) is famous for its chee cheong fun, but at 10 am it was already sold out! I had curry mee instead with coffee, also not bad and cheap too for only RM 4.60.

After my breakfast I started my walk through the town, first looking for mural paintings.

The last few years Mural Art has become very trendy in Malaysia. It started in Penang , followed by Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Gopeng (he links connect  to blogs I have written about it). Of course Taiping did not want to stay behind. Personally I like the Zacharevic style (Penang, Ipoh) best, where often the specific structure of a wall is used to create the mural. In Taiping (like in KL) the walls are used as a huge “canvas”.

For example this recent one on a wall of the Kwangtung Association behind the district office. Students of the USM Penang were still working on it during my visit.

The artworks depict scenes related to Taiping’s past, the tin mining, the first railway, the central market. I have given the approximate location of the murals. Technically well done, but I miss the Zacharevic sense of humor.

Taiping presents itself proudly as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). But walking around, I was wondering if it really deserves that name. Too many of the heritage buildings are in a delapidated condition. For example the Town Rest House, one of the many “Firsts” of Taiping. The left picture shows the ruins of the Rest House behind a  wall with a pretentious text on the fence. The right picture shows a description of this “First”, built by the British in 1897 and upgraded to a double-storey brick building in 1894 (six!)

Four years ago I have written a blog “Shame on Taiping” and not much has changed since then. Here a few pictures of the building next to the Rest House. You can enter the building, but AYOR, because squatters live inside.

Of course there are also positive things to say. Look for example at this beautiful facade of Ng Boo Bee”s house at,81, Jalan Kota. Ng Boo Bee was a rich Chinese businessman, who rebuilt almost half of Taiping after the disastrous fire of 1880 and this was his residence.

Here are a few more pictures of buildings that drew my attention during my walk. The Peking hotel was built in 1929 as premises for the rubber dealer’s association. It was used by the Japanese Kempeitai during WWII. Now an affordable hotel,  the friendly manager allowed me to have a look at the interior. The Peace hotel (1928) also looks good.

I had a look inside the Central Market, built in 1884/85 and still in use. The future of this heritage building is uncertain, there are plans to relocate the Central Market and then renovate the building. Hopefully it will not become like the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.

Of course I also spent some time in the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens of Malaysia. During my many visits to Taiping I must have taken hundreds of pictures, it never gets boring.

And I discovered something new! A few Cannonball Trees , easily to be missed, because they are not located near a path, but in the middle of a field. They are native to Central and South America, but have been cultivated in many tropical regions. I had seen them in the Penang Botanical Gardens. Interesting flowers and fruits

That evening Yeap, the president of THS had invited me for a concert by a Polish accordion player, in the hall of St George’s Institution. It was an interesting performance  of classical pieces, arranged for accordion by Waclav Turek himself. I was very impressed by one of the first pieces he played, Bach’s toccata and fugue in d minor. I recorded a small part of this masterwork, originally written for organ.

The next morning, Yeap picked me up from my hotel for the THS event. The Klian Pau church is the oldest Catholic church in Taiping. Built in 1875 as a simple wooden structure on top of a hill, it was replaced by a stone building at the foot of the same hill in 1884. The official name is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church.

THS member Rocky explained the history of the church and showed us around.

The hill behind the church is called Calvary Hill.  Read more about the interesting story of this hill  here. It was completely overgrown and in preparation for this trip, Yeap and his workers had done a good job to clear the path up the hill.

On our way up, we passed several Stations of the Cross.  In the past there may have been a view of Taiping from the top of the hill, but now it was blocked by trees.

We  also had a look at the nearby cemetery. On the slope of a hill, very Chinese (Feng Shui). Old and new graves next to each other. I was wondering if it was possible to get more information about the old grave of J. Mc.Namara, who died 18 June 1894. Surprisingly I found a reference in The Chronicle and Directory of China Etc. 1892 ! He was an Inspector Second Class in the First Battalion, Perak Sikhs, stationed at Batang Padang. His commander?  R.S.F Walker, whose statue can be found at the Perak Museum.

After a brunch in front of the church, we went back to Taiping and visited the Shun Tak Association, one of the successful restoration projects in Taiping. There is a cafe  inside, where we had lunch. The rest of the day I was lazy, only went out for Hainanese Chicken Chop in Yut Sun with friends and had coffee with Wan Amril in the Greenhouse. Next morning roti canai in the hawker center near my hotel. Food is one of the attractions of Taiping…:-)

After my breakfast I decided to try the Heritage Bus, a new initiative. According to my map, there should be a bus stop opposite the Taiping Mall. Asking around, nobody knew about it, they directed me to the starting point, near the Peace Hotel. There I found a shabby waiting area and an ultra-modern bus. I paid one Ringgit and entered the bus, with a few more locals. After about half an hour we were back, we had done the Heritage Trail, without any information or explanation. Completely useless, but nice air-con in the bus. Simple changes could make it a lot better.

In the afternoon, with friends who had arrived from KL, I visited the Antong coffee mill. We had a look at the mill, where they were roasting the coffee, and tasted a few varieties of coffee.

Located on the Antong grounds is a nice house, where in the beginning of the 20th century Sun Yat Sen’s mistress has been living.

I had visited the Coffee mill and the Sun Yat Sen house earlier, but I was interested to see a recent mural near the factory. Again large-scale, 100 meter long, maybe it will be included in the Malaysian Book of Records as the Longest Heritage Street Mural. But will it become a tourist attraction, as suggested by the TTA (Taiping Tourist Association)? I have my doubts.

The last night in Taiping we stayed in Flemington, where we enjoyed the rooftop swimming pool and the nice view of the Lake Gardens.

A Taiping visit, as usual full of variety…:-)

Maxwell Hill, May 2017

Note: click on any picture to enlarge it.

Maxwell Hill is one of the oldest hill resorts in Malaysia. Development started in the 1880’s with the construction of a number of colonial bungalows for government officers. One bungalow, the Nest, was privately built in 1887 and from 1904 it was used as a retreat by the Methodist Church of Malaysia. About half a year ago this bungalow got new tenants,  Suet Fun and her husband Peter, friends of us, and we were eager to visit them and see how they had changed in a very short time the look and feel of the place.

An Ipoh friend of us, Hong, and his niece Karen were also interested, so we booked accommodation for two nights and met at the jeep station at 2:30 pm for a roller coaster ride up the hill. The jeep took us to Speedy’s bungalow where Suet and Peter were already waiting for us. From Speedy it is a few hundred meter walk to the Nest

It was a warm welcome with a glass of fresh hill water. Suet explained a bit about the history of the place and showed us around the bungalow.

I had never been in the Nest before, apparently it was catering for large groups, bunk beds, rather basic. The transformation had been amazing, as if you suddenly were taken back many decades to the past. I hope the few pictures below give an impression. The Nest has become a place to relax and enjoy, good that we had booked two nights.

The rest of the afternoon we spent around the bungalow, enjoying the changing weather, sometimes mist and clouds, sometimes quite clear. Refreshing temperature.

We could not see Taiping town itself, the left picture shows deep down the reservoir belonging to the Spritzer Eco Park and far away the Straits of Melaka. The mountain in the right picture is Gunung Bubu, about twenty km away!

Recently we have bought a drone and this was a good time to test it and take videos of the Nest and the surroundings.

The wind was quite strong, Aric was a bit worried that the drone might be blown away, but it landed nicely in frond of his feet.

Superior  technology

Here is a compilation of the videos taken that afternoon.

In the meantime Suet and Peter were busy with preparations for the dinner. And what a dinner it was! Peter is a Kelabit from Bario, they have also a house there, and one of the dishes was bamboo chicken. I don’t remember the names of the other dishes, but it was delicious. We had dinner outside at the monumental table on the bungalow terrace.

And then there was Antong coffee in the living room near the fireplace where Peter had lit a cosy wood fire. Life can be good…:-)

After a windy night, we woke up with a blue sky.

We had breakfast with French toast and Bario pineapple jam. Then it was time to take more pictures.  A stick insect was exploring my breakfast plate and in the grass a swallowtail moth (Lyssa Zampa) was looking (in vain) for shelter

The Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and you find them everywhere, but notice in the picture the grass and small herbs surrounding it. There was hardly a bush visible, it almost looked like the flowers came straight from the earth…:-)

We decided to take a morning stroll down to Speedy. Looking back we saw the Nest in all its glory.

Just before we reached Speedy, there was a large level field, with a nursery. In the past this has been a tennis court!. We found a nice ginger species.

I

Speedy recalled sweet memories, but also made me sad. In 2004 I celebrated my 60th birthday there with friends, when Guna was the caretaker of the bungalow. Later  it was decided to transform this bungalow into an Center for Biological Diversity. A failed project, as was to be expected in view of the limited accessibility. Now it is empty, unlocked. Sad. Compare the present situation with my birthday party, 13 years ago

Guna (yellow shirt) had prepared a nice barbecue.  How time flies.

The view from Speedy is still fascinating

Walking back to the Nest, Hong and I discovered an overgrown trail, leading steep up the slope. Hong knew that there should be another bungalow, between Speedy and the Nest, the Hugh Low bungalow. We scrambled up the trail, got scratched by many thorns and indeed, we found the remains of the bungalow!  We ventured inside, very carefully

Here are a few more pictures of your exploration. A very satisfactory mini-expedition!

In the afternoon we had quite heavy rain, very refreshing, suitable for a nice nap…:-)

In the meantime other guests had arrived.  Suet had decided to serve a banana leaf dinner and asked for our help to prepare the table.

Not only did it look splendid, the food was also delicious.

Moths were attracted by the bright light

There was another reason why Hong and I wanted to visit Maxwell Hill. Wan Amril, a friend of us, who is very knowledgeable about everything related to Taiping, had told us about a memorial stone for J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, appointed in 1874 and murdered in 1875. He had “discovered” this stone eight years ago on the top of Birch Hill, one of the hills forming Maxwell hill. Read his fascinating report The Forgotten Memorials . Wan Amril manages nowadays the Cafe Bukit Larut at the 6th mile and he was willing to guide us to this memorial stone.

The next morning we thanked Suet and Peter for their hospitality and met Wan Amril at Speedy. From there we walked along the jeep track until near the first telecom tower at Birch Hill. There a vague trail took us after a few hundred meters to the stone

Here we have reached the stone. Mission accomplished!

As you can see a mistake has been made with the inscription. The name of the Resident was J.W.W Birch, not T.W.W Birch. Why this mistake? Another question is, did Birch really climb this hill? He was appointed as Resident, 4 November 1874 and murdered 2 November 1875. Did he have time in that year to climb this mountain?

Maybe an answer to this last question can be found in the Journals he kept in the period 1874-1875. They have been published and the National Library in Kuala Lumpur has copies. I will try to borrow one.

The plaque to the right is much more recent. Difficult to decipher, but according to Wan Amril’s report it says that on 23-7-73 at 8:02  the Raja Muda of Perak has visited this memorial stone.

We walked back to the jeep track and continued to the main telecom towers, a few hundred meter further at Caulfield Hill, slightly higher than Birch Hill. It is out of bounds, but a friendly security guard let us in, so we could take some pictures of the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884. Now used by the guards

Walking back we admired the beautiful nature, like this impressive tree

We saw an ant nest and tree fruits. It was a very rewarding hike.

From Speedy we drove down with Wan Amril to the 6th mile, where his cafe is located and many of the other bungalows

Some of the bungalows are in good condition, like Beringin (left), the Cafe (right) also looks good. Other bungalows are more rundown, or even ruined. Pity

After lunch in the Cafe, Wan Amril drove us back to the jeep station. Many thanks for his hospitality!

Here is a GE map of the winding road up Maxwell Hill, with the location of the various points of interest.   

I am looking forward to come back to the Nest!

The Upper Ampang Fall

My first visit of the Sg Ampang waterfalls was in December 2004 when my friend Khong took me to the Kemensah fall. According to Khong there were more waterfalls upstream, the Lower Quartz Ridge Fall and the Upper Quartz Ridge Fall (the links refer to his original webpages, have a look!). So the same month I came back with my Dutch friend Paul, we took a trail parallel to the river and found another waterfall. Here is the report: Kemensah Revisited.  Comparison with Khong’s webpages showed that this was the Upper Quartz Ridge fall.

Where was the Lower Fall? In January 2005 I went again with Paul. This time we decided to river trek upstream from the Kemensah Fall and found the Lower Fall, actually quite close to the Upper one. This is the report: Kemensah Finale.

In the meantime I had studied the topo map and discovered that these three waterfalls have nothing to do with the Sg Kemensah, as I first thought, but are waterfalls in the Sg Ampang. I published the falls on my Waterfalls of Malaysia website under the name Sg Ampang falls .

I had never been back to these falls, so when my friend Peter told me that he and some friends were planning to go to the Upper Fall, I decided to join. Much development had taken place during the past decade and destroyed the remote atmosphere. We had parked far away from the trail head, and started our walk along the tar road, passing several places where people where enjoying their weekend

So-called development is still going on..:-(

We passed an ATV park, very popular and one reason we parked so far away, because my friends told me that the ATV “gang” can be unfriendly and even aggressive to people who park there without using their services. Notice the encroaching civilisation of Sierra Ukay in the right picture

There was also a paintball place. With a special offer for ATV customers!

When we arrived at the trail, I discovered that the once overgrown single-track trail had changed into an ATV-highway. Where of course we had to give way to these noisy monsters.


They are all going to the Lower Ampang fall (Kemensah), which is officially named Sofia Jane Fall. We took the trail to the upper falls which fortunately is still unspoiled.

To reach the Upper Fall, you must know where to leave the trail and scramble down a steep slope, only guided by the sound of falling water. On our way down, we missed the (vague) trail, but of course, with Peter chopping his way, we managed to reach the fall…:-)

The upper fall is interesting because the river splits in two falls.

This video shows more clearly how this fall is split. The official name is Lata Neelofa

Pity there is no pool. Actually the Middle Ampang  Fall (official name Lata Pinang) is more impressive, but we decided to go back, as it might start raining. As often happens, on our way back we found the correct route up…:-). Suat shows here where to go down…:-)  The trail continues probably to Congkat (Ulu Langat region), it would be interesting to explore it.

We were just back in time before the rain. Here a few of us are enjoying an after-hike drink and dinner.

It was a nice outing, but I was a bit shocked about the “development”. Might be better on a weekday. Here is a GE screenshot of our hike. White is the tar road, as we wanted to avoid a potential conflict with the ATV gang. Red is the ATV track, green the unspoiled trail.

 

Tour Guide!

Can you be our tour guide for a day trip to Ipoh and Taiping, my friend Pat asked me recently? My pleasure, I replied, but visiting Ipoh and Taiping on a day trip would be too hectic and no fun. Let me think about an interesting program!

They also would like to visit a waterfall, so I suggested we could start with Lata Kinjang, clearly visible from the North-South Highway. But first we had breakfast in the Pun Chun restaurant in Bidor, famous for its duck noodles. The yam cakes are also delicious.

Outside the restaurant there were several stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, which of course meant shopping!

Our next destination was Lata Kinjang. Travelers from KL to Ipoh will have seen this waterfall from the highway, but not many will have actually visited the fall, because the access route is a bit complicated. From the car park it is a short walk through nice forest to the tall waterfall.

A (sometimes) steep trail brings you to a hanging bridge from where you have a nice view

From Lata Kinjang we continued on countryside roads to the tin dredge of Tanjung Tualang. A tin dredge is a kid of floating factory in an artificial lake, created by the dredge itself.. They scoop up buckets of tin-bearing soil at the front end (left pic), separate the tin from the soil and deposit this soil at the rear end (right pic). In the heyday of tin mining there were many of these gargantuan monsters in Perak, now only one is left to become a tourist attraction. During my first visit, many years ago, I could explore the tin dredge, at the moment you can only admire the outside

There is also a small museum (under construction) and there are plans to develop the place into a major tourist attraction, including :

a food and beverage section with cafes, alfresco dining and gift shops; a garden area for weddings and other functions; a petting zoo and adventure park; a villa resort; a floating resort; an area for flea market and antique bazaar; and parking area

Keep dreaming, I would say…:-)

Then it was time for lunch. Originally I had planned lunch in Tanjung Tualang, famous for its freshwater prawns, but instead we went to Pusing and had nice food in restaurant Ming Fuong.  With quite affordable freshwater prawns.

During our lunch I mentioned to my guests the nearby village of Papan, where during the Japanese occupation in WWII, Sybil Kathigasu was helping the resistance fighters. The town is ruined, but there is a small museum in the house where she lived.

We decided to have a look. Papan is only a few streets with many of the houses overgrown with trees and bushes. Difficult to imagine that during the tin mining era it was a busy town.

Some of the houses are still inhabited! The museum was closed, we could only have a look from the outside. The future of Papan is uncertain, there are still tin deposits underneath. If the price of tin goes up, it might mean the end of the village

My plan was to visit next one of the many cave temples in Ipoh, and I decided that on our way we could have a quick look at Kellie’s Castle. When I first visited this “folly’ about twenty years ago, it was a romantic ruin, but since then it has been renovated and become a major tourist attraction. William Kellie Smith was a Scottish planter and tin miner who started building this castle in 1915. But he died in 1926 and the castle was never finished.

When we arrived at the Kek Lok Tong cave temple, we found out that we were too late, the temple gates were just closing 🙁 Really a pity, because this is in my opinion one of the most impressive cave temples in Ipoh. Click here for a blog report I found on the Internet.

It was still too early for dinner, was there an alternative for the temple? I suggested we could visit Gopeng, another tin mining town with a glorious past. Recently there have been attempts to revive it as a tourist attraction, there is  a museum , and you can find mural paintings, similar to those in Penang and Ipoh. (The links refer to my earlier blogs). It is becoming a bit of a craze nowadays, Kuala Lumpur has been following and you can find this street art also in Taiping.

Some nice ones in Gopeng are in the three-dimensional style of Zacharevic . Here Pat is acting as a model

We found a few more, various design and quality

Near Gopeng, in Ulu Geroh, you can find many Rajah Brooke’s butterflies and also, if you are lucky, the famous Rafflesia flowers. Here are two murals depicting them

Finally, after a long day, we went for dinner to restaurant Choy Kee in Sungkai. The restaurant is famous for its pork knuckle and the freshwater fish.

My guests wanted also to have again freshwater prawns (udang galah). It was a nice dinner, although we were a bit shocked by the price of the prawns. Below, clockwise from upper left: pork knuckle, kappa (kind of lala), udang galah and fish (forgot which kind).

It was a nice trip, full of variety, although we didn’t even reach Ipoh..:-)

Below is our route. The right screenshot shows the pockmarked landscape, a result of the tin mining

 

A new waterfall

Recently some of my friends joined a “hashwalk” to Bukit Lentang in the Karak region. On their way they passed a nice waterfall. Knowing about my interest in (Malaysian) waterfalls, they gave me the GPS-data and suggested that I should visit the fall myself. Of course that was a challenge I could not resist. They warned me that heavy “development” was taking place in the area, with a lot of forest clearing in preparation for plantations.

I checked the historical imagery of Google Earth. Here is the situation in January 2013. A minor road (white line) starts from the main road and leads to a Taoist sanctuary, where the trail starts.  Notice the palm oil plantations in the upper right part of the image. The rest is still forest.

Here is the situation in June 2016. Quite a shocking difference. It’s called progress :-(.

My friends Paul, Rahim and Fahmi joined me on this waterfall hike. It was no problem to reach the “Chinese temple”, where we parked  our car. Quite a large building, not really a temple, nobody around. We walked back about 100 meter, and passed a gate into a banana plantation.

Here is a detailed GE map. The red track is the track of my hashwalk friends. Our way in is in yellow, our way out in green. Click the map to enlarge. I have numbered the locations where I have taken pictures.

It looks like this part of the hike was still in the forest. But no, more recent than in the GE-map, additional clearing has taken place, everywhere we saw  scarred, burnt trees…:-( We took several wrong turns, until Rahim, with his orang asli sense of direction, guided us down the slope to the right trail. Notice that on our way back we found an easier trail (green).

A bit further along the trail (4), we had an unexpected encounter, a dead wild boar was lying where we had to cross the stream. Probably shot by a hunter, but managed to escape. A bullet hole is visible below the eye.

Soon after this encounter we reached the barren land. Here and there huts and sheds, bulldozers, cement, drain pipes, this is a huge project.

Fortunately there were clouds, otherwise it would have been very hot. An “advantage” of the deforestation is that you have nice views of the surrounding landscape. You can see far away the highway to Kuantan and the prominent limestone rock of Bukit Batu Kapur Cinta Manis. But still we were glad when we reached the jungle

It is only a few hundred meters to the waterfall. The hashwalk guys had followed a jungle trail, we decided to river trek. We found a thorny plant with a lot of jelly-like stuff dripping from the end. Not sure what it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were happy and excited when we reached the waterfall. Quite tall, pristine. The local orang asli probably have named the waterfall, we passed a family on our way in, but when we went back and wanted to ask, they had left their hut. Provisionally we name it Lata Guan, in honour of Guan, a hashwalker who had “discovered” the fall several years ago.

Here a few pictures of the fall. The cairn in the right picture was built by Rahim

I had brought a stove, we made coffee, had some food and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. There were no leeches, no bees, no other people, only the four of us….:-)

When Dutchmen see a stream, they always want to build a dam in the water. In this case it was Rahim who decided to make his private pool…:-)

Here he is enjoying the result of his hard work.

On our way back we followed again the stream

As is often the case with jungle hiking, it is easier to find the correct trail on your way back. In the left picture I am pointing at the location in the banana plantation where you should leave the road and follow the trail. In the right picture this location is indicated by a green marker.  I have also sketched the probable location of a new road (blue line) leading to the waterfall. IF that road is a public one, it would be possible to drive until very close to the waterfall.  But probably this road may be private at the moment.

A nice adventure