Singapore 2018

Regular readers of my blog may remember that during my visit to Taiping in April 2017, I met a gentleman from Singapore, Dr Lee. We are both interested in (Taiping) heritage and kept contact by email. He suggested that we should visit Singapore, not only for its cultural heritage, but also for its nature, he could show us some interesting places.

So we booked a hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown for three nights and took the Aeroline bus to travel. Quite convenient

On my to-do list were a few of the recent modern buildings and one of them we passed already in the bus…:-). The Interlace (2013) , a 1000-unit apartment complex, which looks like numerous bricks irregularly stacked upon each other

From the bus terminal we took the MRT to Chinatown. The Keong Saik hotel was a good choice, the room was not big, but comfortable, and we had a view of another building on my architecture list, the Tanjong Pagar Centre (2016), the tallest skyscraper in Singapore. Although designed by world famous  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it did not look very special from our balcony. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple nextdoor was more interesting, but we had no time to visit it.

After a short rest, we met Dr Lee and walked with him through Chinatown.

Nicely restored houses and shoplots, many consisting of three storeys, unusual in Malaysia. Also here mural art. There are several works by Zacharevic, but we had no time to look for them. Next time…:-)

During our walk passed another modern building on my to-do list, the Pinnacles@Duxton (2009), a residential complex of 50 storeys high, dominating the three storeys shoplots of Chinatown. Initiative for this development came from Prime MInister Lee Kuan Yew, who was concerned about the exodus of residents from Singapore’s center.

We walked back via Keong Saik Road, beautifully restored houses. In the 1960’s this was the red-light district of Singapore! Dr Lee told us that in those days you could not pass the street without being addressed by the ladies of the night..:-)

For our dinner we went to the foodcourt in the Chinatown Complex , where we met a few of Dr Lee’s friends. Nice food, nice company.

The next morning Dr Lee picked us up from our hotel and brought us to the “best nasi lemak shop in town” for breakfast. He was formally dressed this time because he had to work in the hospital that day.

But first he dropped us at the Botanical Gardens, where we spent the next few hours. The gardens are 158 year old and, since 2015,  an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We started with the Rainforest, a small part of the gardens, actually older than the gardens themselves! Of course Malaysia has more rainforest, but Singapore is one of the few cities with a rainforest within its borders.

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

On many places you can find sculptures, Here are two of them, Change Kuda (2011) by Chong Fah Cheong and Girl on a Bicycle (1987) by Sydney Harpley.

A few more pictures. To the right the Bandstand (1930), no longer used for musical performances, but still an iconic landmark of the gardens.

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

After our rest we had again enough energy to continue…:-)

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

The gardens are free and open all day but for the famous National Orchid Garden you have to pay an entrance fee. After some hesitation we bought tickets and entered. Very worthwhile. Never in my life seen so many orchid species!

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

First we wanted to take a “wefi”, then a friendly visitor offered to take the picture. Even better..:-)

It would have been no problem to spend the whole day in these gardens, but we had decided to spend the afternoon in another beautiful garden, the Gardens by the Bay, created in 2006 on reclaimed land. The public transport in Singapore is well-organised, we took the MRT to the Bayfront station and walked via an underground corridor to the gardens.

This passage has a few remarkable works of art. Left in the upper picture is a painting by Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing#915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular bands (1999). Further on both walls are covered with mirrors, which gives multiple reflections. Could not find the name of the artist

Perfect location to take a wefi..:-)  Can you find out who of us has taken this picture?

When you exit from the underground passage and look backwards, you see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel towering above you. One of the most impressive buildings I have seen in my life. I have stayed once there, expensive but it was worth the money..:-).

Entering the gardens you pass three smaller gardens, Malay, Chinese and Indian, Singapore is proud to be a multi-racial country. Far away the surrealistic Supertree Grove, but first we had a simple lunch at a snack bar.

Also in these gardens you can spend easily a full day. We had only limited time and decided to visit one of the two domes in the Gardens, the Cloud Forest dome. Expensive but 100% worth it.

Inside the dome a “misty mountain” has been created, with a waterfall, and pathways leading up and round the structure. Amazing and fascinating, just look at the pictures.

Of course flowers, mosses, ferns everywhere. These are fuchsia flowers, a favourite of mine.

Look carefully, two pictures show real flowers, the other two are fake!

In between the Lego “artworks”, there are real pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants.

A lot of maintenance is needed, but the result makes it worthwhile.

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

When we bought tickets for the Cloud Forest, we thought about combining them with tickets for the “canopy walk” at the Supertree Grove, but the friendly lady at the ticket counter advised us to wait, because there might be rain in the afternoon and then the walk is closed. Good advice, there was a downpour while we were inside the dome, when we came out we noticed that the canopy walk around the trees was empty.

We went back to our hotel and had some rest. Later Dr Lee picked us up and with two of his friends we went to the Kent Ridge Park, to have a view of the harbour. Nice surprise, his friends had brought pulut & mango for us. Delicious

Next we went to Labrador Park, where we walked a part of the boardwalk. Nice view of another building on my list: Reflections at Keppel Bay (2011), a luxury residential complex designed by Libeskind, another famous architect. Singapore knows how to choose…:-)

Here is the boardwalk

TIme for dinner. We went to the Alexandra Village Food Centre, where we had a tasty soup and claypot chicken rice from the well known Tai Liok restaurant . It really is an advantage to go out with Singaporeans, they know where to find the good food!

The next day, after breakfast in our hotel, we took a bus to the Southern Ridges for a long hike, from the Alexandra Arch bridge to the Henderson Wave. Surprising that Singapore has so many hiking and walking opportunities. On the map you can see also the location of the Labrador Park.

The bus passed two buildings I had seen before already, the Reflections and the Interlace

It was an interesting walkway. We met many student groups on a Learning Journey, as it is called.

We continued until the Henderson Wave, a pedestrian bridge with a unusual artistic design

From this bridge we had a nice view of the Singapore skyline. Dark clouds again, it was quite rainy during our visit

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

After this walk we took a bus to the city center, as we had planned to visit the National Gallery in the afternoon. There were still remnants of the Christmas celebration. Again we had a very simple lunch

We walked around and had a look at Singapore’s landmark, the Merlion.

View of the Theatres on the Bay, colloquially known as the big durians. Memories came back of a “concert” by MozART Madness, attended many years ago…:-)

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

We walked around in what is called the Civic District. Here many of the heritage buildings are located. Left another “wefi”, right the St Andrews Cathedral (1861)

The Victoria Hall began as Town Hall in 1862, the Asian Civilisations Museum is housed in what originally were the Government Offices (1864). The Old Parliament House, possibly the oldest surviving building of Singapore was built in 1827 as a mansion for a Scottish merchant. The National Gallery occupies two more recent buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall, both built in the first half of the 20th century

We decided to keep the National Gallery for the next day, and walked a bit more along the padang in the direction of two conspicuous buildings. The left tower is part of the Raffles CIty (1986) designed by architect I.M. Pei who has been responsible for many of Singapore’s skyscrapers. The right building was new for me, and it was only after I came  back home that I found out that it is  the South Beach development.

Looking back from the padang, the skyline of Singapore, the National Gallery, the Victoria hall with in front of it the Singapore Cricket Club.

It was in this club , the oldest one of Singapore (1852), that Dr Lee invited us for our farewell dinner. The club has a dress code, fortunately we had brought long pants, shirts, shoes. We started with an aperitif and what could be a better choice than a Singapore Gin Sling?

After our dinner we walked to the Singapore river for a few night view pictures. The majestic look of the Fullerton hotel suggest that is one of the prestigious old hotels of Singapore like the Raffles. Not true, the building is from 1928 and for many years it has been the Post Office of Singapore. It was only in 2001 that it became a five-star hotel!

After the posh dinner in the club, we enjoyed at a stall coconut ice cream as a dessert…:-)

The next morning we visited the National Gallery. There was so much to see and admire that I decided to write a separate post about this impressive museum: National Gallery, Singapore

 

In the afternoon we took the bus back and arrived home around 11 pm, tired but very satisfied. There is much more to do in Singapore and we are looking forward to come back soon.

 

Summer in October!

When I decided to come back to  the Netherlands in October, I knew the weather could be unpredictable, hesitating between autumn and winter. In old times October was called the aarselmaand    (hesitation month)

So it was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise that my first weekend was warm and sunny, even breaking records!

Here is a report about three summer days in October. Click on a picture to enlarge it

Saturday 14 October

With my brother Ruud I visited the Spaardammerbuurt, famous for its Amsterdamse School architecture. First we had coffee and cake in the Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen. This “farm within the city” dates back to 1880, was almost demolished around 2001, but just in time saved by a group of concerned citizens. More about this interesting story can be read here (in Dutch). It is amazing that such a rural enclave exists, sandwiched between two railway lines.

We walked from the Buurtboerderij to Het Schip following this route. Not the shortest one, but worthwhile, you don’t realise that you are surrounded by development

When we arrived in the Spaarndammerbuurt, we were a bit disappointed to see that Het Schip, the famous creation of architect de Klerk, was being renovated, so I took only a few pictures. You can find more  in an  earlier blog Amsterdam Architecture

During my last visit the Schip museum was closed, fortunately it was was open now.  It is housed in a former school building and worth visiting.

We ended our trip at the Central Station. Beautiful weather and the forecast for the next day was  even better…:-)

Sunday 15 October

The second day I went with my friend Yolanda to the Utrecht Hill Ridge, a  forested ridge of low sandhills, created 150.000 years ago as a moraine during one of the glacial periods. We followed a marked hiking trail of 12 km, indicated on the Google Earth map below.

It was a pleasant, easy walk.

Our hike took us to the Beerschoten and Houdringe estates and to the Pan forest. Stately lanes, beech and oak forest

Many  trees had beautiful autumn colours.

Mushrooms all over the place.

Hard to imagine that in winter this nice lake will become a skating rink.

The former coach house of the Beerschoten Estate now houses  an information center

It was a Sunday and with the sunny weather there were many visitors. There is also a sculpture garden

Monday 16 October

The third day I walked on my own in the region of Alphen, my birthplace. A polder walk of about 10 km. Green in the map below. Also indicated (in red) is one of the numerous Dutch polders . A polder is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes. This polder was created around 1785. Because they are low-lying, the rainwater must be pumped out by windmills into a river, in this case the river RIjn.

I took a bus to Aarlanderveen, where I started my walk. Nowadays Aarlanderveen has no shops and only one cafe. The cafe was officially closed, but the friendly owner was willing to serve coffee  with apple pie. A good start of the day.

The landscape can not be more Dutch…:-) Meadows, cattle, windmills.

You walk on narrow trails through the meadows, sometimes crossing fences

The polder marked in red needs 4 windmills, because in its deepest point it lies about 5 meter below sea level and one windmill can “lift” the water only about 1.5 meter. So they have to work together, like in the sketch below. The Dutch word for it is a Molen-viergang and it is the only viergang in the world that is still operating.

Mill no 4 uses an Archimedes’ screw, the other three have scoop wheels.

Here is windmill no 4, the Putmolen, built in 1801. later than the other three, because one more mill was needed to drain the lowest part of the polder. That explains the odd numbering..:-)

.

Here is Mill no 1, when you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see no 2 and 3 in the background. This windmill discharges the water in the Rijn river.

Some details of this windmill. The right picture shows part of the scoop wheel.

Windmill 2 and 3

On the GE map you see that there is an (older) polder between the “red one”and the Rijn river. The easiest way to remove  the water from the new polder would be to discharge it in this old polder, which had its own windmills.But understandably the owners of the old polder refused this, so for  the new polder a separate drainage channel had to be created to the Rijn. Such a drainage channel is called a “wetering” in Dutch.

The problem is that the wetering of the new polder has to cross the wetering of the old polder. The left picture shows the location where this happens. The yellow line marks the wetering of the old polder, the red line is the wetering of the “red” polder. It passes UNDER the old wetering via a siphon (a duiker in Dutch). The right image shows how it works. This siphon was built in 1786.  Amazing.  I have marked the location of this siphon on the GE map

Not many birds in this time of the year. I noticed a heron and a cormorant. And of course many swans..:-)

A few more pictures.

It was a very interesting hike. A very informative website about the Molen-viergang (in Dutch can be found here.

Tabur East, 19 July 2016

Bukit Tabur, also known as the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, is located just north of Kuala Lumpur. With a length of more than 16 km,  this quartz “dyke” is the  longest of its kind in the world. The razor-sharp ridge is clearly visible on Google Earth.

Quartz ridge

It is a popular destination for hikers, but some parts are steep and require climbing, you must not have fear of heights.  At Tabur West  quite a few (sometimes fatal) accidents have happened, so recently it has been decided that you have to apply for a permit first. As a result Tabur East has become more popular and during weekends it can be crowded. I have climbed Tabur West several times, last in 2009, but Tabur East only once, in 2002. Here is the report I wrote then..:-)

When Edwin asked me if I would like to join him and a few friends to Tabur East, I eagerly accpeted his invitation. And what a wonderful hike it was! We went on a weekday and met only one other couple during our hike.

Here is again the Quartz ridge, with both my 2009 hike to Tabur West and the recent hike to Tabur East. Click on the image for a larger view.

Quartz ridge_trails

First I had breakfast in Deen’s Nasi Kandar , where I met Edwin, Paul, CYTan and Kendary. From there we drove to Jalan Melawati where we parked our car and met Peter, Elaine and Rina. Before we started of course a group picture had to be made. From left to right, standing: Peter, Elaine,me, Paul, CYTan and Rina. In front Kendary and Edwin. Peter is a regular hiker of Tabur East and acted as our guide.

2016-07-20 00.26.01

From the car we first followed the water pipes to the actual trail head. There a sign probably told us that we were not allowed to enter…:-).

2016-07-0212016-07-023

From there a steep climb took us to the ridge. Fortunately the many exposed tree roots made it easier and here and there fixed ropes were helpful too.  Some pictures (click to enlarge)

A short video of the climb

When you reach the ridge, the view is spectacular and really worth the strenuous climb. On the north side you look down on the Klang gate reservoir, on the south side there is the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur.

2016-07-19 09.18.53

2016-07-19 09.59.13

On the ridge going is easier, but you have to walk carefully. Nice quartz crystals everywhere.

To reach the top of Tabur East, a final steep climb is needed. Because the rock is so hard and full of hand- and footholds, it is not scary, if you have no fear of heights.

Arrived on the top, it is time to relax and take pictures.

I always try to have my picture taken in a position that looks spectacular, while still very safe. This one is a good example..:-)  The group picture is also not bad.

`

We continued a bit further, going down slightly until we reached a steep cliff from where we could see the next quartz hill, Tabur Extreme. No access from here. But a nice place for dramatic pictures. Rina climbed down first until the edge of the cliff, followed by Edwin and the rest. Adrenaline-filled fun.

Of course then they had to climb up again. Carefully. Watch Rina, a real daredevil…:-)

Generally going down a steep slope is more difficult than climbing up, because you can not easily see the suitable footholds. Here it was not too difficult because of the many footholds plus helpful ropes.

We took another route back, the least agreeable part of the hike, because it was a bit slippery here and there. The reward was that in our descent we crossed a durian and rambutan farm. Rina turned out to be an expert tree climber and collected lots of rambutans. The durians were delicious too.

Walking back to the car, I had a last view of Tabur East.

2016-07-045

It was a very nice hike, not in the least because of the pleasant company

Ayer Hitam, finally!

Numerous times I had heard and/or read about the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Puchong. With a waterfall, maybe even more than one….

But I had also heard that this forest reserve was a research project of the UPM university and officially out of bounds. As I am a good citizen, I was reluctant to trespass…:)

Last week I joined a so-called hashwalk, for the first time in my life. I will blog about it later. After the walk there was an open-air beer party where I met Master Ho, 76 year old and still going strong.  When he was 15(!) years old, he started a hiking group Pathfinders55, which still exists today. We came to talk about Ayer Hitam and I accepted his invitation to join him for a hike there.

Here is the location of the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve. Surrounded by urban development, it is surprisingly large. Our hike is marked in green.

Large map

Here is part of the Reserve in more detail (click to enlarge). Our hike was about 10 km and took more than four hours. The grey line comes from Google Earth and probably marks an”allowed” trail. On our hike we did not meet any enforcement officials, maybe because it was weekend

map2

Master Ho had sent me a whatsapp where to meet:

Date: Sunday 22/5/2016
Meet time at the the purple(or pink you may call it) colour single storey
corner shop opposite the coconut stall
Start time: 9.30am

I was surprised that there was quite a big crowd that Sunday morning. The pink/purple house was easy to find and Master Ho was waiting for us. We took a group photo and started our hike. Clear trail, climbing up, then down, crossing a stream, then up again.

After about one hour we reached the waterfall. Many people there, enjoying a bath and relaxing. No rubbish! I understood that the local community is taking care about the place.

2016-05-22 10.50.27

2016-05-22 10.54.09

Here is a video of the waterfall

What next? We could take the same way back, but we also could have a look at the Blue Lagoon. Easy decision of course…:-)  So we continued our hike, passing another nice waterfall (no people, access difficult) and an orang asli settlement. Nobody living there now, probably only when fruits (durians?) are harvested. Romantic setting.

Here is a video of another river crossing. Master Ho and I decided to get our feet wet. Of course I was hoping that at least one of my friends would fall…

Here is Peter, taking a bath in the BLue Lagoon

The second Blue Lagoon is even more attractive, with a small waterfall at its end.

2016-05-023

A pity that these lagoons are out of bounds, but understandable. Fortunately they are located deep inside the Reserve. It took us about two more hours to hike back to the pink house. Here are a few pictures to show the beauty of nature.

All the time we were in the jungle, but just before the end, we came out in the open and noticed this rock face with bright flags on top. Maybe because the day before it was Wesak?

2016-05-22 14.21.34

A very rewarding hike!

Qing Xin Ling

Have you ever heard about the Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village in Ipoh? I had not, until Aric mentioned it to me as a possible “stay-overnight” place during our recent trip up North. It turned out to be fully booked, but we decided to have a look at it anyway, because you can visit it as a day-tripper (RM 6). In the reviews (see the link above), people complain that the place  can be overcrowded on weekends, during  our visit it was still ok.

Here you see the location of Qing Xin Ling. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, the image shows Gunung Rapat. Many caves and “wangs”, depressions enclosed by high limestone cliffs. Many Chinese temples too, one of them located at Qing Xin Ling. Recently the temple committee has transformed the temple grounds into a “Leisure and Cultural Village”, which has become so successful that the residents, living nearby, are complaining about traffic jams and parking woes.

Map

We paid the entrance fee and walked around. Mixed feelings. The location is beautiful, two lakes, surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. You can walk around the lakes, a number of brightly colored chalets has been built on the shores. Without the day trippers walking and cycling(!) around, it could have been a paradise.

But this serene atmosphere has been destroyed by the many artifacts constructed, to make it a kind of theme park. For example, what is a boat doing there, between the two lakes? From the deck you have a nice view of the two lakes, but for the rest it is an eyesore. Very strange.

It is a confusing mixture of memorabilia ( an old motorbike, a push bike, a horse cart) and kitsch. Aric as birdman, stickers instead of love locks. Hm, a tree root,  let’s paint it as a snake. Shall we add two dinosaurs? Anything goes…:-)

It becomes much more interesting when you walk up to  what I would call “memory lane”, a path leading to the upper wangs, where a number of stalls and shops have been created with old/antique stuff. Here you could spend a lot of time. Mostly bric-a-brac, but still interesting

2016-01-26 15.27.32

2016-01-26 14.05.30

When you continue after this memory lane, you enter a completely different world. A trail leads up to Iron Hill, the top of Gunung Rapat. Recently this trail has been included in the “village”. In the beginning the trail is clear and well maintained, but it becomes steeper, there are ropes. You will pass old machinery dating back to when iron was mined here. As we were not prepared for a hiking tour we went as far as we could go, but went back before reaching the summit. Halfway, we had a nice view of Ipoh.

Will we ever come back here to stay in one of the chalets? No. But, better prepared,  we like to explore the trail to the top of Iron Hill.

 

Lata Tampit 14-10-2015

Lata Tampit in Janda Baik is a waterfall described in my Waterfalls of Malaysia website, but I have never visited this waterfall myself. So, when my hiking friend Peter Leong told me that he was going to visit this waterfall with his gang and if I would like to join,  I accepted the invitation, hoping the group would be of an acceptable size. It was …:-)

We met at the Mc Donalds in Genting Sempah and from there we drove to the Latto Caruk chalets. The resort was closed and rundown. We went through the gate and followed a clear trail. Bamboo forest, one steep part, two easy river crossings.

There are seven waterfall tiers, we skipped the lower ones, at the fifth tier a big group was camping, we continued and after less than 45 minutes we reached the top (7th) tier of Lata Tampit. Here we were the only ones. The waterfall is attractive, with a pool. A huge tree had fallen across the pool, a perfect place to rest and take pictures

Here you can see a senior citizen climbing the tree to join the fun

PA140936

And fun we had.

The waterfall with the huge tree form a very scenic background for pictures.

Here is a short video of the waterfall and our group enjoying lunch

We did not stay very long as the sky darkened. Soon it started raining, actually it was more of a drizzle. We passed another tier on our way down, I just took a single shot, must come back here to take pictures of all tiers.

For lunch we went to restaurant 126 in Bukit Tinggi. I had been there several times, many years ago, could not recognise the place…:-)  Once a simple shed, now a huge two-story building. Personally I had the feeling that the food in the simple shed was better…:-)  After some shopping we went home contentedly. A nice, easy trip

View of the restaurant, highway in the background

Restaurant 126

A Google Earth screenshot of our walk

GE screenshot

 

Kemensah Krazy 12-4-2015

A few months ago Aric asked me if I was interested to join him and a few of his friends on a hike, called Kemensah Krazy.

website

They were thinking about the Kemensah Kinda Krazy, 15 km, “ideal for those who want to have a feel of what the jungle is all about without going to extremes

Could I go the distance…:-)  Hm, I was pretty sure I could, with my almost daily morning exercise in Bukit Kiara. So I registered for the 15 km hike. Checking more carefully what to expect, I found on the website this profile of the 15 km hike. It made me slightly nervous…:-)  Distance no problem, but up and down all the time, total ascent (and descent) 850 meter

profile

The start was at 9 am, but we had to be there at 7:30 am to collect the race card and a BIB number, which you have to fix on your shirt. The race card will be punched at the various checkpoints and the BIB number contains a tag that will record your start and finish  time. Here is my BIB  number. With my nickname Kwai Loh..:-)

BIB

The whole event was organised very well. Free shuttle buses took us from the car park to the start. There breakfast was provided and you could leave a bag with a fresh set of clothes at a counter. For our hike there were six checkpoints, with free water and fruits.

For the 15 km hike there were about 200 participants, just after the start there was a big crowd, slowly moving forward. The organisers had done their best to create an attractive circuit. Sometimes wide logging roads, but also narrow jungle trails and a few steep slopes. Those slopes formed real bottlenecks, at one place we had to wait for about 45 minutes, in the hot sun. We had decided to walk at our own pace, Aric and his friends were faster than me, and often I walked alone, which I did not mind at all…:-)

It was a tough hike, much more strenuous that I had expected. There were a few moments that I thought about giving up. Actually there were quite a few participants who did, halfway. And almost everybody was huffing and puffing. I may have been the oldest participant and one Indian couple asked about my age. When I said I was almost 71, they replied: Wow, we are half your age. That you can do it, gives us strength to continue.  Really nice to hear.

The last (very steep!) part of the hike could be skipped without missing a checkpoint. Aric was waiting for me around there, to tell me that…:-) Sweet. But I decided to struggle on.

And I made it !!

When I shared the finish picture with my siblings in Holland, my youngest brother commented : “Everybody else went home already?”  LOL. But his next comment was that he complimented me…:-). Actually it was true that I was one of the last finishers…:-)  It took me more than 6 hours to hike this 15 km.

Here is the official result. A few participants finished after me. Aric (Cheah Yoke Seng) finished late too , but that was because he had been waiting for me! Later he told me that he and his two friends also had moments where they considered giving up!

results

Here are my certificate and my medal.

Certificate

Medal

And here is a Google Earth map of the circuit. There were three loops, green, red and finally blue. The red one was quite strenuous. Will I (we) do it again. No lah.  But it was a good experience

Map

And of course I had to show off with my well-earned T-shirt. Here in IKEA. You may note that my tummy is still there…:-(

Showing off

Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I have been so busy  that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild. It was an animated party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical) music and enjoy  the fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate.  We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food

 

 

Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We had decided to make a trip to Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get close to the edge…:-)

Preikestolen Preikestolen

As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle.  It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

Heiligenbergerbeek wandeling

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me leave…:-) But I was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

Rain Hokkien Mee IMG_9011

Rock Climbing

In a recent post, Down Memory Lane , I have written about my mountaineering past. In those days I went during the summer holidays with my friends to Austria. To get additional training we also visited several times, during weekends, a rock climbing site in Germany, the limestone hills of the Kanstein . Here are a few pictures. The two pictures to the left show me (yes, this slender young man is me, lol) climbing a route up the Sudostlicher Buchensluchtfelsen and in the picture to the right I am abseiling from the Liebesnadel (the Love Needle, guess why it was named that way!)

Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing

Abseiling

And here I am climbing the Vogelbeerfels. If you look carefully, you can see that I am secured by a rope, after all I was a beginner. But the rappelling was unsecured, if you would loose your grip, you would just fall down…:-)

climbing

That was fifty years ago.

Last week, one day after my seventieth birthday, I went rock climbing again. My friend Chadel had invited a few friends for a climbing practice day at Bukit Takun, a rock climbing site near Templer’s park. After a thorough instruction we would climb up the steep rock face, and then rappel 30 meter down.  It was especially the rappelling that attracted me…:-)

Bukit Takun is a conspicuous rocky hill. To reach the rock face, a steep climb was needed. In the right picture Chadel is pointing out the route we were going to follow. An almost vertical wall, rather overwhelming..:-)

Bukit Takun

Steep access

The climbing wall

We would start at the lower yellow cross, first climb halfway, then up through a so-called chimney (second cross). Finally abseiling down from the red cross.Click the pictures to enlarge them

Climbing up

Rappelling down

First Chadel explained rope handling, some useful knots and how to secure (belay) a fellow-climber. He is an experienced guide and has brought numerous clients to this hill.

Chadel went up first. In the left picture he has almost reached the ledge, where he will prepare the safety anchor for Edwin and me. In the middle picture it’s me on the ledge and in the third one Edwin. To be honest, I found it not easy and almost gave up, but thanks to Chadel’s pep talk I made it..:-). Click on the picture to enlarge it, so you can see how Edwin is belaying me.

Chadel

Me

Edwin

From the ledge Chadel lowered us down to the base, where we took a rest and had our lunch. Because this was just a practice climb..:-).

The second half (pitch) of our climb was easier but had a “chimney” as a bottleneck. In a chimney you have to use a different climbing technique and here it helped that I had some experience from my mountaineering past.

After this second pitch it was an easy scramble up to where we were going to rappel thirty meter down to our starting point. Not taking any risk, Chadel prepared an extra safety rope, in case we would loose our grip on the abseiling rope. The abseiling technique is very different from what I have been doing fifty years ago, Mark the tiny red gadget, that does the trick.

I think from my face it is easy to see how happy I was.

I also took a few videos. Here Chadel is starting the climb, belayed by Edwin.

In this video I have already climbed to the ledge abd I am watching how Edwin is coming up

And here Edwin is abseiling down. Can you hear the funny buzzing sound? There were a lot of annoying sweat flies..:-)

Thanks for a wonderful trip, Chadel!

Taiwan trip videos

During our recent trip to Taiwan, I have take quite a few video clips, which are now available on YouTube. Here they are presented with some additional comments and links..

The first clip was taken in the Longshan temple in Taipei. This temple was originally built in 1738 by Chinese settlers from Fujian, It was destroyed many times by earthquakes and fires, but every time rebuilt. The last time was after the Americans had bombed the temple in 1945, claiming that the Japanese had hidden weapons inside the temple. It is an iconic example of classical Taiwanese architecture.

Also a temple, but in a completely different style and much more recent: the Shell Temple in Dangshui. In the hills, north of Taipei, remote, we hired a taxi to get there. Completely built from sea corals and shells. Amazing.

During our trip we had lots of nice and often unknown food. One of them was this dish with I think  is called Milk Mochi. It has a Japanese origin and was very refreshing. Aric shows here how to eat it.

One of the tourist attractions of Taipei is the Maokong Gondola. It connects the Taipei Zoo with the Maokong hill. Opened in 2007 it was closed in 2008 after structural damage of the supporting pylons was discovered. Reopened in 2010. Some of the cabins have glass bottoms.

Maokong is a tea growing region, so one of the attractions is to drink tea in one of the many tea houses that can be found near the gondola station. It was misty, so the famous night view of Taipei was disappointing. But we had tea and here Aric is showing how to do a tea ceremony (more or less…haha)

In Xin Beitou I took two videos of the geothermal activity there. The first one on our way back from our  hot spring bath experience in the remote location. Note how there is a small stream with cold water just next to the boiling water and the steam. Transported with numerous pipes to the baths.

In Xin Beitou itself, walking distance from the center, there is a “Thermal Valley”, a small lake of hot water, greenish colour, with a lot of steam coming from the water.

Our next destination was Jiaoxi, on the north-east coast of Taiwan. Here Aric had discovered during his research a nice waterfall, the Wufengqi falls. Walkable from the town.This is the lower tier

The upper tier is quite impressive, a tall vertical fall. We were not the only visitors, although it was  a steep climb. This is a popular tourist attraction.

One of the must-visit places for food in Jiaoxi is the Wengyao Roast Chicken restaurant . Their specialty is chicken, slowly smoked over tropical longan wood.

WengYao restaurant

First here a video about how they prepare the chicken.

What a job! The chicken is cooked in its own fat, with some herbs. You can only order a whole chicken. They bring it to your table with two pair of gloves and you have to dissect it yourself. Here I am doing that, it became a kind of slapstick video. Watch it full screen and have a good laugh.

By the way, I have never in my life eaten a more juicy and delicious chicken!

From Jiufen, the last village where we stayed, we made a few trips in the north-eastern hills of Taiwan. One of the places Aric liked to visit was the grave of Teresa Teng, a Taiwanese Chinese pop singer, passed away at a young age in 1995 and still very popular in Malaysia and other Asian countries. Elaborate grave, with her songs being played. Interesting.

On our last day we explored the Pingxi line, a single-track railway line, built in 1921 to transport coal. Now a major tourist attraction. On a day ticket you can stop at each station, walk around and then proceed to another one. From the Shifen station you can walk to what is considered the most scenic waterfall of Taiwan, the Shifen fall. Kind of Niagara falls in miniature.

The Shifen station itself is an interesting one, with the railway tracks running in the middle of the village main street! When no train is arriving these railway tracks are a center of activity with people preparing huge Chinese lanterns, writing messages on them and then let them go up in the sky.

Chinese lanterns