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.

 

Klang Heritage Walk

The first impression a visitor gets of Klang is not very favourable. It’s a busy town, a bit chaotic, where you can easily get lost. But it is also a historic city, one of the oldest in Malaysia and it still is the Royal City of Selangor, although no longer the capital.

Since 2014 Tourism Selangor organises a Klang Heritage Walk every Saturday and Sunday. The walk is conducted by professional Tour Guides and free of charge!

Last September I joined this walk, guided by Alex Raj. I liked the tour so much that I wanted to write a blog about it. But I was busy, went back to Holland, forgot details. So I decided to join another time, again with Alex as a guide and this time accompanied by my friend Joe Yap.

The tour visits nine points of interest and officially takes about 2.5 hours. But with a gifted storyteller like Alex, it can easily take longer…:-)

Starting point of the walk was the Royal Gallery, one of the two officially recognised heritage sites in Klang. Built in 1909 by the famous architect A.B Hubback (Malay college in Kuala Kangsar, Masjid Jamek in KL and many more), for use as the colonial government office. In 2007 the Royal Gallery was opened in this building, housing the memorabilia of the eighth Sultan of Selangor.

A group of almost 20 pax met here our guide Alex for registration and an introduction about what we could expect during the walk. The building, in  neo-classical style, is quite impressive.

We had only time for a quick look at the exhibits. I found the panels with the history of the Selangor Sultanate very interesting, especially the panel about Sultan Sir(!) Abdul Samad, the fourth sultan of Selangor. During his long reign (1857-1898)  the Klang War took place, similar to the Larut war, but with a different background. Both wars resulted in the appointments of British Residents. Klang became the state capital, until 1880 when Kuala Lumpur took over. After Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory in 1974, a new town , Shah Alam, was created and it became the capital of Selangor in 1978.  But Klang still remains the Royal Capital.

From  the Royal Gallery we crossed the road to the Chennai Silk Palace, occupying the building of the former Chartered Bank (1909) . Compare the two pictures, the right one is from the 1950s, when it was still a bank. The architecture is still the same, but for the rest…..?

Interesting detail: the gaudy images showing what is sold in the shop, originally had a  caption Chennai Silk Palace. Later, to avoid confusion with the Royal Palace , the last word was painted over…:-). We walked through the shop, the interior has been modified beyond recognition.

Next stop was the Royal Klang Club, established in 1901. Entrance for members only, but our guide was a member and could introduce us

The interior of the club is quite impressive and luxurious. Here images of the dining room and the bar

In the last decades of the 19th century, Klang was the main port of Selangor, until in 1901 Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) was developed. So it is not surprising that the interior of the Klang Club has a marine atmosphere. Alex advised the men in his group to visit the toilet…:-)

The Royal Alam Shah Palace is situated next to the Club. It is a relatively new building, erected in 1950 on the site of the previous Istana Mahkota Puri (1903). The Sultan’s “residence” is now in Shah Alam, but the Klang Palace is still used for official ceremonies.

We crossed the hill, where in earlier days the hospital was located and arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, completed in 1928.  Supposedly built in French-Gothic style. Many members of the congregation are of Indian origin and services are held in Tamil and other languages.

Sunday service in Tamil language

 

Next to the church is the Klang Convent school, officially opened in 1928. Both the church and the school are very attractive buildings

We walked back along the foot of the hill to Jalan Tengku Kelana, the Little India of Klang.

Many shops with herbs, spices, jewelry. No time for shopping, Alex warned us, we still had more to do…:-)

Next we reached a beautiful mosque, the Indian Muslim Mosque Tengku Kelana. The mosque serves the Indian Muslim community of Klang. Its history goes back to 1904, but since then it has been several times enlarged and rebuilt, the present building is very recent (2009)

It is only a short walk from the mosque to an old Hindu temple, the Sri Nagara Thandayuthapani temple. The present temple was built in 1925. Dedicated to Parvathi

The Kota Raja Fire Station was our next stop. Built in Victorian style in 1890, it is still in use. There is a small museum where we could act as a fireman!

Finally we had a look at the Gedong Raja Abdullah, the other official heritage site in Klang, built in 1857, making it the oldest Malay building in Selangor. It was originally a warehouse for the storage of tin, but also served as a home for Raja Abdullah, who was the administrator of Klang and participated in the Klang War. It was used by the colonial administration, it became a police station and until recently it housed a tin museum. Now it is closed, because it is infested by termites.  I am pessimistic about its future. 🙁

It was a nice and interesting walk, because Alex not only gave factual information about the various places we visited, but is also a good storyteller.

Here is a Google Earth map with the location of the places we have visited

Amsterdam Architecture

When I am back in the Netherlands, my friend Inez and I always try to organise an outing. Last year for example, we visited Rotterdam and Dordrecht.This time we decided to stay in Amsterdam,  and visit some new and/or interesting architecture. It was a beautiful sunny spring day.

Our first destination was the new Westermoskee, the largest mosque of the Netherlands, with a floor surface of 800 m² and a capacity of 1700 people. The plan to build this mosque dates back to 1997, there have been numerous problems, now it is almost complete, the unofficial opening took place on 1-4-2016.

I was impressed by the architecture, based on the Hagia  Sophia in Istanbul, but in a very “Dutch”, brick-based style. It blends very well in the surrounding residential area.

Personally I am really proud of my multicultural hometown, that it has been possible to build this Islamic icon in a “Western/Christian” environment.  The opposite might not be easy these days..:-(. Here is a report by Al Jazeera about the mosque.

From the mosque it was not far to a former tram depot, built in 1902, and recently transformed in a cultural center with a cinema, library etc. Also many food outlets. It has been renamed De Hallen .

After lunch we went to the Western harbours. where we had a look at the REM island . In 1964 commercial radio and TV was not yet allowed in the Netherlands. A group of businessmen found a solution: broadcast from an artificial island, just outside the Dutch territorial waters!

Unfortunately for them, the experiment lasted only a few months, because the Dutch parliament quickly passed a law, extending the territorial waters…:-). The navy raided the place and confiscated the equipment.

The platform remained for many years where it was, off the coast at Noordwijk, but a few years ago it has been moved to the Western harbour where it now has a second life as a restaurant!

The harbour view from the upper deck is of course impressive. Windy too..:-)

Our next stop was the Spaarndammerbuurt. Here one of the jewels of the Amsterdam School of architecture can be found. This expressionist style of architecture peaked in the first quarter of the 20st century.

Het Schip (the Ship) is a creation of architect Michel de Klerk, built between 1914 and 1921.

Google Earth has a 3D option and in the left picture you see the Ship in 3D. In the right picture the iconic (although useless) tower of this housing estate for workers!

het schip

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The rounded forms are characteristic for the Amsterdamse School. The former postoffice now houses a small museum.

Last destination for the day was the new development of the IJdock. At the west side of the Central Station, an artificial island has been constructed, as can be seen in the two images below. Left the situation in 2006 ,  right an image from 2015.

ijdock2ijdock1

Post-modern architecture in optima forma…:-)

That was enough for a day trip. The next day I visited another highlight of the Amsterdam School, the social housing complex De Dageraad, built by Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer in 1920. Here an aerial view.

dageraad-001

Here are a few pictures of the Berlage Scholengemeenschap, built in 1924 by Arend Jan Westerman.

And here a collection of pictures of the Dageraad complex.

The Amsterdam School style is easy to recognise, many buildings can be found in Amsterdam, maybe something for another blog…:-)

A Grey Sunday in Amsterdam

Usually I come back to the Netherlands when spring has started, but this time I was earlier. The weather was cold and grey, not inviting to go out and enjoy the countryside. Maybe visit a museum?  But which one, Amsterdam has more than 50 of them! Two of them are housed in patrician canal mansions and I decided to visit those.

The famous Grachtengordel (“Canal Belt”) of Amsterdam, clearly visible in the GE map below, has been declared an Unesco World Heritage site in 2010. The three concentric canals were dug in te 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age

Map

First I visited the museum van Loon. This merchant mansion was built in 1671, has had many tenants  (for example the painter Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt)  and owners and was finally bought in 1884 by the aristocratic family van Loon, who still owns it, but doesn’t live there anymore.

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Here is a collection of pictures. These mansions have a big garden, with at the back the coach house. The kitchen is in the basement, the (elevated) ground floor has reception and living rooms, the first floor the bedrooms. The second floor (not accessible nowadays) contained the servant quarters. The museum gives a good impression how the rich merchants lived in those days.

During my visit there was an interesting special exhibition. The van Loon family belonged to the Dutch aristocracy and many exhibits show their personal fashion style, from 1850 until present.

My second visit was to the Willet-Holthuysen museum. Built for Jacob Hop, mayor of Amsterdam, around 1685. Also here many owners, the last one was Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, she bequeathed the entire house to the city of Amsterdam on condition that it became a museum in 1895.

Similar design as the van Loon mansion. Elevated ground floor with diningroom and sitting room and a large ballroom. Kitchen in the basement, with access to a town garden. Bedrooms on the first floor. Notice how the 17th century building is flanked by ugly modern buildings

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Also for this museum a collection of pictures. The Willet-Holthuysen couple were part of what you would call nowadays the jetset. Traveling a lot, giving parties, collecting art.

When I was searching the Internet for opening times etc, I found that there used to be another townhouse museum, the Geelvinck-Hinlopen mansion, unfortunately closed indefinitely last year. But the regular concerts of classical music, given in this museum, arestill being organised, only in a different location, in the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads). This mansion was built in 1622. The interior is under renovation, only one room is accessible for concerts. Impressive facade.

There is a legend that the six heads represent thieves, beheaded by a servant, when she noticed a burglary. Not true, they represent Greek gods…:-)

It was my lucky day, there was a concert on this grey Sunday afternoon! Musica Batavia , three musicians, on harpsichord, violin and recorder, were playing music by Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and others.

They played very well, here is an example of their musical style, a sonata by Pietro Locatelli (an Italian composer who, by the way, lived most of his life in a canal house in Amsterdam!)

 

I really enjoyed this Grey Sunday in Amsterdam!

2016-03-20 16.12.13

Trip up North

Last week  we decided to make a trip up North, to celebrate Aric’s birthday. A 4D3N trip, staying overnight in Kuala Sepetang, Gunung Jerai and Georgetown.

Kuala Sepetang, or Port Weld as it was originally called, has recently become a popular tourist destination. We arrived at lunchtime on a Saturday and were amazed by the large number of tourist buses. There are now two “boutique” hotels and we had booked a room in the Happy 8 Retreat , located above a fish processing factory and a seafood restaurant.

Port Weld

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The reviews for this hotel are rather mixed, the decoration of the rooms and the use of recycled materials is appreciated, but the walls between the rooms are paper thin and there are some complaints about the service. We were lucky, not many other guests, so we could sleep well. We had a room with a view of the river, you can spend hours there, watching the busy traffic.

Here is a video, taken from our balcony

We were just in time for the famous curry mee of Kuala Sepetang. After our siesta we walked in the village. The new bridge makes the other side easily accessible, fortunately not yet very developed.

For our dinner we went to the Tepi Sungai restaurant, also located above a fish processing factory. We had mantis prawns, lala shells, spikey snails, vegetable and tea for RM 61

The sunset view was priceless and free of charge…:-)

One reason to visit Kuala Sepetang was that I would like to have a look at Kuala Sangga, a small fishing village at the mouth of the Sepetang river. We saw  many tourist boats coming in and out and expected that at least a few of them would go to this village. Mistake. Most tourists come for the fireflies and the eagle feeding, not many are interested in the (tiny) village.

After an interesting “fusion” breakfast we continued our trip to Gunung Jerai. As an alternative for Kuala Sangga, we decided to visit the Hindu temple complex of Bukit Batu Pahat, on the slopes of the mountain. But first of course lunch…:-)

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I had read about these temples, but never visited them. The Bujang Valley where these temples are located is considered the richest archaeological area in Malaysia! But many Malaysians have never heard about it. Why? Could they be neglected because this part of Malaysian history predates Islam and the Malacca Sultanate?

Expecting the complex to be a bit rundown, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in mint condition. The museum with information about the excavations and some artefacts is interesting. The Bukit Batu Pahat temple is in situ, the others have been relocated. And there is even a small waterfall, more a cascade.

Only a few visitors, not surprising as the site is badly signposted. Merbok is the nearest larger village. The complex is really worth a visit. And free of charge!

We had booked accommodation in the Regency Jerai Hill Resort, near the top of the mountain. A winding road leads you to the resort at an altitude of almost 1000 m above sea level. From the resort and from our balcony we had a fascinating view of the rice fields and the coastline of Kedah.

Here is a video, taken at the resort. We are just below the clouds

We had booked a puasa promotion, RM 230 for the room including 2x dinner and breakfast. During puasa (Ramadan) Muslims will eat only after sunset, and we thought it would be polite to follow that rule. Muslims will also not eat after sunrise, but for our breakfast we did not follow the rule…:-)  English breakfast!

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Also here we had something on our program. There are quite a few waterfalls on the slopes of Gunung Jerai and one of them is located not far below the resort. Just before entering the resort, you will see a path with cemented steps going down. In about half an hour you reach the Alur Naga fall. A vertical fall in a romantic surrounding. On the way back I noticed a swarm of bees/wasps, my enemies. I managed to pass  without disturbing them. There were also leeches, I don’t mind to give them a free lunch..:-)

Here is a video of the fall

Our last destination was Georgetown. My friend Joe Yap had suggested a heritage hotel in Armenian street, Straights Heritage. They have only two “suites” and we had booked the Phoenix suite, on the second floor. It was like a dream, the most beautiful place where I have ever stayed.

It would have been nice to stay in our “mansion” the rest of the day and relax, but we also wanted to taste Penang durians! We met one of Aric’s friends and went to a stall in Bayan Lepas, where we tasted a Red Prawn durian. Yummy. After dinner in the New Lane hawker center, we went back to our suite and enjoyed the luxury.

Our program for the last day consisted of two parts. Joe had told us about a Christian cemetery where one of the graves had a sculpture of a dog, resting on the tombstone.The Western Road Cemetery was easy to find, but it was much bigger than I expected. Fortunately the caretaker could point out the grave to us. Legend has it that the dog visited the grave of is master after the latter had passed on, and continued to stay at the grave.

Nearby the cemetery is one of our favourite Laksa restaurants, the Taman Emas Coffee shop, where we had an early lunch. Last stop was at the Penang War museum, another suggestion of Joe. It is located at Bukit Batu Maung, where in the 1930’s the British built a fortress to protect the island against the Japanese army. It was a huge complex with cannon firing bays, barracks, tunnels etc. Manned by British, Malay and Sikh soldiers, each group in their own barrack, with their own cook etc, of course…:-) The fortress fell because the Japanese attacked from the land side and not from the seaside…. Like not much later Singapore.

After the Japanese had taken over, it became their army base. And after years of neglect it is now a museum. Steep entrance fee, RM 20 for locals, RM 35 for foreigners. Overpriced. You can also play war games (paintball) or follow ghost tours…:-(. Nevertheless still interesting, you can crawl through tunnels, climb escape ladders etc.

Not far from Batu Maung you can enter the second Penang bridge back to the mainland. The bridge is 24 km long with many curves. Interesting

Second bridge

It was a very satisfying trip, full of variety

Alkmaar

During my last visit to the Netherlands I have visited quite a few historical cities. Utrecht, Dordrecht, Maastricht, Middelburg and Alkmaar. In 2009 Aric and I  had visited the famous cheese market in Alkmaar, no time to explore the town. Recently my brother Arie has moved to Alkmaar and Ineke and he had invited me to visit them. We had an interesting walk in the historical center of the town. Alkmaar has a rich history. During the Dutch war of independence , the siege of Alkmaar in 1573 was a turning point: “Victory begins at Alkmaar”

The House with the Cannon Ball is one of the few wooden houses in the town. During the Siege the Spanish army fired a cannon ball, which destroyed part of the house. The Fish Market dates back to the 16th century, the present fish tables were built in 1755.

In many historical towns in the Netherlands you can still find so-called Hofjes , courtyards with almshouses. Financed and built by rich merchants for (generally) poor people. With rules and regulations. The Wildemanshofje has 24 houses and is only for ladies (even now) . The Hofje van Splinter (1648) is a hidden gem, with only 8 (now 7) houses. The Hof van Sonoy is bigger and is now a restaurant.

I did not know that Alkmaar has many Jugendstil (Art Deco) houses. Next time I must find more, as it is one my favourite architectural styles.

We continued our walk, admired the spectacular town hall and had a look at a few churches. We walked along the ramparts, where the Windmill of Piet is the only one remaining, in the past there were ten. There is so much to see. But we were thirsty and needed a beer…:-)

Arie and Ineke have a very nice house, on walking distance from the center. We had an enjoyable evening with very nice food.

Family gathering

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

Conradstraat

Conradstraat

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

The Stuivers

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

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

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

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

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

The family

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

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

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

In the Conradstraat

Journal 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…:-)

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Taiping May 2014

The main reason to visit Taiping was this time the excursion organised by the Taiping Heritage Society. See the separate post THS excursion. But there was more. I also wanted to visit the recently opened “Old House Museum“, located at Market Square. And an old house it certainly is, built ~ 1880 by a Chinese merchant Lim Ji You, after the big fire that destroyed much of Taiping.

Old House Museum Side view

It is a nice example of Peranakan architecture. Left a frontal view, right a side view. Notice the three storeys of the back house , unusual in those days. Inside the museum you will find a large collection of antiques. The museum is a private one, I really hope they will succeed! Here a collection of pictures

The two nights I stayed in Taiping this time, I had dinner with my friends. It is never a problem to find a suitable place for food, be it a food court, a small stall or a more posh restaurant.

Dinner Dinner Dinner

Of course a visit of Taping is not complete without a visit of the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens in Malaysia. The Lake Gardens Here a few more Taiping pictures. One of the old bridge near the Indian temple and the Coronation pool. I am still trying to find out who built this bridge and for what purpose. One picture of a rain tree. And finally a picture of one of the eyesores of Taiping. The remains of the Casuarina inn, on the location of the former British residence. Shameful that this historical place has gone down the drain.

The old bridge Rain tree Ruin of the Casuarina Inn

Mural art is becoming a trend in Malaysia these days, after the Lithuanian artist Zacharevitch created the first nice “paintings” in Penang. Here are two examples I found in Taiping. Not that special, copies of Lao Fu Zi cartoons

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More interesting is what is happening in Gopeng, south of Ipoh. In the past a famous tin-mining town, now a sleepy hollow, but with a lot of historical interest. Along the Jalan Pasir and Jalan Tasik, unknown(?) artists have recently created a number of mural paintings and also street art in the style of Zacharevitch. Definitely worth a visit!