Trip with Pat and Roger

Our English friends Pat and Roger live in Melbourne, but visit Malaysia regularly. It has become a tradition to organise a trip during their stay. We have been to Gunung Jerai, to Fraser’s hill, to Pulau Ketam and more.

Where to go this time? We decided for the coastal region, south of Klang, visit the Chinese temple in Jenjarom, a few historical places, Jugra Hill and of course have nice food.

Then came the haze, see my separate post Haze, haze, haze . A few days before our trip Klang recorded an air pollution index  of ~500 (> 300 is considered hazardous), schools were closed, people were wearing face masks. Change our plan? We decided to take the risk. As you see Pat came well prepared..:-) We were lucky, of course it was hazy, but a lot less than the days before.


A detailed report of the trip can be found here. Some highlights:

The Fo Guan Shan Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom. This is the main hall

Jenjarom temple

The Istana Bandar, former palace of the Sultan of Selangor, located in the middle of nowhere and recently renovated. It will become a museum.

Istana Bandar

Nearby, on the slopes of Jugra Hill, a mausoleum of the Selangor Sultans, a tranquil oasis, well maintained. We also went up the hill, the haze was not too bad, but of course the view was limited


We had planned to have lunch at the foot of Jugra Hill in the famous Beggar’s Chicken restaurant, but it had its weekly closing day. So we drove on along the coast, passing romantic fishing villages, to Kg Batu Laut,  where we had a seafood lunch

Fishing village

After a short visit of Tanjung Sepat and the “iconic” but overrated Golden Palm Tree resort in Sepang, we returned via the highway. On our way back we had rain. Hurrah, everybody happy, because it meant the end of the haze, at least for the time being.

Haze, haze, haze

It is a yearly ritual. During the Southwest monsoon season,  June-August, Malaysia (and Singapore) suffer from the haze. Forest fires in Indonesia cause huge amounts of smoke, blown over the Straits of Melaka by the prevailing winds. Air quality, measured in Malaysia by the API (Air Pollution Index) drops, people run to the shops to buy face masks. The politicians start the blame game. After a few days/weeks it is over and people forget about it, until next year.

In 1997 it was very bad in Sarawak, with an API above 800. An emergency was declared, the airport was closed. I was on holidays in Kuching that time with my friend Paul and I remember that we could not even see the Istana across the river. In 2005 there was also a bad haze. As I said, it is a ritual.

This year was also bad. Last week especially Singapore was suffering and Johor, with an API of 746 in Muar (value below 50 is good, above 300 is hazardous). In the following days the haze moved northwards.Here is the view from my balcony on June 24, after sunrise. The smell of something burnt was everywhere.


The Department of Environment has a website, where every hour the values of the API are published for many locations in Malaysia. Here is the list for the morning of June 25 (Click to enlarge for details). Parts of Selangor are still bad, especially Klang (as usual). So bad that in the Klang district schools have been closed for several days.


I found another interesting website, maintained by NASA where hotspots all over the world are monitored. Data files can be downloaded free of charge, for example for Google Earth. Here is a screenshot of GE, situation on June 27, the hotspots in Riau are the culprits.

NASA hotspots

In this satellite view (taken a few days earlier), you can see the haze covering Singapore. Kuala Lumpur is not yet affected, but after a few days the wind direction changed to North-East.

Haze on June 19

Now the situation is back to normal. Here is a view from my balcony, taken June 28 in the afternoon

After the haze

The haze season is not yet over, we will see what happens. If you think that there are many hotspots in Sumatra, have a look at this GE screenshot of Africa…;-) So it can be worse.

hotspots africa

For people with asthma etc, the haze is of course a serious problem. In Muar the death of two people last week was directly related to the haze. For others it is best to take it easy, and accept that it will probably the same every year.

To end in a lighter vein, here is a song by a Singaporean guy about the haze

A Memorable Trip

Some friends call me jokingly the godfather of the Malaysian waterfalls. And being a godfather, of course  I have godsons…:-)  Actually four of them: Siang Hui nr 1, Teoh nr 2, Harry Nian nr 3 and Nic nr 4.

Last year August, Harry Nian went to Terengganu on a solo expedition, looking for new waterfalls. On August 17, coming back from the remote Berdebu waterfall, he was stung by a swarm of bees and died. His body was found in the Kelemin river only a week later.

Last weekend I have been back to Terengganu with Aric, Siang Hui, Teoh and Nic. We wanted to visit the waterfall where Harry had his fatal accident. A detailed report about this trip can be found here: Terengganu trip, June 2013

The Berdebu fall is located in the Kelemin river. To reach this river you have to follow a (good) logging road for more than 20(!) km to a big logging camp. Around here Harry’s car was found by the Search and Rescue team. It was Hari Raya, probably the camp was deserted at that time, nobody noticed that something was wrong.

We camped a few hundred meters past the logging camp, a perfect spot near the Kelemin river.

Kelemin camp

The next morning we started our hike around 9 am. First an old logging road, later a trail. We crossed the river twice, current was strong, so we had to be careful. After about two hours we reached a point where we could see the impressive Berdebu waterfall. From here we had to follow the river and the going got tough. Huge, often slippery boulders, difficult river crossings. After I had slipped from a boulder and bruised my thigh, I decided that I would go no further and leave it to the others to continue to the fall. There were quite a few sweat bees around, so Aric stayed with me to keep an eye on me, as I am allergic for bee stings. And of course I knew that Harry had probably died by (a lot of) bee stings. We had to wait almost two hours before the other three returned, which gave me time to create my usual marker. Actually I had already decided before we started the trip, that this marker would be for Harry.

Berdebu and marker

We were quite relieved when  we saw Siang Hui, Teoh and Nic return. They had managed to reach the bottom of the fall, it had been tough, they had to circumvent a huge boulder by climbing up a steep slope, reaching a mossy ridge, then finally scrambling down to the fall

Berdebu fall

Jeram Berdebu (picture by Siang Hui)

Before we went back, we took  a group picture, with the waterfall and the marker.

Berddebu & team

It took us another three hours to get back to our camp. End of story? Almost.

Back home I saw for the first time the two pictures taken by Harry during his hike and retrieved from his mobile phone after his death.

Here is the picture taken by Harry, 17-8-2012 at 2:29 pm

Harry Berdebu

Picture by Harry Nian

Take some time to compare the two pictures carefully. Notice the fallen tree, the big rock with some green plants, the smaller, lighter coloured rock left from it, and try to locate them in our group photo. Then guess where Harry must have been standing when he took his picture.

Harry took that picture on the spot where I, unknowingly, erected a marker for him!

When I pointed this out to friends, several got goosebumps. Of course the rational explanation is that the rock where I built my marker, is the obvious spot to take a picture of the waterfall. But I am really happy with the coincidence.

Harry also continued to the fall, same as my three “godsons”. Here is his last picture, taken on 3:18pm that fatal 17th of August 2012. An impressive picture!

Berdebu Harry

Picture by Harry

Apparently Harry stayed on the left side of the Kelemin river, and he did not go down to the pool. Siang Hui took a picture when he was on the mossy ridge (to the right of the river) and indicated a possible location of Harry when he took his last picture

Location of Harry?

Picture by Siang Hui

What exactly happened after he took this last picture, we will never know for sure. He must have disturbed a bee nest, so it was probably not during the river trekking, but after he entered the jungle again. His body was found in the Kelemin river, not too far from his car.

A memorable trip.

Destruction Bukit Kiara – update

End of April I have published a post about the Destruction of Bukit Kiara in which my friend Pola and I explored a part of Bukit Kiara, north of the Penchala tunnel. We saw a bulldozer at work and understood from the contractor that a plot of 3 acres would be cleared to build 3 VIP bungalows. Yesterday we went again to see if any “progress” had been made. This is what we saw.

Bukit Kiara

The bulldozer had gone, the work was done. A large stretch of forest had been cleared, it may well be three acres. Here is a GE screenshot of our hike, with a rough indication (in red) of the cleared plot of forest. To the right are the Kiaramas condo’s

Map Northern Kiara

I have indicated the location from which I have taken the video below

After our first recce, Pola received by email a picture, taken from one of the Kiaramas condo’s, where a wide new “road” was visible.

View from condo

In the GE screenshot I have marked this “road” with a red line. We managed to climb up, not easy, really very steep, no way even a 4WD can go up here. Why was this clearing done? To make a ski slope later for the bungalow inhabitants ..haha?

Here are more pictures taken during the hike

It was actually a depressing hike. How is it possible that a nice forest can be destroyed for the pleasure of a few rich people..:-(.  I felt a bit better after noticing  this  beautiful inflorescence in the midst of all the destruction.


On our way back, we followed a few of the existing trails and came across two squatter settlements. Complete villages, with running water, electricity, toilets. Nice friendly people, Indonesians according to Pola. Here are a few pictures


Journal 8-6-2013

A long post with a variety of topics.

One of Aric’s cousins got a baby recently and she and her husband invited us for lunch in the Fitou Brasserie (Desa Park city). Good Western food. Long time ago that I had a Rack of Lamb!

Lunch with Param

In my last post I have written already about my Wesak celebration in Taiping. As it had been some time ago since I visited my “hometown”, of course I had to enjoy the food! My friend George always knows new places to try out. This time we started with a dinner at the New Club, where the food is not that special, but the ambiance is nice. In the picture below you see also a dim sum breakfast, chicken/duck/pork rice and dumpling noodles.

Taiping food

We visited Kuala Sepetang, walked around in the fishing village, and went to the Matang mangrove forest, where we looked for birds, but we were not successful, as we were quite late.

Kuala Sepetang

And of course we visited the Lake Gardens. The most beautiful park of Malaysia. Early morning, in the afternoon, always fascinating. Here we saw more birds, a pair of hornbills, dollarbirds. Of course flowers. And quite a few couples, taking wedding pictures..:-)

George came with me on our way back home. After earlier “scary” adventures he had vowed never to go on waterfall trips with me. But I convinced him that a nice waterfall near Beruas was easy peasy…:-) A less than ten minute walk. After that I brought him home in Shah Akam, where we visited the shop recently opened by his daughter, and named after his wife Mary! I wish them good luck.

IMG_7629 2013-05-27 16.30.26


When my waterfall friend Teoh told me he could take a weekday off for a waterfall trip, it was no problem to suggest a nice destination: Ulu Rening, see my recent post. Edwin was also eager to go again, and another friend, Chadel, joined too. Again we had a fun time, beautiful weather! It was only when we took a picture “for the album” that we realised that we were all wearing a blue shirt!  Four shades of Blue…:-)

Ulu Rening

During my earlier visit, I had a few anxious moments, when I was caught in the turbulence, sliding doen the last tier of the waterfall. So this time I did not take any risk, which gave me the opportunity to video my friends while they were sliding down.

When I was in Taiping, my friends Girlie and Yeoh told me that they were coming to KL. So  I finally got my chance to invite them for lunch in my condo, after having enjoyed their hospitality so many times. As they did not know the way to my condo, but of course knew where IKEA was, I met them there for the free coffee, after which we had a Western style lunch at my place, soup, bread with salad and cheese, and tiramisu as desert.

2013-06-06 10.57.48 2013-06-06 13.31.01

Finally something quite different. For our dinner we often go the commercial district near to our condo. Many shops and eateries. Many cars as a result. Malaysian style many cars are double parked. Very annoying when you come back and your car is blocked. Solution? See the picture below. Even when you can park close to the curb, you do not. LOL

Parking Malaysian style


Shame on Taiping!

Now that Malaysia has become my second home, I can say that Taiping is my second hometown..:-) I am a frequent visitor and became a member of the Taiping Heritage Society.

Taiping is rightly proud about its many historical firsts: the Prison (1879), the New Club (1881), the Lake Gardens (1881), the Clock tower (1881), the King Edward VII school (1883), the Perak Museum (1883) and many more.

So why is this post titled Shame on Taiping? Because the list of firsts contains two items that are at this moment in a deplorable state, being completely neglected for years already.

The first is the (location of the) Residence. In 1877, on a hill overlooking Taiping, a residence was built for the British Assistant Resident (Maxwell). It was here that Isabella Bird wrote several letters for her book the Golden Chersonese A few years later (1884) the building was enlarged and became the residence for the British Resident (Low). Nothing is left these days of this Residence, except the stone pillars, upon which the wooden house was built. After Merdeka a hotel was built at the back of these pillars. About ten years ago I have stayed overnight in this Casuarina inn. The inn is visible in the background. Basic accommodation.


Room in Casuarina

It has been closed now for many years already. Without any fencing, freely accessible, a haven for drug addicts. No wonder that every time I come and have a look, it is more ruined. It may not be possible to exploit a hotel here, but this historical location should be preserved. Shame on Taiping!

Here is a collection of pictures taken recently.

The Casuarina inn started as the New Resthouse. Why new? Because there exists another Resthouse, a real first, built in 1894. Opposite the King Edward school and not far from the Railway station. Also here I have stayed overnight, many years ago. It was at that time named the Lagenda Hotel. Quite acceptable budget hotel, good location.


About five years ago, the hotel/resthouse was closed. In the beginning hardly any fencing, even now it is easy to enter the premises. With a predictable effect: the place is going to pieces and is now already probably beyond redemption.  Shame on Taiping!

The last pictures have been taken of and in the buildings to the left of the Resthouse. They must be old as well, and especially the corner one looks architecturally interesting. Here too, you can just walk in, with predictable effect. Shame on Taiping!


Wesak 2013

In the Christian religion the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in December (Christmas), his death in March/April (Good Friday)  and his ascension to Heaven in May (Ascension Day).

Buddhism is more efficient and commemorates birth, death and the reaching of Nirvana of Gautama Buddha on the same day, called Wesak. It is celebrated on the Full Moon day in May, which fell this year on May 24. I was in Taiping at that time, visiting my friends George and Jennie.

There are several Buddhist temples in Taiping. In the morning we visited the Thai Wat Phodhiyaram  (Thai)  and the Bodi Langka Ram Temple (Sri Lankan), located next to each other in Assam Kumbang, Taiping. And in the evening we went to the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS), high up in the hills of Tupai. All of them belong to the Theravada school of Buddhism.

Buddhist flag

As you know  I am a secular humanist, opposed to religion. But I feel quite attracted to the philosophy of Theravada Buddhism. I do not believe in reincarnation, but the concepts of Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (suffering) and Anatta (not-self) appeal to me. Although I must confess that I have not yet made much progress on the Noble Eightfold Path  🙂

In Sri Lanka I have attended Wesak many years ago. There it is a very solemn, quiet event, people are dressed in white sarongs and visit the dagoba (temple) to offer flowers. There may be some food, but that is for the poor.

How different was the atmosphere this time in Malaysia! Many people come just for the free (vegetarian) food, I think, I saw many Indian (hindu) people. In the Thai temple a long queue of devotees was waiting to pour water on a Buddha (and then take this holy water home to bathe themselves). More Mahayana than Theravada…?


Many people had been lighting candles, a very nice sight. Candles

Here are a few more pictures taken during our morning visit

The SBS is not a real temple but a Buddhist training and meditation center. I had visited it several times before, once during the Katina ceremony, when the devotees give new robes to the monks, very impressive.

As the Sanctuary, high up in the hills, can only be reached by a narrow winding road, you had to park your car at the cemetery(!) down the hill, after which volunteers with 4WD’s shuttled you up. Well organised!

From the sanctuary you have a magnificent view of the sunset and Taiping, deep down.

IMG_7516 IMG_7537



Focal point of the sanctuary is this statue of the Buddha in the so-called Dhyana (meditation) Asana. The back of the right hand rests on the palm of the other in such a way that the tips of the thumbs lightly touch one another.



Compared with Sri Lanka, also here the atmosphere was more festive, there were even fireworks. And lots of food…:-) We saw  a  few Kungming lanterns (hot air balloons). Altogether it was a bit too carnavalesque to my taste.

Here is a selection of pictures

After the ceremony was finished, the thousands of visitors had to be transported back to the parking. Long queue, but kudos for all the volunteers!

Here is a video of the fireworks