Amsterdam, Alkmaar, Schagen (28-30)-8

The next two weeks we will be traveling across Europe. Preparing for the trip today, so not much time for blogging..:-) Just a short resume of the last few days, detailed posts will follow later.

After enjoying the beach, it was time for Amsterdam again. First we had a look at the iconic film museum, located at the opposite side of the IJ. Then we continued our mission, looking for the originals of the Delft Blue miniature houses.


We took pictures of thirteen houses this time and had apple pie in cafe Winkel, reputedly the best apple pie you can buy in Amsterdam. We walked a lot again, would have been easier if we had used a horse-drawn chart..:-)

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The next morning we had to wait first for the courier service to deliver the International Driving License that Aric had forgotten to take with him. After that we took the train to Alkmaar, where a big fun fair was taking place.


We found a few more houses, before we continued our trip to Schagen, where my sister is living. Beautiful weather, lots of brambles in the garden, delicious.



We had a barbecue in the garden. The next morning we walked in the countryside, we saw many cows, sheep and horses.


After a light lunch we visited one of the many windmills. Although they are not needed anymore to pump the water out of the polders, they are still in mint condition, and very impressive. The main event for this day was to make a boat trip in one of the polders. Holland is really water-land, so many small canals and waterways.


We ended the day with a dinner, prepared by my sister, in the smallest house of the village Schermerhorn. In bygone days ten(!) people were living in this house. Now it is a nice museum


In the next days I will try to write short updates about what we are doing.

The beach and Haarlem 27-8

As the weather was still perfect, we decided to go to the beach. In Zandvoort, half an hour by train from Amsterdam Central. It is a popular beach resort. A few weeks ago there has been a Sand Sculpture Festival.


Although the main season is over, there were still many tourists. After enjoying a plate of “Kibbeling” (fried cod pieces) we started our walk.



And a long walk irt was, because our destination was the nudist beach. They are common in the Netherlands, but often some distance away from the madding crowd…:-)



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We had time enough to visit Haarlem on our way back. And have a beer…:-)

Back in Amsterdam we went to Pim and Nanda for a delicious mussel dinner!



Amsterdam 26-8

I had to wake up early and go to Schiphol because Aric was expected to land around 7 am. One of the advantages of my present Amsterdam home is that it took me only about half an hour to reach the airport :-). Aric’s flight landed at 6:30 am and we were back home at 8 am (including immigration, waiting for luggage and customs !)


It was another day with splendid weather, so after resting a few hours we went into town. With a mission..:-) We collect so-called KLM-houses. These are Delft Blue miniature houses, filled with a bit of Dutch jenever. They are given as a present to KLM passengers traveling business class, but you can also buy them. These houses (there are now 93) are copied from original gable houses along the canals of old Amsterdam and other Dutch towns. We wanted to take pictures of the originals. Here is an example. Miniature no 38 is a copy from Herengracht 607.


Huisje 38

We started our walk near the Amstel river. With this kind of weather Amsterdam is incredibly beautiful. In the left picture you see a tourist admiring a view of the famous “Narrow Bridge” (right picture)



Here is the Narrow Bridge, only accessible these days for pedestrians and cyclists. You can find bicycles in all shapes and forms in Amsterdam, like this multi-bicycle.


We walked a lot, enjoying the atmosphere. Only too many tourists. Sometimes the smell of marijuana was so strong that you could almost get high without buying it yourself…:-). It is all Amsterdam. Where you can find a “magic mushroom” shop leaning to the church where the coronation of the new king took place, a few months ago.

Our mission was to take pictures of the KLM-houses. Aric took eight, we walked a lot. I took pictures of many other houses, many 17th century (Holland’s Golden Age), but also newer ones. Here is a collection.

After a long day we had dinner at home. With a beautiful sunset. Here is the view from my living-room. What a start of our holidays!


Amsterdam 25-8

The coming weeks I will try to post regularly on my blog, a bit like a diary.

On the day after my arrival, the weather was still splendid, my youngest brother Otto came to visit me and we agreed that it would be a perfect occasion for a walk.

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We went to Amstelveen, where I have been teaching for many years. The school buildings will be demolished soon, as a new school has been built nearby, and I wanted to take some nostalgic pictures.


Not far from my school there is a nature reserve with a small lake. During my teaching years, I often passed this park on my way home. Here is a map with our walk indicated in green.


It was a very pleasant walk. Usually I am back in the Netherlands during spring. Now, with autumn approaching there are different kinds of flowers. It is still a bit too early for wild blackberries, but we found a few already. A very surprising find was a freshwater lobster crossing the path. Never have seen it before in the Netherlands.

On our way back we passed the new school buildings. I enjoyed my teaching job, but I am very happy that I am retired now…:-)


After my brother went back home, I had dinner with my good friend Inez. We know each other for more than 30 years, and each time I come back to Holland, she is one of the first friends I visit…:-) And not only because she is a good cook. We had a glass of wine on her balcony first


Back in Amsterdam

This morning I came back in Amsterdam after a pleasant, uneventful, twelve hour flight from Malaysia. Here is how I look like, after a night without much sleep. Not too bad, right? Picture taken in my living room.

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Here is a view from my living room, in the distance you can see the buildings of the Free University, my Alma Mater.


After shopping at nearby “Albert Hein” supermarket, I had my first Dutch breakfast in nine(!) months.Delicious raw herring, Dutch strawberries, cumin cheese, buttermilk.etc.2013-08-24 13.12.43

The weather was very pleasant, so in the afternoon I decided to take my bike and go to town, to get a feeling of what I still consider to be my ‘real’ hometown.

It was an enjoyable trip, here is a collection of pictures, with some comments

Back home, it was time to prepare a Dutch dinner.The potatoes are Opperdoes. For Malaysian readers of this blog: they are wat Raja Musang is for Durians…:-)



A nice start of my Dutch visit.

Penarikan recce – part 2

In an earlier post I have reported about my friend Chadel’s plan to paddle in his canoe from Muar to Pekan, using the Muar, Jempol, Serting, Bera and Pahang rivers with a portage (penarikan) at Bahau. In that post I described our recce from Bahau to Muar.

This time we started again in Bahau, but now we followed the Serting river as closely as possible. The Serting river is a small one, running through palm oil plantations and Felda land. Chadel had bought topo maps of the region.

Topo maps

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring our traditional breakfast in a mamak near my condo, we studied the maps and found a meandering route that would cross the Serting river as many times as possible.

Here is the Google Earth map of our route (in red). The rivers are marked in blue


In Bahau we first checked the two locations chosen by Chadel for the Pull Out and Put In. The original penarikan was from the Jempol river to the Serting river, a distance of about 500 meter. Chadel is considering to take the canoe out a bit earlier, from the Muar river. Considerably longer distance, about 2.5 km, but he could then use existing roads, which would make the portage a lot easier. Here are the Pull Out and Put In places.


Pull Out , Muar river


Put In, Serting river






After lunch in Bahau we started the actual recce. Altogether we crossed the Serting river seven times. We took pictures at each crossing; when you click on a marker in the map below, you will see the correspondig picture. All the way, Serting remains a small stream, at least in this time of the year.  Often trees have fallen in the river, a potential risk of puncture when you are paddling over them.

View the  Recce in a larger map

The confluence of the Serting river with the Bera river is located in the middle of plantations and not accessible by road. The Bera river is a real river, draining the Tasik Bera, about 10 km south of the confluence. The Bera river flows into the mighty Pahang river, the longest and biggest river of the Malay Peninsula.


The mighty Pahang river

We arrived late in Pekan, wanted to stay overnight in the scenic Rest House, but that was fully booked, so we found suitable accommodation in the Melati Inn. Pekan is a sleepy hollow, but, driving around, we found a good Chinese restaurant and after our dinner we had coffee at a lively Malay stall near the Pekan riverfront.


The next morning after breakfast we looked for a suitable pull out point. An easy decision, what could be a better location that the Pekan riverfront itself! When Chadel finishes his heroic expedition here, the Sultan of Pahang and the Prime MInister (Pekan is his constituency) can welcome him…:-)

Pekan has a few nice mosques and an interesting museum: the Pekan Water Craft Gallery . It is an open-air museum, FOC, with an interesting collection of various types of boats. They even had information about the Bahau Penarikan! Not completely correct, they take the portage distance as 300 yards, which is not true. And it is suggested that the Penarikan route was discovered by the Malays, while it was actually already used by the Chinese before the Malays came to the Peninsula. A sensitive issue…:-)

Here are some pictures of Pekan

On our way back we visited the Pandan waterfall near Kuantan. Many visitors as it was school holidays.


Chadel is planning to do the real expedition around March next year. I wish him good luck!

I have fallen in love

With a lady.



She is three months younger than I am and her name is Maria João Pires

It was love at first hearing.

I have never met her.

But I hope soon I will…:-)

In Amsterdam, next month.


She is Portuguese, now living in Brazil, and acclaimed as one of the greatest interpreters of Mozart. Listen to this YouTube where she is playing his last piano concerto, composed and performed by Mozart not long before he died, only 35 years old.

You can find a lot of YouTube clips with her, but many of them are only audio and it is such a pleasure to watch her play…:-). Here are a few audio recordings:

Schubert, 4 Impromptus, D935
Bach, Keyboard concerto, BWV1052
Mozart, Piano concerto KV466, my favourite
Beethoven, Piano concerto nr 3

And here are two video recordings, the 2nd Chopin concerto and Mozart’s D minor concerto

For the most fascinating video some background information is needed. In 1999 she was going to play Mozart with the Concertgebouw orchestra under Ricardo Chailly.
As a preparation for the evening performance, there was a public rehearsal. When Chailly started the first bar of the KV466 concerto, she was shocked, because she had prepared a different Mozart concerto!

Watch the video (skip the first 40 seconds), look at her face, how she almost panics. Then watch how Chailly gives (while conducting!) some peptalk: you can do it! And she can, she controls herself, makes the switch to this D minor concerto and starts playing. Absolutely amazing.

Until recently I only knew her by name, and that she was the teacher of two talented young Dutch pianists, Lucas and Arthur Jussen.

By chance I listened recently to one of her YouTube recordings and I fell in love with her playing. I checked her  tour dates and discovered that she will give a concert in Amsterdam, 26 September. But then I will be in Amsterdam myself!

So I booked a ticket for that concert for the extravagant price of 95 Euro’s. She will play the 3rd Beethoven piano concerto. Looking forward to it.

Last year an interesting interview with her was published: Maria João Pires: The Buddhist warrior who won. A remarkable lady

Journal 10-8-2013

Recently my friend Chadel has been on a solo kayaking expedition from Glenmarie Cove (near Klang) to Morib, following the Langat river. The ~45 km trip took him two days with an overnight stay near Jugra. He needed somebody to bring him and his kayak home after the trip and I was willing to assist. Here is a GE map of the trip.


You can find a detailed report about this adventure on his website. To thank me for my help, he invited me for lunch in one of the famous Bah Kut Teh places in Klang, the Fong Keow restaurant. Not bad.

Fong Keow

Bah Kut Teh

The last two weeks I have been meeting friends quite a few times for lunch or dinner. It is a miracle that I still manage to keep my weight under control..:-) Twice I met Pat and Wim and their friends, a pleasant mix of Asians and Europeans. The first time we had dinner in the Ante Kitchen and Bar in Solaris Dutamas. A “porky” dinner, where you could bring your own wine. Which we did…:-). A few days later I met them again at the Oriental Banquet Restaurant in PJ. On Sundays and public holidays they serve a Buffet Brunch, really Value For Money! You have to make a reservation, because it is popular and crowded!

Ante Kitchen & Bar

Oriental Banquet


To loose some calories, I went a few days later to the Ulu Rening waterfall near Batang Kali. For the third time, this time with my Dutch friend Paul and my Semai friend Rahim. During my first visit I almost drowned in the turbulent water. This time there was less water, but still we did not take any risk. The huge pool is perfect for swimming. During our whole trip of six hours we did not meet a single soul!

Ulu Rening

Here are a few more pictures. To reach the fall you have to cross the Sg Rening a few times. In the lower left picture Rahim is looking at the turbulence. What I am trying to explain to Paul in the lower right picture, I have no idea..:-)

Ulu Rening

The following day I had lunch with Joe Yap.  We went to the Ah Koong restaurant in Taipan, famous for its fish balls and cake. Nice lunch, but we ordered too much food…:-)

Ah Koong

Finally, on the first day of Hari Raya, my friend Pola Singh invited me for lunch in his favourite chapati restaurant. But first he gave me a guided tour of the Royal Selangor Club, of which he is a member for many years. It was interesting to have a look at the interior of the “Spotted Dog”, as it is nicknamed.

Royal Selangor Club

From the club we walked to restaurant Jai Hind in Jalan Melayu, off Jalan Masjid India, where we had a variety of chapati and naan with different veggies and curries. A place to come back to!

Jai Hind

The Goldberg Variations

In 1741 Johann Sebastian Bach published a work for harpsichord, consisting of a theme and a set of 30 variations. Its modest title was Clavier Ubung (Keyboard Practice) and it may have had its first performance by an in those days famous harpsichord player, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. It is now known as the Goldberg Variations and generally considered one of Bach’s masterpieces.



Of course Bach has composed numerous masterpieces, so it is no wonder that this one went more or less unnoticed for a long time, until in 1955 the young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould recorded it for Columbia. It became a huge success and established Gould’s reputation.




Not surprisingly, you will find numerous recordings of the Goldberg Variations on YouTube. More surprising is the Open Goldberg Variations, a Kickstarter project based on what is called crowd funding. Aim of the project is to make the musical score, together with a first-class performance, available to the general public. There is even an app now for the iPad, Open Goldberg, which gives you both the musical score and the recording in an interactive way.

Here is the app on my iPad, showing the theme of the Variations. A colored bar follows the score, karaoke style, while it is played.

Goldberg Variations theme


The theme (Aria) is played by the German-Japanese pianist Kimiko Douglass-Ishizaka

She has recorded the complete Goldberg Variations for the above-mentioned project.





Here are a few of the YouTube recordings with some comments.

As Bach wrote this work originally for harpsichord, it is appropriate to start with this instrument, although it is not my personal favourite.
However, Gustav Leonhardt, a Dutch harpsichordist (1928-2012), plays it beautifully. In this YouTube, the musical score (in the original version) has been synchronised with the recording.

Many recordings for piano can be found on YouTube, for example by Murray Perahia , Wilhelm Kempff (almost without ornamentation!), Andras Schiff , just to mention a few. And of course Glenn Gould (his 1955 recording)

Gould made another recording in 1981, one year before his (premature) death. This time not only sound but also video. Fascinating to see him play! And hear his humming, because that is Gould’s trademark. Some people hate it, others do not mind.

It is interesting to compare the two versions. Listen for example to the first variation. On the 1955 recording it starts at 1.52 and is played extremely fast, it lasts only 45 seconds! On the 1981 recording it starts at 2.51 and now Gould plays it much slower, it takes 72 seconds. I prefer this second version.

Some of the variations have been written by Bach for a harpsichord with two manuals (keyboards), where left and right hand can each use one keyboard. Not easy to play on a piano with only one keyboard. Watch variation 5, starting at 7.14 to see how Gould plays it. Fascinating!

You can find on YouTube also versions for other instruments. I found one for organ  (a bit strange that the recording skips the theme and starts directly with the 1st variation) and a guitar version (theme and 1st variation). The most exotic one is the version for saxophone and contrabass , performed by the Japanese group of Yasuaki Shimizu . Five saxophones and four contrabass, you must see it to believe it. But still very much Bach!

Last but absolutely not least there is this beautiful transcription for string orchestra by Dmitry Sitkovetsky This Russian-born violinist and conductor also created a version for string trio, here recorded by (again) Japanese musicians…:-)

This post could also have been called Variations of Goldberg 🙂

Rock Balancing

A few years ago I have started a habit of building a stone marker when I visited a waterfall. A sign that I had been there. Here is an example

Stone marker

And here is a collage of many more. It is a nice pastime and doesn’t require much effort. Just collect a few suitable rocks and see how tall you can make the tower. A downpour, or strong wind, and it will be gone. So I leave only a temporary marker, which I find quite symbolic for human existence in general..:-)


It can also be done in a very different, spectacular way! Recently a friend sent me an email with pictures of amazing balancing rock formations. Like this one


The “maker” is a young Canadian artist/designer, Michael Grab. He has a website Gravity Glue where you can find many more of his creations.Here are a few


I find them extremely, almost unearthly, beautiful. They seem to defy gravity, although as a physicist  I understand of course that it is gravity which keeps the pieces of rocks in place, at least temporarily.

Not surprisingly some of the comments on his website suggest that it is all fake, that he is using superglue, or metal pins to keep the parts together. Watch this short YouTube video (until the end!) for a convincing proof that it is NOT fake…:-)

You can find more YouTube videos on the Internet, for example this one. Although I do not share his philosophy, I admire his patience and perseverance.