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

Taiping, January 2017

On our way to Taiping, we wanted to visit the Mirror Lake in Ipoh and try to find Japanese graves in Pokok Assam. But the weather was not favorable, so we skipped it (see the end of this report), but still arrived  rather late in Taiping, just in time to have assam laksa and cendol in the Old Railway Station. We had booked a room in the Furama hotel and had dinner in Siang Malam with our friend May.

Before our dinner we still had time to walk around in the Lake Gardens, this time not only to enjoy the beauty of it, but also to start the project I had planned…:-). Notice the two bridges below, at the right. They show the same bridge, but one picture is from about one century ago.

I had collected a number of old (postcard) pictures, and the next morning I met friends from the Taiping Heritage Society for a walk through the town, looking for the location from where the old pictures were taken, and then take a new one from that location. It was not always easy but big fun, the result can be found in a separate report,  Taiping, old and new .

In the afternoon we were invited by May for High Tea in  her “Maywarmers Lodge”, where we met Suet and Peter, who are now residing in the Nest bungalow, a place I hope to visit soon. After that we met Paul and Fahmi, who had come to Taiping to visit a waterfall the next day. First we had dinner in Yut Sun, a Taiping landmark, famous for its Hainanese Chicken Chop. Then we walked to the Government Office, one of the many Taiping firsts. There was a pasar malam, many people , relaxed atmosphere.

The next day, the four of us went on a waterfall hike to two Taiping falls, the Kamunting fall (left) and the Maxwell fall (right).The last part of the Kamunting hike is very steep, access to the Maxwell fall is easy. I wrote a separate report about this hike, Taiping Waterfalls.

After the hike, Paul and Fahmi drove back to KL, we had a lazy afternoon, with dinner in Prima (popiah’s, otak otak and oyster omelet). After our dinner we visited the Taiping Mall, mainly because there are some panels with historical pictures of Taiping.

The next morning, after breakfast we first went to Pokok Assam. My THS friend Amril had given a detailed description of the field were the tombstones were to be found. Landmark was a huge tree with a small Hindu temple. in one corner of the field.

Exploring the field, we found a number of isolated tombstones. Some of them had engravings, which Aric could decipher as being Chinese. No Japanese tombstones. But one of my friends who lived in Pokok Assam as a teenager, told me that he had taken Japanese officials (?) to the graves. He thought that maybe the remains had been exhumed and taken back to Japan. Another THS friend thought the existing tombstones might have been erected for people who had died in the hospital without next of kin. It was an interesting excursion.

Here a collage of the tombstones we found

On our way back home we still had time enough to visit Tasik Cermin, the “secret” Mirror Lake near Ipoh. I had been there before, Aric would like to have a look himself. The lake is located in an active quarry and can only be reached through a tunnel. There was a warning sign at the entrance of the tunnel that access was not allowed because a few months earlier a piece of rock had fallen down and damaged the platform. We trespassed and had a (quick) look.

The quarry is located only a few hundred meters from the trunk road no 1. Driving back we noticed a sign for a Chinese temple. There are several well known temples in this region, for example Kek Lok Tong and Sam Poh Tong, but this one was new for us. The name of this temple is  Da Seng Ngan. The caretaker said it was actually an old temple, but long time covered by a landslide, and only rediscovered in 2006. More information can be found here .

As you can see in the GE map below, there are many temples on the slopes of Gunung Rapat. Could become an interesting new project…:-)

 

CNY 2017

On 28 January 2017 the Year of the Rooster started. I had created a New Year card, using a picture of a magnificent rooster belonging to a friend of mine.

The Chinese zodiac has 12 signs and 5 elements (water, fire, earth, wood and metal). This time it is the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Sometimes it is also called Year of the Chicken or even Year of the Cock, because the Chinese character used, 鷄 or 雞  , is gender-neutral

2017 is a leap year, with 13 months, the sixth month will be repeated.

As usual Aric had gone back to his hometown Parit Baru a few days earlier, to organise the festivities for day 3 of the CNY. Each year there is a dress code, this time everybody had to wear a flowery shirt, else you had to pay a fine…:-). There would be a BBQ party, a lottery and a  competition for the most original/beautiful shirt.

When I arrived on day 3 late in the afternoon, the preparations were already in full swing. It is a tradition that I visit a waterfall with my friends on day 3, but this time we failed to reach the planned waterfall after a long hike. Here is my report: An unsuccessful waterfall trip. So I was rather exhausted when I reached the family house. But in this picture I still look quite fresh with my new shirt and surrounded by flower girls..:-).

Aric had bought my flower shirt, told one of his cousins about it, who liked it so much that she bought an identical shirt for her husband…:-).

Of course many, many pictures were taken. Aric, as MC, was very busy, but still found time for some pictures. He is very popular with all the nephews and nieces

In the kampung house in Parit Baru three families have been living together, Aric’s late father and two of his uncles. That explains that there is such a crowd during CNY, when all the children and the (many!) grandchildren are coming back to their hometown.

Before it gets dark, group pictures had to be taken. Here is a picture with everybody in front of the kampung house.

In the next picture, Aric,  who was the photographer,  has split the group in families. He has five uncles, nr 1,3 and 6 are living in Kuala Lumpur. To the right the family of Uncle no 4, then the family of Aric’s father (no 2), followed by the family of Uncle no 5. To the left Uncle no 3 and 6 with a few family members. Uncle no 6 and three Aunties are not present. Nine siblings!  I find it not always easy to remember who belongs to which family, so this is a useful picture for me …:-)

Two more group photos, one with  all the ladies, and one with Uncle no 5 and his family.

Aric had planned a few fun activities. One was a competition for the most original/beautiful floral shirt. In the left picture the seven selected competitors. The guy at the right could not find a suitable shirt and had asked his daughter to paint flowers with watercolors on a white t-shirt. Not surprisingly he won the first prize…:-)

Then it was time for food, lots of food. For example 500 sticks of satay….:-) And there  were oysters! Huge size, most people liked them barbecued, I preferred them raw. Delicious.

The last activity was a lottery. Ang pow envelopes were attached to the wall of the house in two sections, one for the kids and one for the adults. Everybody had to pick an envelope, and three  envelopes contained a piece of paper with a number written on it. I am never lucky with this kind of games, but this time I had a paper with a 2, meaning the second prize!

Although very busy, Aric had still found time to create his own CNY-card

 

I wish all my followers

Gong Xi Fa Cai

An unsuccessful waterfall trip

It has become a tradition that a few of my waterfall friends and I make a trip to a new/unknown waterfall on day 3 of the CNY. We have visited Lata Naga Air (2012), Ulu Lecin (2013), Upper Damak (2014) and Lata Enggang (2015).

Last year we were not successful. Our target was a waterfall in the Beruas region, discovered by Siang Hui. But when we arrived at the trail head, we were stopped by a soldier. A military exercise was going on and access was prohibited.  Pity.

We could have tried the same fall again this year, but the soldier was vague about how long the exercise would last, possible a long time. We didn’t want to take the risk. Instead Siang Hui suggested Lata Jala in the Bidor region, a waterfall he had discovered on Google Earth but never yet visited himself.

Lata Jala, I said, I have never heard about that fall. But you have visited this fall already, he replied, and even reported about it!

And he was right, in March 2010 I visited this remote fall with Harry and Rani, here is the report Ulu Gepai . However, when I had a look at my own(!) report, I noticed the last paragraph:

At 6 pm, after 9.5 hours hiking, and covering a distance of about 20 km, we came back to our car”

A hike of 20 km, taking 9.5 hour? Forget about it, I could not do that anymore, was my reaction. But there is a shorter access route, Siang Hui said. And not only was he  right again,  I had actually used that route during a second trip, August 2010, this time with Rani and Richard.

Here is a GE screenshot of our first hike, starting at the Gepai waterfall. Click to enlarge for details. A long hike as you can see… 🙂 But notice the red line. On our way back we took a wrong trail, which probably  would have lead us to Kg Senta. Could that be a shorter approach?

Here is our second hike in August (yellow line). It was possible, using a 4WD to follow a  farm road until the end and park near a farm. We lost more than one hour by taking a wrong trail, but taking that into account, a hike to Lata Jala would take about 4-5 hours.

That seemed doable at my age..:-). So we decided to go.

But as it was rainy season, we should better start early. Also I was expected the same evening in Parit Baru, for the CNY party of Aric and his family. Siang Hui and Nick were already in Teluk Intan, celebrating CNY. Teoh was coming back from Penang, Rani and I started from the Klang Valley. The three of us decided to stay overnight in a Bidor hotel, meet Siang Hui and Nick for breakfast at 7:30 am, after that start the hike.

Discussing preparations for the hike, Rani asked me, do you remember any river trekking? In that case I will use my kampung Adidas. I don’t think there was any river trekking, I replied him. And he agreed.

On the 2nd day of CNY Rani and I met in Bidor for lunch and we checked in, the hotel was booked by Teoh who would arrive later. How  to spend the afternoon? Siang Hui suggested the Seri Kampar Fall, not far from Bidor and an easy five-minute walk from the main road. He can sometimes be a bit optimistic in his time estimate, but this time he was right…:-) First a country road, then a clear trail, a bit of scrambling at the end.

The fall, more a cascade, did not have a lot of water, but interesting to find it so near to the main road. We could not stay long, because it started to rain.

Back in the hotel, we met Teoh and had dinner. A few Chinese restaurants were open already. The hotel was located near the exit of the highway and probably catering for travelers. The room for three was quite small, but good enough for an overnight stay, and none of us snored. There was even some fitness equipment..:-)

The next morning we had breakfast  in restaurant Pun Chun, famous for its duck noodles. It was crowded, we were lucky to find a free table when we arrived.

From  Bidor it is only 10 km to the trail head. The last part is a farm road,  Teoh’s 4WD came in handy. We started at 9:15 am. Nick had forgotten to pack his old kampung Adidas, but had managed to buy a brand new pair.  Gentlemen shoes..:-) Also note the diiference in size.

The first part of the trail is clear and in use by the Orang Asli. We crossed a small stream and passed an abandoned Orang Asli house. Progress was fast and in about one hour we reached the junction with the trail coming from Gepai.

In good spirits we continued, the trail became smaller but was still clear, here and there we needed a parang. Here is the GE map of our trek, in red. As you see, the red trek doesn’t reach the Jala fall!

We encountered a minor problem when we reached the river crossing. I had forgotten to mark this crossing on my GPS and neither Rani nor I could remember whether we had to cross the (Gepai) river or not. So we tried first to find a trail at this side of the river, wasted some time and finally discovered that we had to cross the river, where we found the continuation of the trail. A few hundred meter further the trail reached the tributary Sungai Latajala with the waterfall not more than 500 meter away.

And there the reasonably clear trail suddenly stopped.

In retrospect of course we should have concluded that from there we had to river trek. But (see above) Rani and I did not remember any river trekking. So, while we waited, Siang Hui and Rani tried to find a way along the slopes of the river, trying both sides, chopping a lot,  scrambling up and down. It took more than one hour to come to the conclusion that the only reasonable approach would be river trekking.

Here is a more detailed GE map of the last part. For those not familiar with the workings of a GPS, when you stay at the same spot for some time, the GPS readings will scatter around your location. And when you are in a valley with steep slopes, the readings can be erratic, as can be clearly seen in the last sections of the green and yellow treks.

In the meantime it was already 1 pm, we had been hiking for more then 3.5 hours. Basically time enough and the weather was good, but I had promised to be in Parit Baru end of the afternoon. So, reluctantly we decided to go back.

This is the impressive fall we narrowly missed (picture taken in 2010)

On our way back we stopped for a rest, a bath and our packed lunch at the river crossing. As you can see, we have already accepted our defeat and look happy and relaxed…:-)

At 3 pm we were back at the car. After collecting my stuff in the hotel and a quick shower, I drove to Parit Baru  where I arrived in time, around 6 pm. Of course I was eager to check my 2010 report, but no need, while still on may way, Siang Hui already sent this whatsapp.

Yes, I blamed myself primarily. Why had I not read my my own report, in preparation for this hike?  Seven years ago I wrote in that report:

The last part was tough, river trekking, slippery boulders.

Even now I do not understand why I completely forgot about that.

Here are the next few whatsapp exchanges.

In my report I also wrote that there were many leeches. That is correct, I think there were even more this time…:-)

The lesson I have learned from this “misadventure” is that I better not trust my fading memory 🙁

We are seriously considering to go again, and maybe camp one night, so we have more time to explore.

Taiping Waterfalls

During a recent stay in Taiping I have revisited two waterfalls, the Maxwell Hill Fall and the Kamunting Fall. Here is a GE map of the region with my GPS data.

When the English explorer Isabella Bird visited Taiping in 1879, she stayed in the Residency and wrote:

The house on my side has a magnificent view of the beautiful Hijan hills, down which a waterfall tumbles in a broad sheet of foam only half a mile off

It was the Maxwell Fall she saw and admired, although she was wrong in her estimate of the distance, which is about 1,5 mile. You can still see the fall from the Lake Gardens. The Kamunting fall is visible from Taman Bukit Emas.

The trail head for both falls is the same. It starts from the water treatment plant. Until a few years ago you could follow the tar road until the gate, where the trail started. Nowadays the last part of that road is out of bounds, an alternative trail starts just after the bridge near the Indian temple. Here are my buddies Aric, Paul and  Fahmi at the trail head. It is quite a step climb, ropes come in handy.

Steep but not far. Soon you reach a wider trail, where you can turn right to the Maxwell fall, only a short distance away. We decided to visit the Kamunting fall first and turned left. You have to skirt the fencing of the water treatment plant,  and be careful with the barbed wire.

But after this part you reach a beautiful, romantic trail, next to a pipeline that transports water from a dam in the Ranting river to the plant. Pure bliss.

About one hundred meter before reaching the reservoir, you can see a rope leading up a steep slope to your right. Here ends the easy part of the hike…:-). You have to scramble up the slope, fortunately it had not rained. Many ropes and also clear markers. Too busy scrambling to take pictures.

After the steep slope, the trail levels a bit, you will hear the sound of falling water and soon your each the waterfall. It is a tall cascade, the rocky face is visible on Google Earth. Not a lot of water this time, but still quite impressive.

Not a real pool, but a good place to take a shower. There must be more waterfalls downstream and it may be possible, though not easy, to climb to the top. We were content with this fall and found a nice place to relax and have coffee. I had brought a stove and was the barista..:-)

Here is a short video of the Kamunting fall. Actually I don’t know if this is the real name of the fall. The river is the Sg Ranting, so the name could also be Lata Ranting.

Aric installed his tripod and with his remote he was able to take a picture of the four of us. One for the album, in my opinion.

Then it was time to go back. Now that we had reached our target, I felt more at ease and took some pictures.

After we had scrambled down the slope, we had a look at the dam, where the pipe line started. The trail also stops here, we did not explore further, but walked back.

Don’t visit this fall if you are afraid of leeches. There were many..:-). To stop the bleeding, a small piece of tissue paper is very effective.

When we reached the trail going down to the road, the Maxwell Fall was so near that we decided to have  a look. Here it is.

Also here I took a short video.

We ended this successful waterfall hike with delicious assam laksa and cendol at a stall in the Old Railway Station, one of the many heritage sites of Taiping.

 

Taiping old and new

For quite some time already I have been  playing with the idea of creating a blog post about Taiping heritage, comparing old photographs with recent pictures .

Problem was to find suitable old photographs. Searching the Internet did not give many results. Then I discovered the book Perak Postcards 1890s-1940s  , compiled by Abdur Razzaq Lubis et al. and published by Areca Books . The book starts with a chapter about Taiping and contains numerous postcard pictures, suitable for my project. I have scanned several of these postcards and downloaded them to my iPad.

Recently I visited Taiping. Armed with my iPad,  and in the company of a few friends, we went looking for the locations from where the postcard pictures  were originally taken.

That was fun, but not always easy. We had to judge the camera position, the focal length used, etc. Landscape and townscape had changed, often dramatically

Here are the results. A scan of the book page is followed by an old postcard and a new picture.

Often the exact date of the originals can not be determined. When the postcard has been sent, sometimes the postage stamp can be read.

The Taiping chapter starts with a description of the town and a picture of the Central Market.

 

The Central Market was built in 1884/1885

The market is still in use, but there are plans to relocate it and renovate the old structure.

Hopefully the result will not become like Central Market in KL…:-(

 

This postcard was sent in 1927

The present situation. Note that a few houses to the left are still there.

________________________________________________________________________

The original Taiping Railway Station was built in 1885 on the site of the present King Edward VII School. Relocated to its present location at the end of the 19th century.

The postcard is undated

 

The old railway station.And the “new” one. No longer in use as a station, now a heritage site. The modern station is situated to the right._______________________________________________________________________

 

The prestigious King Edwards School, founded in 1883 and relocated to its present location in 1905

 

 

 

 

An undated postcard. The Angsana trees in front of the school, were planted in 1910 and are already fully grown here.This postcard has a caption on the reverse side with a date: 1929And here is the present situation. Note that two of the original Angsana trees are still standing, now more than 100 years old._______________________________________________________________________

 

St George’s Institution, another famous Taiping school, opened in 1915 by the Lasallian Brothers.

 

 

 

The postcard is undated, but the building was extended with two wings in 1928, so the picture must have been taken before that time.The present building. Now a government school, but still with a cross on top of the roof.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Opposite the original railway station a Rest House was built in 1894

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.The sad present situation. Until 2008 it has been a hotel, Lagenda,  I have been staying there a few times. Since 2008 it is closed and slowly going down the drain. I have called it the “Shame of Taiping”. ________________________________________________________________________

 

The government offices, started in 1895 and opened in 1898

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated. Present situation. It now houses the Larut-Matang District offcice. During daytime the space in front of the building is used as a parking lot. This picture was taken during the weekend. Note that in the center an extra (fake) gable has been added with the year 1897_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Perak museum, the first museum in the country, was started in 1883 in former government offices. It was expanded with the growing collection and completed in 1902

 

 

The postcard has been artificially colored and was used in 1912Present situation. Basically unchanged after more than a century!_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Standard Chartered Bank, opened in 1888.

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.Now the building is in use as the Public Library. The “messy” foreground makes a comparison complicated, but it is clear that the the building has been substantially enlarged.________________________________________________________________________

 

One of my favourite buildings in Taiping. Built as the State Engineer’s Residence in the early 1900s. Later used as the British Officer’s Mess

 

 

The postcard was used in 1911. In this picture it is still the residence of the State EngineerPresent situation. Note that center gable has been removed

 

In this postcard the building has already been transformed in the officer’s mess.

 

 

 

 

The central part has now been modified.There is hardly any difference between old and new!________________________________________________________________________

The iconic clock tower of Taiping, built in 1881 in wood, later rebuilt in brick (1900). Longtime in use as a police post

 

 

This is a real photo of the police clock tower on Kota Road. Taken late 1930sNote how the clock tower has “dwindled” in this recent picture, surrounded by large modern structures. There is at least still one original building left, try to find it.________________________________________________________________________

 

It is not easy to compare old and new in the Lake Gardens, landscape and trees have changed often beyond recognition.

Here are two postcards of one of the nice bridges.

 

A wooden footbridge in the Lake Gardens, with the Secretary to the Resident’s bungalow in the background. The card has been used in 1912 The present situation. The bungalow is no longer visible  through the trees. Note the ugly metal railing of the bridgeAnother, later view of the same bridge And the present view________________________________________________________________________

The Perak Postcards book contains many more pictures of Taiping. In this post just a selection I have made to find out if it was possible to take new pictures and compare the two. I am pleased with the result.

One scanned postcard I was unable to identify. Here it is. It is supposed to be Main Road (Jalan Taming Sari) in the direction of the government offices. But where on Main Road? We showed the picture to several locals, but without success.

================================================================

With Google I have found two pictures that are not in the Postcard Book. Both show the Clock Tower, which makes it a lot easier to identify the location of the photographer…:-)

Although it took us time to find the location from where the image below was taken. The images comes from the book Malaysia:A Pictorial History 1400 – 2004   and has as caption View of the church (sic!) and street scene, Taiping, c. 1890 
The picture must have been taken from the 5th Cross Street (Jalan Lim Tee Hooi). Left and right you still can see two gabled houses, probably the same as in the old picture!!The last picture is more recent, dating from the 70s of the last century. For sale on Ebay  (US $ 17.99)The present situation. The left side of Kota Road is hardly recognisable, the right side has not changed so much.

A friendly request for the readers of this post. If you have old  pictures/postcards of Taiping and are willing to share, please contact me.

Wait a second!

Tomorrow, 31 December 2016, just before midnight, an extra second will be added to the Universal Coordinated Time  (UTC)! It is called a leap second.

Why??

Probably everybody will be familiar with the concept of a leap day . A year in the international  calendar has 365 days, but the solar year is a bit longer, 365.25 days. To keep this calendar synchronised with the solar year,  every four years an extra day (29 February) is added to the calendar, a leap day. 2016 was a leap year, the next one will be 2020.

The Chinese calendar is based on the motion of the Moon, orbiting the Earth with a period of 29.53 days. A (lunar) year is 12 months = 12 × 29.53 = 354.36 days, about 11 days shorter than the solar year. To keep this calendar synchronised with te solar year, every two/three years an extra month is added, a leap month. Next year will be a leap year in the Chinese calendar, it will have 13 months with one of the months duplicated. Not always the same month, this time the 6th month. More detailed information about calendars can be found on my website

For those not familiar with UTC, it is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is basically the solar time at 0° longitude, with the solar day as fundamental unit. The 0° meridian passes through Greenwich, therefore UTC is sometimes called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The world has been divided into 24 time zones, they are defined as UTC plus or minus a number of hours. For example Malaysian time is UTC + 8.

So, the UTC is based on the (solar) day and a day is 24 x 60 x 60 = 86400 seconds, right? Why do we need to add a leap second? The answer is simple, but may surprise you.

A (solar) day is not exactly 86400 seconds!

Here is a graph of the “extra” length of day over the last few decades. Click to enlarge and see more details

deviation-of-day-length-from-si-day

It is only a few milliseconds every day, but it accumulates! Therefore it has been decided, in 1972, to add an extra second to UTC, when this accumulated deviation gets more than 0.9 second. The red graph shows when leap seconds were inserted.  As you see, the deviation from 85440 seconds is quite irregular and actually not predictable. That’s why the leap seconds are announced only 6 months in advance.

Why are the deviations always positive? That has an interesting, physical, reason. It is because of the moon! The moon is responsible for the tides, causing friction! This friction slows down the rotation of the Earth! It is a small but real effect, the solar day increases about 1.4–1.7 milliseconds per century. There is geological evidence that about 500 million year ago, the length of the day was shorter, ~ 22 hours.

These tidal forces and eventually tidal locking might be an interesting. topic for a separate blog.

A few remarks

  1. The leap second will be added to UTC, 31 December at midnight. 23:59.59 will not be followed by 00.00.00 but first by 23.59.60
  2. In Malaysia (UTC + 8) the leap second will be added on 1 January.  07:59:59 should not be followed by 08:00:00 but first by 07:59:60.
  3. Computer guys are not happy with an insertion of an extra second. It may cause computer failure. The Google engineers will just slow down the system clock slightly, from 10 hours before, until 10 hours after midnight, resulting in 1 second extra…:-)  Technical details here
  4. Time reckoning is a complicated topic. I have simplified it here…:-)

Jeram Janggut

Because I am the owner and webmaster of the Waterfalls of Malaysia website, my friends call me sometimes the Godfather of the Waterfalls, so it makes sense that I also have Waterfall Godsons..:-). Three of them at the moment, Siang Hui, Teoh and Nick. Siang Hui knows a lot of virtually unknown waterfalls and when Teoh a few weeks ago proposed to make a waterfall trip, SH suggested Jeram Janggut in Negeri Sembilan. An easy hike, he promised.

As it was rainy season, we decided to start early. At 7 am Teoh picked Aric and me up from our home and we drove to Sg Long where we met Siang Hui and Nick. After breakfast we continued in Teoh’s Hilux.

Start from Sg Long

It was quite a long drive to the trail head, first to Seremban, from there to Kuala Pilah. About 7 km before Kuala Pilah a minor road leads far (~20 km) into the mountains. If you have a hard-core 4WD you can almost drive to the fall. We started hiking at 10 am, walking the last few km. Here is my gang, from left to right Siang Hui, Nick, Teoh and Aric.

My gang

The route took us through a plantation, easy going, although often muddy and sometimes confusing because of several splits and junctions.

We wanted to keep close to the river, so we took this small trail, which ended at an abandoned Orang Asli house near the stream. Maybe we could have river trekked to the fall from there, but we decided to go back and follow the main road

Wrong path

O.A. hut

That meant that we had to cross a ridge, first going up steeply, nice views of the surroundings, then going down again. A signboard, “Not allowed to use poison or explosives for fishing”, meant that we had reached our goal.

The Jeram Janggut waterfall is not spectacular, but nice, with a large pool.

Jeram Janggut

We frolicked around, had coffee and of course took pictures.

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Many pictures….:-)

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Here is a short video of the fall.

We didn’t stay too long, as clouds were coming in, but before we left Aric used his iPhone on a tripod to take an “official” picture of our gang. I am very pleased with the result, we all look good and happy.

The gang

There is a lower tier of Jeram Janggut, quite nearby, but you have to scramble down a steep slope. We just had a look from above.

Lower Tier

Here is a video of this lower tier.

Going back to the trail head took us about one hour. Watching the butterflies having their lunch, we also got hungry…:-)

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We where just in time, when we reached our car, it started raining! Just where we reached the main road, we found a Malay stall, serving Assam Laksa, nothing special according to Aric (our assam laksa expert!) but delicious Kelapa Cendol.

It was a nice rewarding trip. The fall can be reached by (hard core) 4WD, we were lucky to be alone there. Here is a GE screenshot of the region. There are several relatively unknown waterfalls in this section of the Titiwangsa range. Jeram Tengkek is on the WoM website, the others not (yet), for various reasons.

Note the red marker. In 1945, just before the Japanese surrender in World War II, an allied Liberator plane crashed here and was only found by locals in 1961. The remains of the plane are still there and it is possible to hike to the crash site. Something for another trip

map

Let me finish this waterfall post with a screenshot of my Waterfalls of Malaysia site, that shows where the visitors of my website come from. I started checking 5 years ago. In those 5 years almost 1.5 million visitors from 190 countries have been visiting the site. Not a bad result…:-)

visitors WoM

Neighbour, here we come!

In a recent blog, Our nearest neighbour? , I reported about the discovery of the planet Proxima b, orbiting around a star, “only” 4.22 lightyear away from Earth. In several media it was suggested that within a few decades a spaceship could be launched to reach this planet. A spaceship is science-fiction, but there exists an ambitious plan to send a swarm of space-chips to Proxima b within a few decades. I promised to write a separate blog about this Breakthrough Starshot  Here it is.

In 1865 the French novelist Jules Verne wrote De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), in which he describes how three adventurers travel to the moon in a projectile, shot from the earth by a large cannon. I have read it spellbound when I was a teenager. You can read it online here , it is fascinating (and hilarious too).

The illustrations are beautiful. Here  are some. From left to right the three adventurers climbing into the projectile, the comfortable interior and the firing of the canon.
verne1 verne2 verne3

Why this introduction? We know now that this method is not used in our space age. We don’t shoot our spacecraft to the moon or other planets, we use rocket propulsion.  The  Voyager 1 (825 kg) was launched by a Titan-Centaur rocket (600.000 kg). The images show the launch, the Voyager spacecraft and a structure diagram of the rocket. The Centaur is mounted on top of the Titan. A huge amount of fuel is needed to launch a “tiny” payload!

Voyager & Titan

voyager_001

After completing its mission, the Voyager is now leaving our Solar System with a speed of more than 60.000 km/h That is fast but it would still take about 75.000 year to reach Proxima b, if it was going in that direction (which is not the case).

So we can forget about  space travel to the stars, using rocket propulsion, at least in the foreseeable future. Is there another option, more in the style of Jules Verne?

Actually there may be one…:-)

One year ago Travis Brashears, a graduate student at the University of Santa Barbara in California, and his supervisor, Philip Lubin, professor of astrophysics and cosmology at the same university, published a paper Directed Energy Interstellar Propulsion of WaferSats in which powerful lasers “shoot” miniature (~ 1 gram only!) electronic chips away from earth in the direction of a nearby star, with a speed approaching the speed of light! Here are the (main) writers , Brashears left and Lubin right.

brashears-lubin

Does this sound as science fiction? For me it does. But apparently not for these guys.

Sure, light exerts pressure, there are several projects going on, using sunlight propelling a solar sail , a bit similar to the sail of a sailing boat being blown by the wind. One successful project is IKAROS, a solar sail of 196 m (!) , launched in 2010 by Japan. Here an artist impression of the sail, with Venus, its destination. The sail is so big. because the thrust of the sunlight is only small.

Ikaros

Next year March the LightSail 2 will be launched. To the left the actual spacecraft, a so-called cubesat. To the right an artist impression of the LightSail in space, with a deployed sail. Notice how small the cubesat is compared to the sail!

lightsail-table-002

lightsail1_space

These projects are using sunlight. The project of Brashears and Lubin is futuristiic.

  1. A ground-based laser will be used as a “shotgun”  Estimated power needed 100 GW. That is a lot! The Three Gorges Dam in China, the largest power plant in the world, generates 22.5 GW.
  2. The spacecraft will be a chip with a mass of about 1 gram, with a light sail of ~  1 m2   . The plan is to prepare about 1000 of these miniature “spacechips” and launch them simultaneously in a mothership, orbiting the earth. From there the starchips will be shot, one after another on a daily basis, during 3 year.
  3. The laser will give a spacechip in about 10 minutes a speed of 20% of the speed of light. That is fast , 60.000 km/s
  4. The spacechips will reach Proxima b in about 20 year. Hopefully at least a few of them will have survived the journey.
  5. They will send back pictures to earth.
  6. Estimated cost of the project US$ 5-10 billion.
  7. Proposed launch date about 20-30 years from now.

Here is an artist impression of the launch. Mind you, the spacechip is the tiny dot in the center of the light sail!

lightsail-starchip

Futuristic indeed. The time span of 20-30 year is because much of the technology still has to be developed. Designing a spacecraft on a centimeter-size, gram-scale chip, developing a light sail with a thickness of 1 micron or less, building a 100 GW laser and many more challenges.

Here another artist impression. The plan is to build a so-called “phased”  array of smaller lasers, with a combined power of 100 GW. If you use 100 kW lasers ( at the moment the maximum power available), you need a staggering 1 million of them.

Laser array

I am skeptic, as usual…:-) But not everybody is. Yuri Milner, for example is optimistic.  This Russian/American tech entrepreneur and multi-billionaire,  started as a physicist and is very interested in the big question “Are we alone in the universe“. In July 2015 he announced, together with the British physicist Stephen Hawking, the Breakthrough Initiatives , a program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. At that time the program consisted of two parts.

  1. Breakthrough Listen.  Basically a large-scale version of the SETI project. Funded by Milner with US$100 million.
  2. Breakthrough Message. A prize pool of 1 US$ 1 million for the best (digital) messages that could be sent out into deep space. No concrete plan to actually send these messages, because for example Hawking thinks it might not be advisable to do that. See my blog Anybody Out There?

In April 2016, part 3,  Breakthrough Starshot, was announced by Milner and Hawking. Milner and Mark Zuckerberg (FaceBook) will contribute another US$ 100 million to explore the technological feasibility of the program outlined above.

Milner, Hawking and Dyson

From left to right Yuri Milner (holding a protoype of a spacechip in his hand), Stephen Hawking and “eminence grise” Freeman Dyson, a physicist and cosmologist, now 93 year old. If you are interested in really futuristic ideas, have a look at his Dyson Sphere 🙂

Below is an animation of the process. A few comments may be useful.

  1. There are 135 lasers in the array. You need at least 1 million.
  2. The spacechips are launched simultaneously in a container, but released and shot one after another.
  3. When they reach Proxima b after ~ 20 years, they will pass the planet at full speed (60.000 km/s). So fast that the camera on board can only take a few pictures. Also data will be collected about magnetic fields etc.
  4. These data will be sent back to earth, using miniature lasers on the spacechip, focused with the help of the light-sail.
  5.  About 4.22 year later, the ground-based laser array will receive these data. Hopefully…:-)

I have been working about two weeks on this blog, reading and collecting as much information as I could find. To be honest, I became more and more skeptic.

A few days ago Scientific American has published a very informative article about the Starshot Program: Inside the Breakthrough Starshot Mission to Alpha Centauri. Many scientists were asked for their opinion about the project. There is respect for the technological challenge, but scepsis about the scientific value.

Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was a Swiss artist, best known as a creator of “machine sculptures” .  Made of scrap metal and junk, with an electric motor which keeps part of them in motion, these useless, playful and sometimes noisy machines have fascinated me from the first time I saw them, in the Municipal Museum of Amsterdam. That was in 1973, more than 40 years ago…:-).

This year, 25 year after Tinguely’s death, the Stedelijk, as it is commonly nicknamed, has an impressive retrospective of his work, named MACHINE SPECTACLE with over a hundred machine sculptures, many of them in working order. The exhibition is open until 5 March 2017 and definitely worth a visit.

Here is one of his works that actually belongs to the museum collection. It is called Meta II, created in 1971, and I have seen it in 1973. It makes an awful lot of noise…:-)

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Not during my recent visit. Many of Tinguely’s creations are actually quite fragile, the museum staff has been busy many months to get some of them them working again. Therefore it was decided not to keep them running permanently. Only on specific times, they work for a short period and only when you push a button.

Tinguely

Here you see a few of his machines. Some of them have a timer, so you can see when you have to push the button, many have not, you just have to try. Not really a good design.

The result is that the (many) visitors walk around the many rooms with (inactive) exhibits, until they hear a noise. Then they hurry to where the sound came from, because it lasts only a short time.

Quite funny, in a way.

 

 

Here are a few working ones. Doesn’t it make you feel happy when you see those useless contraptions in action? But, as you will notice, only for a very limited time.

A few more, not in action. Click to enlarge and see details. Notice the paper tape in two of the pictures. Those machines create “art” themselves when they are operating! Tinguely’s Metamatics (Wikipedia) has more info about this

And here is Gismo, created in 1960, also belonging to the collection of the Stedelijk. It is so fragile that even during this retrospective, it will be operated (by one of the museum staff)  on a few specific days only. Check the website if you are interested, scroll down to “When do the machines move?”

Gismo

This one, looking more serious, has been on loan from another collection, the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Created in 1967.

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But how serious is it? The title  is:  Requiem pour une feuille morte. Not a requiem for a dead  girl (fille) but for a dead leaf (feuille)  Here is this requiem in action.

Tinguely belonged to the Parisian avantgarde in the mid-twentieth century and was a member of the Nouveau Réalisme group, founded in 1960 and dissolved in 1970. Many well-known artists in this group, like Yves Klein, Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle and Christo.

Actually Tinguely and de Saint Phalle were married and have been working together often. In this exhibition one characteristic work of her is exhibited.Niki de Saint Phalle

And here is a co-production of the two artists, named  Crocrodome (1977)

Crocrodome

A very interesting one is this model for  a huge project in a forest near Paris, Le Cyclop. Started in 1969. Many artists have been contributing to it, it was finished by de Saint Phalle in 1994, after the death of her husband. I had never heard about it, really like to visit it when I am back in Europe.

Model for the cyclope

Very impressive is also the Mengele-Totentanz, a late work (1986) with an interesting background story. A farm, near Tinguely’s studio was struck by lightning and burned down. Several cattle could not escape and died. Tinguely immediately started to collect scrap metal from the remains and created this huge work of art. Part of the installation is a harvester made by a firm named Mengele (the firm still exists). But Mengele is of course also the name of the notorious German concentration camp physician. It gives this monumental work a double meaning.

Mengele Totentanz

The Totentanz belongs to the collection of the Tinguely museum in Basel and has never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. Must have been a big job to disassemble it in Basel, transport it and then assemble it again in the Stedelijk…:-)

Here is a video

Really a very interesting exhibition