De Nollen

It has become a tradition that we organise a reunion with my siblings and their partners during my visits to the Netherlands. This time my sister was the host and she had planned a visit to a museum in Den Helder, about 20 km north of where she lives.

A museum?  In Den Helder? Some of us were slightly skeptical, but it turned out to be a fascinating visit of De Nollen , the life work of a Dutch artist, Ruud van de Wint (1942-2006).

A nol is the Dutch word for a sand hill, a dune. In this Google Earth image you can still see these sand dunes. Once this was an island! From 1980 until his untimely death, van de Wint has been transforming this wasteland into a Land Art park.

Here is a view of the Nollen. Van de Wint not only put his artworks here, he also did a lot of landscaping.

A monumental gate forms the entrance of the park, a good location for a family picture..:-)

After paying an entrance fee, you can walk around in the park on your own, but to enter the structures, you need a guide. We had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, a friend of my sister.

She took us on a 2-hour walk through the park. It was stormy autumn weather with an occasional shower, but we were lucky, during a rainy spell we were inside a structure…:-)

Visible from far away are three needle-like structures.

Notice the small “tunnel” in the foreground.

Created by the artist, so you could have a view of the needles, looking through this peeping hole.

 

 

Stormy weather, nice cloudscapes…:-)

The needles look solid, but on closer inspection it turns out that they have been made of wound copper wire!

Many of the artworks are made of corten steel

This structure which looks like an orange peel, was very suitable for a group picture, taken by our guide.

These green structures were slowly moving in the wind, but very sturdy.

The Nollen terrain contains many bunkers, some of them dating back to Napoleonic times, others to WWII. Some of them have been transformed in artworks, like this dome structure with an oculus at the top of the dome.

The interior of the dome has been painted and is lit by the light falling through the oculus. Fascinating

Here is another spectacular structure. On the Google Earth image a whitish lemniscate-like shape can be seen. This artwork is not based on a bunker but has been built by the artist. In the left picture we are walking to this construction.  A narrow passage leads to  the two entrances.We visited one of the halves

Here I am standing in one half of the lemniscate. No windows, the light enters  through a transparent roof. Beautiful, it made me think of Mark Rothko

Another structure. Two thatched domes, which can be entered through tunnels and spiral staircases

Here is the last structure we entered, constructed in corten steel and accessible through tunnels and again a spiral staircase.

 

The interior looks like a cathedral, with one single (tiny) painting behind a monumental grille.

The painting looks not accessible, but…

It can be opened 🙂

 

The grille was of course another good location for a family picture “in prison”

The most impressive work of art was this structure in corten steel.

It can actually rotate on a pivot! Unbelievable..:-)

You need quite a few people to bring it in motion. Fascinating.

On our way back to the entrance we passed another artwork of the artist

Back in the entrance hall we had a look at scale versions of his artworks. Van de Wint has been a prolific artist. An exhibition hall for his paintings is under construction. And we had coffee and cake, another family picture…:-)

It was a very rewarding excursion, advisable to anyone who is interested in art!

Here is an article about the Nollen project in English: Project De Nollen  And an article in Dutch (pdf file): De Nollen: grote kunst in een klein kustlandschap

Grit & Grace

Grit & Grace is the title of a photography exhibition, running at the moment in the former OCBC building near Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. The photographer is  S.C. Shekar and the subtitle of the exhibition is “The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia”

Under the same title he has published a 330-page photobook (5 kg, RM 800!) with black and white photos, covering all aspects of Malaysia. The text accompanying the photos has been written by our friend Suet Fun and that was one more reason to visit the exhibition.

We decided to use public transport ..:-) The new MRT line connects the Curve shopping center with Central Market (near the OCBC building) and feeder bus 809 took us from near our condo to the MRT station. In less than 45 minutes we arrived at Central Market!

From the MRT station it is a short walk to the OCBC building. Beside Central Market a kind of up-market copy of Petaling Street has been created, full of tourists even on this Sunday morning. A big contrast with the austere beauty of the OCBC  building  (Art Deco, 1937, designed by Coltman) at the end of this gaudy street.

The exhibition is open daily from 10 am until 8 pm (until 16 October) and admission is free.

A selection of 50 photographs is shown in the exhibition. They are impressive and show many aspects of Malaysia, landscapes, people, culture.

It was pleasantly quiet on this Sunday morning.

Many of the nature photographs show aerial views. We were wondering if they were taken by a drone, but at the reception they told us that a helicopter was used.

This is a view from Georgetown

Here is a drone picture of the same region, recently taken by Aric. To remain in style, I have made it black and white..:-)

It is a very attractive exhibition, showing the power of monochrome photography in the hands of a gifted photographer. If you have a chance, visit the exhibition.

The exhibition will also go on a roadshow to different regions of the country in the first half of 2018.

On our way back to the MRT station, I could not resist the temptation to take a few  pictures  :-).  See my report KL Heritage for more.

 

 

 

 

Trip up North 2017

Earlier this year we bought a drone. What to do with a drone…:-)? Aric came with a plan: take drone videos of all the fishing villages in Peninsular Malaysia and combine them into a documentary. An ambitious project..:-)

The plan was to start in Kuala Perlis, near the Thai border. Quite far from KL, about 500 km, we decided to drive first to Ipoh, stay overnight in the Ipoh Bali hotel and meet a friend for dinner.

We had stayed before in the Ipoh Bali hotel and liked the place. Your own private balcony, where you can feed the koi fish, a nice breakfast, pleasant atmosphere.

In the evening we met our friend and had dinner with him. Of course the Ipoh specialty, chicken hor fun with taugeh…:-) The restaurant he had in mind was closed, so we went to Ong Kee , also very good and less touristy than Lou Wong, opposite the street

The next morning we left early, still 300 km to go. We had left KL with nice weather, but now the skies became dark, and soon heavy rain started, which did not stop. No way you can drone when it is raining. Was the monsoon starting already? Only the next day we read in the news that the downpour was related to the typhoon Doksuri, that had hit VIetnam!

We arrived in Kuala Perlis for a lunch with Assam Laksa. Malay style, not bad.

Here is the quite attractive mosque of Kuala Perlis.

Our plan was to start taking drone videos here, then slowly go down south, visit a few more fishing villages and stay overnight, halfway to Penang. The heavy rain messed things up. We waited for quite a while, but the rain continued, with strong winds.

Finally, a bit disappointed, we decided to stay overnight in Kuala Perlis. A good decision because around 6 pm finally the rain stopped and the wind became less strong.

While Aric was starting his drone, I walked to the lookout tower, from where I had a nice view of the mosque.

Here is a drone view from the village. We were happy that we could at last have one drone result after our long drive…:-). Note the pedestrian bridge, crossing the Perlis river.

We walked to this bridge and found a large crowd there, watching longboat races. Very interesting, actually they were training for the Perlis Water festival in November

In February 2016 we had also made a Trip up North and we had enjoyed the food at the Hat Thien restaurant in Kuala Perlis so much that we went back there for our dinner. Good decision.

After our dinner we walked back to our hotel. It was dry, no wind, we were optimistic about the weather the next day.  Kuala Perlis is well known for its horseshoe crabs. Next visit we must try them.

We woke up the next day not by the sun shining in our room, but by rain pounding the windows. Bad luck. Useless to visit fishing villages…:-(

Instead we decided to have a look at the one and only waterfall in Perlis, north of Kangar. It had been one of the main targets of  our 2016 trip up North. It is a seasonal waterfall and during that trip there was no water at all. We expected that it would be different now, and we were right. Quite impressive.

For comparison.  The left picture shows the situation in 2106, nice flowstone but no water. The right picture has been taken from roughly the same angle. What a difference.

We decided to drive back to Penang. On our way we passed one of the fishing villages, Simpang Ampat, the rain did not stop. Scenic views of the paddy fields, but look at the dark clouds.

It is really a small village, finally we found the only coffee shop, where we had a drink and some food. The cat is hoping for some leftovers, Aric is hoping that the rain will stop

We knew that the situation in Penang that morning was chaotic, flooding, landslides, cars floating in the water, and when we crossed the bridge, the situation looked quite threatening.

We decided to try our luck and go to Balik Pulau for its famous assam laksa.

Balik Pulau is on the West side of Penang, you have to cross the hills on a winding road. There had been a few minor landslides, but the road was not blocked.

Still heavy rain in Balik Pulau, but the assam laksa was nice.

We expected a traffic jam on our way to our hotel in Georgetown, but actually there was not a lot of traffic, probably many Penangites had stayed at home that day.

We had booked accommodation in the Chulia Heritage hotel . The outside and the lobby look nice, a traditional Chinese hotel, but probably during renovation they have split the huge hotel rooms into smaller units. Still ok, though, and not expensive

End of the afternoon the weather finally started  improving. We walked to the clan jetties, passing the Kapitan Keling mosque (left). The Tan jetty (right) extends far out, a perfect location to drone.

In this picture you see theTan jetty (where we are standing, near the red temple) and the large Chew jetty.

Georgetown with the ferry terminals.

We had dinner that evening with a friend who is living in Penang, so he knows the good food places…:-)

He suggested for breakfast the next morning Moh Teng Pheow a famous nyonya kuih stall, near to our hotel. It opens a bit late, at 10:30 am, but it was worth waiting. Popular place, friendly staff, nice food.

Our next destination was a fishing village, Teluk Kumbar, at the southern point of the island. On our way we visited another waterfall, suggested by my friend Siang Hui. Usually it is just a trickle of water, but he expected that it might now be more powerful after the heavy downpour. And he was right, as usual..:-).

In front of the waterfall there are two temples, an Indian and  a Chinese one, next to each other. Unusual.

Here is the drone picture of Teluk Kumbar

Aric is collecting data about assam laksa shops in Malaysia and had discovered one in Bukit Mertajam, so leaving Penang we went to this shop for lunch. Only open during weekends and run by a family in their own home in a residential area.. Take off your shoes, before you enter! Nice assam laksa, friendly service

After our lunch we continued to Guar Petai, a.k.a. Frog Hill. We had visited this spectacular mining landscape in 206 during our trip up North last year. Very suitable for droning, although even without a drone, you have a nice view from the hill in the middle of all the lakes

In the left picture you can see Aric on top of the hill, directing his drone. The right picture is taken by the drone, and when you enlarge the picture and look carefully, you may see me at the right, on the ridge…:-)

Here is one more drone shot, taken from a higher altitude.

Ater this Frog Hill we drove back to Taiping. I had booked two nights there, Aric went back to KL. My activities in Taiping this time were mainly related to heritage, which may be a bit too detailed for the average visitor of this blog. Therefore I decided to write a separate blog  Taiping September 2017 , about how I spent these two days.

Taiping promotes itself proudly as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) and it is true that you can find many beautiful historical buildings there.

But there are also many ruined and run-down buildings, and during this visit I have concentrated on this darker side of my second hometown.

As I had no transport this time, I had booked a train ticket from Taiping to KL Sentral. Nowadays there is an efficient and fast ETS (Electric Train Service) between Gemas and the Thai border.

Food and beverages can be bought on board, tickets can be bought online. It took me only 3 hours and 20 minutes between Taiping and Sentral. Kudos for Malaysia!

Although we had to modify our plans, the  6D5N trip was very interesting and full of variety, as usual..:-)

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.

Taiwan, August 2017

We like Taiwan. Our first trip to Taiwan was in 2014, Aric went again in 2015 with his family. Both times to the Northern part of Taiwan.

This time we first visited the Penghu islands, off Taiwan’s West Coast.

Back on the mainland  we rented a car to travel to the southernmost point of Taiwan and from there, following the East Coast, we drove back to Taipei.

In the GE map I have indicated the locations where we have spent one or more nights

It was an amazing trip, full of variety

 

I took (too) many pictures, in this report I will just give an impression of what we have been doing. Nevertheless it will be a long report…:-)

On 1 August we took an Air Asia flight to Kaohsiung, a big town in south-western Taiwan. A few days earlier Taiwan had been struck by typhoon Nesat, followed by tropical storm Haitang. Nesat had cause considerable damage, many flights were cancelled, so we were a bit concerned, but we arrived without problems, although it still was raining heavily.

This is the spectacular accommodation Aric had booked in Kaohsiung

A studio on the 33th floor of the 85 Sky Tower. A room with a view, where we stayed two nights. Here is the view from our room (taken later when the rain had stopped).

Our first Taiwanese dinner. Many people in spite of the rain. We shared a table (and a conversation) with a Taiwanese family. The first experience of Taiwanese friendliness, many more would follow..

We had only one day to explore Kaohsiung. The day we arrived, we could not do much because of the rain, but the next day we only had some drizzle.

In the morning we visited the harbour, the lighthouse and the old military fort

The most famous tourist attractions of Kaohsiung are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. They were built in 1976 in the Lotus Lake and can be reached by a zigzag bridge.

Kaohsiung is a big town, we used the metro often. One of the main stations is Formosa Boulevard, where we admired the Dome of Light, 30 meters in diameter and  made of 4,500 glass panels.The largest work of glass art in the world.

The next day we went back to the airport to take a flight to Qimei, one of the Penghu islands. Nice experience to fly in a Twin Otter (19 pax). It took only 40 minutes to reach Qimei.

At the airport, our host was already waiting for us, with the motorbike Aric had rented for the next two days. He took us to Cheng Village, a collection of traditional (renovated) Penghu houses. Our room was in one of them, but as there were no other customers, we had the whole house to ourself.

A splendid accommodation. Aric had brought his drone, the right picture shows an aerial view of the Cheng Village. Click to enlarge and you can spot us in the courtyard of our “mansion”

When we started talking about another trip to Taiwan, Aric was adamant that he wanted to visit the Penghu islands. What is so special about these islands, was my question. The Twin Hearts of Qimei,  he replied.

Here they are. It is actually an ancient fish trap made by stacking stones to form a trap that resembles a flying heart. The main tourist attraction of Qimei, every day many hundreds of tourists arrive  by ferry from the main Penghu island. After they have left, it becomes quiet, when we visited the place in the evening no one else was there. Very peaceful and romantic.

Aric used the drone to take a spectacular sunset picture of the Twin Hearts. The other drone photo has been taken the next day. It shows another tourist destination of Qimei: little Taiwan. With some fantasy the rocky platform looks like Taiwan.

The island itself is not very interesting, rather flat and barren. But the rocky coastline is quite attractive

And then there is the food, seafood of course. Exotic seafood often…:-)  It was our first experience with Sea Urchins. You eat only the gonads (sex organs !) of these spiny critters.

On our way back from the restaurant to our homestay, we found a few  beautiful flowers just beside the road. We were quite excited, but discovered later that this night-blooming cactus is quite common, actually related to the dragonfruit !

After two nights on Qimei, we took a ferry to Magong, the main town of the Penghu archipelago. Several of the islands are connected by bridges, Aric had booked  homestays on two of them, and rented again a motorbike.

On arrival at the Magong jetty, the owner of the first homestay was already waiting for us. He drove us to his place where we dropped our suitcases and continued on the motorbike to the second homestay.

 

It looked complicated but it worked very well. Again the people are so friendly!

It was still quite some distance to the homestay on Xiyu island. An isolated house in the middle of nowhere. The friendly lady was living downstairs, the first floor was ours, as there were no other guests.

From our terrace we had a wide view of the surroundings and of course Aric used the drone to take an aerial picture

Soon after arrival we went out again to visit the basalt cliffs of Xiyu. Really spectacular.

We continued to the Yuwengdao lighthouse to watch the sunset.

The next day, after a traditional breakfast of oyster noodles, we first visited the Xiyu Western Fort, built in 1887. In 1895 it played a role in the Japanese invasion of Formosa, as Taiwan was called in those days. Next we had a look at another basalt formation and the nearby traditional village of Erkan, where we had lunch. Finally we drove back  across the Great Bridge of Penghu to the other homestay where we arrived sunburnt and almost dehydrated.

This homestay was the most luxurious (and expensive!) of our Taiwan accommodations.

The next day we first visited a memorial for the Taiwanese singer Pan An-Bang in Magong. Aric likes very much one of his songs, which is related to his life as a child on this island. Here is the song  外婆的澎湖湾 on YouTube.

In the afternoon we went to the “Mozes bridge” as we have called it. The official name is Kuibishan Geopark. A small island, Chiyu island, can be reached on foot, but only  at low tide. A popular tourist attraction, our homestay had a notice board where the exact times of low and high tide were indicated.

Quite interesting. When we arrived the “road” was not yet visible. A large crowd was was waiting (in the hot sun!) and slowly the passage appeared. Here is a drone image of the “road”.

That evening we had a rather adventurous dinner. Aric had kept it secret for me. First we had to ride to a meeting point at a 7-11 shop, where we met the other guests.  A guy took the group to the nearby harbour where a boat was waiting for us. Our destination was a “restaurant ship”, located in the middle of the bay!

You have to book weeks in advance, it was very well organised, a table for two had been reserved for us. You had to bring your own drinks

Of course the menu was seafood, seafood and seafood…:-) Most dishes were delicious, only the squid skin I found uneatable…:-0

The next day we took a ferry to the mainland. Departure was in the afternoon, so we had the morning to walk around in Magong and have lunch. The most important temple of Magong is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and supposedly the oldest Mazu temple of Taiwan, dating back to the 15-16th century

The ferry took us in about two hours to the fishing town of Budai, where we spent the night.

Budai has a unusual tourist attraction, the High-Heel Wedding Church

The town is well known for its oysters, which in Taiwan are usually taken out of their shell before they are served. Here two drone pictures, one of the oyster farms and one of the iconic schurch

So we had oysters for dinner, supper and breakfast…:-)

The next morning we took a taxi to the Avis Car Rental office, where the second part of our Taiwan trip started.

There is a lot of geothermal activity in Taiwan, resulting in many hot springs. During the Japanese occupation (1895 – 1945) the Japanese introduced in Taiwan the onsen culture, public bath houses using the water of hot springs. We have become addicted to onsens…:-) Hotels in this region often have their own in-house onsen. Several times we had even a private onsen on our balcony. But the most interesting are the old-fashioned public bathhouses, which unfortunately become more and more rare.

Our first destination was the Water and Fire Cave . For at least more than 300 years a fire has been been burning here, fed by methane gas bubbles escaping from the water.

We continued to Sichongxi, a famous hot spring location. Aric had read about a traditional public bath house there, and after some walking around we found it.

For those not familiar with onsens, men and women bathe in separate sections, naked. There are many do’s and don’ts, we have enough experience now…:-)  One of the rules is that you don’t take pictures inside an onsen. This one was almost empty, so I broke the rule. Often an onsen has several baths, of different temperature, here there was only one. Notice the milky color of the water, due to the mineral content.

We stayed overnight in a hotel near the southernmost point of Taiwan. Nice location, beautiful view and a private hot spring bath on our balcony!

We had dinner in a small village nearby, a nice seafood restaurant. Here we had our ultimate sea urchin experience. The left pictures shows them in the tank. To prepare them, the upper part of the animal is cut away, most of the innards are removed, only the five gonads remain, which you spoon out. The spikes are still moving a bit while you eat. Not suitable for vegetarians..:-)

The rest of the food was also quite special…:-)

Here you see me drinking and eating…:-)

For a change we had a “normal” breakfast the next morning. The friendly owner told us that they had started this resort to give their children a healthy environment. A beautiful place, would have been nice to stay longer.

But we had to continue our trip…:-) First we visited the cape that we had seen from our balcony. Steep cliffs.

Rocky coast, impressive views.

It so happened that a friend of ours was also visiting Taiwan at the same time. He would like to visit the monument at the southern tip of Taiwan, but public transport was not easy. So we picked him up from the (nearby) town where he stayed and we went together.

We were not the only visitors of the monument. Everybody wanted to have a picture taken with him/her in front of the monument.

After waiting for some time, I managed to take a picture of the monument, almost without people:-)

The monument is part of the Kenting National Park, the oldest national park of Taiwan. More interesting was the coral cliff forest, where we walked around a bit

After a late lunch with our friend, we continued our journey to another famous hot spring village, Zhi Ben. We had booked a room in one of the hotels, again with our own private onsen…:-)

Taiwan takes care of its aboriginal people much better than Malaysia, imho. In this region the aboriginals belong to the Amis tribe.  We had dinner in a restaurant where they served local food, served by waitresses in Amis costume

Aric had discovered a waterfall in the region, but when we tried to find it the next morning, a friendly man on a motorbike told us that there was a much better one, and didn’t mind guiding us there. Taiwanese friendliness at its best! Quite a distance away, but it was worth the effort. Probably only locals know about it. Nice vertical fall, of course Aric also took a drome picture of it.

Our next destination was Sanxiantai , famous for its 8-arch footbridge leading to an island. Unfortunately the footbridge was being repaired, so we could only watch it from afar (and from the air). Pity, we have to come back to Taiwan…:-)

How to describe our next destination? In Chinese it is written 男人石, which translates as “man stone”. Probably even most Taiwanese locals are not aware of it.

Coming closer to the big rock makes clear what is meant with the “man stone” 🙂 Sprinkling water on it, is supposed to bring luck.

Driving further north, we passed the Tropic of Cancer . A monument marks the location of the most northerly circle of of latitude at which the Sun can be directly overhead (during the Summer Solstice).

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It was a long day and we were tired when we reached our next hotel, not far from the Taroko Gorge, one of the main targets of this trip. This hotel had its hot spring bath in the bathroom..:-)

The next day we explored the Taroko Gorge. The gorge has been eroded by the Liwu river and the walls of the gorge almost touch each other at some places . It is one of the nine National Parks of Taiwan, and truly spectacular. Access is free of charge, but for some of the trails you have to apply for a permit.

You need people in the pictures you take, to appreciate the scale. This picture shows the most dramatic part of the gorge.

It is advised to wear safety helmets, which you can borrow free of charge! My helmet did not really fit my big head…:-) Of course we returned the helmets after our visit

Here are two more pictures of what is called the Swallow Grotto Trail

There are several (pedestrian) hanging bridges to cross from one side to the other. A road also has been constructed through the gorge. We parked our car at several places, to walk and admire.

It was a fascinating day. With a very unexpected, “dramatic” ending. On our way back, we stopped near one of the hanging bridges. While I walked across the bridge, Aric decided to take a drone video of the bridge and me. He decided to fly the drone  below the bridge. That was no problem, I could see the drone pass under me. After that he wanted the drone to turn right to have a look at a waterfall. But instead it turned left and I saw it crash against the left cliff wall.

When you enlarge the third picture, you can see, within the circle, two white spots, lights of the drone. The location looked absolutely inaccessible. As it was getting dark, we decided to come back early the next morning to have a closer look. Rather despondent we drove to our hotel. The drone chip contained all the videos Aric had taken! Only the still shots had been transmitted to his phone.

The next morning we went back to the crash site and at once saw that it was out of the question to rescue the drone.  It will still be there. We have to come back to Taiwan to retake the videos…:-)

We continued our trip up North along Taiwan’s East coast. Slow driving with all the time beautiful views of the rocky coastline.

It is amazing to see how they have managed to construct a road here. Also a railroad track, mostly using tunnels.

Beautiful weather. No horizon, sea and sky just merge in shades of blue. We look quite happy, after the “tragedy” of the day before…:-)

We had lunch in a fishing village Su Ao in a popular, crowded shop: 阿通伯魚丸 . We had to wait quite a long time for a free table.

The food was , how shall I say it, “special”. Apparently many people like it, they even come here from Taipei.  Not my favourite. Most of it is related to smoked shark

Here is a comment, translated from Chinese: Signature fish soup shop, but is the most difficult to eat the product, another on the flavor should not also be the hardest I’ve ever eaten fish soup to drink

We drove on along the coast until we reached  Jiaoxi, a township with many hot spring resorts. We had visited this town also in 2014, now we stayed in a different hotel, of course with its own onsen…:-)

During our first visit we had taken our dinner in Weng Yao, one of the several restaurants where they  specialise in roasted chicken, using clay ovens. We went again, the chicken is nice and very juicy, but really too much for two persons.

The following day our destination was Taipei where we would return the car. But  before we left the Yilan county, we visited the Lanyang Museum. That was a pleasant surprise. The exterior of the museum, designed by Taiwanese architect  Kris Yao, is stunning, inspired by the common, tilted, rock formations in the region. Construction started in 2004 but it was only opened to the general public in 2010.

The museum is dedicated to local culture and nature and really a pleasure to visit.

We returned our car to the Avis office in a suburb of Taipei and took a taxi to our hotel. Another gem discovered by Aric. Quite far from the center of Taipei, but next to a subway station and with a spectacular view of the iconic 101 tower;.

This is the Amba hotel, where we had book an upper floor room, with a view of the 101 tower.The skybridge connects directly to the Songshan metro station.

Nearby, on walking distance, is one of the popular Taipei night markets: Raohe , where we walked around to have a snack food dinner

We stayed two nights in the Amba hotel, because we wanted to visit the National Palace Museum. This museum contains nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world.

The most popular artwork is the Jadeite Cabbage, a piece of jade sculpted in the shape of a Chinese cabbage. Here it is.

Here is the museum and a picture of the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of this actually not very impressive work of art…:-)

 

Personally I found many of the other exhibits more beautiful.

In the afternoon we visited another onsen nearby. When we arrived, they told us that it was closed for cleaning until later that afternoon. No problem to spend some time in the adjoining park. This onsen was a popular one, with a crowd of senior citizens..:-)

During our first visit, we had met a nice taxi driver. Aric had used his services also during his second visit with his family, so we had become quite friendly.

For our last day we had asked him to pick us up from the Amba hotel, show us some interesting tourist attractions in North Taiwan, drop us in Jiufen where Aric had booked accommodation, and then send us to the airport the next day. That plan worked very well.

It was a full day. First he took us to the Yangmingshan National Park, north of Taipei. An interesting volcanic landscape, in this region there have been sulphur mines in the past

Of course there are several onsens in the region..:-) We visited one of them, a very attractive one. Several baths, varying in temperature between 38 and 48 C. Friendly atmosphere.

For lunch, Lyu, our taxi driver, took us to his favourite shop, easily overlooked when you don’t know the joint..:-)

In the afternoon he took us to some interesting rock formations. This one is called the Elephant. It looks like my position is quite exposed, but actually it is very safe…:-)

Here are a few more bizarre rock formations.

A long evening walk before he dropped us at Jiufen

In 2014 we had also stayed in Jiufen, a very attractive (but touristic) mountain village. Aric had booked accommodation with the same owner, but this time a different location. From the bedroom a nice view of the sea, deep down.

The next morning Lyu brought us to the Taipei airport. A very nice guy. After checking in there was enough time for lunch. NO seafood…:-)

A long report, with many pictures, because we did so many things…:-)

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Are you using Whatsapp and did you recently receive this picture? Getting excited already, that in a few weeks time you will observe a unique event?

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is complete nonsense. Yes, on 21 August 2017 there will be a total solar eclipse, and to watch it is an experience of a lifetime. But solar eclipses are common, almost every year there will be a solar eclipse visible, somewhere on Earth..:-)

Here is a list of solar eclipses between 2011 and 2020. In the third column the type of eclipse is given. Twenty four eclipses in total, five of them total. The last column gives the geographic region where the eclipse will be visible.

I do not want this blog to be very technical, but some explanation may be useful..:-)

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth.

The moon orbits the earth in about 29 days, so you would expect a solar eclipse roughly every month. But the orbital plane of the moon is tilted 5 degrees, therefore the shadow of the moon will not touch the earth every month. Also, because of the (big) size of the sun, the shadow of the moon (the white lines) just reaches a small part of the earth. The pink lines mark the region where the moon blocks the sun only partially.

Another effect is that the orbit of the moon is slightly elliptical, so the distance of the moon to the earth is not always the same. If the moon passes between the sun and earth while it is farther away from the earth, it can not block the sun completely, resulting in an “annular” eclipse.

Let us look in a bit more detail at the 21 August eclipse. The blue band is where you can see the total eclipse. Weather permitting of course…:-) The light blue lines parallel to the blue band indicate the regions where you have a 75%, 50% and 25% partial eclipse.

Is there anything special about this eclipse? Yes..:-)  It will only be visible from the Unites States of America and no other country!  AMERICA FIRST…:-)  Probably Trump will  twitter one of these days that it is one of the successes of his administration…;-)

Of course there is a lot of interest in the USA for this Great American Eclipse . Here are a few advertisements, taken from the Internet.

But also for the USA it is not a unique event. The last total eclipse, visible in mainland USA, was on 26 February 1979 and the next one will be on 8 April 2024.

Total eclipses are spectacular. It gets dark, and the solar corona becomes visible. A reason for many people to travel to a region where the total eclipse can be watched.

Actually I was one of them, 8 years ago!

Friends  told us about a total eclipse, visible in China on 22 July 2009.  Here it is

We decided to visit China, Hangzhou region, around that time, hoping for clear skies. The full report you can read here: China July 2009 part I: Hangzhou.

Many people, locals and tourists,  full of expectation.

Actually it was rather cloudy. Here you see pictures during the start of the eclipse. We kept our fingers crossed.

And we were lucky. The clouds were breaking, it was not completely clear, but enough to see the “diamond ring” and the corona

It was an unforgettable experience. As it will be for the Americans (and the many foreign tourists) on 21 August.

When you compare the two eclipse maps, you see in the lower right corner the duration of the totality.  The China one 6m 39s, the American one “only” 2m 40s. CHINA FIRST!

The maps come from a very informative website about solar (and lunar) eclipses, EclipseWise.com

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.

 

A relaxing trip

A few weeks ago friends told us about an interesting jungle resort, called The Sticks, between Kuala Kubu Bharu and Fraser’s Hill. Accommodation in so-called tendoks (a cross between a tent and a pondok). We decided to give it a try, stay overnight and visit the next day the nearby Chiling waterfall.

We stopped for lunch in KKB as Kuala Kubu Bharu is commonly called. KKB is a charming little town with many eateries. We went to Xin Yuen Kee, where we had Loh Mee, Fish Cakes and delicious Stewed Chicken Feet.

We had left KL with sunny weather, but when we walked back to our car after lunch, we felt the first raindrops, which soon became a heavy downpour. I had just time enough to take some pictures of the mural art, which is mushrooming all over Malaysia these days. It is not Zacharevic standard here in KKB, rather primitive, but with a certain charm.

The downpour became so heavy, that we skipped our plan to take some drone video at the Selangor Dam. Instead we continued to the Sticks parking, where our host Rubin was already waiting for us with umbrellas (we had messaged him from KKB about our arrival time). It was a short, romantic footpath to the resort, crossing the Selangor river on a sturdy hanging bridge.

We received a hearty welcome from our hostess Michelle and were shown our tendok. Named the Riverside tendok, because it is located almost above the river…:-). Attached bathroom, hot shower, fan, mosquito nets, very private location, surrounded by jungle.

After the rain stopped, we explored  the surroundings. The hanging bridge is close by, from there you could see how strong the water flow was after the heavy rain. From our tendok a few cemented steps led down to the river. A nice place to take a bath, but it was a bit too chilly after the rain.

We had a few hours to spend before dinner. No wifi, no computer! Finally I could finish Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind. Ok, I had it as an iBook on my iPad…:-).

When the evening came,  clouds and mist made the surrounding landscape even more romantic

Dinner was served in the community hall, where we met a few more guests. It was a barbecue dinner , served on banana leaf. A variety of fish, chicken, beef and lamb, attractively presented.

We went to bed early, but woke up around 11 pm because it started to rain again. Not just rain, a huge downpour with thunder and lightning. The sound of the rain drops on the roof of our tendok was so loud, that we could not hear the sound of the river anymore and it was almost impossible to talk to each other. Fortunately our tendok turned out to be 100% rainproof. But when we woke up the next morning, the water level in the river was still high and the colour brownish.

To reach the Chiling waterfall you have to cross another river (a tributary of the Selangor river) many times. Also the weather did not look very stable. And we felt lazy. We decided to skip the waterfall and instead to relax in the resort until checkout time.

The service at The Sticks is personal and friendly. The night before, after dinner, Michelle had asked us how we liked our breakfast. Omelet, fried eggs or half-boiled eggs? Beef or chicken sausage?  Ham ? Beans? Tea or coffee? There were cereals, toast, jam, butter. So we had a full English breakfast in the jungle! The only thing that was missing was a glass of orange juice…:-) And of course it was halal.

After our breakfast we enjoyed our tendok, walked around to take pictures and I talked with Rubin about the history of the place. The resort is not old, in the past there was tin mining at this location and later a (failed) fish farm project. The present owners have done a good job, replanting trees and landscaping the terrain. Here is a picture of the community hall. The tendoks (7 at the moment) are in the jungle behind the hall

Some pictures of flowers, a harmless millipede and an old water pipe, dating back to the tin mining period. According to Rubin,  remains from that period can still be found in the jungle, but access is not easy.

Then it was time to leave our temporary home and cross the bridge back to the main road.

The main reason to visit Chiling this time (I have visited the waterfall 15 times already during the past 14 years!), was to take a drone video of the fall. Pity that we could not do that, we must come back another time.

Instead, on our way back passing the Selangor dam, we stopped at the visitor center to take a video there. But soon a friendly girl came to warn us that droning was not allowed there. So we drove up to kampung Gerachi uphill, from where you have a nice view of the reservoir and the spillway. The reservoir was full and the spillway was impressive, an artificial waterfall.  It is nice to see everything from the air.

Here is a short video of the spillway

On our way back we stopped in Serendah for lunch. A nameless Thai restaurant on a slip road beside the trunk road has a reputation for its Tom Yam. Very tasty, we combined it with refreshing Leng Chee Kang

The Google Earth image shows the location of KKB and the Sticks resort

Jupiter and Juno

This post is about the planet Jupiter and the spacecraft Juno, launched in August 2011 and orbiting Jupiter since July 2016. The image shows both the planet and the spacecraft.

But we will start with some Roman (Greek) mythology. Jupiter (Zeus) was the king of the gods and Juno (Hera) his wife. Jupiter was an promiscuous god with numerous extramarital affairs and Juno was a jealous spouse, always keeping a eye on her adulterous husband.  Here are a few of his affairs

  • He lusted for Io, and transformed the girl into a cow, to hide her from  his wife. In vain, Juno asked him to give her the cow as a present.
  • He abducted Europa, disguised as a bull. King Minos of Crete was one of their children
  • He fell in love with the nymph Callisto and took the shape of virgin goddess(!) Artemis to seduce her.
  • He was so enchanted of Ganymede, that, in the shape of a raven, he took the beautiful boy(!) to Mount Olympos.

You will understand that as schoolboys we were always happy when our Latin and Greek  teachers told us about these myths…:-)

Back to astronomy. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. The planet is so big that all the other planets would fit in it. It is the second-brightest planet (after Venus) in the night sky.

In 1610, Galileo discovered that Jupiter has four moons. In the image you can see their size, compared to Jupiter. They look small beside the planet, but they are actually big. The largest one, Ganymede, is bigger than the planet Mercury!

The four moons were named after the four lovers of Jupiter named above! Below you see a (resized) image of each moon and a painting with Jupiter in action.

Since Galileo observed the four moons, many more (smaller ones) have been discovered. At the moment 67  moons have been observed, of which 53 have been named, often after Jupiter’s girlfriends and boyfriends…:-) Here is the complete list of Jupter’s moons

It may now be clear why the spacecraft has been named Juno  🙂  After the launch of the spacecraft, NASA published a mission statement in which they explained the name of the spacecraft:

The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.”

Actually the mission of Juno is to explore Jupiter and not his moons…:-) Much is still unknown about this gas giant. Does it have a solid core? Does its atmosphere contain water? An important part of the mission will be the study of Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields.

So, let us follow Juno on her exploration of Jupiter. It took her five years to reach Jupiter. Why so long? Here is the reason:

To give the spacecraft enough speed at launch to reach Jupiter would cost too much energy. Therefore it is first launched in an (elliptical) orbit around the sun.

The Deep Space Maneuvers one year later will bring it back very close to Earth, which will give it a gravitational slingshot. See my Rosetta blog for an explanation.

As a result the orbit becomes a hyperbole, at the right moment crossing the orbit of Jupiter, where it will be captured by the planet.

Here is a fascinating animation of the whole process.

Jupiter has to be approached carefully because of its intense radiation belts. The magnetic field of a planet traps charged particles like electrons and protons in a doughnut-shaped region around the planet. Earth has these radiation belts, they are called the Van Allen Belts. For Jupiter they are many thousand times stronger and can seriously damage the spacecraft.

To protect the instruments of Juno, the most sensitive ones have been placed in a titanium container with 1 cm thick walls and a weight of 18 kg.

Here is an image of the spacecraft during assembly. The Radiation Vault is the brown box on top of the spacecraft.

Note the size of the human!

To minimise the radiation risk, Juno has to be captured carefully in a polar orbit. Here is a YouTube animation:

The capture orbit is very elliptical with a period of ~ 54 days. The original plan was to reduce the period to 14 days, after two capture orbits (1 and 2). The first reduced orbit (3) would be a clean-up orbit, followed by 32 “science” orbits (4-36), each of them slightly shifted, so the whole surface of Jupiter would be covered.The image gives an impression of these science orbits. Mind you, during each 14 days only a few hours before and after perijove (the point of shortest distance to Jupiter) can be used for science!

However, during the second orbit, a few days before the planned Orbit Reduction Maneuver on 19 October 2016, a problem was found with some helium valves needed to operate the main engine, and a few hours before perijove, the spacecraft went into “safe mode”, because the onboard computer encountered unexpected conditions. The next two orbits were used for testing and diagnostics.

Finally, on 17 February 2017, mission control decided it was too risky to perform the Orbit Reduction Maneuver. So the  spacecraft will remain in  its 54 day orbit. Totally 12 science orbits will be performed until July 2018. The next perijove (orbit 7) will occur on 11 July.

It must have been quite a disappointment for the scientists, instead of new data every two weeks, they now have to wait almost eight weeks.

Are there results already? The instruments that are measuring the magnetic field of Jupiter and the composition of the Jovian atmosphere are collecting data, it seems the magnetic field is more lumpy than expected.

The most spectacular results come from the on-board camera Junocam. Here is an image of Jupiter’s south pole, not observable from Earth. Amazingly complex and turbulent.

And last week NASA published another picture, taken 19 May, just after Juno passed perijove 7. Keep in mind that these images are color enhanced! Part of the south pole region is visible. The white spots are part of the “String of Pearls”, massive counterclockwise rotating storms.

The next orbit will pass over the famous Great Red Spot, a storm on Jupiter that has lasted already for several hundred years and is so big that Earth would fit inside it. Will be interesting to see images.

At the end of the Juno mission,  the spacecraft will be directed into the Jovian atmosphere, where it will be completely destroyed. This will be done to avoid any chance that material of Juno might “contaminate” one of  Jupiter’s moons. If ever life forms are found on these moons, there must not be any doubt about its origin.

To end this post in a lighthearted way, the Juno has three passengers on board! Figurines, specially crafted by Lego in the shape of Jupiter (with a lightning bolt), Juno (with a magnifying glass) and Galileo (with a telescope and Jupiter in his hand)

Preparing this post, I have made extensive use of a very informative web page: Juno Mission and Trajectory Design . Very detailed and sometimes quite technical, but worth reading.

 

 

The Chaconne

A chaconne is a musical dance form in triple metre, popular during the Baroque and consisting of a theme with variations. Just to name a few composers, Telemann, Pachelbel, Couperin, Vivaldi have written chaconnes (the links refer to YouTube).

But when music lovers talk about  The Chaconne.  they mean the last movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin.

Yehudi Menuhin called it “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”

And Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history”

Over the years I have heard Bach’s chaconne numerous times and still it affects me deeply. There has been a time that I thought it would be perfect music for my funeral, but later I decided that it might take too long.. :-).

Of course you can find numerous versions on YouTube.  Here is beautiful one, performed by talented violinist Hilary Hahn.

She plays the chaconne quite slowly (almost 18 minutes), most performers play it faster, in about 14 minutes. For example Yehudi Menuhin in a recording from 1956.

Not surprisingly, there are also plenty recordings where the chaconne is played on other instruments. An obvious choice is the guitar. In the opinion of some the chaconne sounds even better on a guitar. Personally I don’t agree, but I must admit that for example this performance by John Feely is brilliant and moving.

Here are a few other recordings I found on YouTube. First four recordings on single instruments: flute, clarinet, organ, accordioncello and marimba.

In my opinion woodwinds are not suitable for this work. The marimba recording is actually quite nice. Organ and accordion are too massive for me. The cello recording is not bad, but I find the range of the violin more suitable.

There are also recording for several instruments. Here are a few:  4 cellos, 9 saxophones, 4 violas, 4 double basses and 1 octobass. I will not comment on them…:-)

In 1930 the English conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the chaconne for symphony orchestra. More transcriptions exist, but this is probably the most famous one. Very romantic and dramatic, but emotionally it has no effect on me. Listen to this recording, put the volume on maximum and fasten your seat belts :-). The recording is from 1950 and conducted by Stokowski himself.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the piano until now. That was on purpose. Of course there are many recordings for piano. Most pianists play the transcription of Ferrucio Busoni. He was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, etc, who has transcribed many of Back’s work in a romantic way. More a recreation than a transcription, that’s why it is often called the Bach-Busoni Chaconne.  Here is a brilliant recording by .Evgeny Kissin. You can follow the score.

An impressive performance of Kissin, but still I think something is missing.

There exists another transcription, created by Brahms. He wrote it for the left hand alone! A brilliant idea, listen to Daniil Trifonov.

De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes differ), but for me this is the recording that comes close to the original in transparency and emotional power.

The last week I have been listening to dozens of recordings of the chaconne, never boring. It remains for me one of the pinnacles of human culture.