BepiColombo

A few weeks ago I read this in the news:

BepiColombo Spacecraft Makes Second Gravity Assist of Planet Mercury โ€“ Captures Spectacular Close-Ups

Here is one of those close-ups.

The BepiColombo spacecraft? I am interested in space missions and have written several blogs about space travel and spacecrafts, but I must have missed this one.

So here is a post about BepiColombo. And about Mercury. And about Gravity Assists.

Let me start with Mercury, the smallest of the eight planets in our solar system. And the fastest, orbiting the Sun in 88 days. Its orbit is the most elliptical of all planets, the distance to the Sun varies between 46 and 70 million km. (For comparison, the similar distances for Earth are 147 and 152 million km).

Mercury is not easy to observe from Earth, because the planet orbits so close to the Sun. For a long time, it was thought that Mercury was tidally locked to the Sun, in the same way as the Moon is tidally locked to Earth. It was only in 1965 that radar observations of Mercury showed that it was actually rotating with a period of 59 days. An Italian scientist, Giuseppe Colombo noticed that this value is 2/3 of the orbital period and suggested that Mercury and the Sun are in a so-called 2:3 resonance, with Mercury rotating 3 times during 2 orbital periods. More about tidal locking and resonances in the appendix.

In the nineteen sixties space travel started, in the USA with the Mariner program from 1962 to 1973. Here are a few of the Mariners. The Mariner 2 was the first spacecraft to reach another planet (Venus), It had not yet a camera on board! The Mariner 4 flew by Mars and took 20(!) pictures of the red planet. .

The Mariner 10 mission had a novelty, after its launch it passed very close to the planet Venus. The gravitation of this planet changed the speed and direction of the Mariner in such a way that it continued its course in the direction of Mercury. This is called a gravity assist, often (confusingly) called a gravitational slingshot. See the appendix for more details.

.In the left diagram you see the effect. Three months after launch the Mariner 10 passes Venus at a distance of less than 6000 km. It brings the spacecraft in an elliptical orbit around the Sun with a period of 176 days. On 29 March it passes Mercury at a distance of 700 km. For the first time in history pictures were taken of Mercury’s surface!, A big surprise was that Mercury had a (weak) magnetic field, so it should have a liquid iron core.

The gravity assist was suggested by the same Giuseppe Colombo and was so successful that it is now a standard procedure for spaceflight.

It took almost 30 years before the next mission to Mercury started. In 2004 the MESSENGER spacecraft was launched and its mission was to go into orbit around Mercury and study its structure and magnetic field. Going into orbit around Mercury is not an easy job because of the strong pull of the Sun. Not less than seven gravity assists were needed to slow down the spacecraft enough, one flyby with Earth itself (!), two with Venus and four with Mercury. Here is a diagram of the flight path. Just to show how complicated it is.

The advantage of gravity assists is that you don’t need fuel to change the course, only minor DSM’s (Deep Space Maneuvers). The “disadvantage” is that it takes considerably more time to reach the target. In this case more than six years.

After this lengthy introduction, let’s go back to the BepiColombo mission. Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo died in 1984, this mission must have been named BepiColombo in his honor, as he was the first to identify the 2:3 resonance of Mercury and also the first to suggest a gravity assist for the Mariner 10 to reach Mercury..

BepiColombo is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). BepiColombo was launched in October 2018. The spacecraft contains two orbiters, one MMO) to study the magnetic fields of Mercury, the other one MPO) will study structure and geology of the planet.

In this animation, you can follow the flight path of BepiColombo (pink) from the launch in 2018 until it goes into orbit around Mercury in 2025. The orbits of Earth, Venus and Mercury are in dark blue, light blue and green, respectively. The spacecraft will use a total of nine(!) gravity assists before it goes into orbit.

As it may be difficult to see where and when the flybys occur, I have taken a few screenshots from a very informative video created by ESA: BepiColombo – orbit and timeline .Worth watching. In the screenshots the flyby is indicted with a circle.

The photo of Mercury at the begining of thos post was, taken during the 2nd flyby of Mercury on 23 June 2022.

When BepiColombo goes into orbit around Mercury, it will have travelled more than 10 billion km. Only then it will deploy the two orbiters.

So we will have to wait more than three years before the two orbiters start collecting scientific data.

Appendix: Tidal locking

As probably everybody knows about tides on earth, we will start there. Twice a day the sea will have a high tide and a low tide. Those tides are caused by the gravitational attraction between Earth and Moon. This force depends on the distance between the two bodies. It is a bit stronger on the side of the earth facing the moon, than on the opposite side, resulting in the tides.

The friction caused by these tidal forces, will slow down the rotation of the Earth, increasing the length of a day. Not much, about 2 milliseconds per century. But when Earth and Moon were formed, about 4.5 billion year ago, the length of a day was much shorter only a few hours.

A similar story holds for the Moon, but here the slowing down has been so effective that for billions of years the moon is “tidally locked”, the rotation if the moon (its “spin) is equal to its orbital period around Earth. The technical term is that the Moon is in a 1:1 spin-orbit resonance with Earth. From Earth we always see the same side of the Moon.

Most other moons in our Solar System are also tidally locked to their planet. For example the four Jupiter moons, discovered by Galileo in 1609.

An interesting case is Pluto (no longer a planet) and its moon Charon. Charon is a large moon and Pluto a small “minor planet”.. Both moon and planet are tidally locked to each other! Here is an animation.

The gravitation of the Sun aldo causes tidal forces on the planets. On Earth we are aware of that, but the Sun’s tidal forces are smaller than those of the moon. During full moon and new moon the two tides enhance each other, the high tide is stronger and called a spring tide. During first and last quarter they work against each other, the high tide is weaker and called a neap tide. See the diagram below

Because Mercury is orbiting so close to the Sun, the tidal forces are a lot stronger. Until 1965 it was thought that Mercury was tidally locked to the Sun, rotating in 88 days, same as the period of its orbit => a 1:1 resonance. Now we know that it is a 2:3 resonance, Mercury rotates faster, 1.5 times during one orbit. The reason is that Mercury’s orbit is quite elliptical, so its (orbital) speed is not constant, moving faster when it is close to the Sun. Here is link to a good explanation: Mercury’s 3:2 Spin-Orbit Resonance. .

The length of a day is commonly defined as the time between successive sunrises or sunsets. 24 hours for Earth, slightly more then the rotation period of 23.9344696 h. With 1:1 tidal locking there is no more sunset/sunrise, the concept of a day has no meaning or you could say that the length of a day is infinite ;-). The animation below shows Mercury orbiting the Sun. The red point represents an observer on Mercury. Note that this observer rotates three times during two orbits. Dawn, midday, dusk and midnight are marked. A day on Mercury takes 176 (earth) days, much longer than the rotation period of 59 (earth) days!

Appendix: Gravity Assists

After launch, a spacecraft will move under the influence of gravitation, primarily the attraction of the Sun. Using the precious fuel on board, it can maneuver a bit to reach its destination. When its course brings it close to a planet, the gravity of this planet can change direction and speed of the spacecraft, without using fuel. Depending on how the spacecraft approaches the planet, its speed can increase or decrease. This use of a planet’s gravity is called a gravity assist or a gravitational slingshot.

Here is a somewhat misleading analogy of a gravity assist. “Space balls” are shot at a train with speed of 30 MPH. If the train is at rest, they bounce back with a speed of 30 MPH. But the train is not at rest, it approaches with a speed of 50 MPH. The balls hit the train now with 30 + 50 = 80 MPH and bounce back with the same speed. For the observer along the rails, the balls now have a speed of 80 + 50 = 130 MPH.

This analogy, from Charley Kohlhase, an important NASA engineer, illustrates a few important points. 1).The balls are interacting with a moving object and 2). the mass of the moving object is so large, that its loss of energy can be neglected.

My own favorite example is that of a tennis player, who hits an incoming ball, before it bounces (a volley). When he keeps his racket still, the ball will bounce back with (about) the same speed (block volley). When he moves his racket forward, the speed will be larger (punch volley), when he moves it backwards, the ball will go back slower (drop volley). In this case his own mass is less than the train, so he will feel the impact of the ball.

In space there are no contact forces, everything moves under the influence of gravity, therefore I always found the analogy unsatisfactory. The influence of gravity on the motion of two bodies in space has been described by Kepler using Newton’s gravitation law. We assume that the mass of one body (a planet) is much larger than the mass of the other one (a spacecraft) Here are a few possible orbits. The red one is part of an ellipse, the green one a parabola and the blue one a hyperbola.

On the Internet you can find numerous videos explaining gravity assist. Pick your choice here. Many of them I found confusing and/or too complicated. So I decided to give it a try myself ;-). Here are three images I have created.

The left image shows the course of a spacecraft under the influence of a planet’s gravitation. It is a hyperbolic orbit, where the speed increases until the spacecraft is closest to the planet (called the periapsis), after which its speed will decrease again. The initial speed and the final one are equal, only the direction has changed (the red arrows). If the planet would be at rest relative to an observer (for example Earth), that would be all.

But that is not the case, the planets move around the Sun. In the second image, a planet moves to the right (blue arrow). The gravitation between spacecraft and planet is still the same (the red arrows) but an outside observer will now see the effect of the two speeds: the green arrows. The change of direction of the red arrows now has a clear effect, the final speed is larger than the initial one: here we have a gravity assist to increase the speed of the spacecraft!. This happens when the spacecraft passes “behind” the planet.

In the last image I have reversed the speed of the planet, so now the spacecraft passes “in front of” the planet. With an opposite effect, now the final speed is less than the initial one, The gravity assist in this case reduces the speed of the spacecraft.

Spacecraft exploring the outer planets have to overcome the gravitation of the sun and will need an “extra push” from gravity assists, passing at the rear of planets. BepiColombo is getting closer to the Sun and has to break to be able to go into orbit around Mercury. Therefore it needs gravity assists, passing in front of a planet, reducing its speed.

For me, this explanation of a gravity assist is satisfactory, I am curious about the opinion of others. Comments are welcome ๐Ÿ˜‰

Visiting Penang, 2018

A very belated report!

In April 2018 we met LCK at a friend’s dinner. We had an interesting conversation and a few days later he visited us in our condo in Damansara Perdana. He told about a few of his projects, a colonial hotel up Penang Hill and his private botanical garden Suriana. When we showed interest, he invited us to visit him in Penang, where he is living.

On our way to Penang, we stopped for lunch in Ipoh. Aric is an Assam Laksa lover and maintains a website: Assam Laksa List where he has collected many assam laksa shops. His verdict about Kee Poh: so so.

Around 3 pm we arrived in Penang, where we had booked a room in the YMCA, next door to where LCK is living

A clean hostel-like hotel.

After we met LCK, he took us up Penang Hill, to have dinner in “his” Bellevue Hotel

The next morning we drove around Penang. Another project of Aric is to take drone images and videos of fishing villages. This is Kuala Pulau Betong in the South-West corner of the island.

For lunch we went to another laksa stall, only known as Laksa Stall Under The Tree in the Sungei Ara region. Aric’s verdict: Very good.

After lunch we went to LCK’s house, where transport to Bellevue was waiting for us. The house is an impressive colonial style mansion.

LCK’s driver brought us to the Bellevue Hotel where we checked in. Spectacular location with impressive views of Georgetown and Butterworth. Notice the geodesic dome at the right, more about that later.

We had a very pleasant room. Colonial atmosphere. Writing this blog more than four year later, I am not sure about details, but I think we had no TV in the room. What a blessing.!

The garden is well kept.

We went for a walk. The hotel is surrounded by other heritage. Left the monumental entrance of the Bel Retiro bungalow, founded in 1789 and still exclusive government property. Right the Penang Hill Mosque, much more recent (1966)

Left the attractive police station (1929). Penang Hill has become a major tourist attraction, which is spoiling the character of the place. Transport is basically via the cable car, bringing up crowds of day-trippers. We walked around and had a snack before returning to Bellevue.

Even Bellevue must take care not to succumb to modern developments. Buggy tours, Segway rides? Why? Sedan chair trips would be more appropriate ;-). Just promote the Garden Terrace, the Panoramic View Restaurant and the Nostalgic Charm of the past.

A collection of prehistoric animals might be fun for kids, but also doesn’t fit in the colonial charm of the place.

And lots of charm Bellevue has. Waiting for our dinner, we enjoyed the views, changing all the time.

Dinner was steamboat, well prepared. A few more visitors were also having their dinner.

The next morning around 8 am. Georgetown is still covered with clouds. Pure magic.

Enjoying an (almost) English breakfast. (No bacon because halal)

And slowly Georgetown appears through the cloud cover

Aric did some droning. A staff member is interested and watching closely ;-). View of Bellevue in the right picture.

General view of the hill. Bellevue is bottom right.

Before leaving, we took more photos of the interior. It is clear that LCK is interested in art and music.

He is a friend and admirer of the American architect and philosopher Richard Buckminster Fuller. The garden of Bellevue has a geodesic dome, a structure popularised by Fuller.

Buckminster Fuller passed away in 1983 and a room in the hotel serves as a kind of memorial. If you are interested to know more about “Bucky” and his relation with the Bellevue Hotel , have a look at this website : Buckyworld Confluence @ Bellevue

At 10am LCK’s driver came to bring us back to Georgetown. It is a winding road, no public access.

Our next destination was the Suriana Botanical Garden. LCK is an architect (Komtar , Jurong Town Hall) but also a trained botanist who has collected in this private garden many rare pants. Waiting for him, we walked in the garden around his house and had a look at a new building, still under construction.

The garden is located between Balik Pulau and Air Hitam.

We had a drink and duriasn at a small house in the garden. Very peaceful surroundings.

Also here a geodesic dome. LCK is very knowledgeable about ginger and banana species.

We walked around with LCK as our guide.

Of course I took many picture Here is an Orgy of Red

And Shades of White

Black & White

After an interesting walk in the garden, we drove back home, with flowers and fruits produce of the Suriana garden. A very pleasant trip, thanks a lot to our host..

Taiping, June 2022

In my blog Penang & Taiping, 2022 I reported about a 4D3N trip with friends to Penang and Taiping. I decided to stay a few days more in Taiping, my 2nd home town. I had lunch with my friends in the Old Railway Station and decided to walk back from there to the Furama hotel, where I had dropped my luggage already. An easy walk, about 2km, less than half an hour. The Central Market is under restoration and I wanted to have a look.

As I would pass on my way the house of my friend Ms Long in Barack Road, I called her and asked if I could pay her a visit. I was welcome and we had a nice chat.

In March, during my last visit to Taiping, I also visited the market, Click here for my blog. Left picture shows the main market in March, the right picture was taken this time. I could not see any sign of recent activity.

But progress has been made on the wet market (better known as Siang Malam). Left the situation in March, right this time.

Some details of the restoration.

Of course I also had to have a look at what I have named the Shame of Taiping, the sad remains of the heritage Rest House (1894).

After checking in at Furama I took a rest before going out later to walk in the Lake Gardens and watch the egrets coming back to roost at the bamboo bushes.

After the food orgy in Penang, I was more thirsty than hungry ๐Ÿ˜‰ I bought some chips and had satay in the Taman Tasik food court. A quiet evening.

During my last trip Halim and I had visited a few Indian temples in the Matang region. See my blog for the pictures I took during that trip. I talked about these temples with Muthu Pillai, a member of the Taiping Heritage Society, who knows a lot about Hindu religion. He was willing to accompany me on a trip to several Hindu temples..

Our first visit was to the Vinayagar Temple, dedicated to Ganesha, my favourite Hindu deity, son of Shiva and Parvati. If you are interested to know why he has an elephant head, you should read this: Short story for kids: How Ganesha got his elephant head

Muthu told me that many temples have a place, dedicated to the nine planets, the Navagraha. Nine planets? Actually it is better to call them the nine heavenly bodies. Sun, Moon and the five planets, known in antiquity: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Plus two demons, Rahu and Ketu, related to the moon. All nine play a role in Hindu astrology.

Next we visited the Sivan Temple, dedicated to Shiva. Here some pictures of a few deities.

The left image show Shiva as the cosmic dancer. The right image shows Murugan again, this without his spear, but with his characteristic mode of transport, the peacock.

Muthu helped me to put a pottu on my forhead ;-). While we visiting this temple, we were invited to have vegetarian food. Very friendly atmosphere.

The third temple was the Mariamman Temple on Jalan Kota. Mariamman is an incarnation of Parvati. This temple I had visited already during an earlier visit

Finally we went to the Muniswaran temple at Simpang Halt. When we arrived, the temple was closed already for lunch, but the friendly lady caretaker let us in, through a backdoor of her shop. During my earlier visit with Halim I was captivated by the beauty and serenity of this temple, although the weather was too hot to enjoy everything. The weather was milder now, I walked around and took numerous pictures. It confirmed my earlier impression, that this is one of the most beautiful temples I have seen.

Hanuman

Inside the temple. Right the shrine of Muniswaran

Some of the statues are colorful, as is common Hindu temples.

But I was very impressed with the many “uncolored” statues.

On the Internet I have found colored pictures of this temple, for example in this blog, written by my friend Liz Price in 2014. Are the statues painted for special occasions?

The temple has a romantic, relaxing garden. I was pleasantly surprised to find a Buddha statue in the garden.

A monumental angsana tree on the temple grounds is very old, you can see it on a photo of the Simpang Halt railway station. The temple itself is actually very new.

After our visit we had lunch in the small shop at the entrance of the temple. Really a very rewarding visit.

In the afternoon I visited the Perak Museum. Of course I had been there before, but this time there was a special exhibition about Taiping and its history.

The exhibition was interesting, mostly photos, but not spectacular.

I liked the photo of Captain Speedy, dressed as an Englishman, because mostly you see him in his exotic Ethiopian outfit. The map of Larut should have come with a comment from the museum staff ๐Ÿ˜‰ The map was published in 1883 and shows the Port Weld-Taiping railway, , but this line was not opened until 1885!

A real mistake from the museum staff concerns the landing of Amelia Earhart on 7 June 1937 at Tekah Airport. As I have shown in my blog Amelia Earhart and Taiping, this American aviator flew on 7 June 1937 from Brazil to Africa! And actually she never landed at the Tekah airport.

I walked around in the rest of the museum. Well organised, worth a visit

On my way back to my hotel, I passed the All Saints’ Church, the first church in the Federated Malay States, founded in1886.

A cemetery next to the church has interesting tombstones.

Muthu had suggested to meet again for dinner that evening, after first attending a meeting of the Taiping Toastmasters of which he intends to become a member.. Some of my friends are Toastmasters, with some hesitation I accepted his invitation. It was an interesting experience. Members were asked to give a short, unprepared speech on a given topic. Memories surfaced of my college days as a member of a sorority ;-). Of course I was asked to participate, but i politely declined.

A nice group of friendly people. This photo was taken by Lawren, the outgoing president of the club

After the meeting we adjourned to a nearby restaurant for supper.

The next day I had my usual chee cheong fun breakfast in the stall of my friend Tong.

In the afternoon I was going back by train to KL. My friend Halim often brings me to the station where we have lunch together.. This time he had organised a durian party at his house. Would I mind joining the party, he asked. Of course I accepted his invitation. The durians came from Batu Kurau and were first class. For the first time I tried them together with pulut (glutinous rice) and santen (coconut milk), A delicious combination.

There were lots of other food as well. Nice Malay atmosphere.

As Halim was busy, being the host of the party, one of his friends took me to the station.

A short visit, but full of variety!

Penang & Taiping, 2022

A scuba diving friend of Aric, Tony, has an apartment in Georgetown and invited us and a few friends for a food trip to Penang. He was also interested in Taiping, so it became a 4D3N tirp, two nights in Penang and one night in Taiping.

Tony lives in Kota Kemuning. After meeting him, we first had breakfast at Kheng Chew Kopitiam. From left to right Aric, John, Tony and Rodney. I had my favourite breakfast, half-boiled eggs and toast. with coffee.

With only an intermediate sanitary stop we drove straightaway to a small village, Bagan Samak, not far from Parit Buntar. Here is a Google map of the region, as you see it is a very small village. Surprisingly there are quite a few popular restaurants.

A friend of John had suggested the Sloam Mit Thai restaurant and that was a good choice. We had catfish, lala, prawn crackers, fried pork and paku (ferns)..A good start of our food trip ๐Ÿ˜‰

We continued to Penang, where we decided to have a dessert in the Kek Seng coffee shop. Founded in 1906 the cafรฉ is famous for its durian ice-cream and its ABC. Nice antique furniture

The coffee shop is not far from the Komtar tower. Left picture from the ground, the right one from Tony’s condo, where we arrived around 3 pm and had a well deserved rest.,

Tony’s apartment is spacious and has wonderful views

In preparation for our trip Aric had selected a few interesting food venues. One of them was the Peng Hwa Lok Lok in Pulau Tikus. Lok Lok is a kind of steamboat, where the food is skewered on sticks, which you dip in boiling water. Interesting at this stall is that the skewers are already present on the table and regularly refilled. You keep the sticks which at the end are counted to determine what you pay. The place is very popular, you share a table with others. A very interesting experience.

Back in the condo we enjoyed the night view and had a glass of wine

The next day we went again to the Pulau Tikus market, this time for Apom Manis at the coffees hop of Swee Keng. Another must-try on Aric’s list. You have to come early otherwise they are sold out.

After breakfast we split for a while. I visited a friend, LCK, who is living in a colonial mansion at Macalister Road. We had a nice chat with coffee, durians and interesting miniature bananas from his own garden in Balik Pulau.

The others visited the Penang Botanical Gardens.

When they came to fetch me, LCK invited them for more durians.

For lunch we went to the New World Park, where we only had some light food, because more food was waiting for us in Tony’s condo ๐Ÿ˜‰

Through Facebook, Aric had discovered an Assam Laksa “shop” that did delivery service only and had good reviews. Here you see Tony and Aric preparing the laksa. Aric loves this kind of noodles and has a website, Assam Laska List in which he describes and assesses the various Assam Laksa shops. His verdict: eatable, but not that special

Afternoon view of Gunung Jerai, from the condo.

We had bought (expensive) tickets for the Komtar tower. More precisely for the Komtar Skywalk, added to the tower in 2016. These top floors offer spectacular views of Georgetown. In the left picture I have marked with a x the location of Tony’s condo.

But the views were not what we came for ;-). Both the 65th and 68th floor have glass walkways, where you can look to the ground below, 250 meter down. The walkway on the 65th floor is the most scary, because the glass is transparent and colorless. I have no fear of height, but, to be honest I had to force myself to stand on this glass. Here Aric is lying down.

Of course we took many pictures. Once you are on the glass, you feel safe, but the first step is really scary.

On the 68th floor a curved skywalk has been created. If you look carefully at the Komtar picture at the beginning of this blog, you can see the “horseshoe” sticking out. A limited number of people is allowed to enter at any time. Because the glass floor has a blueish color, it is less scary.

We wanted to see the sunset and Georgetown after dark, so we had to spend quite some time on the roof, taking more pictures ๐Ÿ˜‰

The sunset was not special, but the view of Georgetown with the lights on, was worth the waiting

On our way down, we passed this giant durian. Rodney doesn’t like the King of Fruits ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Komtar tower was nicely illuminated.

We had Crab Char Kuey Teow at the Bee Hooi Cafe for dinner and as a dessert Tong Shui at the Traditional Home of Dessert ,

We walked a bit along the esplanade. I took a photo of the City Hall (1903), just to show that I was not only interested in food ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next morning , before leaving for Taiping, we visited the scenic Hean Boo Thean temple, at the edge of the Yeoh jetty, dedicated to Guan Yin.

We lit candles. I wrote my Chinese nickname ๐Ÿ˜‰

On our way to Taiping we stopped for lunch at the Law Cheang Kee restaurant in Nibong Tebal , another eatery on Aric’s list. Mud crab porridge is one of their specialities. The fresh stock of crab was just brought in when we arrived. We also had fried kembong , a kind of mackerel.

This was our table when we left.

We arrived in Taiping around 3pm and had cendol and pasembor at the Ansari Famous Cendol shop, before checking in at the Flemington Hotel. From the rooms and especially from the roof (with swimming pool) you have a beautiful view of the Lake Gardens

After a short rest we went out again, to visit Port Weld, now renamed Kuala Sepetang. On our way we had a look at one of the charcoal kilns. During my last visit, a few months ago, I was disappointed that it had become very touristy. But this time, almost 6 pm, it was deserted and very scenic.

One of the kilns was working. Controlling the temperature inside to transform the mangrove wood in charcoal, is a complicated process.

Another kiln was being filled with mangrove logs

We walked around in Port Weld and had a nice view from the bridge.

I had invited a few Taiping friends to join us for dinner in Teluk Kertang. There are several popular seafood restaurants in this village (where in 1879 Isabella BIrd landed, see my blog). We had booked at table in the Lemon Tree restaurant. It was a pleasant meeting with nice company and good food.

The next morning we walked in the Lake Gardens. Splendid weather.

Not even all Taipingites know that the Lake Gardens have a few Cannonball trees. After I “discovered” them, many years ago, I always have a look at these magnificent trees..

Here is another view of the gardens, with Maxwell Hill in the background.

After our walk we went back to Flemington to take a shower and check out. My friends were going back to KL, I was going to stay a bit longer. I dropped my luggage at my usual Furama hotel and then followed them to the old Railway station where we had another Assam Laksa.

It was a nice food trip. About my two extra days in Taiping I will write a separate blog.

Kumari Kandam & Lemuria

Recently I came across an article The Lost Continent of Kumari Kandam in which I found this map:

I had never heard about Kumari Kandam and had to check Wikipedia: Kumari Kandam, “a mythical continent, believed to be lost with an ancient Tamil civilization” The Wikipedia article is interesting and worth reading.

Kumari Kandam never existed. The concept of a lost continent with a Tamil civilisation is the result of Tamil Nationalism . As I want to avoid this sensitive topic, I will give in this blog only some background information, starting with Lemuria.

In 1864 the English zoologist Philip Sclater explained the presence of lemur fossils in Madagascar and India, but not in Africa and Arabia by assuming that in the past Madagascar and India were connected by a landmass , which later was submerged by the ocean., He named this lost continent Lemuria.

A couple of years later this idea of a lost continent was picked up by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel, a staunch defender of Darwinian evolution. He suggested that this lost continent could have been the cradle of human evolution. Here is a map drawn by Haeckel.

Here is a detail. Notice the alternate name Paradise for Lemuria!

The “Out of Asia”” theory of human evolution was quite popular in those days.

We know now that Lemuria never existed and have a much more fascinating explanation: continental drift. I will write a separate blog about this topic. Continents (tectonic plates) have not a fixed location ,but move slowly. Here is a video of the continental drift the last 100 million years. India was still connected to Madagascar, but moved north until it collided with Asia (the collision caused the Himalayas). Also notice how at the start of the video Australia is still connected to Antarctica.

The classical Tamil literature (Sangam) mentions the occurrence of flooding, resulting in the loss of land. At the end of the 19th century Tamil scholars and nationalists suggested that Lemuria was the center of Tamil civilisation and named it Kumari Kandam. After its submersion Tamils had to migrate to other parts of the world, bringing there civilisation and language.

The submersion is often explained by the rise in sea levels after the last Ice Age. More than 100 meter. In itself that makes sense, as you can see in the Google image below where I have roughly indicated a contour line 120 m below sea level. Considerable amounts of land were lost to the sea during the past ~ 20.000 years.

But not a continent.

The Netherlands 2022

My last visit to the Netherlands was in 2019. In March 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic started, making (international) travel almost impossible. Only in spring 2022 countries started to reopen their borders and I booked a six-week trip to the Netherlands. In this post I will report about my activities during my stay in the Netherlands. I have been very (too?) busy , here is a chronology of my agenda. To keep this blog readable, I will often refer to separate blogs about specific activities.

31 March

Arrival in a very cold Amsterdam. Detailed report here: Perdana View => Backershagen

3 April

My friend Yolanda is singing in a choir and had invited me to attend a performance of Bach’s St John Passion in de beautiful Dominicus Church. Afterwards, we had a drink with her and friends at a nearby cafรฉ..

5 April

Invited by my friend Nico for a mussel dinner. My friends know that I like to have “Dutch” food when I am back ๐Ÿ˜‰

6 April

Same when I visited my soulmate Inez the next day. What would you like to eat, she asked me. I chose “hutspot met draadjesvlees”.as main dish. A stew of potatoes, carrots and onions with braised beef. Very traditional Dutch.

7 April

The next day my brother Pim came to Backershagen and I was the cook. Herring as starter, meatballs with chicory as main dish, and a fruit salad as dessert

10 April

On Sunday I visited my ex-colleague Rene in Nieuwegein. His wife Caroline prepared asparagus for us, a seasonal delicacy. Ice cream as dessert. Writing this report I realise that I did a lot of eating ;-).

11 April

I visited the Stedelijk Museum. In the evening I went to the St Matthew Passion in the Concertgebouw with friend Lambert. No photos of the concert but about the Stedelijk I wrote a separate report, click here.

12 April

In 2019 we did not organise a family reunion, instead I visited all my siblings: Family Visits. This time I did the same. My first visit was to Arie and Ineke in Alkmaar. Before I met them for dinner, I spent some time in the town of Alkmaar, looking for Art Nouveau architecture. It resulted in this report : Alkmaar 2022 .I arrived at their place around 4pm, we had a drink, a lot of chit chat and a nice dinner.

13 April

Raoul is a former student of mine. In 2010 he married Aunn, from Thailand, and in 2011 Aric and I went to Thailand to celebrate their wedding with Aunn’s family and friends, We keep in contact and this time they invited me for dinner. It was a pleasant meeting. There was a beautiful sunset when I took public transport back to Backershagen.

14 April

The next day another former student came to Backershagen to have lunch with me. Wim is one of my earliest students, we are friends for more than forty years.

16 April

Yolanda is another student from the same batch as Wim. I visited her in Utrecht, where she lives. We had lunch together and visited the Public Library, beautifully housed in the former main Post Office. More photos in the album Yolanda & Utrecht .

17 April

I celebrated my 78th birthday in Alphen with my brother Otto and his family. In the morning Otto picked me up from Backershagen and via flower fields we drove back to Alphen, where we had lunch. In the afternoon we drove around in Alphen. Detailed report: Otto & Alphen ..

19 April

A busy day. In the morning I met my friend Nellie at the Amsterdam Zuid station. The original plan was to visit the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen, but, as we had only a few hours, we decided to go to the Stedelijk Museum again. I had been there on my own, one week earlier, this time I was in a better mood. I added the photos I took to the album Stedelijk 2022.

In the evening I had my usual “special” dinner with Yolanda. A yearly tradition where she selects a new/trendy restaurant. . Because of the pandemic three years had passed since our last dinner meeting! This time we went to the Juwelier, a new restaurant with rave reviews in several newspapers. It was a bit of a disappointment. The food was ok, the service mediocre and the pricing was too high. Read some reviews by others here.

21-22 April

A 3D2N trip to Ruud and Jur in Groningen, a tradition when I am back in the Netherlands. We visited the new Forum and made a trip to a nature reserve in Drenthe. Of course we had nice food as well. Detailed report here: Ruud & Groningen

..24 April

Another busy day ( I call it busy when I have two “events on the same day ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I had lunch with my friends Marjan and Mike. who live now in Huizen in a very nice apartment. First I went by train to the Naarden-Bussum station (1924) an interesting building. From there I oontinued by bus. Mike and Marjan were waiting at the bus stop, we had a nice walk to their apartment.

A nice apartment and a delicious lunch

I could not stay long because that evening I had a concert in the Concertgebouw, a performance of Bach’s Hohe Messe. During my dinner with Yolanda in the Juwelier we found out that we both had bought tickets for the same concert! So of course we had to have a beer after the concert. and talk about it. It was a wonderful performance, of course you are not allowed to record it, but here is a YouTube video of the same ensemble and conductor Philippe Herreweghe) recorded in 2017 in the Concertgebouw: Heavenly music, Bach at his best.

25 April

Dinner with ex-colleague Dick Jurriaans, He suggested restaurant Elements and it was a very good choice. The waiters and cooks are students of a Hotel School and work here as part of their training. We started with oysters, after that smoked eel, duck breast fillet and panna cotta as dessert. Finally coffee with Armagnac. Nice atmosphere, very reasonable prices.

27 April

Koningsdag! The King’s birthday. The biggest celebration in the Netherlands, but not possible the last two years because of Corona. I went to the Vondelpark, here is the report : Koningsdag.

28-29 April

A 3D2N visit to Lous and Arend in Valkkoog. Another tradition when I am back in the Netherlands. Detailed report here.

30 APril

Last year around October my friend Inez messaged me that she had bought two tickets for a concert on 30 April by two countertenors, Andreas Scholl and Maarten Engeltjes. At that time the COVID pandemic was still in full swing, I was locked up in Malaysia. But in the beginning of 2022 the situation improved and I decided to take the risk t and book a ticket for a period which included 30 April. We were both so happy that it worked out well.

We met at the Muziekgebouw and had dinner in the Grand Cafรฉ there before the concert started. If you are interested in what we ate, here is the menu (pdf file) Delicious.

It was a very nice concert, the two countertenors sang duets by the English composer Purcell.

2 May

A day trip with Inez to the windmills of Kinderdijk. We visited our ex-colleague Piet and his wfe Helma in Slikkerveer. In the afternoon we went with them to Rotterdam for an architectural walk. A full, interesting day. Here is the report: Day trip with Inez.

4 May

A lunch at home with ex-colleague Hans, his wife Annabella and Atie, the wife of my good friend Dick, who passed away a few years ago. Perfect guests, not only did they give me presents, they also helped washing the dishes and even cleaning the stove! They will be more than welcome next time I am back in the Netherlands.

The fourth of May is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands. In the past I went to the Dam Square, where a massive crowd kept two minutes silence at 8 pm. But there is a smaller, more intimate ceremony opposite my apartment, which I attended.

5 May

As my visit was coming to an end, I decided not to prepare complicated food at home, I needed to clear and switch off the fridge. Therefore I invited my friend Lambert for a simple meal of soup and bread with herring, cheese and salad.

6 May

The next day I had dinner with my friend Roald in the restaurant Scheepskameel , located on the former Marineterrein. Roald is another former student who became a good friend, we know each other for more than forty years. To say that it was a pleasant evening is an understatement ๐Ÿ˜‰ We chatted a lot about our shared past, had very nice food (and quite a lot to drink). We left the restaurant after 11 pm.

8 May

Discussing with my friend Gerrit how and where to meet, he suggested a walk in the parks not far from my apartment. A splendid idea. The weather was perfect, he had planned an interesting hike of about 10 km. Detailed report here: A Hike with Gerrit

Dinner that evening with my brother Pim.

9 May

And the next evening With Inez

10 May

My last evening in Amsterdam I invited Nico for another dinner in restaurants Elements, where I had eaten two weeks earlier with my ex-colleague Dick,. .Basically the same menu, only pity there were no oysters this time. Instead we had a cheese platter.

11 May

Cleaning the house. Around 6 pm Pim picked me up from my apartment to bring me to Schiphol Airport. Here is a report: Backershagen => Perdana View.

A hike with Gerrit

When I told my friend Gerrit that my agenda was getting full with dinner dates, he suggested that we could go for a daytime walk. That was a splendid idea. He had designed a route that started and ended at my apartment, through parks and greenery, length about ten km. Here is the walk. Markers indicate where one or more photos were taken.

It was beautiful weather. Here is a selection of the photos I took

Spring in full force, flowers everywhere,

Posing for the camera

We had lunch in restaurant De Bosbaan with a state of the art Uitsmijter: bread with ham, cheese and fried egg.

A few more photos on our way back. Left the statue of the Amsterdam Stedemaagd (Amsterdam City Maid), originally located at the entrance of the Vondelpark, now relocated. Right a so-called insect hotel, a man-made construction to provide shelter for insects.

Finally, almost home, a few works of art in the grass. No idea who the artist is..

A very pleasant walk. I had no idea that so much nature could be found on walking distance from my apartment.

Lous & Valkkoog

I was planning to take the 10:09 train to Schagen, where Lous would pick me up from the station. But that train was cancelled, because of a logistics limitation. Did the driver oversleep, haha? Not the first time I had problems with the Dutch Railways. The delay gave me time to buy a coffee and a cookie.

My plan was to invite Lous and Arend for a nice dinner, but she suggested to have an asparagus dinner at home, where I would pay for the ingredients. We went to a countryside shop, where surprisingly I found a self-service section, where you put money in a slot, to open a compartment and take the contents. For Dutch readers: similar to the FEBO fast food automats.

On our way back to their bungalow, we already passed the first tulip fields

The bungalow, where Lous and Arend have been living already for decades is located in Valkkoog, a small village. The bungalow has a beautiful garden

After lunch Lous and I visited the Poldertuin in Anna Paulowna, a kind of miniature Keukenhof. Free access, not many people know about it. I have been there several times and every time is is sensational.

The Poldertuin in all its glory.

An orgy of colours.

The varieties in form and color are amazing

During our visit the tulips were in full bloom, but there were other flowers too, We liked these grape hyacinths

After our visit of the Poldertuin, we drove around a bit in the Kop van Noord-Holland, a region famous for its tulip farms. Personally I I like these geometric patterns even more than the arranged compositions in de Poldertuin and the Keukenhof..

Actually in these flower farms, the flowers are not important. The farmers are interested in the flower bulbs! That is why the tulips are “beheaded” when they are in full bloom, so all energy will go to the bulbs. In these two photos you can see that in some plots the tulips were “kopped” (beheaded). Notice the beheaded tulips in the paths between the plots.

It was time for a drink. We went to beach cafรฉ Nogal Wiedus near Huisduinen. A famous lighthouse is located there, nicknamed the Lange Jaap (tall Jacob) It is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world. The authorities are worried that it might topple over, so access is not allowed.

On our way back home, we passed more tulip fields. By climbing a dune, I could get almost an aerial view. A drone would have been even better.

Arend had prepared a nice dinner with the ingredients we had bought earlier. Strawberries and blueberries as dessert

We had seen enough tulips, so the next morning we visited a small nature reserve, Wildrijk. Originally part of a country estate, established in 1630 by a rich Amsterdam Merchant. The mansion is no more, only the park remains. On our way we passed several stalls where people could buy flowers or bulbs. Unattended, prices are indicated and you just put the required amount in a cash box. People still trust each other in the countryside ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had a relaxed walk in the park, which is well known for its wild hyacinths (a.k.a bluebells)

Blue-violet is the most common color

But you can also find other colors. white and pink

During WWII German soldiers were housed here in underground bunkers. Quite a few remain, but you can not enter them

More photos. I had never heard about this place, a real gem, it was worth our visit.

For our lunch we went to Schagen,, the Peper en Goud cafe, where we met my nephew Jeroen, a nice, unexpected surprise. Jeroen’s son Teun also joined with his girlfriend, so it became a family reunion. I had my favourite lunch,a broodje kroket ๐Ÿ˜‰

On our way back home, not far from Valkkoog, one last tulip field.

A tasty Korean dish , Dak Bokum, for dinner. And a beautiful sunset

The next morning I took the train back to Amsterdam As usual a very nice visit.

Here is a Google Earth map of the region, where I have marked some locations we have visited

Koningsdag

On 27 April the Netherlands celebrate the King’s birthday. It is a national holiday. It started during the reign of Queen Wilhelmina, Queen’s day was on 31 August. During the reign of her daughter, Queen Juliana, Queen’s day became 30 April. The birthday of her daughter, Queen Beatrix is 31 January, considered too cold for a festive celebration, so 30 April was kept as Queen’s day. King Willem Alexander’s birthday is 27 April, so that is now King’s day. Crown princess is born on 7 December, will that be the Queen’s day in future ๐Ÿ˜‰ ?

Queen’s/King’s day is by far the biggest celebration in the Netherlands, but the last two years there have not been festivities because of Corona. This year it was possible again. Amsterdam (population ~ 900.000) expected 1 million visitors. Everywhere “vrijmartkten” (flea markets) .were held where people could sell their stuff. Like in the small park near my apartment.

A large crowd arrived continuously at the Amsterdam Zuid railway station

I went to the Vondelpark. Most people were wearing something orange, the Royal colour.

Also here a vrijmarkt. In the past you could find many children, trying to earn some money by playing violin , flutte, drums etc. . I was a bit disappointed that they were missing this time, no idea why.

There are always a few teenagers who are willing to put their face through the opening of a cardboard figure and let other people pay money to throw eggs at them.

First time I saw a less painful variant, throwing plates with whipped cream.

I walked through the Vondelpark to a street where friends of mine live. They always sell a lot of stuff just in front of their house. Left Han and his sister are standing at their stall, right Wout is selling a camera.

It was nice to meet them, we had coffee together. Other friends also joined. They said my jacket was not orange enough.

I walked back through the Vondelpark. As you see there were many visitors, but it was still manageable. Parts of the town center were so crowded that the police advised people not to come.

Here are two pictures of very orange people.. I must confess that I put on the orange stuff only when I was back home, just for a photo haha.

Ruud & Groningen

First I planned to stay with Ruud and Jur in Groningen for one night only, but later we decided that a 3D2N visit would be more relaxed. Because there was a problem with the trains I arrived in Groningen one hour late, but there was time enough to visit the house of my nephew Jasper and have lunch there. His house is a former bakery shop, nicely renovated. To reacht the upper floor you have to master a very steep stairs ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had a nice lunch and Jasper managed to get all three of us on a selfie

After lunch we walked to the town center, where of course I wanted to visit the new Forum building. It is a cultural center, housing the library, a cinema, part of the Groningen museum, restaurants etc, officially opened in 2019. Spectacular architecture, a fascinating contrast with the Martinitoren (1482) next to it

The interior is equally impressive with a complicated system of escalators leading to the various floors. The right photo shows an interesting work of art.

You have to walk stairs to reach the roof. Many people were enjoying the nice weather. The roof has high glass walls , for obvious security reasons. It makes picture taking a bit difficult ๐Ÿ˜‰

Views in all directions. Left the Provinciehuis, the administrative center of the Groningen province, right the Martini tower and church

The inner city is very compact, almost no space for greenery. The right picture shows how flat Groningen province is.

That evening I invited Ruud and Jur for dinner in the Branderij restaurant . What a difference with the Juwelier in Amsterdam. Quality food, reasonable prices friendly service.

We had a very enjoyable evening, as can be seen in these two photos ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ruud and Jur live in an attractive house , where we had breakfast the next morning, before we went out for a touristic trip.

Destination for the day was the Balloรซrveld, a nature reserve in the province Drenthe, about 25 km south of Groningen town.

One of the attractions of the Balloรซrveld is the herd of sheep, grazing the heath in the park. We visited the schaapskooi (sheepfold) , but the herd and its shepherd were in another part of the park that day.

We had a nice walk in the park. Here is a collection of the photos I took.

After the walk we had coffee and a snack at the restaurant next to the sheepfold.

I was a bit surprised that even in this part of the Netherlands they have tulip farms.

The province of Drenthe is famous for its hunebedden (dolmens). This one is located near Rolde. Look carefully and you will see a second one in the background

After this nice trip, a beer was a suitable reward, followed by dinner, prepared by Jur.

The next morning I took the train back to Amsterdam