My 80th birthday

Usually I celebrate my birthday privately, at home with a birthday cake or in a restaurant with a nice dinner. The exception was my 60th birthday, which I celebrated with a small group of friends at Maxwell Hill, here is the report: My 60th Birthday 17-4-2004 . In Chinese astrology there are 12 zodiac signs and 5 elements, after 5×12 year your life cycle is full and a new one starts. That’s why that birthday is an important one for Chinese. By the way, I am a Wood Monkey.

Of course, reaching eighty and becoming an octogenarian is considered a milestone by many. But statistically it is the last milestone I will pass and that gives me mixed feelings.

Therefore I wasn’t planning to have a special celebration this year. Aric and I had booked an overnight stay in Colmar Tropicale on 16 April. But Aric’s relatives consider me part of the family and insisted that I should at least have a birthday dinner with them.

We had this dinner in Sg Besar, not far fromParit Baru, Aric’s hometown. One week earlier, on 10 April. Interesting cultural difference, in many Western countries it is considered bad luck to celebrate a birthday BEFORE the actual date, but ih Chinese culture it is taboo to celebrate it AFTER the actual date ! So we followed the Chinese tradition 😉 .

Aric and I arrived early in Parit Baru and had enough time to relax and walk around a bit.

The family had booked a private room in a seafood restaurant in Sg Besar. Two tables, 18 pax.

Left the senior table, of course I was by far the oldest. Right the table with Aric’s nephews and nieces.

Aric had gone to the restaurant in the afternoon to discuss the menu. As he knows my food , preferences, it was a very delicious dinner, here are the dishes.

From left to right, top row: Seafood Noodles,Steamed Chicken (a restaurant speciality), Prawn Curry. Middle row: Deep Fried Cuttlefish, Steamed Pomfret. Vegetables with special Sauce. Bottom row: Tofu Soup with crabmeat, Fresh Clam Soup, Steamed Yam with Pumpkin and Ginkgo .

After the dinner there was the traditional birthday cake. Not just an odrinary cake, but a durian cake for Uncle Jan ;-). A real beauty.

Blowing out the candles (while doing a wish) and cutting the cake.

The traditional group photo.

One week later, on the eve of my birthday, we drove to Colmar Tropicale. When we checked in at the reception, they told us that we got an upgrade to a suite. Almost an apartment, with a separate livingroom.

We had a nice view of the surrounding forest and even got company from a family of Dusky Leaf Monkeys.

Colmar Tropicale is a kind of extravagant “folly”, based on the French town of Colmar in the Alsace. It is basically a hotel, where the rooms are located in the various French houses. There are a few restaurants but there is not much else to do. We walked around and took pictures.

We had dinner in one of the restaurants and walked a bit more. Romantic atmosphere.

This photo was taken 5 minutes after midnight. I am an octogenarian now

Breakfast was included in the room rate. They had made an attempt to make it Western/French, even with a variety of cheese. But hahal, no pork or bacon.

After breakfast we enjoyed the cool fresh atmosphere. It had rained during the night and was still foggy, very scenic.

Before driving back to KL, we visited the Japanese Garden. A popular tourist attaction, with many flowers, even an (artificial) waterfall. Visitors can rent Japanese clothes.

Our plan was to have lunch in the Wonderland Valley restaurant, but they had their weekly closing day. So instead we went home and in the evening had a sumptuous Korean BBQ dinner.

I had told my friends that I was not going to have a gathering for my birthday. However, a few of my waterfall friends called me that they wanted to drop by for a short while and give me a present. How could I refuse that 😉 ? Here is the present they gave, a waterfall puzzle. For me a symbolic gift, as I had decided some time ago that I would no longer take part in “real” waterfall exploration.

I may write another blog post later about getting old.

Journal Dutch trip 2024 (last part)

This is the last part of my journal about my Dutch trip 2024. Here are part1, part 2 and part 3. The last week of my stay was more relaxed than the hectic first month.

Wednesday 29 May

A (rainy) rest day. In one week time I will fly back to Malaysia. Enjoying another raw herring for lunch.

Thursday 30 May

In the morning I took my bicycle to visit the Amstel park. It has a famous rhododendron valley and I was hoping to see it in full bloom. But I was too late, only a few bushes were still in bloom. The weather was nice and the park is beautiful.

In the afternoon I visited my friend Lambert again in the care home. I had bought some cake to cheer him up.

Friday 31 May

My friend Yolanda celebrated her 75th birthday and organised a party. Here she is, radiant as ever, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

It was a pleasant meeting, followed by a nice Japanese style dinner. In the left photo I am making a toast with Angela, one of Yolanda’s oldest friends.

Saturday 1 June

In part 2 of my journal I wrote that my waterfall gang had presented me with a jigsaw puzzle for my 80th birthday. And that the puzzle was a VERY difficult one, without much structure. Actually it was TOO difficult for me, I hardly made any progress. I asked my siblings if any of them was interested and my brother Ruud wanted to give it a try. As I had sorted the puzzle pieces according to color, I put them back in separate plastic bags. I wish him good luck.

Sunday 2 June

A visit to Alphen aan den Rijn, my hometown. My youngest brother is living now in the ancestral home with his family. I arrived by train, he was waiting for me. In the right picture I am standing in the garden. The top window was in my room, when I was a teenager. The family has been living in this house for 75 years!

The front garden is often admired by passers-by. In the backyard I had a chat with Nina, my sister-in -law.

As usual we visited my parents’ grave and planted some new shrubs.

When we were kids, my mother got help from a young girl, Janny, who soon became a friend of the family. When my brother told me that she was still alive, now 88 year old, I said that I would love to meet her. It was a remarkable meeting, she told us many details about her and our past. She started helping my mother in 1949, when she was only 13 year old. A few years later she went to the Martha Stichting in Alphen , a home for uncared for children. I always thought she was there as a pupil, but she explained that she worked there as a group leader. A very nice meeting.

After bringing her back home, Otto brought me to the Martha Stichting, now no longer a home, but a beautiful park. The right photo show the main building, now an Arts Center, called Park Villa.

A beautiful park surrounds the buildings. When I was a kid, it was out of bounds and the Martha Stichting had a rather negative reputation.

I used my visit to Alphen to cast my vote for the European elections, held in the Netherlands on 6 June. As I don’t have my domicile anymore in the Netherlands, I am a postal voter, so I needed stamps to send my vote. Otto provided the stamps 😉

Before I left Alphen, I had dinner with Otto and my two nephews, prepared by Nina, wo had to work that evening. Xander and Aswin are identical twins, when they were kids I could not tell them apart, but they have developed differently and now I can 😉

Monday 3 June

n the morning Annelies, a former colleague, came to visit me in Backershagen. We had coffee and cake and had a lot to talk about, because we hadn’t seen each other in years.

The last few days before my departure, I always am busy preparing the apartment, washing bedsheets, vacuuming the floor etc. I have to empty and clean the fridge, so I try to get myself invited for dinner 😉 Usually Inez does that the last night, but she was not free that day. Instead I visited her one day earlier, she had prepared a nice Dutch meal, melon with smoked ham as a starter, meatballs and spinach as main.

Tuesday 4 June

The last evening for departure I visited my friends Johan and Edmund in Vinkeveen. We had a drink in their nice garden and enjoyed Surinam food, prepared by Edmund.

A view from their garden and Edmund’s meal, BBR (brown beans and rice), a popular Surinam dish.

Wednesday 5 June

My brother Pim picked me up at 6pm, we were early at Schiphol airport, time enough after check in to enjoy a coffee and a snack.

Schiphol can be overcrowded with long queues for the security check, but this time it was a breeze. The flight was full, but I managed to sleep a few hours.

Back in Malaysia now and trying to overcome my jet lag

Journal Dutch trip 2024 (part 3)

This is part 3 of my Dutch trip report after part 1 and part 2. Mostly meetings with friends, a busy program.

Thursday 16 May

I met Mike and Marjan in Malaysia through the Dutch Expat Society, almost 20 years ago. We became friends and after they returned to the Netherlands we kept in touch. This time I visited them in Huizen, where they liveow and where Marjan had prepared a nice pasta dinner.

Friday 17 May

I had planned a visit to my former principal Carel Poeder and his wife Joanne, but I felt exhausted after meeting family and friends almost every day, so I needed a rest day. Pity.

Saturday 18 May

A meeting with my nephew Aswin. We had a beer in the Blue Tea House in the Vondelpark. It was beautiful weather,

And we enjoyed a beer from the local Amsterdam brewery ‘t IJ (try to pronounce it when you are not Dutch).

Sunday 19 May

I went by train to Gouda where Nellisa and Ed were waiting for me at the station. We share an interest in naturism. In Malaysia it is frowned upon, but in Europe it gets more and more common. Ed and Nellisa have a house in Gouda, but in the summer season they stay on the naturist campsite De Bessenhof in Reeuwijk. A very pleasant visit. More pictures on request haha.

Monday 20 May

Lunch with Roald, once my student, now a friend, we know each other more than forty years. We met at a very interesting restaurant, A Beautiful Mess , run by people with a refugee background. Delicious food from various cuisines. I also met Stefan, Roald’s husband.

Tuesday 21 May

Meeting ex-colleague Rene and his wife Caroline in Nieuwegein. Has become a tradition, either my place or theirs. Always a pleasure.

Wednesday 22 May

Dinner with another ex-colleague, Dick, in restaurant Elements, another tradition. It is a training restaurant of a vocational school. Students have to show their skills, both in the kitchen and in the restaurant. Very good service, creative dishes and not expensive.

I had Tataki (Japanese) , Coquille (French) , Sea Bass (?) and Kheer (Indian). All delicious , and including wine only 42 Euro pp.

Another beautiful day. Sunset at 9:37 pm as seen from my apartment. In a few weeks time it will be the Summer Solstice.

Thursday 23 May

During my stay in the Netherlands, my soulmate Inez and I always try to organise an outing. This time we went to Den Bosch on a day trip. I took so many pictures that I decided to write a separate blog about the day: Dat gaat naar Den Bosch toe. Highlight of the trip was a canal cruise on the Binnendieze.

We came back in Amsterdam quite early and I was so excited about A Beautiful Mess, that I invited Inez for dinner there. She was enthusiastic too.

Friday 24 May

Our UK friend Rodney arrived by plane in the afternoon, I had to prepare my room as a guestroom for him. In the evening we went out for some shopping. He liked the green environment of my apartment.

Saturday 25 May

A full walking day in town. As I have only one bike, we had to walk to the nearest public transport, about 10-15 minutes away. I live in a suburb of Amsterdam, with lots of green.

We started at the Leidseplein, from where we walked to the town center. Rodney had visited Amsterdam about forty years ago, so everything was more or less new to him. The FEBO is an iconic automat fast-food restaurant, an Amsterdam icon. We also had a look at the flower market.

We visited the Begijnhof, a courtyard with almshouses, dating back to the 14th century.

|And of course the Royal Palace and the National Monument on the Dam Square.

Walking to the Pancake Bakery for lunch, we had a look at the Westerkerk and passed the Anne Frank House.

The Leliegracht, one of the lesser canals, very picturesque

In the Pancake Bakery we had the traditional Dutch bacon pancake with syrup.

We finished the day with a quiet dinner at home. We walked more than 12.000 steps, not bad for two octogenarians.

Sunday 26 May

Rodney had shown interest in the Van Gogh museum, so I had booked tickets for it. We had a time slot, but still there was a big crowd.

Here are a few pictures of Van Gogh’s paintings. The Potato Eaters (1885) and Tree Roots (1890), the year he ended his life.

One of his famous sunflower paintings and one of his Irises paintings

It was the first time in decades that I visited the Van Gogh museum. Not being a fan, I found it more interesting than I expected. But what made my visit special, was the temporary exhibition of Matthew Wong, a Chinese-Canadian artist , who was inspired by van Gogh.

Here are two of his fascinating paintings. More about him in my museum blog (hopefully to be published soon).

Monday 27 May

After two busy days, we took it easy, as Rodney was flying back in the afternoon. I found that there was another FEBO in the shopping mall near my apartment. We had a light lunch there. Rodney is holding in his hand the famous Dutch kroket.

Tuesday 28 May

Then it was time for me to transform the guestroom back into my office. My first rest day after a long time.

Dat gaat naar Den Bosch toe

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a tradition to have an outing with my “soul mate” Inez. This time our destination was ‘s Hertogenbosc, the capital city of the North Brabant province. The name of the town is usually shortened to Den Bosch. Dat gaat naar den Bosch toe (That goes to Den Bosch) is the title of a Dutch folk song. Click here to listen.

It is less than one hour by train from Amsterdam. We arrived around 11 am and first went for coffee with a Bossche Bol.

We were lucky that we could get tickets for the Binnendieze cruise, because it is a popular tourist attraction and tickets for that day were almost sold out.. The Binnendieze is a river/canal system within the city walls of Den Bosch, very different from the Amsterdam canals, because a large part is vaulted.

The boats are electric “whisper” boats and as most of the canals are at the back of houses, you don’t hear the din of the city life. Amazing. Our experienced guide told many interesting details about the history of these waterways.

Here are a few more photos. The canals are so narrow that you have to keep your hands inboard and sometimes duck your head. Does the last photo remind you of Gaudi? The architect who restored this vault, was clearly inspired by him 😉

The cruise took about one hour and was the highlight of our outing. But Den Bosch has much more to offer. We walked to the market with the statue of Hieronymus Bosch, who lived here

And we visited the St. John’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with a complicated building history (1220–1530).

Many artworks inside

Visiting a church I always like to light a candle (and make a wish). The organ of the cathedral is one of the most important ones in the Netherlands.

The Noordbrabants Museum was next on our to-do list, but Inez suggested that we should visit first the Slager museum, dedicated to the many painters in the Slager family. I had never heard of them, apparently they were well known in Den Bosch.

Left an interesting painting by Piet Slager sr, depicting the veterans of the Battle of Waterloo. Right the world-famous painting of the Marskramer (the Wayfarer) by Hieronymus Bosch. But wait a minute, something must be wrong, that painting is in the Boymans museum in Rotterdam!

Actually the paining is a reconstruction of the original. The museum shows reconstructions of many masterworks in a temporary exhibition Het Geheim van de Meester (The Secret of the Master). Click here for an explanation (in Dutch).

After our lunch we visited the Noordbrabants museum for a short while, as we had to board the train to Amsterdam before 4 pm (our tickets not being valid during rush hours). The museum has a good collection of paintings by Jan Sluyters.

Back in Amsterdam we had dinner in restaurant A Beautiful Mess.

A short outing this time, but very enjoyable.

Journal Dutch trip 2024 (part 2)

Click here for a report about the first part of my trip. The last journal entry was about Remembrance Day on Saturday 4 May.

Sunday 5 May

Using bicycle, tram and bus I went to Ouderkerk, where I met Henk and Marian. Henk is a former colleague from the university. We had lunch and I admired their beautiful “wild” garden.

On the fifth of May 1945, Germany capitulated in the Netherlands and each year this is celebrated as Liberation Day. In the same location as on Remembrance Day, one day earlier, a Big Band played a medley of old songs for a (mainly) senior audience. Nice weather.

Monday 6 May.

A rest day. My waterfall “gang” had given me a jigsaw puzzle as a present for my 80th birthday., With a waterfall of course ;-). They didn’t know that in my family we like to do jigsaw puzzles, so I brought it with me to Amsterdam, planning to “solve” it first myself and then share it with my siblings. Soon I discovered that this is a VERY difficult puzzle, without much structure. I may not be able to finish it before I fly back to Malaysia.

Tuesday 7 May

In the afternoon I visited again my friend Lambert, who is at the moment staying in a care home. It was a beautiful day and after having a cup of tea with him, I decided to visit the museum Het Schip, a 20 minute walk away.

I had to cross the Westerpark. In the past there was a gas factory here, heavily polluted, after a lot of cleaning it is now an attractive park. Left the monumental villa of the chief engineer. No tulips anymore, it is now the rhododendron season

Het Schip (The Ship) is a masterpiece of the Amsterdam School architecture. designed in 1919 as a housing complex for the working classes. I had visited the museum several times, click here for a visit in 2017.

This iconic image you will find in any article about the Amsterdam School. Right a detail.

This time I joined a guided tour, where you visit parts of the complex that are not open to the public. We first visited the former post office.

The living conditions for the poor were atrocious in those days and a basement slum has been reconstructed. Up to seven people lived here in one room. The other picture shows the living room of an apartment in the housing complex.

I am planning to write a separate blog about the museums I visited during this trip, with more details and photos.

Wednesday 8 May

A lunch with friends from my school past. It has become a yearly tradition. This time Atie, the wife of my former vice-principal had invited us and prepared a nice lunch. Of course we had enough to chat about. Another occasion where I was the youngest in the company 😉

Thursday 9 May

The start of my “expedition”. With my siblings we had planned on 11 May a reunion in Franeker, where Nanda is living, the partner of my brother Pim. I decided to combine it with visits to my sister Lous in North-Holland and my brother Ruud in Groningen.

I took a train to Schagen where my sister was already waiting for me. We had a relaxing afternoon in their bungalow. They have a big garden and use a “robot mower” to keep the grass trimmed short. Interesting variation on the robot vacuum cleaner that we use in Malaysia.

For dinner Lous and Arend took me to Warmenhuizen, a small village near Schagen. What a surprise to find there the Globe Streetfood Restaurant , where food from all over the world is served in a friendly atmosphere.

Here are a few of the dishes we ordered. From left to right Crunchy tacos salmon, Duck Gyoza and Flammkuchen. Here is the menu. Worth coming back.

Back home I took a picture of the sunset. A few weeks earlier Lous had taken a photo of the same view (compare the trees). Spectacular, could win a prize in a photo contest.

Friday 10 May

We visited the Huis van Hilde (Hilde’s House), the archeology museum of the province of North-Holland. Again only a few pictures in this journal, more in a separate museum blog.

The museum exhibits many objects, found during excavations. Also skeletons. Some of these skeletons have been used to “recreate” the people and dress then in the clothes that were in use during their lifetime. Fascinating, here are a few pictures.

And three more. From left to right Cees (Stone Age), HIlde (4th century) and Jan (still alive). A very interesting museum.

We had lunch in Hargen aan Zee in a beach restaurant, Here is the North Sea and the beach.

Saturday 11 May

The next morning we drove over the Afsluitdijk to Franeker, where we met the rest of my family. Pity that Lous and Nina could not join. We had coffee and sandwiches in Nanda’s garden, beautiful weather.

Franeker is a small town with a rich historical past, It had the second-oldest university of the Netherlands, after Leiden. It is famous for its Planetarium, the oldest working orrery in the world and since 2023 a UNESCO World Heritage site. Now so popular that you have to book a timeslot for your visit. Pim and Nanda had done that for us. It’s only a short walk from Nanda’s house. Here we are waiting at the Planetarium for our turn.

The planetarium (orrery) was built from 1774 to 1781 by Eise Eisinga, a rich wool merchant and amateur astronomer. The planets move in real time, so you can not see them move.

The orrery is located at the ceiling of the living room. One floor up is the complicated mechanism to keep everything moving. I had visited it decades ago and forgotten the details. Impressive.

There was time enough to visit the Martena Museum. Built in 1506 as a city castle in Franeker. Now a museum about the history of Franeker.

The Martinikerk was built in the 14th century. Although I am not a believer, I always burn a candle and do a wish 😉 .

Before walking to a restaurant, we had a drink.

We had our dinner in de Stadsherberg. I had apergetartaar as starter and kalfssukade as main. Click here for the menu (in Dutch).

After this nice reunion dinner, I joined Ruud and Jur to Groningen.

Sunday 12 May

We decided to have a lazy Sunday and enjoy the nice weather in the garden. A big garden needs maintenance, here Jur is watering the plants.

We went out for dinner to restaurant Garnwerd aan Zee. Actually it is not located “on sea”, but far inland.

Another nice meal, although we had to wait very long for our main dish. However they apologised and offered us a drink “on the house”. I had blinis with smoked salmon as starter and a lamb skewer on tzatziki as main. It looks like global cuisine is getting popular in the Netherlands 😉 .

On our way back to Groningen. Can it be more Dutch?

Monday 13 May

On my way back to Amsterdam I decided to have a short stopover in Leeuwarden to meet my friend Nellie. We met as freshmen at the university in 1961, became friends and try to meet each other when I am back in the Netherlands. Behind me the Court of Justice and behind Nellie the Fries museum.

We had coffee and lunch, I had the traditional uitsmijter, two eggs with ham and cheese on bread.

That was the end of my expedition. Nice but a bit tiring for a senior 😉 .

Tuesday 14 May

Lunch with two friends who I had met on Kingsday (see 27 April) . Tulip time was over, I bought roses.

A selfie with Wout and Han.

Wednesday 15 May

Coffee with my former colleague Hans (see 8 May) and dinner with Nico, Paul’s brother in the Entrepot restaurant in Amsterdam. Popular, good reviews, a bit too expensive.

From left to right Raw Sea Bass (nice), Gnocchi (a bit too cheesy) and Lamb (delicious). With wine etc 90 Euro pp.

To be continued

Journal Dutch trip 2024 (part 1)

This time I will report about my trip to the Netherlands in the form of a Journal. Here is part 1. I booked a KLM trip this time, because they have now a direct flight from KLIA to Schiphol. I will stay almost 7 weeks, hoping Aric could join me for 1-2 weeks, but he couldn’t take leave from his laundry business.

Monday 22 April

We decided to go to KLIA early, and have “dinner” there after check-in. There were still nice Hari Raya decorations at the airport.

After taking leave from Aric, he watched me passing passport control.

As I expected, it was a full flight (starting from Jakarta)

Departure was at about midnight, supper was served. Not bad.

Here is the flight route we took, a bit longer than usual because of adverse weather conditions. I can never sleep well in a plane, but I was still reasonably fit on arrival. The pilot announced that ground temperature was 0 degrees! I decided not to take a taxi, but the train to the Amsterdam Zuid station. Here I am in the train.

Tuesday 23 April

It’s a 20 minutes walk from the station to my apartment. Cold, but a beautiful blue sky.

View from my apartment. Of course I had to switch on the central heating 😉 .

After a few hours sleep I went to the nearby AH supermarket to buy food. Herring, Dutch cheese, strawberries. buttermilk. And flowers. I bought two bunches of tulips, later my friend Yolanda came to say hello and brought another bunch. Tulip country!

Wednesday 24 April

Still very cold. My apartment is on the 13th floor, with a good view of the surroundings.

A recovery day, although I had no jetlag problem. But I had a problem with my local network. Aric helped me (from Malaysia!) to solve it. Shopping again. for dinner, traditional Dutch fare. Wine and whisky are much cheaper than in Malaysia.

Thursday 25 April

Start of my “social” agenda. I try to avoid two “dates” on the same day, but that is not always possible. My soul mate Inez came to my apartment for lunch and I went to my brother Pim for dinner. He had prepared asparagus with smoked salmon. Strawberries with cream as dessert. Delicious.

Friday 26 April

Another double date. My former student Wim visited me in Backershagen for lunch. Later I had dinner with Yolanda, It has become a tradition that we have a “luxury” dinner during my Dutch trips. She selects a restaurant, this time it was De Plantage next to Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. A popular venue, you have to book a time slot! Very relaxed atmosphere.

An unusual starter, octopus. Delicious. Main course was “diamanthaas” (Google translates it as chuck tender)And the dessert was “Heavenly Mud” With aperitive, wine and coffee we paid 135 Euro. Really a place to visit again.

As we had a lot to talk about, our time slot expired, but no problem, we had our dessert and coffee in the adjoining cafe.

Saturday 27 April

King’s Day, when the birthday of the King is celebrated is the most popular holiday in the Netherlands. . An estimated 1 million (!) people visit Amsterdam that day, making the city center too overcrowded for me. But I always like to visit the Vondelpark, where kids sell their toys and collect some coins by playing music. Also crowded but still acceptable.

Many people are wearing orange, or the colors of the Dutch flag. I have some decorations at home, but I am too shy to wear them in public. Actually I am against the monarchy, although I like the festivities.

Kids playing music.

Friends of mine are living next to the park and always sell objects they don’t need anymore in their household. I had coffee there, before I walked back through the park to the place where I had parked my bicycle.

There was some rain in the morning, but in the afternoon it became pleasant weather.

Everything is well organised by the town council. Extra large rubbish bins are placed everywhere, and there is medical post. just in case.

One last impression. I was lucky to find back my bicycle (the left one with the red cable lock).

Sunday 28 April

A well-deserved rest day

Monday 29 April

Visiting Lambert, an old friend. Slowly the weather is getting better. Tulips everywhere and a real sunset.

Tuesday 30 April

By train to Utrecht where I met another Yolanda, a former student, for lunch. Utrecht is one of my favourite towns, with its terraces along the canals. Suddenly this day it was almost summer, we had lunch outside.

For lunch we had a very typical Dutch speciality, kroketten (croquettes) on bread.

We walked back to the station, enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Wednesday 1 May

Labour Day! The Netherlands must be one of the few countries where it is not a holiday. I had invited former student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn for dinner at my apartment.

Time for a selfie, taken by Raoul.

I had prepared my “famous” meatballs. Unfortunately we had so many things to chat, that I forgot to check the roast potatoes. Rather overburnt 🙁

Thursday 2 May

Another rest day

Friday 3 May

Inez had booked two tickets for the Frans Hals exhibition in the Rijksmuseum and asked me if I would like to join her. When we arrived at the museum we were shocked by the crowd and then realised that it was school holidays. There was such a long queue for the cloakroom, that I decided to skip it. I had to carry my backpack on the front 😉

Even with time slots it was still crowed in the exhibition rooms. Not easy to take pictures.

Sometimes I had to wait quite some time until no people were blocking my view.

I liked the portraits. Here are a few. Many show people enjoying a drink.

Frans Hals was famous for his schutterstukken (group portraits of civilian militias). Here is a beautiful one.

I will probably visit more museums during this trip and may write a separate blog about them. After our visit we had lunch with a traditional “broodje halfom”, a sandwich topped with slices of liver and pickled meat.

Saturday 4 May

The 4th of May is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands. At 8 pm there are two minutes of silence all over the country. When I was a student, I always went to the Dam Square where the Queen laid a wreath at the national monument. Nowadays I prefer the smaller, more intimate ceremony near my apartment. A pity that it had started raining. There were a few speeches.

Then the Last Post is played, while everyone is standing.

After the Last Post the street lights turn on, to signal the two minutes of silence. Then the National Anthem is sung. Wreaths are placed at the small monument. I am not a nationalist, but I always find this ceremony moving.

To be continued

The Gang of Four at Jugra

After a twenty-month hiatus, the Gang of Four organized another outing. Here are the earlier trip reports: The Gang of Four at Kampar and The Gang of Four in Janda Baik. This time we decided to visit the Istana Bandar in Jugra.

After the Klang (1867-1874) war, Jugra became the capital of Selangor. Not for very long, the state capital moved to Klang , then to Kuala Lumpur and finally to Shah Alam . The royal capital moved to Klang until now.

Jugra went into decline, overshadowed by nearby Banting. But there still are many historical remains. Left a GE screenshot of the region, right a detail.

On our way to the Istana we passed the Royal Alaeddin Mosque . Unfortunately we could not walk in because Khong and I were not properly dressed (wearing shorts). Pity because it is a real beauty. Wikipedia is wrong in dating the construction of the mosque as 1903-1905, it was much later, 1925-1926, here is a convincing report. After a recent restoration it has been repainted in white, it was yellow before. A major improvement.

The date error may be caused by confusion with the Istana Bandar, situated only a few hundred meters away. That palace was completed in 1905. Both were built by Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah, the fifth sultan of Selangor (1898-1938) Although the Royal Town was Klang, the Sultan often resided in the Istana Bandar. After his death the palace was abandoned, it was given a number of other uses.

When I visited the palace with my friends Pat and Roger in 2013, it had recently undergone restoration and was closed, although we managed to get in. Click here for a report. Now it was open to the public, but completely empty inside.

Ther architecture is interesting. We took many pictures.

The interior is empty. It would be a good location for a museum about the history of Selangor.

The only “decoration I found inside.

Opposite of the entrance there is a huge balcony.

Everywhere you see nice ornaments. The Visit Selangor website writes that the design is largely Islamic,  mainly of Indian and Middle-Eastern origin.

There are also nice gardens.

A worthwhile visit. There were no other visitors, many Malaysians don’t know this place. When we left a few men arrived to take photos.

There is a lot more to see in Jugra, but we got hungry. We had a look at a nearby fishing village, Kelanang. Always picturesque.

We had lunch in the Kang Guan Seafood Restaurant, with a nice view of the Langat river.. As usual Khong selected the dishes.

Here is our lunch. Five dishes, fried sotong, mantis prawns, tofu, chicken, meehoon. Total price : RM 110. That’s what the Gang of Four calls VFM (Value For Money) 😉

Nearby is a business district, which explains why there were so many formally dressed customers.

It was a nice trip and we agreed that we should not wait a long time before having another outing.

Taiping, April 2024

Before I will visit my hometown Amsterdam in May, I wanted to visit my (second) hometown Taiping. I booked hotel Furama for three nights and arrived on 1 April by ETS, where Lay Chun and Kar Seng were already waiting for me at the station. This time we had lunch in CRC, the Chinese Recreation Club. I had stir-fried pork with ginger, very nice.

A few weeks earlier, Lay Chun had noticed, passing the ruined Town Rest House, that something was going to happen, a “ground-breaking” ceremony, but for what? (left photo). If you have been following my blog, you know about my interest in, and fascination with the two ruined buildings along Station Road, see for example my report Taiping Bandar Warisan, written in 2019. So of course I was intrigued. On 9 March my friend Liew Suet Fun attended the ceremony and reported about it in the Friends of Taiping Heritage Society FB group. It’s a private group, just become a member if you are interested in Taiping Heritage.

The ambitious plan is to restore/rebuild the two ruins and transform them in a 4-star boutique hotel! Many VIP’s were present. See the right photo.

After our lunch we drove past the two buildings. The fencing of the Rest House, temporarily removed for the ceremony, had been put back. Note the remains of the right wing, destroyed by fire last year.

We also had a look at the other ruin, originally the Perak Railway Headquarters. Here I am standing next to the signboard with all the VIP’s. The plan is to keep the facade and add two floors. The “Taiping Boutique Hotel” is expected to be completed in two years.

Actually the building has already occupants. The fencing looks solid, but it has a “secret” entrance, Here it is, a small makeshift door to enter the building. The bike has been parked nicely next to the entrance.

Left the “room” , I thought it wise not to explore further 😉 . Through a small gap in the fence I could take a picture of another “room”. I wonder if the authorities are aware of this use by homeless people.

Here is my “own” room in the Furama Hotel.

I walked to the Lake Gardens, only a few hundred meters away from Furama.

My friends Grahame and Safina had invited me for dinner. Because she is Muslima, I expected a “buka puasa” dinner. But Grahame was the cook and he had prepared a very traditional English dinner with roast lamb , roast potatoes and veggies!

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend Foo. We often have Chee Cheong Fan at Tong’s stall in the Circus Ground, but it is now managed by his son and they have two weekly closing days on Monday and Tuesday. So we went to the Wan Li Xiang coffee shop, next to the Mall. Also quite good CCF.

After breakfast we had a look at the “rebuilding” of the iconic Taiping wet market. Here is the oldest part (1884), the fish, fruits and pork market. Making good progress, the “grapevine” rumours that it should be finished in autumn this year. I am missing the cast-iron metal structure parts, I hope they will be reused. The Taiping people are still a bit worried, read this July 2023 article in FMT: Mystery of the vanishing (Malaysia’s oldest) market.

The other part of the market (chicken, beef and mutton) is still barren, although the piles of wood suggest that work will start soon.

Foo also showed me the house where he was born, and told me interesting details about his life as a kid, enjoying the long stairs, leading to the first floor. It is now an electronic shop, I asked the lady if I could take a picture of the stairs. She must have been surprised, but did not object.

Detail of the first floor facade. Nice architecture, well kept.

Walking back to my hotel, I enjoyed Taiping as usual. I passed the Tsen Loong Association, it was open, I had a look inside.

A nice bungalow near to my hotel, built in 1915. Many street names have been changed in 1955, for example Birch Road is now Jalan Maharaja Lela. First time I noticed that a road near my hotel was originally named Jalan Speedy. Now it is named after Ngah Ibrahim. who asked Speedy to come from Penang and help him in the conflict between the Ghee Hin and Hai San.

One reason that I like Furama hotel is that it is a few minutes walk to the Lake Gardens. The gardens are beautiful any time of the day.

In the afternoon I walked to the Galeri Perbandaran, where I met Jamilah and Aiman, both very interested in Taiping Heritage.

Dinner at the Lemon Tree seafood restaurant in Matang. It has become a kind of tradition during my Taiping visits to have a dinner with a group of friends. They almost weekly join for dinner, this time was a special occasion because one of them had won a Tesla car as a lottery prize. Very nice dinner, as usual.

The next morning I had breakfast with George and Jenny, George was in Taiping for Cheng Beng and to meet friends, quite busy, so it was nice that we could meet, I had very tasty pork noodles.

I walked back to my hotel. Passing the colorful Dobi Line and relaxing for a while at the Lake Gardens.

I skipped lunch, as I was preparing for a buka puasa dinner with my friend Halim. He had suggested that I could fast from noon onwards. Abstaining from food is no problem, but not drinking anything was impossible for me, especially as it was really hot in Taiping.

I didn’t know that my Singapore friend ST Lee would also be in Taiping. We have not met for may years, so we arranged to meet 3 pm at the famous Ansari chendol place.

I decided to walk, although it looked like it would start to rain soon. I had just started, when a car stopped next to me. The driver opened his window and asked me, do you need a ride, it will rain soon. Surprised by his friendliness, I accepted his invite. Andy was the owner of the Rainy Corner restaurant near my hotel. He was on his way to deliver some goods. When we arrived at Ansari, I asked him to join me for a drink. Malaysian hospitality on its best!

A few minutes later ST arrived and we had our cendol. It was in September 2017 that we accidentally met in the same Ansari Cendol!

Here we are standing in front of his Taiping house in Jalan Barrack.

I walked back to my hotel and decided to have a look at the Rest House, mainly to check if it was still possible to “sneak” in with the “new” fencing. And yes, that was still possible. Left picture shows the present condition of the facade, with the signboard showing how the
“new” building will look like. Right the gap in the fence. I do not understand why this has not been blocked

Some more photos, also of the interior. I am not an expert, but I think renovation or restoration is no longer an option, it will be rebuilding, hopefully keeping at least the original design.

Halim picked me up from Furama at 4:30 pm. We visited a Pasar Ramadan to shop for the dinner. Those markets are often crowded, we went early on purpose.

We arrived at Halim’s house around 6pm, I was prepared to wait until 7:30. But what a surprise, at 6:30 he and his wife said, come, let’s eat! It turned out that both were not fasting that day because of medical reasons! It was a nice dinner, too much to finish everything.

Halim is an accomplished amateur painter and was happy to show me his paintings, in the right picture pointing to his latest creation.

They drove me back and I asked them to drop me off at the Raintree Walk. Very scenic to walk back to my hotel.

The last day, my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel, we had breakfast in an Indian restaurant.

One reason for my Taiping visit was to have a look at the graves of the Malay nobles who had killed J.W.W Birch in November 1875. Recently I came in contact with Sabri Zain, who is very knowledgeable about the Perak War. See my report The Battle of Kota Lama. He wrote a FB page about these graves. They are located in Matang, not far from Kota Ngah Ibrahim!. Even many Taipingites are not aware of their existence! Their location is indicated on Google Maps, access is easy. Here is the small cemetery just beside the road.

There are two graves, of Dato’ Sagor and Pandak Indut. The grave of Maharaja Lela may not have been preserved. I found another page about the graves Makam Dato Sagor Yang Terbiar, dated 2017 Since then the site has apparently been cleaned and is now reasonably well maintained.

Modern technology, click on the QR-code and you will get the English text. The right photo shows the (smaller) grave of Pandak Indut

The grave of Dato’ Sagor is a lot bigger.

Here are two interesting snippets from the Straits Times Overland Journal, 8 February 1877, about the hanging of the pahlawan-pahlawan Melayu (Malay warriors/heroes)

The road passing the tombs, ends at this massive rubbish dump. Probably a reason why the site is quite unknown.

On my way back to my hotel, a last look at the Lake Gardens, before checking out.

I had lunch with David Chiang at Lian Thong, one of my favourite restaurants, where I had roti goyang and coffee. David is a young energetic entrepreneur with an interest in heritage. He has lots of ideas about bringing back to life Taiping heritage sites.

Then it was time to take the train back to PJ

As usual, a rewarding and interesting trip.

Antonio and Andreas

Curious about the title of this blog? Here are Antonio and Andreas.

Left Antonio Vivaldi, an Italian Baroque composer (1678 – 1741) and right Andreas Scholl, a German countertenor (1967 -).

In this post the connection between the two are three beautiful religious masterpieces, composed by Vivaldi and sung by Scholl.

The first one is Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, composed in 1721 for alto or countertenor. It describes the sorrow of Mary, the mother of Jesus during his crucifixion. The first stanza reads: Stabat mater dolorósa juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Fílius (The sorrowful mother was standing beside the Cross weeping, while the Son was hanging)

Here is the Stabat Mater, sung by Andreas Scholl. Click on the manuscript to listen.

Many recordings exist. Listen to Who sings Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater best? for a comparison of four countertenors and one alto. For me Andreas Scholl is the best.

The second one is Vivaldi’s Salve Regina, also about Mary, the mother of Jesus, venerated by Catholic Christians. The first stanza reads Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.(Hail O queen. Mother of mercy, Our life, tenderness and hope; hail.). In this YouTube Scholl is singing while you can follow the score.

There doesn’t (yet) exist a Who sings Vivaldi’s Salve Regina best? I found a few recordings of RV 616 on YouTube. Here are Calos Mena, Spanish countertenor , Sara Mingardo , Italian contralto, and James Bowman , English countertenor. Listen and judge for yourself.

VIvaldi was a prolific composer, the Catalogue of Vivaldi’s works has more than 800 entries. He composed the Salve Regina four times (one got lost). Here are recordings of RV 617 by Gabriela Eibnerova, a Czech soprano (beautiful!) and RV 618 by Gérard Lesne , a French countertenor.

The third one is not about Maria. It is a cantata, a setting of psalm 127, named after the first two Latin words, Nisi Dominus (Unless the Lord …). Click here for the complete text. And listen to this magistral recording by Andreas Scholl (in 2000).

Many years ago the Nisi Dominus was my first introduction to Vivaldi as a composer of more than the Four Seasons. This post is about his sacred music, but he also wrote beautiful operas, just listen to the aria Gelido in ogni vena from his opera Farnace and to Armatae Face et anquibus from Juditha Triumphans.

To preserve the balance in this post between Antonio and Andreast, listen to Andreas Scholl in works by other composers. Here is the Agnus Dei from Bach’s Mass in B minor and the duet Io t’abbracio from Handel’s opera Rodelinda.

The third part of Nisi Dominus has been recorded by many singers, both countertenors and contraltos. There is a YouTube Who Sings Cum Dederit Best, but for reasons unclear to me, Andreas Scholl is not included. Several comments on the video criticise this omission.

To finish this post in a lighter vein, I will give you the text of Cum Dederit. Personally I find the music still emotional, even after listing numerous times. Wouldn’t you expect a deeper meaning? Here is the Latin text and translation

My paraphrase: The Lord will give his beloved a good sleep and reward them with a numerous offspring.

Soon it will be Easter

In a few weeks time it will be Easter, this year quite early, 31 March. Christians celebrate on that day the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross three days before, on Good Friday.

In this time of the year I always listen to Bach’s passion music, either going to a concert (when I am in Amsterdam), or nowadays more often, on YouTube.

In 2014 I wrote a post about the St Matthew Passion. In that post I mentioned one recording, directed by Gustav Leonhardt in 1989, where the female parts (alto & soprano) are sung by males (countertenors and boy-sopranos/altos), as was common in Bach’s time. Watching my post again, I noticed that this recording is no longer available. That happens often with YouTubes about music, mostly a matter of copyright violation.

But I found a beautiful “replacement”, a recording by the Tölzer Knabenchor & Hofkapelle München conducted by Christian Fliegner.

This is for me at the moment the most impressive performance of the St Matthew passion. Choir, Soloists, Orchestra and Conductor, everything is perfect.

An interesting detail is that Christian Fliegner began his musical career as a boy-soprano in the same Tölzer choir that he is now directing. Here is a recording (~1980s) where he is singing the aria Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben from Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

In the same blog post I wrote about Bach’s St John passion. I gave a link to a recording by Ton Koopmans, but that recording is also not available anymore on YouTube. Searching for an alternative, I found a 1985 recording by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

It fits perfectly in this blog for several reasons. In the first place because it is again an all-male performance. And the choir is the same Tölzer Knabenchor! Fliegner was born in 1976, it could well be that he was singing as a boy-soprano in the choir during the Harnoncourt recording!

Enjoy!

I named this blog Soon it will be Easter and wrote in the opening paragraph that Easter falls early this year. How is the Easter date determined? Here is the rule:

    Determine the date of the first full moon after 21 March. Easter falls on the Sunday after that date.

    For example, this year the first full moon after 21 March falls on 25 March, a Monday. Easter is on the next Sunday, 31 March. Next year the first full moon after 21 March falls on 13 April, a Sunday. Easter is on the next Sunday, 20 April.