Life on Europa & Enceladus?

It is generally assumed that you need liquid water for life to develop. The planet Mars is now dry and arid, but had lots of water in its far past.. The Perseverance rover (see my blog) is at the moment collecting samples of Martian soil, hoping to find fossil remains of (microbial) life, until now without results. Disappointing for those who are convinced that “simple” life must be ubiquitous in the universe.

When you have been following my blog, you will know that I am not really surprised. Personally I think that (simple) life will NOT develop easily, even in a suitable environment. See my recent post about the Drake Equation.

Are there other places in our solar system with (abundant) liquid water? Yes, there are, here are two, Europa and Enceladus. Europa is a moon of Jupiter and Enceladus a moon of Saturn. Europa is large with a diameter of 3122 km, only slightly smaller then Earth’s Moon (3475 km). Enceladus is much smaller, with a diameter of 504 km. In this image you see the relative sizes of Earth, Moon and Enceladus,

Here are the two moons, Europa left and Enceladus right.. Both moons are covered with a thick crust of water ice. This ice surface has a temperature of about -200 degree Celsius. But underneath this crust both moons have oceans of liquid water!

We think that the interior of the two moons look like this. Europa has a metallic core (iron and nickel),a rocky mantle and a (salty) ocean with an estimated depth of 60-150 km.. A thick ice crust ( 15-25 km) covers the ocean. The model shows the layers to scale.

Enceladus has a rocky core with radius of ~ 180 km , covered by a 30 km deep ocean. and a 20 km thick crust. The ice crust is thinner at the south pole.

How is it possible that these moons have liquid water under their ice crust? Where does the energy come from, the Sun is far way. The answer is: because of the tidal forces exerted by the giants Jupiter and Saturn on their moons.

Newton’s gravitation between two objects depends on the distance between them. For example the gravitational force exerted by the Moon on Earth is stronger on the side facing the Moon than on the other side. This difference is responsible for the tides. The tidal friction will slow down the rotation of Earth , so the length of a day will increase a little bit, about 1,8 millisecond per century. In the far past when the moon was born, the day length may have been about 4 hours only!, For the moon the story is similar: tidal friction has slowed it down, even a lot more, the Moon shows always the same face to Earth, it is “tidally locked”. Actually all the major moons in the Solar System are tidally locked to their planet.

Even tidally locked moons still can undergo tidal flexing, if the orbit is elliptical, a kind of kneading. Model calculations for Europa and Enceladus indicate that this .can generate enough energy to keep the oceans liquid. More (technical) details here.

So both moons have liquid water and a source of energy , two of the essential ingredients for life as we know it. The third ingredient (chemicals like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorus) should be available in the rocky core.

The information about the two moons comes basically from two successful space missions. The Galileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in 1995 and stayed in orbit until 2003. It’s main mission was to study the planet, but it managed to have numerous flybys’ of Europa. The Cassini entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004 and stayed there until 2017.

The Cassini mission was very successful, click here for an overview. One of the most spectacular discoveries was that Enceladus is an active moon. There are geysers in the south polar region of the moon! This picture was taken by Cassini in February 2010.

The geysers consist of water vapor and ice particles. The explanation is that water seeps from the ocean floor into the rocky core where it is heated. The heated water rises and erupts though fissures in the icy crust.. It is a bit similar to the hydrothermal vents in Earth’s oceans.

There are indications that Europa also has this kind of geyser activity, although less intense Here is a recent (2021) NASA report, Are Water Plumes Spraying from Europa?

In the search for extraterrestrial life these two moons have top priority. Many proposals for missions to Europa have been formulated and later discarded, here is a list. At the moment the Europa Clipper is being prepared for a launch in October 2024. It will arrive at Jupiter in April 2030. Here is an artist’s concept, of Clipper, Europa and Jupiter. The solar panels of Clipper span 30 meter!

The artist impression might suggest that the Clipper will orbit Europa, but that is not the case, it will orbit Jupiter in an elliptical orbit and make 44 flybys of Europa. It will study Europa’s icy crust, find confirmation for the ocean underneath and try to make flybys through the geysers (if they exist).

A proposed follow-up mission is the Europa Lander. It would land on Europa, collect some material from the icy crust and search for biomarkers, signs of life. Here is another artist impression. Notice the geyser at the horizon ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

Probably the Europa Lander mission will be cancelled. Why? Because Enceladus offers better options than Europa. The main difference is that Enceladus is continuously spewing water and ice crystals, whereas the geysers of Europa are sporadic and still have to be confirmed.

The reason that there is so much interest in the geysers is obvious. To find out if there is life in these oceans, we have to drill through a 15-25 km thick ice crust first. Actually there are studies how to do that, they read like science fiction. Here is the final report (pdf file, 70 pages, 2019) about the Europa Tunnelbot. The basic idea is that this tunnelbot would melt itself down through the ice crust of 20 km in 3 years time, to reach the ocean. Here is a artist impression from the report, I have rotated it 90 degrees, to fit better in this post. Left is the icy surface of Europa, the inset shows three “repeaters” because even when the bot reaches the ocean it still must transmit date to the lander.

Science fiction and I think it will never happen, because the geysers on Enceladus and possibly on Europa may already give information about life in the oceans below the crust!

After Cassini observed the geysers on Enceladus, the scientific program was adapted and the spacecraft went a few times through the plumes. It found water, ice crystals and organic compounds!

So that will be the program for the next decades, explore Enceladus and find out whether the geysers will have convincing biomarkers.. .

Of course it will take time to design Enceladus missions. Here is one, the Enceladus Orbilander. Approved as a so-called Flagship Mission. Still in the design phase. possible launch in the late 2030s Arriving at Enceladus in the early 2050s.

First it will fly numerous times through the geysers, collect material and analyse it. Then it will land at the South polar region.

This is the South polar region of Enceladus. The “tiger stripes” are fissures in the ice crust where geysers erupt.

And here is an artist impression of the Orbilander on the surface of Enceladus.

Until now life has only be found on Earth. Discovery of (primitive) life elsewhere in our solar system would be dramatic, because in that case we would know that (intelligent) life is ubiquitous in the universe.

At the moment Perseverance is collecting soil samples on Mars which will be brought back to Earth by the Mars Sample Return Mission around 2033. At about the same time Clipper will explore Europa. So we will have to wait for 10 years and for results from Enceladus about 30 years.

Seremban, September 2023

As far as I remember, I have never visited Seremban as a separate destination, it was always part of a trip. In Linggi adventure, 15-7-2008 my friend Liz Price and I ended our trip in Seremban, where we spent only a few hours before returning home. And in 2019, during a Trip down South, Aric and I visited the Centipede temple in the suburbs of Seremban.

Looking for heritage information about Seremban I found online this map, where the heritage points of interest are marked. There is quite a lot to see.

So we decided to visit Seremban on a 2D1N trip, similar to what we did recently in Melaka, starting on Friday, coming back Saturday.

One week before this trip, my laptop crashed. Aric did his best to repair it, but could not, it might be the motherboard. We brought it to the ASUS service center, where they said that it would take a few days to check what was wrong. Friday afternoon they messaged that they had replaced the motherboard, but that they needed more time to test the system. As I was worried about possible data loss, I was not in the best of moods when we left for Seremban.

Aric had booked a room in the Seremban Inn, in the center of the old town. A basic room, not even supplying a water cooker. Good that I had brough a bottle of whisky for my pre-dinner drink ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had a seafood dinner in the Seremban Seafood Village. Delicious Seremban Baked Crab and Rice Wine Prawns. With Mouse Tail Noodles, Young Long Beans and Tea the bill was RM 203, a bit expensive, but really worth it,

We had heard about the Luna Lights Wonderland, held in Seremban until 24 September and decided to have a look. Supposed to be the biggest “light festival” in Malaysia. it was located in the Malaysia Park and very popular, it was not easy to find a parking place for our car. And even at 10 pm we still had to queue to get tickets.

Almost one million of led lights have been used to decorate the park. Here is a collection of photos.

There are different themes, fish, animals, space travel.

And romance ๐Ÿ˜‰

A large part of the park is covered with lights, it took us almost two hours to explore everything.

The photos do not show that the lighting is dynamic, the colours are changing all the time. So I also took numerous videos. Here is a compilation, made with the iMovie app of my iPhone..

The next morning we went for breakfast to the Warung Bambam, which had positive reviews. Quite far from old Seremban, actually more in Rasah. Rural surroundings, we were surprised that it was very popular, we even had to queue a bit.

It was a pleasant surprise for me to find on the menu Roti Goyang with Kaya, which I had tasted for the first time in Kota Bharu. Of course we had to order it.

After breakfast we drove back to the old town to start our heritage walk. First we stopped at the Railway Station, constructed between 1904 and 1910, with its nice clocktower.

Next the Seremban Lake Gardens. A miniature copy of the Taiping Lake Gardens. I could not find information about its history. Not sure if it was in the past a tin mining lake, because the center of tin mining was Rasah.

We walked around a bit, not too long because it was a hot day. To me, the shape of the lake doesn’t look like the result of tin mining.

Next we drove to what is called the White House of Seremban, the former State Secretariat, a design of famous architect Arthur Benison Hubback (1912)

It housed later the Public Library and it now abandoned but still in good shape. Opposite the attractive building there is a nice fountain.

That it is in good shape can not be said of the District office and Surveying department, almost next to it. Also built in 1912 and the design looks almost identical to the State Secretariat, but I didn’t find any mention of Hubback being the architect.

It’s clearly in decay.

Although in 2006 the building got an official plaque that it was National Heritage! Reminds me of Taiping. Malaysia Boleh.

We continued to the Church of the Visitation, a Catholic church in the center of the old town with an interesting history. The building dates from 1934, but the parish is much older, 1848, long before Captain Murray started as the first British Resident in 1875.

We had now visited POI 1, 5, 8, 9 and 12 from the heritage poster (see above). many more to go. But the ASUS center messaged us that my laptop would be ready around 3 pm! And it was a very hot day. So we decided to cut our visit short, have lunch and then drive back.

For lunch we went to the Lee Koon restaurant, with a reputation for its fish ball noodles. Nice food and a very friendly staff.

On our way back home, we got an update from ASUS that it would be more like 4 pm, they had to do more testing on my laptop after replacing the motherboard. We passed the time at a nearby McDonalds , went to the ASUS center at 4 pm, they were still testing and it was only at 5:30 pm that we could collect my laptop.

It was a relief that basically everything worked, no data loss.

It was a bit of a funny trip, here is a GE screenshot with the places we visited

I have to go again another time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Revisiting Melaka, August 2023

The last time that Aric and I have been on a touristic overnight trip, was in 2020. The Covid Lockdown started in Malaysia on 18 March 2020, but there were still limited options to travel. In July we made a trip to the Cameron Highlands and in August we visited Taiping.

In 2022 traveling became possible again, but Aric was busy with his laundry shop and could not take leave easily. Last week we finally managed to make a short 2D1N trip to Melaka. We have visited Melaka often, the last time was with our Chinese friend Dong Dong, in January 2020, before the pandemic started. So it was time to go again.

We left home on Friday 25 August at 5 pm, got caught on our way in a huge traffic jam and arrived in Melaka at 9 pm only. Not a very auspicious start ๐Ÿ˜‰ . We had booked a room in the Cheng Ho Residence and that was a very good decision, as the hotel was located in the center of the old town.

After dropping our luggage, we went out again to explore the Jonker Walk, the popular weekend market of Melaka. Not crowded, more pleasant than I expected.

Looking for a place to eat, we first had a snack,; Baked fried cuttlefish. Not everybody will like it, it’s an acquired taste ๐Ÿ˜‰

The tomb of Hang Kasturi is located along the Jonker street. He is one of the famous five Malay warriors, who lived in the 15th century and served the Sultan of Melaka. See below for the tomb of Hang Tuah, the most famous of them.

The entrance of the Jonker Walk, with the big stage, where often karaoke singing is performed.

There were still many hawker stalls open, although it was already past 10 pm. Aric selected a variety of dishes, stingray, scallops, oyster omelet and fried rice cake.

After our dinner we walked back, the pasar was starting to close. We passed the well-known Geographer bar (right picture), where I have enjoyed a beer several times in the past.

Melaka has a huge number of trishaws, their bright colors are almost painful to the eyes ๐Ÿ˜‰

River views from the bridge, in both directions, also an orgy of colors.

Before going back to our hotel, we had a dessert of “smelly tofu“, another acquired taste.

The restaurant where we wanted to have our breakfast the next morning was on walking distance from our hotel. On our way we passed the Kampung Kling Mosque. As I had visited Melaka so often, I had numerous photos of all the heritage buildings, so I was lazy and hardly took pictures this time.

We had our breakfast in the Pin Pin Hiong Restaurant with oyster mee sua and a prawn omelet. Nice food, friendly service.

The mural art tsunami has not yet reached Melaka, as far as I have noticed this time. Here is a nice one, quite unusual.

After our breakfast we walked back to the town center with the church and the Stadthuys.

Of course I had also my picture taken with a Dutch windmill and a not very Dutch cow. The other picture shows the Chung Wah restaurant, famous for its Hainanese Chicken Rice. We have queued there often, but now we have discovered an even better place, see below.

The Heeren House looks very attractive and has always been on my list of Melaka hotels to try out , but it seems that it is now mainly a restaurant, with negative reviews about the hotel.

Back to our hotel, where we checked out. We stayed on the second floor and our windows opened to the air well. The interiors of the Baba House and the Puri hotel, where we have stayed before, is more interesting, but the location of Cheng Ho is perfect.

Arc had brought his drone and we decided to visit Bukit Cina to take drone videos and pictures, Before we climbed up the hill we had a look at the cenotaph, a memorial for the Japanese occupation. The other picture shows the Hang Li Poh well (the King’s well), with an intriguing history.

A few details of the Sam Po Kong Temple at the foot of Bukit Cina. The right picture shows a statue of admiral Cheng Ho who visited Melaka many times in the 15th century.

Finally we climbed up to Bukit Cina. A Chinese cemetery, very quiet during our visit, maybe because it was the month of the Hungry Ghosts ;-). On the top of the hill a monumental, symbolic grave is well kept

Many other graves are in disrepair. It adds to the atmosphere of the cemetery.

While Aric was “droning”, I enjoyed an (alcohol-free) Heineken beer.

Here is a drone picture of the old town center, with the Christ Church and the Stadthuys..

And this is the old town, surrounded by modern buildings.

Before driving back home we visited the Makam Hang Tuah, in Tanjung Kling, about 10 km west of Melaka town.

Located inside a nice Muslim cemetery and well kept.

A giant grave. The signboards around the tomb tell the story of Hang Tuah .

On our way back home we had no real traffic jam. Hopefully many similar trips will follow, preferably a bit longer and better not during weekends.

The Drake equation

In 2019 I wrote a blog post A Pale Blue Dot with these two pictures in it. Left the iconic picture of Earth, takenย  in 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, on their way to the Moon. Right a picture taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1, leaving the solar system and looking back to Earth At 6 billion km only a pale blue dot.

Earth is our beautiful world, one of the eight planets in the Solar System and the only one where life has developed, as far as we know.

Are there other worlds in the Universe? Our Sun is one of about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and the MIlky Way is one of an estimated 200 billion galaxies in the (observable) universe.

The left picture shows the spiral structure of the Milky Way, with the location of our Sun marked. The right picture is the famous Ultra-Deep Field image taken in 2003 by the Hubble telescope. The image shows an estimated 10.000 galaxies in a part of the sky with a diameter 1/10th of the moon.

In 1992 the first extrasolar planet (exoplanet) was detected, at the time of writing this blog more than 5000 have been found and it is now assumed that most stars will have at least one planet orbiting it. That means that in the Milky Way alone there are already billions of planets.

Wouldn’t it be strange if Earth is the only planet where (intelligent) life has developed? There could be numerous planets in the Milky Way and Universe where life has developed. Michio Kaku an American โ€˜science communicatorโ€™, who always enjoys being in the limelight, goes even further: โ€œThe Laws of Probability Tell Us That the Universe Should Be Teeming Withย Intelligentย Life Formsโ€ย 

The Laws of Probability ? As usual I am a sceptic. In 2010 I wrote two posts about “Are we alone in the Universe“. My personal opinion at that time was: “Yes, we might well be alone“. Now, thirteen years later, my opinion is still the same, maybe even stronger.

After this lengthy introduction, time to go back to the topic of this post, the Drake Equation.

Speculation about extraterrestrial life dates back to antiquity. Around 1900 it was thought by many that the planet Mars had irrigation canals, built by intelligent beings. Development of more powerful telescopes showed that those canals were an illusion. But maybe there were intelligent beings outside our solar system? This led in the 1960’s to the SETI program. the Seach for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Involved in this program was Frank Drake, a young American astronomer. To have discussion points for the first scientific SETI meeting, he came up with what is now called the Drake equation.

Actually it is NOT an equation, it is an estimate for the number of intelligent civilisations in our Milky Way. The idea is simple, you start with how many stars are born yearly in the Milky Way. How many of these stars will have planets, how many of these planets will be suitable for life, how many of these suitable planets will actually develop life. How many planets with life will develop civilistations (intelligent life), and how many of these civilisations will be able/willing to communicate with us. And finally, how many years will such a civilisation survive.

Here the Drake equation is visualised: The estimated number of intelligent civilisations in the Milky way who can communicate with us is given by N as the product of a number of factors.

R*ย = how many stars are born every year in our galaxy. (Rโˆ—ย = 1 yrโˆ’1)

fp = the fraction of these stars that have planets. (fp = 0.2 to 0.5)

neย = the average number of planets in the habitable zone of such a star (neย = 1 to 5)

fl = the fraction of habitable planets that actually develop life. (fl = 1)

fi = the fraction of those planets, where evolution leads to civilisations with intelligent life (fi = 1)

fc = the fraction of these civilisations that develop a technology capable of releasing detectable signs of their existence into space. (fc = 0.1 to 0.2)

L = the length of time that such a civilisation will exist.(L = 1000 -100,000,000 years)

In the 1961 discussion the various factors were discussed. I have given these estimates above. Using the lower limits, it gives a minimum of N โ‰ˆ 20 technological;y advanced civilisations, who could send signals to us. If those civilisations have not self-destructed, L could be many millions of years resulting in maximum of N โ‰ˆ 50.000.000 !

With this evaluation you will understand that it made sense to start the SETI program. After a few years a distributed computing project SETI@Home was started, where volunteers could use the idle time of their PC’s to analyse data from radio telescopes, searching for signals. of intelligent life . Many years I have taken part in this program. My PC during idle time was doing this.

After about 20 years the program was stopped, without any results. But in 2016 a follow-up project started Breakthrough Listen. Basically the same as SETI, but much more powerful, it will generate as much data in one day as previous SETI projects generated in one year. Until now no positive results.

I ended my 2019 post with :”As soon as evidence of life will be found, on Mars or deep under the frozen oceans of Jupiterโ€™s moon Europa, I will celebrate and be convinced that life indeed is teeming in the Universe. Until then, I believe in the Rare Earth Hypothesis , that we might well be alone.

What is this Rare Earth hypothesis? In 2000 Ward and Brownlee published a book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe in which they argue that primitive (microbial) life may be common in the Universe, but that complex (intelligent) life is probably very rare.

I agree with them that complex life will be rare in the Universe, but I no longer think that primitive life will be common.

A few months ago I published a post Perseverance perseveres about the Mars rover who is looking for traces of past life on the planet Mars. The scientists were expecting/hoping to find stromatolites, fossils of microbial life formed in the time that Mars had water. Something similar to this, found in Australia, 3.4 billion year old.

Until now no sign of fossil microbial life has been found. So it could be that the chance that primitive life develops on a planet in the habitable zone is also small!

As long as no sign of (fossil) microbial life is found in our solar system or elsewhere, I think that even primitive life may be rare in the universe. I used to say, We may be alone in the Universe. I now go one step further:

We are probably alone in the Universe

But of course I hope that I am wrong

Kota Bharu trip, July 2023

Here is a report about a 5D4N trip to Kota Bharu, organised by Paul and Fahmi. When I showed my interest, they invited me to join, It’s a long drive from KL to Kota Bharu, we used the inland route via Gua Musang, it took us about 7 hours, with some sanitary stops and lunch in the Gua Musang R&R.

Paul and Fahmi had booked a homestay a bit south of the town center, in a kampung, but the house was modern and big enough for us, with three bedrooms.

After a rest we went out for dinner The KST restaurant has good reviews and was not far from our homestay. Fahmi selected a fish for the Ikan Bakar and picked a variety of fresh vegetables for the Ulam, a Malay salad, where you dip the raw veggie in a sauce of your choice. .

Left the ulam with two sauces, right the Ikan Bakar.

We also had Mango Salad and Tomyam soup. I nice start of our trip.

The next morning I took a photo of our homestay.. The owner (?) is living in the left part of the house. We had very good privacy in our part.

For our breakfast we went to another popular eatery, Kopitiam Kita. Famous for its Roti Titab, toasted bread with an half boiled egg and some kaya in the four corners.

We had to queue, but found a table reasonably fast.

The Roti Titab looks a bit weird, but was actually very tasty. Coffee was also good. Friendly service.

We drove to the center of the town and parked our car. Left the clock tower in the town center. Inspired by the Big Ben (?), could not find the date when it was built. Right a recent one, near the river. Both not really special.

One of the attractions of Kota Bharu is its Mural Art. Nowadays Mural Art can be seen all over Malaysia, after Zacharevic’s creations in Penang and Ipoh started the trend. Often they are of mediocre quality, using a wall just as a canvas. Here in Kota Bahru they are quite acceptable, often depicting Kelantanese topics, like wayang kulit or kite flying.

One section is dedicated to the Palestine war, a bit depressive but quite interesting. Kelantan is probably the most conservative Islamic state of Malaysia, strongly against Israel and in support of Palestine.. Here is a collection of scenes.

Another section, less depressive, is about Kelantanese life, food, customs etc.. The carpet on the floor has been painted!

Various scenes of kampung life.

Nice countryside.

Left Wayang Kulit, right Silat (Malay martial art).

And of course food ๐Ÿ˜‰

After walking around in this quarter of town, we had a look at Kota Bharu’s famous Siti Khadijah Market. The market is not old, it was opened in 1985 as the Buluh Kubu Market, but in 1997 renamed Siti Khadijah, after the wife of the Prophet Mohammed. Three storeys high, very colorful. The ground floor is a wet market.

Kota Bharu has quite a number of museums. We only visited Istana Jahar, built as a royal residence in 1855. Now it houses the Museum of Royal Traditions and Customs of Kelantan.

When you are interested in colonial architecture, there is no need to visit Kota Bharu. We found only one building, a bank, built in 1912 and completed in 1922. It now houses the War Museum. In 1941 the Japanese invasion of British Malaya started with the landing of troops on the beaches of Kota Bharu.

Nearby is the Royal Landing Pier, We found a suitable place for lunch. In the background you see the clocktower near the Royal Landing Pier.

Walking back to our car we passed one more example of street art, an interactive one this time. Of course I had to try it ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

After a long rest in our homestay we went out again, to the Cahaya Bulan beach.

Paul is not really a cat lover, not clear why cats always like him !

The beach is nice, but not spectacular.

Many food stalls along the beach.

We ordered deep fried squid (celup teping sotong) and prawns. With a coconut as a drink.

The stall even had an outside toilet!

The next day was already our last day in Kota Bharu. We still had to try the Nasi Kerabu and went to Liniey Nasi Kerabu Tumis, where we had to queue for some time, as it is a very popular eatery. But it was worth it.

Our first destination for the day was the Kampung Laut Mosque. We had to cross the Kelantan river to reach the mosque.

The mosque is one of the oldest in Malaysia and has an interesting history, which is explained in a number of panels. Its original location was close to the Kelantan river and erosion and flooding threatened to destroy the building. After a major flood in 1966-67 it was decided to dismantle the building, transport it to another village and rebuild it there. But that was a temporary solution only, Now the mosque has been brought back to Kampung Laut, at a safer distance from the river and protected by a heavy cemented wall from future flooding.

We could enter the mosque but as Paul and I were wearing shorts, we first had to cover our aurat (in this case our knees). The caretaker was very friendly.

The state of Kelantan has been in the past part of the Kingdom of Siam, Only in the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 it was decided that Kelantan would become one of the Unfederated Malay States , controlled by the Brits. .This explains why there still is Thai influence in Kelantan.

We visited two Buddhist temples in Tumpat, first the Wat Phothivihan with a giant Sleeping Buddha.

A few more photos. The entrance of the temple is guarded by two lions, one male and one female. When you look carefully you can see that the picture shows the male one ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

We continued to the Wat Machimmaram, with a giant Sitting Buddha.

After so much local food, we were in the mood for something Western, so we went to the Aeon Mall, where we had already done some shopping the day before. But the whole mall was closed from 12:30 until 14:30! We had forgotten that it was Friday, Prayer Time, and that Kelantan is a very conservative Islamic State.

Luckily we had some biscuits at our homestay where we took a rest, before we went out in the afternoon. To another beach, Pantai Senok. A pleasant surprise. The main attraction is the forest of casuarina trees, planted in a grid pattern. Many families were enjoying the shade under the trees

Because of the grid pattern, you can see through the trees in certain directions.

A nice background for pictures.

Really a nice location.

The beach is also attractive. People were riding horses and flying kites.

We walked along the beach until the dam, separating the beach from a river. A small lighthouse marks the mouth of the river.

Using Google Search Paul and Fahmi had found a restaurant, not far from the beach, which specialised in oysters (tiram in Malay). When we arrived at this Maggi Tiram Kmah restaurant, we found a pleasant place, with friendly staff.

It’s all oyster dishes they serve ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had a delicious dinner, starting with fresh oysters , followed by nasi tiram, nasi telor sotong and maggi tiram (soup)

The left picture shows the telor sotong (squid eggs) and the right picture shows three cheese-baked oysters, given to us free of charge. The total bill, including drinks, was RM 45. Unbelievable ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

Here is a Google Earth screenshot with the locations we have visited. Click on the map to enlarge and see details.

The next day we started our drive back to KL. We stayed overnight in Kuala Terengganu, where Paul and Fahmi had booked a hotel.

Kuala Terengganu has two interesting mosques, This is the Crystal Mosque, built between 2006 and 2008.

And this is the Floating Mosque, built between 1993 and 1995. A real beauty.

It was a nice trip. Thanks to Paul and Fahmi for inviting me.

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 4

Here is the report about my fourth week in the Netherlands in 2023. For earlier reports see: week 1, week 2, week 3

In this fourth (and last) week I had to prepare the Backershagen apartment for my departure. Do some cleaning and laundry. Main task to empty the fridge.

Thursday 15 June

Visit from Henk and his wife Marian. I know Henk for many years, since my university time. First we had coffee with vlaai. In the shopping center near my aprtment there is a popular shop that sells this Limburg delicacy. I had bought three slices.

To make it easier to choose, Henk and Marian helped to cut he slices in half ๐Ÿ˜‰ .We continued with lunch. It was a kind of heatwave in the Netherlands, I decided that a bowl of gazpacho (cold Spanish soup) would be a good start of our lunch. But in the supermarket there was no more stock, so I chose the “unknown vegetable soup”. They liked it.

That evening I visited Nico, Paul’s brother for dinner and a chat. He had prepared poussin (young chicken) stuffed with Boursin (French cheese), a Belgian recipe. Excellent dinner.

Friday 16 June

A day without commitments, so I could relax after three hectic weeks. For dinner and wine I had not much choice, just finishing what was left, some of my meatballs in this case.

Saturday 17 June

As my first meeting with Lambert, in the Amsterdam public library, had been rather short, I decided to visit him again, this time going to Purmerend, where he lives. Forgot to take pictures.

I am very happy with the public transport in the Netherlands. I have been using train, metro, bus many times, using my so-called public-transport card, With this card you can access any kind of transport in the country. You don’t have to worry about enough balance on the card, it will be topped up automatically from your bank account.

Here a bus to my hometown and the train to Arnhem.

The bus has special seats for senior citizens, and in the Amsterdam metro you are allowed to take your bicycle with you.

Sunday 18 June

I was lucky that during the last few days, friends invited me for dinner, so I didn’t have to cook myself. In this case Johan and Edmund, living in Vinkeveen in a nice house. They are proud of their beautiful garden and rightly so.

Johan and Edmund had invited Theo, another friend, for dinner. As the weather was good we had dinner in their garden.

Edmund had prepared delicious Surinam food. Theo, also living in Amsterdam, took me back in his car to the town. Nice evening.

Monday 19 June

Dinner with Dick Jurriaans, former colleage at the Snellius school, in the Elements restaurant in Amsterdam. The kitchen and restaurant are staffed by students from the hotel school, connected to the ROC of Amsterdam. The result is perfect service, a creative menu and a very affordable price.

Almost the Summer Solstice. Compare the two photos, left on 28 May, right on 19 June

Tuesday 20 June

During this Netherlands trip I had been extremely fortunate with the weather. But for this day there was a warning voor extreme weather with lots of rain in the afternoon and evening. I was invited by Roald, a former student and a close friend for many years, to have dinner at his apartment in Amsterdam, but we deicded to cancel it.

Left a screenshot of the rain radar website, in the center the actual downpour. So I had to prepare some food myself. Vegetarian, I still had some potatoes and cucumber. With a glass of wine, quite acceptable ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

Wednesday 21 June

It has become a tradition that I have dinner with Inez, the day before I fly back. What would you like to eat, she asked. Real Dutch food, I told her, but I had already tasted many typical Dutch dishes. What about zuurkool stamppot met spek en rookworst? (sauerkraut stew with pork belly and sausage) Great, that was still missing on my list ๐Ÿ˜‰ Actually this stew is really winter fare, but we enjoyed it a lot..

Thursday 22 June

Departure day. Packing my stuff, switching off the fridge, last minute checking of the apartment. My brother Otto brought me to Schiphol airport.

..This was the fourth week. During my four week stay, I had 25 meetings!

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 3ย 

Here is the report about my third week in the Netherlands in 2023. Click here for the first week and here for the second week.

Thursday 8 June

A visit from Wim, one of my first students and now a long-time friend. We had lunch in Backershagen and chatted a lot. Sunset is still moving (slowly) northwards, two more weeks to go until the summer solstice,

Friday 9 June

A 3D2N visit to Ruud and Jur in Groningen is usually part of my program when I am back in the Netherlands. This time I combined it with a visit to Gerrit, another former student, who became a good friend. I started teaching in 1976, when I was 32 years old and I still am in contact with a few of my first students, who are now more than 60 years old ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

Gerrit moved a couple of months ago from Amsterdam to Dokkum, a town in the Friesland province. First I took a train to Leeuwarden and from there a bus to Dokkum, where Gerrit was waiting for me. After coffee and cake, we walked to the historical center of Dokkum.

Dokkum has a rich history, in the past it had a harbour, and there are many heritage buildings. Many more photos can be found in my blog A Dutch Trip up North .

It was an enjoyable walk, worthwhile to come back another time. In the left photo I am standing in front of a historical map of Dokkum, in the right picture I am lighting a candle in one of the Dokkumer churches. I may be a staunch atheist, but I like to do this, while wishing something for a loved one.

In the afternoon I continued my travel, by bus and train, to Groningen, where Ruud was waiting for me at the station. We enjoyed a beer in their garden. Actually two beers ;-). Left Affligem alcohol-free beer, which is getting quite popular these days. Followed by a “real” beer, a Belgian tripel, very strong, 8.5 %.

Jur had prepared a nice dinner.

Saturday 10 June

We made a trip to the northern part of the Friesland province. For me an unknown part of the Netherlands. Perfect weather.

Many more pictures and info in the album A Dutch Trip up North. The right picture is taken at the small village of Moddergat. I had never heard about it, Interesting history and really worth a visit.

For our dinner we went to Lauwersoog, where we had a sumptuous seafood dinner. I started with oysters

Jur and I shared a seafood platter. So much variety of seafood that we couldn’t even finish it. Ruud is not a fan of seafood, but enjoyed his dinner too. I will come back to this restaurant with Aric!

Sunday 11 June

On my way back to Amsterdam, I stopped in Leeuwarden to meet my university friend Nellie, who is living in Friesland. Talking about long lasting friendship, we met in 1961 as freshmen at the Free University of Amsterdam.

Monday 12 June

Rene and I were both physics teachers at the Snellius school, many years ago. When he started teaching in Utrecht, we kept in touch. Either I visit him and his wife Caroline in Nieuwegein, where they live, or they visit me in Backerhagen, like this year.

Caroline is always fascinated by the view from my apartment.

Tuesday 13 June

I started the day with another walk from my apartment. This time part nature, part architecture. Here is a report with many photos: De Zuidas.

The right photo shows the Science Faculty of the Free University where I have been working from 1969 until 1976 for my Ph.D degree.

The Zuidas (South Axis) is a rapidly developing business district in Amsterdam, also nicknamed the Financial Mile. Lots of interesting modern architecture.

In the evening my brother Pim visited me for a mussel dinner. Nowadays mussels are available in the supermarkets even when there is no r in the name of the month (May-August). During this stay the dinner with Pim was the only time that I prepared dinner for a guest, the other guests came for lunch. Easier for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ .


Not only did I enjoy the Dutch food, also the variety of fruits was very pleasant. When I am back in spring there are strawberries, now they were there too, even Dutch ones, But there were now also cherries, blueberries, raspberries, red berries and blackberries. Delicious.

And there was rhubarb. Cooked with raisins and sugar, with yoghurt a perfect dessert.

Wednesday 14 June

A day trip to visit Carel Poeder and his wife Joanne. Carel was the principal of the Snellius school when I started teaching there in 1976. I kept in touch with them and in 2018 Aric and I visited them in France where they have a house. See my blog France 2018, part II. When back in the Netherlands they stay in a house on a campsite near Gaanderen. Nice rural environment.

Joanne picked me up from the Gaanderen station and drove me to the camping.

Originally two caravans, but it has the atmosphere of a real, nice house. A pleasant surprise. It was a short visit, we had coffee and lunch, then they dropped me at the station in Doetinchem.

This was the third week.

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 2ย 

Here is the report about my second week in the Netherlands in 2023. Click here for the first week.

Thursday 1 June

A traditional part of my trip to the Netherlands is a 3D2N visit to my sister Lous in Valkkoog. On my way, by train, I stopped in Alkmaar to visit Ineke, the wife of my brother Arie who passed away last year October. Last time I met him was in April 2022 (left photo). I could not be present at his funeral. It was good to meet Ineke, we talked a lot and she had prepared a nice lunch.

In the afternoon Lous picked me up from Alkmaar, we drove to Valkkoog where we met her husband Arend and had a Korean dinner. For someone with tropical blood, they are quite spartan with temperatures below 20ยฐ Celsius inside their bungalow ๐Ÿ˜‰

Friday 2 June

We made a day trip to Den Helder where Lous and Arend had found two interesting places, a former school, transformed into a library and a botanical garden in a residential area. I wrote a separate blog about it, with info and more photos, A Dutch Trip up North .

We visited the school in the morning and the botanical garden in the afternoon. For our lunch we went to restaurant Lands End , I had kroketten, a typical Dutch delicacy.

This is the most northern point on the mainland of the Province North Holland. At the horizon left the island Texel.

We will keep the Maritime Museum for a next visit.

Instead we went back to Valkkoog where we enjoyed the weather, the beautiful garden and a nice BBQ.

Saturday 3 June

Before traveling back to Amsterdam I walked around in the village and took some photos. Left a view of the agricultural land at the back of the garden. Right beuatiful Akelei flowers.

The church of Valkkoog and its cemetery.

Right Lous and I in the garden of a neighbour, under a Goudenregen (Golden Rain) tree.

Sunday 4 June

Lunch with Atie, Annabella and Hans, another tradition. Hans is a former colleague at the Snellius school, Annabella his wife and Atie the wife of Dick Schuursma, vice-principal at Snellius , a good friend, sadly deceased some years ago. Last year they came to my condo, this time we met in the apartment of Hans and Annabella. As a present I had brought two of my cardboard polyhedra, many years ago one of my hobbies, see my blog Beautiful Shapes.

In the afternoon my nephew Aswin (right) visited me with his boyfriend Cedric (left). The weather was still very good, the sunset was shifting every day a bit further to the north (until the summer solstice on 21 June)

Monday 5 June

As I had no commitments this day, I decided to take a walk to the Amstelpark. During the walk I took numerous photos, whcih you can see in my report Walk in the Park. Left the route I followed.

One of the attractions of the park is the Rhododendron Valley. The season was over, but there were still enough flowers to enjoy. The windmill near the river Amstel is a popular tourist attraction, specially for Asian visitors. But I was early, so it was still quiet.

Left some Highland Cattle, unusual to see them here. On my walk back I passed the Jewish Maimonides school, built like a fortress as protection against antisemitic attacks. Sad that this is needed.

Tuesday 6 June

Another tradition: an outing with Inez. Last year we visited Kinderdijk, click here for my blog. This time we went to Bergen in the province Noord-Holland. We started with Park Meerwijk where in the period 1915-1918 a number of villas was built in the style of the Amsterdamse School. Beautifil villas with their thatched roofs.

Museum Kranenburgh is not far away, we had coffee there and visited the museum. Bergen is an artist village and there was an exhibition with works of local artists. Some of them were present to tell more about their work.

The museum has a nice sculpture garden.

We went to the beach for a short while. The wind was strong and quite chilly

But we found a sheltered spot in a beach cafe, where we had our lunch. I had an “uitsmijter”, two fried eggs with ham and cheese on bread. Another very Dutch dish.

Inez has a caravan on a camping near the beach, we went there for another coffee before going back to Amsterdam.

Wednesday 7 June

A day without commitments ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here is a screenshot of my digital calendar.


More (mostly) Dutch food. From left to right my signature meatballs, Boerenkool met Rookworst and Seafood Spaghetti. Boerenkool (Kale) stew is a typical winter dish, I was surprised that the supermarket still had fresh kale.

This was the second week.

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 1

Our plan was to visit Iceland this year but Aric was very busy with his laundry shop and could not take leave. So I decided to go to the Netherlands on my own, four weeks. When I checked ticket prices, I found that the KLM tickets were very expensive and not even a direct flight. Emirates and Qatar also had a stopover, but were more affordable. I booked with Qatar and had a transit in Doha. A very modern airport, similar to Changi airport in Singapore. Easy to spend a few hours there. Here are some pictures

The first half of the flight was a night flight, leaving KLIA at 3 am (!), the second half was a day flight, leaving Doha at 8 am and arriving at Schiphol at 2 pm. Nice food for lunch, chili con carne.

I arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday 25 May and left four weeks later, on Thursday 22 June. To keep the blog readable, I will split it in four parts, one for each week, and each part subdivided in days.

Thursday 25 May

I was lucky on arrival, the plane landed not far from the gate, immigration was fast and my suitcase arrived quickly on the carousel. I took the train to Amsterdam Zuid and walked to Backershagen, where I arrived in my apartment around 3 pm, about one hour after landing, a record! A vase of roses was waiting for me, a sweet gesture from Yolanda, Paul’s sister. But there my luck ended. My mobile phone was not working and I could not connect to the Internet.

It took me a few hours to solve the problems. I went out to buy a new sim card for my smartphone and (blurry after the long flight) I had not put the telephone plug back in the wall socket!

Finally I could relax in my apartment and enjoy my favourite Dutch food (cheese, herring, strawberries etc.).

Friday 26 May

Beautiful weather, although the wind was still chilly. Usually I am back in the Netherlands during spring, when the trees are still bare and gradually are turning green. Now it was getting summer, everything green. Very nice. Here is a view of the Zuidas from my apartment.

Later I visited Pim and Nanda for a nice asparagus dinner.

Sunset very late, at 9:40 pm. It is setting behind the buildings of my alma mater and will still move a bit more North in the next weeks.

Saturday 27 May

A lunch meeting with my friend Lambert in the OBA, the Amsterdam public library. I used public transport and arrived at the Central Station (left), The town was busy with tourists. Right the St Nicolas church.

The OBA is at walking distance from the Central Station. It is a nice modern building, opened in 2007.

The top floor has a cafe where I met Lambert. The view of the Amsterdam skyline is impressive.

We had a short meeting with coffee and cake. I stayed a bit longer and had my lunch there.


I enjoy de diversity of food in Malaysia, but when I am back in the Netherlands I am craving for traditional Dutch food ๐Ÿ˜‰ . From left to right (using Dutch names), Schoudercarbonade met snijbonen, Bloemkool met worst and Witlof met een speklapje. All with my favourite potatoes, Opperdoezer Ronde .

Sunday 28 May

Whitsun. A day trip with my former student and now long time friend, Yolanda. She was my student in the late 70s at the Snellius school, located at the Startbaan in Amstelveen. The school has been demolished many years ago and is now a residential area. The Startbaan is still there but only the Snelliuslaan reminds of the school.

We decided to walk around the Poel, a lake in Amstelveen. There were yellow irises everywhere. I used the Komoot app to record our walk. Here is a report about the hike, with more photos.

Monday 29 May

The next day I visited Alphen a/d Rijn, where I was born and where my youngest brother Otto now is living in the family house.

It has become a tradition to visit my parents’ grave with Otto. We bought some plants to decorate the grave.

For lunch we went to McDonalds, where Otto’s eldest son Pascal is manager. He was busy but joined us for a while. We had something very Dutch, a McKroket, never seen that elsewhere in the world. Not bad at all.

During spring there are tulips, daffodils, hyacinths. Now there was a variety of wild flowers like klaprozen (poppies) and margrieten (ox-eye daisies).

I went for another walk with Otto in the region of the Bedelaarsbos. Beautiful Dutch polder landscape. Click on this Komoot report for more photos

One reason to (re)visit this region is that many years ago we put a so-called geocache here: Bedelaarsbos . We archived the cache in 2015 and were curious if we could still find its location. Here Otto is standing on the remains of a tree trunk where we thought the cache was hidden. While we were walking there, I logged another geocache, Tuf-Tuf.

Back home, Otto proudly showed his (first) grandchild and of course I had to take her in my arms as well.

Here Aswin, Xander (his twin sons) and I have pancakes for dinner, skilfully prepared by Otto. Spekpannekoek met stroop (bacon pancake with syrup), can it be more Dutch?

A very nice day. But unfortunate that my bicycle was missing from the (guarded!) bicycle shed where I had parked it that morning.

Tuesday 30 May

When I am back in Amsterdam. Yolanda and I always have a “luxury” dinner in a restaurant selected by her. This time her choice was Visaandeschelde, a seafood restaurant in Amsterdam-Zuid. The food was so delicious, that I forgot to take a selfie of the two of us. I also forgot what were the many ingredients of the various dishes. They looked likes works of art. Very pleasant service.

Wednesday 31 May

My “soulmate” Inez visited me in Backershagen for lunch. I told her about my missing bicycle, that I had tried to find it back, but in vain. That it was anyway an old barrel and that I wanted to buy another second-hand one. She said that there was a good bicycle shop near where she lived. After lunch I went with her to this shop, where I bought a “new” second-hand bike for 179 Euro. Left the happy owner, right how I will lock my bike from now on ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

This was the first week.

A Wedding Dinner

It is many years ago that Aric and I attended a Chinese wedding dinner! When our friend Henry Hor came to our place in April, to invite us for the wedding dinner of his son Benjamin, we accepted his invitation. When I decided a few weeks later to visit the Netherlands, I planned my timetable in such a way that I would come back just one day before the dinner, hoping that my jetlag would not be too severe ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

For those not familiar with the tradition of Chinese wedding dinners, here some information. A Chinese wedding dinner is a big and expensive event, where hundreds of guests enjoy a traditional many-course dinner. The size of the event is indicated by the number of tables, where eacht table is for 10 pax. The price for one table can easily be in the range RM 2000-3000. At this occasion there were 30 tables. To contribute to the cost of the event, the guests don’t give the wedding couple a present, but an ang pao envelope with money. On arrival we presented our ang pao, and we were given our table number. Henry is busy here, doing some checking.

Left the wedding dinner invitation. Benjamin is living in the US, Anita in Malaysia. They met via the Internet and married last year in the US. Now Benjamin came back for the church wedding. He brought quite a few of his American friends. Anita who is planning to move to the US, is Chindian. So the dinner was Chinese, but the company was an interesting mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Mat Salleh, very Malaysian.

A few pictures of the hall. On the invitation a starting time of 6 pm is mentioned, but almost nobody comes that early. We arrived at 6:30 pm

Still enough time to greet friends. Left Aric and George, right Khong, George and me together with Henry

At around 7 pm the couple, Anita and Benjamin, entered the hall.

They were seated at the main table, near the stage, with their close family. Then the dinner could start. An eight-course menu. Free flow of wine and beer.

The first course is always a variety of starters. Read the menu for details.

Followed by seafood soup (left) and and chicken chop with mango salad (right)

In the meantime the MC (master of ceremonies) introduced the speakers and also photos and videos were shown on the big screen above the main stage. Here is “our” table.

There was one more table with our friends. Left photo (from right to left) George, Boon Chee and his wife. Right photo (from right to left) Richard Yap, Teoh and his wife. We know each other through Bukit Kiara and IKEA, before COVID disturbed our lives.

Fourth course: steamed pomfret with ginger in soy sauce.

The next two courses, left butter prawns with egg floss, right mushroom and broccoli

Henry, Anita and Benjamin at the VIP table, listening to the speeches on the stage.

Then it is their turn. Benjamin has to open a bottle of champaign (or maybe sparkling wine),preferably with a loud pop ;-). Then groom and bride have to fill the tower of glasses. This is a traditional element of the ceremony.

Next is the official toasting with all close relatives and friends on stage.

Everybody has to sing yam seng, cheers in Cantonese, litterally “drink to victory”. The “yam” must be kept as long and loud as possible, followed by a short, explosive “seng”. Here is a short video, showing that not everybody was familiar with this very Chinese custom. the MC had to help ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

These events are very suitable to meet old friends. Left the Gang of Four, we still meet regularly. Right Boon Chee, Andrew and I, we have not met each other for many years.

In the meantime the last course had arrived, Mixed fruits and a dessert of sea coconut and snow fungus. This time Aric was serving the others at our table.

The finale of the dinner. Bride and groom visit tables for another yam seng toast and pictures.. Not all tables, just tables with their friends and relatives.

Here I am toasting on the good luck and happiness of the couple. Yaaaaaaaam Seng.

A pleasant evening, nice to meet old friends. i had no problem with jetlag!