The Netherlands 2022

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

31 March

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

3 April

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

5 April

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

6 April

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

7 April

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

10 April

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

11 April

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

12 April

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

13 April

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

14 April

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

16 April

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

17 April

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

19 April

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

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

21-22 April

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

..24 April

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

A nice apartment and a delicious lunch

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

25 April

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

27 April

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

28-29 April

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

30 APril

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

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

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

2 May

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

4 May

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

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

5 May

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

6 May

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

8 May

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

Dinner that evening with my brother Pim.

9 May

And the next evening With Inez

10 May

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

11 May

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

A hike with Gerrit

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

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

Spring in full force, flowers everywhere,

Posing for the camera

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

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

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

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

Lous & Valkkoog

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

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

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

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

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

The Poldertuin in all its glory.

An orgy of colours.

The varieties in form and color are amazing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue-violet is the most common color

But you can also find other colors. white and pink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otto & Alphen

When I told Otto that I wanted to celebrate my 78th birthday in Alphen with him and his family, he said, ok then I will pick you up from Backershagen and we can visit some flower fields on our way to Alphen. First we had a cup of coffee in my apartment and we exchanged (alcoholic) birthday presents, as his birthday had been one week earlier. He gave me a nice Glen Talloch whisky glass with my nickname Kwai Loh Stuivenberg engraved in it. Click on the right photo. The glass should be filled with whisky to make the inscription better readable, but tt was too early to start drinking ;-_)

We made a detour through the “Bollenstreek” on our way to Alphen, and saw quite a few hyacinth and tulip fields, although the main season had not yet arrived. It was Easter holiday, quite a few tourists. Officially it is not allowed the walk inside the flower fields, but not everybody followed this rule.

We arrived in Alphen around lunchtime. Here are two pictures of the family house, front and back. I was not born in this house but spent my youth there, until I went to Amsterdam to study. Many memories.

Of course the interior has changed over the years. We had a festive Easter brunch with Nina and two of their sons, Aswin and Xander..

The garden in front of the house in a kind of Japanese style is beautiful and often admired by passersby

After lunch Otto and I drove and walked around in Alphen. We visited the cemetery, where our parents have been buried We took some time to clean their grave and plant some new shrubs.

Just a few snapshots of places in Aphen. Left the Hefbrug, right a view of the Old Rhine river

Left the Nutsgebouw,(1894), during my school days I have watched my first movies there. Right the modern city hall (2003)

From 1955 until 1961 I was a student at the Christelijk Lyceum in Alphen. The school has moved to another location long ago, but the building is still there. Right the entrance through which I must have passed numerous time. Nostalgia.

Some more pictures. I don’t know the background of the artwork at the left. The right statue is the war memorial for WWII. It was a beautiful spring day.

Finally we had a look at the countryside around Alphen. The countryside of my youth, I still find it quite attractive.

Back home Nina had prepared a delicious meal. Xander, one of my nephews, has recently started playing the flute and showed us the progress he had made.

Just before I left, Pascal, the oldest son, arrived and of course a picture had to be taken of me with my three nephews. Aswin (left) and Xander (right) are identical twins, for many years I could not distinguish between them. Now slowly there are some differences.

I went back to Backershagen by train. A very nice day.

Yolanda & Utrecht

I went by train to Utrecht where I met my friend Yolanda at the station. The plan was to have lunch and then walk around in the town a bit. Yolanda had chosen a nice place for lunch, the Landhuis in de Stad (Country house in Town). From the station we walked about twenty minutes, passed a windmill and a nice bridge. It was a beautiful day.

It was a pleasant restaurant with good food and a friendly service. Many people had their food outside in the garden, but I preferred with my “tropical blood” to sit inside.

After our lunch we walked back to the town center. We passed an impressive building, the former location of the Royal Dutch Mint and again the windmill, actually a sawmill, Houtzaagmolen De Ster ..It was a peaceful walk

To reach the center of the old town, we had to pass the Hoog Catherijne shopping center.. The left photo shows this center with the Catherijnesingel. In 1970 this waterway was filled in to create a motorway, but recently it has been restored. The right photo is taken inside the shopping center, the water of the singel is flowing under it, and part of the floor is glass. Very nice design.

When I mentioned to my ex-colleague Rene that I would visit Utrecht, he told me that I must visit the Public Library, housed in the former Main Post office of Utrecht. So that is what we did. Utrecht is an attractive town, I visited the town a few years ago: Utrecht, 2019 .Notice the original way of building a canal-bike πŸ˜‰

Passing the Oude Gracht (left), we reached the Neude square in the town center. with the Public Library. The Main Post Office was completed in 1924 and designed in Amsterdam School style by architect Crouwel. The post office was closed in 2011.

The central hall of what is now the Public Library is breathtaking. On one wall a gigantic clock, on the other wall the Royal Coat of Arms

Beautiful statues and decorations.

Free access, you can just pick a book from the shelves, sit down and read or study

You can charge your mobile by cycling ;-). Right a collection of old phones.

After spending quite some time in the library. Yolanda brought me back to the station. Here are some very typical Dutch pictures. Bicycles everywhere and a public urinal

We said goodbye at the station. A nice meeting

The Gang of Four at Kampar

In a recent blog, The Gang of Four, I wrote about the fellowship of Khong, Stephen, George and me, and the many trips we made during the past 15 years. At the end of that blog I wrote that we had not organised any activity during the Covid-19 pandemic and that we were hoping to continue the tradition soon.

Although the pandemic is not over, the situation in Malaysia became better during the last months and in November we organised our first outing since 2019. We had planned to visit a colonial mansion in Rasa, but unfortunately it was closed..

However, we had a sumptuous lunch at the WK restaurant in Ulu Yam.

Our next outing was on 20 January and our destination was Kampar. A two hour drive from KL, so we left early . First we had breakfast in the huge Kampar Medan Selera. I had a very tasty Chee Cheong Fun, Hong Kong style.

After our breakfast we visited the Kinta Tin Mining Museum. I had visited the museum in 2018, see my album Versatile Perak, for my friends it was new. It is an attractive museum dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps. Lots of old machinery, many dioramas.

Recently I had come in contact with Jacky Chew, the curator of the museum regarding some heritage issues. It was nice to meet him now in person. He is very knowledgeable about the history of tin mining.

Our next destination was the Battle of Kampar Heritage trail. The Battle of Kampar was a valiant attempt of the British Commonwealth forces to slow down the advance of the Japanese Imperial army in December 1941. Jacky Chew told us that the trail started next to a factory, north of Kampar old town. We found the factory and asked for further directions.

Mr Chee, the owner of the plant, pointed out where the trail started and also explained to us what they were doing in the factory. Basically it is a mineral processing industry. More info here. Very interesting and an unexpected bonus of our trip.

The trail starts next to the factory and was doable for us seniors ;-). Clearly signposted.

There is a memorial with info about the battle.

The wreaths in front of the memorial were put there a few weeks ago, at the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kampar.

From the memorial a trail leads to a few remains of the battle field, a bunker, a trench and the location of the former command post.

Here is a view from the Green Ridge. Not easy to imagine that this was a battlefield where hundreds of soldiers died, eighty years ago.

We went back to the old town for our last destination. After the success of the mural art of Zacharevic in Penang, mural art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia. KL, Ipoh, Gopeng to name a few. And now Kampar as well. The works of art are concentrated in a small lorong (alley) between the two main roads of old town. The quality is not always very good, but at least it is colorful.

Here is a collection of pictures.

Kampar has also quite a lot of heritage architecture, but there was no time to explore as we were getting hungry. Our plan was to have lunch in Sungkai , at the Choy Kee restaurant, but we found it closed, maybe we were too late. So we continued to Slim River, the Fook Seng restaurant, a favourite of Stephen.

We had pork knuckle, herbal chicken, tofu and bean sprouts. With drinks and rice the bill was RM 102. Value for Money VMF), one of the tenets of the Gang of Four πŸ˜‰

We are already looking forward to our next outing!

Our new penthouse

In October 2005 Aric and I moved from Goodyear Court 7 in USJ to Perdana View in Damansara Perdana. We love the location and are happy with our condo, although it is a bit on the small side. The top floor of Perdana View has 2-storey penthouses and years ago we had a look at one of them. It didn’t appeal to us, just 2 units on top of each other.

End of August Aric accidentally noticed that a penthouse in our condo was for sale , which was considerably larger than the other ones. We contacted the agent, and had a look on1 September. I fell in love with the condo at first sight and convinced Aric that we should try to buy it. Here is a photo of Perdana View.

And here is an enlarged detail. At the right side I have marked in red the contours of our present condo. In the center the contours of the penthouse. also in red.

In this floor plan you can see how big the penthouse is (in red) compared with the other seven penthouses (in green)

On 3 September we paid a deposit for the penthouse, I could not buy it in my own name, but I could finance it. Here I am handing over the deposit cheque to the agent. In the background the present owner is watching.

Buying a property in Malaysia is a bit complicated, both the buyer and the vendor are represented by lawyers. Here Aric is signing the Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA) at our lawyer’s office. That was on 22 September.

On 3 November our lawyer told us that all formalities were complete, so we could finalise the payment. On 5 November I went to the bank to write a cheque. There they told me that I could not directly transfer the money to the lawyer of the vendor, because I would not become the owner of the property! They said that they would call me the following week. I didn’t sleep well that weekend! On Monday they called me and told me that the solution was to first transfer the money to Aric’s account. He could then write the cheque to the lawyer. And that’s what we did. A huge relief. Here we are in our car just before handing over the cheque to our lawyer.

That evening we celebrated already a bit. Aric holding the SPA in his hand. Now we just had to wait for the keys.

Officially after payment you must receive the keys within five working days. And that’s what happened. This afternoon we got a call from our lawyer that we could collect the keys. No formalities. we didn’t even leave our car, a secretary handed over the keys and some documents.

We drove home and of course we immediately went to what was now OUR penthouse. I will show many pictures to give an impression. One of the attractions of this penthouse is that it has a roof garden.

We bought a few items from the owner, for example the dining table and chairs.

On the ground floor there is one big room which will become Aric’s room.

The owner presented us with a wine chiller! . The kitchen has everything we need, microwave, induction stove, fridge.

There is a spacious outdoor kitchen with a washing machine and dryer.

There is even a maid’s room. We will probably use it as a store room. And of course there is a toilet.

Strairs lead to the upper floor, which has a second living room and three rooms . One of them will become the guest room, with its own bathroom.

The upstairs living room.

The master bedroom, with a separate wardrobe and a state of the art bathroom

This will become my room. Enough space for my books. I bought the desk from the former owner.

The view from our penthouse. The bungalows are part of the Orang Asli village.

We went back later to see how the rooms looked with the lights on

It is now just after midnight here. I wanted to publish this blog before I go to sleep.

The Gang of Four

Probably everybody knows about the Gang of Four who became (in)famous during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. There are more Gang of Four’s in the world, Wikipedia has a list of them. There are political groups, industrial ones, there is even a rock band with that name.

There is also a Gang of Four in Malaysia πŸ˜‰ ! Here they are. From left to right: Khong Tuck Koon, Jan Stuivenberg (me), Stephen Boey and George Tan.

When I settled down in Malaysia around the turn of the century, I got interested in waterfalls. That’s how I came into contact with Khong, who had created a waterfall website. Stephen was a friend of him and George his brother-in-law. Soon we became friends, as we shared many interests, waterfalls, birds, and not in the last place food. As we were all retired. we had time to make trips together. Often daytrips, where we first visited a waterfall or watched birds, always ending with a nice lunch.

In August 2005 Khong suggested a longer trip to Southern Thailand and it was during this trip that the name Gang of Four was coined for our fellowship. The picture above is from this trip. .A travelogue and many pictures can be found in this report: South Thailand. We visited a number of nature parks.

Of course we enjoyed the Thai food, we visited waterfalls and George kept track of our expenses meticulously πŸ˜‰

In those days, my camera was not good enough to take suitable bird pictures, so mostly I took food pictures. Here is an example of a birding trip to the Selangor Coast, a few weeks after our Thailand trip. In between breakfast and lunch there was bird watching, Khong and Stephen being the real birders, George and I the “accidental” birders, as we jokingly called ourselves.

In those days there was a social media site, called Multiply, where you could publish pictures and share them with family and friends.. I had my own account, and we decided to create a shared account “gangoffour” for our trips. Multiply was quite popular, but not profitable enough and after a couple of years they announced that the service. would be discontinued. I managed to download the content of all albums and wrote a script for my own Multiply website .Here is the first Gang of Four album: Trip up North, (13-16)-7-2006 We stayed two nights in Kulim and visited several birding locations in the region. One evening we went owling in Air Hitam Dalam with Dr Neoh and his wife. We also visited the canopy walkway at Sg Sedim and met more Penang birders at Ulu Paip. On our way back we visited Chan Ah Lak in Taiping. More details in the album.

A few weeks later we made a daytrip to Lagong. Joined this time by Gilbert and Yoke Sim, two birder friends. I had just bought a new camera, a Canon Powershot S3 with 12x zoom and image stabilising. Finally I could take bird pictures myself πŸ˜‰

Our next adventure was a 3D2N trip to Taiping and the Cameron Highlands in August 2006. When I searched in my collection of photo albums for a report about this trip, I discovered that I had never written one, although I had taken almost 200 photos! Of course memories had become a bit vague but with the help of the other GoF members I managed to write a rather belated report: Taiping & CH, August 2006. The album contains 60 photos of birds, flowers, food etc. Our friend Henry Hor joined us on this trip. As I was the photographer, I am not in many photos myself. Here are a few.

With my new compact camera I managed to take this picture of a Black-crowned Night-heron. I was so happy with it that I published it on my Birding in Malaysia website, one of the few bird photos I contributed πŸ˜‰ .

Sometimes the Gang of Four invited guests for a trip. It also happened that not all four of us were free, like on this day trip to Sekinchan, 22-1- 2007. Khong could not join, but as our “sifu” he provided us with a map of suitable birding locations. A few of the photos were taken by Stephen who also wrote some of the captions.

Several times the Gang of Four attended the Raptor Watch in Tanjung Tuan. Here is a report Raptor Watch 2007, This time we went with Gilbert and Yoke Sim, not sure if George was present. We hardly saw any raptors this time.

In May 2007 we went to Merapoh, where we stayed two nights in the Sg Relau visitor center. I didn’t take many pictures during this trip and forgot details. We were hoping to see the Pitta, but I don’t remember if we did. We had to prepare our own breakfast and lunch, for dinner we probably went to Gua Musang. But I still remember the pictures of two monitor lizards I took. Making love, I thought, until my friends explained that they were actually fighting for supremacy πŸ˜‰ . .

In September we made a 3D2N trip to Langkawi. We were joined by Gilbert and Yoke Sim and this time also by Aric. We took a flight to Langkawi and rented a car there. Aric and I visited mainly waterfalls while the others went birding. Of course we enjoyed the food and the fellowship. Here is a report Langkawi (11-13)-9-2007.

Two more day trips in 2007. On 25 October we went to the coast, Jeram and Kuala Selangor. George did not join this time. .

On 7 November we went to Fraser’s Hill. this time without Khong. The smelly rubbish dump is a favourite location for bird watching! But even with my 12x zoom, taking bird pictures is not that easy.

Much easier to take pictures of flowers πŸ˜‰ .

It was an active year for the Gang of Four with six events . Collecting data for this compilation, I noticed that Gilbert and Yoke Sim often joined, and that sometimes only three gang members were present. Stephen was always there, because he had a Pajero with enough space for even six pax!

The first trip in 2008 was to Taman Negara., 3D2N, and this time only Stephen and I represented the GoF . Richard, a hiking friend joined us. The trip is included here , because Stephen contributed quite a few photos to the report Taman Negara (7-9)-4-08. We did the canopy walk, visited a waterfall and had a very pleasant time. Here a few pictures, many more in the album.

A few weeks later a daytrip to Merlimau. I managed to take a few bird pictures.

In May we made an interesting trip to the Cameron Highlands via a new, still partly unfinished road. A detailed report here: New Road to the Cameron Highlands. George did not join, but Gilbert, Yoke Sim and Aric did. The new road was easily passable, and a nice adventure. We stayed overnight in Brinchang, had a traditional steamboat dinner and visited the Mossy Forest the next day before driving back home.

In August a daytrip to Sg Buloh with the complete Gang of Four. It was my lucky day, I took these pictures.

One month later an excursion to the Chiling waterfall, with Stephen, Khong and Robert, a Kiara friend. Stephen and Khong went birding while Robert and I explored the waterfall. Lunch in the WK restaurant in Batang Kali

On 23 November 2008 the Gang of Four attended the wedding of George’s daughter. It was a festive event, where we met many friends. Have a look at the album . Here is the Gang of Four in festive attire.

A few days later we made a trip to Kedah, staying overnight in Kuala Gula. Without George , but with Gilbert and Yoke Sim and this time our friend Zen joined us. I don’t remember if we did any birding, we had a rather dismal lunch in Tanjung Tualang, stayed in a kind of Airbnb and visited the Hua Seng Keng Temple, located in the middle of nowhere near Kuala Gula. Quite interesting, especially the depiction of the Underworld. I got sick on the way back home.

January 2009 we made another trip to Taiping, 3D2N. When I looked for a report, I discovered that I had never written one, same as in 2006. So I wrote a belated report, using a selction of the pictures, without much text, because I forgot details. We visited the Tanjung Tualang tin dredge, Papan, the SBS Buddhist Sanctuary, the Wild Boar temple in Kamunting., the Lake gardens and probably we did some birding. Here is the report, Taiping, January 2009.

In December that year we made a trip to Parit Jawa. Again without George, but with Gilbert and Yoke Sim. I had just bought a new camera, a Nikon D5000. Here is the album: Parit Jawa (2-3)-12-2009. Some of the bird photos taken during the trip, , S= Stephen, K=Khong, J=Jan.

The yearly number of GoF trips was getting less. On 14 March 2010 we made a short trip to Genting. You may wonder what Khong, Stephen and Gilbert are looking at in this photo.

I don’t remember if we have seen birds during this trip. I took only pictures of a crowd of beetles. The main reason to go to Genting was probably that there was a buffet promotion πŸ˜‰

In that year we went to Taiping with Kiara friends: Mostly Makan, August 2010 , and we were invited for the wedding of Zen’s daughter, Zen’s wedding party 23-10-2010 , but those were not really GoF activities.

In December 2011 we had a “real” GoF trip, again to Taiping. Khong did not join. There is no album about this 2D1N trip, I don’t remember where we stayed overnight and where we had our food.

But we went birding. although I forgot the location

The last “official” GoF trip took place in May 2012. Again I discovered that I had never written a report about this trip. But I was able to reconstruct more or less what we did, using my pictures and also emails we exchanged after the trip. Here is the report: Taiping, May 2012. It was a 3D2N trip to Taiping, we stayed one night in the Beringin bungalow on Maxwell Hill.

Of course we met each other after this, but no more trips, as far as I remember. You will have noticed that after our maiden trip Gilbert and Yoke Sim were often taking part, making it more a Gang of Six. They were real birders, compared to the accidental birders George and me. The four real birders may have made more birding trips after 2012.

Around 2018, 6(!) years later, we decided that it would be nice to have lunch meetings every now and then. Khong, always the organiser, created a WhatsApp chat group GoF Classic, with the original Gang of Four as members. As one of our mottos was : Value For Money (VFM), the venues for our meetings were restaurants with attractive promotions.

Our first GoF-VFM lunch meeting was 16 November 2018 in the Skaters Cafe in the Royale Chulan hotel in Damansara. Notice how Stephen looks like a patriarch.

It was nice to meet and talk, so a few weeks later we had a second meeting, this time in the OUG Jade restaurant.

Our next meeting was in my condo in Damansara Perdana. I had promised my friends a lunch with traditional Dutch Pancakes.

In October 2019 we had a buffet lunch in the Kampung Kitchen, a restaurant in the Ibis Hotel, near KLCC.

And that was our latest meeting until now, a couple of months later Malaysia went into lockdown because of Covid-19.

Hopefully we can continue this tradition soon.

EMCO!

In May 2020 I published a blog post Lockdown!, about our experiences during the first Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia. More than one year has passed since then. THe MCO was extended several times, then replaced by the CMCO (Conditional) and later by the RMCO (Recovery), Confusing? There is also an FMCO (Full) and an EMCO (Enhanced). For a detailed review of all the MCO variations, with timetable, see the Wikipedia article Malaysian movement control order.

In the beginning of the pandemic there were hardly any cases in Malaysia, but from October 2020 onwards the situation deteriorated. We are now in the 5th “wave”.

During the Recovery MCO, starting in May 2020, international borders remained closed, but interstate travel was allowed. We visited the Cameron Highlands in July 2020, and Taiping twice, in August and October. When the situation worsened, we could not travel interstate anymore, but inter-district travel (within a state) was still allowed. I visited the Batang Kali waterfall in March 2021 and the Rawang Bypass in the first week of May, a few days before even inter-district travel was no longer allowed. We could still walk, but only in our own neighbourhood. I was very fortunate because from my doorstep i could explore the many trails in Bukit Lanjan. In May and June I walked with friends a few times a week, here is one of those hikes, A Backyard Hike.

Then, on 1 July, the backdoor government announced an EMCO from 3 to 16 July in the Klang Valley (most of Selangor and parts of Kuala Lumpur). .Enhanced or Extreme? Physical outdoor exercise, considered by experts to be safe and healthy, was banned. Everybody had to stay at home, only one person in a household could go out for essential shopping (food, pharmacy).

During those two weeks we have been staying at home almost permanently, blogging, listening to music, playing games. We decided to spend more time to prepare food ourselves and only occasionally order delivery food. Every day we took a picture of our dinner. The original plan was that Aric and I would share the cooking duties, but it turned out that he did most of the cooking, often very creatively. Here is a report.

2 July

On our last day of freedom, I hiked with friends to a viewpoint at Bukit Lanjan. We had a beer and enjoyed the nice weather.

3 July

Durian season was starting, we bought online a few containers of Red Prawn and Musang King. Expensive but delicious. We still had Tau Fu Fa in the fridge and for dinner I prepared Spaghetti Carbonara with salad and a glass of wine.

5 & 6 July

The next two days Aric was the cook, the first day Chinese food, the second day Western style.

Tom Yam Stir-fried Chicken with Veggies (Broccoli, Eggplant, Shiitake)

BBQ Cuttlefish with mashed potatoes and veggies.

Shopping

To get some physical exercise, I decided to go shopping on foot, not to the nearby Jaya grocer but to the TESCO, a roundtrip of about 4 km ;-). I did the same during the first lockdown, carrying a shopping bag to show the police that I was not hiking, haha. The TESCO car park was almost empty, the shops closed. Parts of TESCO also blocked, only a few customers. Eerie.

7 & 8 July

Two more dinners prepared by Aric. One Chinese and one Western cuisine.

Red Snapper with fermented bean paste & Chinese cabbage with fried dried Shrimp and Cuttlefish.

Baked Salmon with Lemon Sauce, Cheese-baked potato and salad.

8 July

Dutch food for a change. Pancakes. Two versions, an apple pancake and a spekpannekoek with bacon, traditionally served with syrup. A glass of beer was a good accompaniment.

9 & 10 July

Although dine-in was not allowed, many restaurants still prepared take-away food. We ordered a meal from our favourite restaurant: fried rice, sotong, tofu soup and veggies. The following day I decorated a frozen pizza from the Jaya grocer with extra mushrooms and cheese.

11 July

Aric’s birthday. Of course no visitors, but he was spoiled with three birthday cakes!

We had a traditional steamboat dinner, ordered online. It included the cooking pot, the soup and a variety of ingredients.

Vaccination

I got my 2nd Covid-19 dose (AstraZeneca) on 12 July at the PWTC in Kuala Lumpur. That is a different state (Federal Territory), but for vaccination you could cross the state border without a permit. No police check on our way. The organisation was very professional, separate stations for dose 1 and dose 2. No queue at all for dose 2, I was in and out in 35 minutes and that included the compulsory 15 minute wait after being injected.(right picture)

12 & 13 July

The steamboat dinner was so copious that we could not finish everything, there was enough for another meal. The next day Aric prepared Tom Yam chicken with green veggies

14 & 15 July

My turn, two Dutch meals. Pancakes again, but now prepared by me, the dough a bit thinner. I managed to turn the pancakes in the traditional way, by lifting he frying pan upward, so the pancake will turn over in the air. The next day I prepared Hutspot, a traditional winter stew in the Netherlands. Very simple recipe, carrots, onions and potatoes. Could not find the smoked sausage, but the sliced pork (from a can) was a good alternative. The pickled onions and gherkins are essential πŸ˜‰

16 & 17 July

The last EMCO day, Aric surpassed himself with a fabulous meal of Giant Prawns in a Creamy Tom Yam sauce. The next day we ordered food, a PokΓ© Bowl (Fish Bowl), healthy food, getting more and more popular in the Klang Valley.

End of EMCO

The EMCO was announced from 3 to 16 July, what would happen next? Looking at the daily number of new Covid-19 cases, I expected that it would be extended. On 3 July it was 6658 and on 16 July it had increased to 12541. But the government decided otherwise. EMCO was not extended, probably because it had no effect on the virus, only damaged the economy more.

So we went back to another MCO, actually not that much different. A few more shops could reopen (Aric’s laundry shop for example), two people from a household could go shopping instead of only one. Still no inter-district travel.

But for me a very important difference: Hiking around your house was allowed again. I waited a few days , because this government has a reputation of flip-flopping.

19 July

What a pleasure it was to hike again. For the time being I will hike on my own, keeping a safe distance to everybody. It is clear that they virus is endemic now, everybody can be a carrier, I am fully vaccinated now, but even that gives no 100% protection.

I had made myself a thermos with coffee and enjoyed my cuppa at the Hard Rock. I had to use the timer of my phone, that’s why I look so serious πŸ˜‰

Two weeks of extreme lockdown. Of course we did more than eat, eat, eat. I listened to a lot of music, click on the image to listen to my favourite composer.

I re-discovered the films of Buster Keaton Here is his hilarious movie Our Hospitality (1923). Click on the image to watch the movie.

And I spent much time at my laptop. Here is a blog I published about the French painter Jean-LΓ©on GΓ©rΓ΄me and his painting the Naked Truth (1896). Click on the image to read why I wrote a blog about the painting.

I did a lot of gaming too, for my mental health. Here are two of my favourite games, Hay Day and Homescapes.

The Covid-19 situation in Malaysia is still getting worse every day.

Melbourne 2015

In February 2015 Aric and I visited our friends Pat and Roger in Melbourne. We had a wonderful time, I took almost 800 pictures, but I never wrote a report about it. It is now six years later, details about our trip have become vague. Here is a belated blog about that visit.

They are living in a nice bungalow in the Dandenong hills, not far from Melbourne.

The first day we relaxed, did some shopping for the dinner. All of us love food and Roger is a good cook. He knows that we are addicted to oysters, look at his face as he is watching how Aric is enjoying one πŸ˜‰ .

The next day we went to Melbourne, to the Prahran Market, a historical market, founded in the 1860s and relocated to its present location in 1881. Lots of fresh produce and also many cafes. Roger did some shopping for the dinner.

We had coffee with cake and later lunch with mussels.

Aric had discovered on the Internet a colorful beach “village”, Brighton Beach, and in the afternoon we visited it. A perfect location for photographers.

That evening again an exquisite seafood dinner.

The next day we started a 5D4N trip to the region in Victoria north of Melbourne. We visited a goldmine in Bendigo, made a paddle steamer trip in Echuca, had lost of nice food and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. I wrote a separate blog about this trip, Victoria Trip 2015. Here is a sketch of our itinerary.

After we returned from this trip, we visited the RSL Club of Upwey-Belgrave. Roger is a member and regular visitor of this typical Australian phenomenon. Although the background is military, it now functions primarily as a pub.

The restaurant in the RSL was leased to a chef who prepared an exquisite dinner.

After the busy trip we relaxed the next day. They have a nice garden and Roger prepared the jacuzzi, where we spent a lazy afternoon. They have now become Australians and are clearly proud of it πŸ˜‰

We had dinner at home. Host and hostess busy in the kitchen and decanting the wine.

We started with oysters

Main course were lamb cutlets. Because Roger knew that lamb was not Aric’s favourite, he prepared fish especially for him!

The next day we went on our own to Melbourne, using public transport. This is the iconic Victoria station (1888)

We started with coffee and cake at Brunetti’s a well-known patisserie in Melbourne. One of their specialities is the Baba Rum and of course Aric had to try it.

Yarn Bombing , also know as Graffiti Knitting, where trees and street objects are decorated with knitted or crocheted yarn, was quite popular in Melbourne during our visit. It gave the street a friendly atmosphere.

We had a look at two churches , the St. Michael’s Uniting Church (1866)

And St Paul’s Cathedral (1891)

This is the former State Theatre, built 1929 in Moorish Revival style.

We were actually looking for another kind of graffiti. Hosier Lane is a landmark of Melbourne, famous for its Street Art.

We kept taking pictures, here is a selection.