The Gang of Four in Janda Baik

The last trip of the Gang of Four (Khong, Stephen, George and Jan) was in January: The Gang of Four in Kampar. High time for a new outing. Khong suggested Janda Baik with a visit to the garden of Al Attas and of course nice food,

We started with a late breakfast of wantan mee and coffee in Bukit Tinggi, a charming village beside the highway.

Khong knows the region well and drove us deep inside the Janda Baik region, until the end of the road

IIt was a long time ago that I had visited Janda Baik and I was a bit shocked about the “development” that had taken place. Everywhere resorts and campsites. A funny kind of campsites, meant for town people who are afraid of nature πŸ˜‰ I love camping, see my blog Waterfall Camping, but this kind of “glamping” is not my cup of tea.

And of course there are places where you can rent ATV’s.

Our next stop was at a ‘forest’ of wild ginger. George was interested to harvest some bunga kantan, buds of the torch ginger, used for the preparation of assam laksa and tom yam.

Here George is in action cutting the flowers, while Khong is practicing his new hobby, close-up photography.

George’s harvest of bunga kantan

I was taking pictures too.. The right pictures looks like a bird πŸ˜‰

Nearby is a parking for people who are going to climb Gunung Nuang, the second-highest mountain of Selangor at 1493 m. Nowadays the ascent from Janda Baik is getting more popular than the traditional one from Pangsun. In the past I have hiked part of this trail until the Cemperoh waterfall. It was free and easy then, now you need permits. Here is an interesting and detailed comparison of the two ascents: Janda Baik versus Pangsun.

Final destination was the house and gardens of Al Attas. I had visited this place with Khong a long time ago> At that time we admired the garden and the numerous flowers and plants in it. For this blog I searched for more information about the owner, Prof(?) Syed Hussein Alattas, better known as Pak Habib. Quite a character, founder of the University of Life  He was not at home, but Eddie, his caretaker said we were welcome to walk around the gardens.

Here are some pictures of the house and the gardens. According to Khong, the house looks like it is from a Disney movie.

Many flowers and plants.

Then it was time for lunch. We drove back to Bukit Tinggi, to the Wonderland Valley restaurant..

Here is the food we had. From top left, clockwise: .kangkung in prawn sauce, BBQ pork ribs, deep-fried squid with salted egg, yam basket with stir-fried cuttlefish and steamed lala in giner/garlic sauce..

Te location of the restaurant is idyllic, next to the river. Food was good, price reasonable. I liked the wall decoration with empty bottles. And I had to take pictures of the men’s toilet πŸ˜‰

It was a nice trip. Here is a Google Earth map of the region. Top left the highway, with the village of Bukit Tinggi.

A Family Visit, part 2

From 8 until 25 August 2022 my brother Otto and his family visited us in Malaysia. A report of what we did, can be found here. Part of our program was a 8D7N trip to a few of our favorite “haunts” and here is a report about this trip.

We decided to limit ourselves to the West Coast of (Peninsular) Malaysia. Below is the route we followed. Our first destination was the Suka Suka Lake Retreat, next we stayed two nights in Georgetown. One night in Kuala Kurau and in Taiping, finally two nights in the Cameron Highlands.

It is a three hour drive from our condo to Suka Suka, we travelled in two cars. .Using the highway we stopped only for some snacks at the Tapah R&R. The Suka Suja lake retreat is located on the bords of the Chenderoh reservoir, one of the oldest in Malaysia. Left a drone picture of the reservoir, right Suka Suka, marked with an X.

When you enter the resort, it feels like going back in time. Traditional Malay houses, built on pillars. Here the main building with some pictures of the interior..

The resort is managed by a family, Aziz, his wife Asiah and their son Azam. I have stayed in the resort many times and they have become friends. Very friendly and hospitable. We were welcomed with a drink and some fried chempedak.

Aziz has bought old Malay houses from various locations in the country, taken them apart and rebuilt them in his resort. Original design, he only added modern bathrooms. Here are the two houses where we stayed.

Suka Suka is a place to relax, for example in one of the gazebo’s

But of course you can also explore the resort.

Staying there is not cheap, but meals are included and Asiah is a very good cook, eager to explain the various Malay dishes she prepares. She lent us sarongs and asked us to wear them during dinner. Actually we should have eaten, sitting on the floor, but looking at the seniors among us, she suggested that we could sit on chairs πŸ˜‰

After the dinner she explained to my nephews how to play congkak, a traditional Malay game. Here are the rules, if you are interested. Of course a photo had to be taken with all of us wearing our sarongs.

The next morning Asiah prepared breakfast for us.

The resort has kayaks which can be used by the guests. Aric and I had done that during an earlier visit and we nearly got lost, orientation is not easy with all those small islands. So we left the exercise to Otto and Nina, and to the twins. They found their way back without problems

Then it was time to say goodbye and continue our trip. Azam used a tripod to take this nice farewell picture.

Our next destination was Georgetown in Penang, in 2008 declared a World Heritage Site, because of its historical past. You could spend weeks to explore everything, but we stayed only two nights.

On our way, we passed Kuala Kangsar, the Royal town of the Perak state. Two landmarks, the impressive Ubudiah mosque, a masterpiece by colonial architect A.B. Hubback, completed in 1917 And the Istana Kenangan, the former Royal Palace.

Aric did some droning, here is an aerial view of the mosque. with the present Royal palace in the background and the Royal mausoleum in the left foreground

We had some snacks in an R&R and arrived in the afternoon at the Airbnb booked by Aric. Located in the historical center of Georgetown, it was a nice house in Peranakan style. Left the façade, right the (very) steep stairs, leading to the bedrooms. Notice the traditional screen shielding the ground floor rooms from the entrance

Left the screen as seen from the entrance, and two pictures of the bedrooms. The house was well furnished and comfortable.

Having some refreshments before going out.

During our last stay in Penang, Aric and I had visited the top floors of the Komtar tower, where you can look down 250 meter, through a glass floor. We liked it so much that we wanted to show it to our guests. Here are Xander and Aswin, sitting relaxed on the (very) transparent glass.

Nina had said that she would scream, but she did not. Bravo ;-). I took a photo of our group.

The top floor has a skywalk. Here Aric took a picture of us. I found this a lot less scary. We stayed until after sunset, to take some night pictures.

Dinner at the New World food court. Aric ordered a selection of dished. Without him we should have been at a loss what to order. From top left clockwise: popiah, lobak, vegetarian spaghetti and dumplings.

The next morning. Two brothers having a relaxed cup of coffee in the front yard of their temporary home.

We did a lot of walking that day. First we had a look at some of the famous Zacharevic murals. If you are interested, I wrote several blogs about Penang Mural Art. A lot of copycatting, I am not sure about the top right one, and the lower right is definitely not Zacharevic.

Then we walked to the clan jetties, another landmark of Penang. We selected the Tan Jetty and were a bit disappointed that we could not proceed until the end, from where you have a fantastic view of the harbor front. I could only take a shot through an opening in the gate.

We had a refreshing coconut there

On our way back we passed the famous Khoo Kongsi, the most impressive clan house of Georgetown. We entered and walked around. I have visited this place so many times, I did not take many photos.

After some rest in our Airbnb, we discussed what to do the rest of the day. We decided to take the cable car up Penang Hill and walk around a bit there, having a drink at the Bellevue hotel. This colonial style hotel is owned by a friend of mine and has a spectacular view of Georgetown and Butterworth on the mainland. We stayed until after sunset before taking the cable car down.

The next morning we first had breakfast in the famous Toh Soon cafe. We had tried the day before but found it was closed. Now it was open with a long queue of people waiting. It is famous for its coffee and its toast. I had my favorite eggs on toast.

A trip to Penang is not complete without a visit to the Kek Lok Si temple in Air Hitam. The Buddhist temple is dominated by the huge statue of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.. You can only take a photo of the whole building when you are far away πŸ˜‰

The construction is not yet complete, you can donate roof tiles. The family bought a tile and wrote NOPAX on it (Nina, Otto, Pascal, Aswin and Xander)

Nina also bought a candle.

There are many temples in the complex. This is the main one.

You can climb the beautiful pagoda, but I had done that already in the past. So I waited at the bottom while the others climbed up.

Before crossing over to the mainland, we visited another temple, the snake temple. Inside(!) the temple and outside in the trees many Wagler’s pit vipers live. When you don’t disturb them, they are harmless (although venomous). During our visit there were only a few snakes inside the temple, sleeping. But many in the trees of the courtyard.

After a simple lunch opposite the snake temple, we crossed the bridge and drove to Kuala Kurau, a fishing village at the mouth (= kuala) of the Kurau river. Years ago we had discovered in this village a nice homestay, located right on the river with a terrace from where we could observe the many activities on the river.

The owner of the homestay, a young man, studied and worked in the UK, but came back to his hometown, missing the rural life. Nicely renovated house.

For dinner the owner suggested a restaurant from where we could enjoy the sunset. In this kind of seafood restaurant you start with looking at the fish tanks to select what you like to eat, Can not be more fresh. The food picture, from top left clockwise: seaweed soup, stingray, mantis shrimps and crab. The bottom right picture shows how people here leave the table after a nice dinner πŸ˜‰

The restaurant was about1 km from our homestay, as the crow flies, but to reach it by car we had to take a long detour. Crossing the Kurau river we saw the numerous fish farms in the river.

Back in our homestay it was time to relax.

The next morning Aric woke up early to take drone pictures of the river and our homestay (marked with a yellow x). Notice another fish farm in the river.

We had breakfast in the village and walked around. Of course there was a fish market.

On our way to the Hua Seng Kong Temple near Kuala Gula, Aric got a flat tyre, which he changed superfast . The temple is located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by plantations. We were the only visitors.

This Buddhist temple has strong Mahayana and Taoist influences. It has a rustic atmosphere, no exquisite art here. Left the family at one of the entrances. When you kneel on the metal plate, as Nina does, the statue starts pouring holy(?) water.

Very interesting is the depiction of “Hell”, where people are punished for the sins they have committed in their life. A small scale version of the famous Haw Par villa in Singapore.

Here Xander and Aswin are waiting for their judgment. After the punishment everybody gets a cup with the tea of forgetfulness, so they have no memories after being reborn.

It was not far to Taiping where we had lunch in the Old Railway Station. Finally we had Assam Laksa, Aric’s favorite food. He has a special Assam Laksa website. Try to find his verdict about this assam laksa (hint: there are three assam laksa entries for Taiping)

We had booked rooms in the modern Flemington hotel, next to the Taiping :Lake Gardens. After some rest we walked around, we were lucky, Taiping is named the rain town of Malaysia, it rains often in the afternoon, but we had nice weather,

At sunset we watched the colony of egrets, roosting every night at the Lake Gardens. Thousands of them. We also had a look at the rain trees that in recent years have fallen down on the road. The town council took the smart decision to leave them there and make part of the road pedestrian: the Raintree Walk. Now a tourist attraction.

Dinner in the Double Tap, a modern fusion-style restaurant near the Lake Gardens. I had spaghetti with smoked duck, curry leaves and salted egg! Very eatable.

A special feature of Flemington is the infinity swimming pool on the top floor. I had told my family to bring swimwear, they did, but I was actually the only one using the pool haha. We had a buffet breakfast the next morning.

Here is the Raintree Walk during daytime. During evenings and weekends teher can be a happy crowd.

As the “godfather of Malaysian waterfalls”, of course I had to bring my family to a waterfall North of Taiping there is a nice waterfall, not yet discovered by the general public, although easily accessible on a clear trail

The Air Hitam waterfall is an attractive one, from where I took the photo, you can still continue to the bottom of the falls, but that is more tough going. Aric took a drone picture of us.

We could not stay long, because we had a (late) checkout before 1 pm. We had lunch in the Lighthouse restaurant in Matang. The famous Teochew fish porridge (Aric is Teochew himself).

Our last stay was in the Cameron Highlands, two nights in the Lutheran Mission Bungalow. A lot of the Cameron Highlands has lost its charm because of agricultural (over)development, but this bungalow is still relatively unspoilt. Left a drone picture, the ugly gray plastic roofs are approaching. Right the bungalow, built in the 1950s as a retreat for Lutheran missionaries.

How I discovered this bungalow (12 years ago) is too complicated to tell here. Read my blog What Happened to Jim Thompson. I have been there many times and booked three rooms in the main bungalow this time.

For our dinner we went to the Jin Jin Steamboat restaurant in Brinchang. Steamboat is popular in Malaysia and specially in the Cameron Highlands. You get a bowl with hot broth and plates with meat, fish, veggies, mee etc. You prepare your own food. Although it was a weekday, it was very busy, we had to wait for a table. But it was worth it.

Traditional breakfast the next morning..

The view from the garden is still very nice. and there are lots of flowers.

One of the attractions of the Cameron Highlands are the tea plantations.

We visited the BOH Tea Centre Sungai Palas and we were not the only ones. The tea house has a spectacular location, overlooking the tea fields.

Of course we had BOH tea and cakes. I had scones

Pity that the tea factory, where they process the tea leaves, was closed for renovation. Of course we took many pictures of the tea fields.

Another attraction of the Cameron’s are the strawberries, strawberry farms everywhere (with the ugly gray plastic roofs) When you buy Cameron strawberries in the supermarket, they are very sour, but the ones we bought here, were surprisingly sweet.

In the afternoon we hiked to another waterfall, the Parit fall. On the way back it started to rain a bit. We have been very lucky with the weather during the whole trip.

Back in the bungalow Otto and I enjoyed a glass of whisky on the balcony. You have to book for dinner and breakfast in advance. The food was not bad, colonial style: fish and chips for Nina and chicken chop for the others.

The next day we took another route from the CH back to KL. Passing through Raub, a famous place for durians, we stopped at a stall and Aric bought one. For RM 132 , yes durians can be very expensive. But we just had to let our guests taste the “King of Fruits”

I am addicted to durians, judge for yourself what the others though about it.

Our last stop was at the Chamang waterfall, until recently always open without paying tickets, but now closed. It is called development :-(. But at least we saw a nice group of long-tailed macaques along the road.

We did a lot during our 8 days trip ;-). and came back quite exhausted.

A Family Visit, part 1

During my time in Malaysia, several of my siblings have visited me. The first one was my brother Pim in 2000 and again in 2006; Beautiful Malaysia (16-27)-9-2006. One year later my sister Lous visited me, Beautiful Malaysia II (11-23)-5-2007. In 2011 we had visits of Pim and Nanda in February and three months later of Lous and Arend, Family visit, May 2011. Of course my other brothers were welcome too, but it never resulted in a plan.

Until this year. During my stay in the Netherlands in April, I visited my youngest brother Otto, Otto & Alphen, and we talked about a trip to Malaysia, either by Otto himself, or with his wife Nina and sons Aswin and Xander. We had moved in December to our new penthouse, but our old condo was not yet sold or rented out. So they could stay there during their visit!

On 27 May Otto whatsapped me that they had booked tickets, from 4 August until 25 August. First a few days in Singapore, the other days in Malaysia. More than two months to make plans and prepare the old condo for our guests. Here are some pictures of our former condo, ready for them.

On 8 August, late in the evening they arrived from Singapore by Aeroline bus. We picked them up from 1 Utama and drove home, where we had a nightcap in our roof garden before calling it a day.

The next day was a rest day, we did some shopping and in the afternoon I walked with Otto in the Orang Asli village below our condo. In the left picture our penthouse is marked with a yellow x, the right picture shows one Mat Salleh (Caucasian) and four Temuan (orang asli) kids πŸ˜‰

What about our first dinner with them? We got the impression that they were slightly overwhelmed by the Singaporean food courts. And Nina was pescatarian. But we had also to show them that Aric and I are foodies. So we decided for a Japanese (!) restaurant in 1 Utama. Aric ordered a large selection of dishes. It was quite a success.

The next day we started with a hike in Bukit Lanjan, my local playground. Not too difficult, we walked to the “Sunset Boulevard” viewpoint, there were ropes on the steep parts.

In the afternoon we went into town, using public transport. We visited KLCC with the iconic twin towers and walked around in the park. We had coffee and cake in the cafe of Kinokuniya, my favorite bookstore.

We had dinner that night in the Seapark food court. Aric selected a variety of food, taking into account that Nina liked veggies and fish. Clockwise from top left: otak otak, popiah, Hokkien mee, cuttlefish, BBQ stingray and Cantonese mee,

The Hokkien mee is a specialty of this food court, prepared on a charcoal fire. I am tasting the cuttlefish. Everybody enjoyed the food.

The next morning Otto told me that they had not slept well, because during the night they had been bitten by tiny critters. Bed bugs? The condo had not been used for several months, could they have been come from the Singapore hotel, in their suitcases? Anyway, a thorough cleaning operations was needed.

In the afternoon we drove to a viewpoint, from where you can see the KL metropolis. During the whole trip. we used our two cars. Otto and I in my Axia, Aric and the others in his Subaru. I don’t like driving, fortunately Otto does and he had no problem with driving at the “wrong” side of the road, while I was his guide, using Waze.

It was a bit hazy that day, so the view of the town was not perfect. The tall buildings in the center are the TRX building (right) and the Merdeka 118 skyscraper (left, still under construction)..

Aric used his drone to take pictures.

Not far from the viewpoint there is a restaurant where Aric and I have been several times, the Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant. Location is nice, next to the fish ponds and the food is good.

Here is a collage of the food Aric ordered. In the center me with a glass of toddy (coconut wine). Starting from top left, clockwise: kerang (cockles), mango salad, fried rice, cuttlefish, dessert, deep fried spinach, fish (tilapia) and okra (lady fingers)

On our way back to KL, we stopped again at the viewpoint for a night view

We also stopped for a while at the historical town center, where we walked around a bit. The former colonial government offices are impressive. The confluence of the Gombak en Klang rivers has been beautified recently. A bit too blueish in my opinion ;-).

The following day we went to the Batu Caves.. . You have to climb many steps to reach the Hindu temples in the caves. The temples are dedicated to Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva and Parvathi and the brother of the elephant god Ganesh, my favorite Hindu deity.

From the cave entrance you have a view of the city.

There are several temples in the cave. Very scenic. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and already a “tourist” attraction in 1890, when Kuala Lumpur was still a small village..

All deities have their own transport animal, for Lord Murugan it is the peacock, so you see many peacocks in and around the Batu caves, real ones and artificial ones.

There are also lots of monkeys around, trying to steal your food, for example your ice-cream !

Hindu temples are always very colorful, it is easy to keep taking pictures. Here is a collection.

We had lunch in an Indian restaurant near the caves. Roti canai and thosai.

Back home we started preparing for our trip up North the next day. We went out for a simple dinner in a nearby restaurant and had a drink later in our roof garden.

About our trip I will write a separate report.. Here is an appetizer. Our route in the center. Top row, from left to right: Suka Suka, Komtar tower, Penang Hill. Middle row: Kuala Kurau, Taiping Bottom row: Air Hitam waterfall, Cameron Highlands, Boh Tea plantation.

After we came back, our guests went to KL a few times on their own. They visited the Aquarium, the Bird Park, Chinatown and several shopping centers.

Our kitchen was not yet fully operational, so we did not cook for them. But one evening we ordered delivery food. It is called a fishbowl. We had dinner in our garden.

One afternoon we brought them to Kuala Selangor. Bukit Melawati is of historical interest, the lighthouse was originally built in 1794 by the Dutch. Aric used his drone to take pictures.

The hill houses a group of Silvery Langurs, a very beautiful and friendly monkey species. Notice the orange colored baby in the left picture. And notice how contented my brother Otto looks πŸ˜‰

Kuala Selangor is famous for its seafood restaurants, from where you have a nice view of the Selangor river.

General rule for this kind of local restaurants: the more basic they look, the better the food is.

From top left, clockwise: Stingray, Oat prawns, Seaweed soup, Cuttlefish , Bitter gourd omelet , Salty egg crab. Total cost RM 245. Value for money.

The plan was to visit the fireflies at Kampung Kuantan, but it started to rain heavily, so we had to skip this excursion.

Their stay was coming to an end. Nina was interested to go to an Indian restaurant, so one evening we went to a mamak restaurant in Kota Damansara, the Original Nasi Kandar Penang

More than 20 years ago a picture was taken of me with my two nephews. I asked Aric to take another picture, as similar as possible.

For our farewell dinner, the last evening, we went to the May Chixuan Restaurant near our home, where we are regulars. Their signature dish is curried prawns, served in a coconut. The other dish is tofu in a thick pumpkin sauce.

The next morning, at the ungodly hour of 6 am, they left for the airport. It was a memorable visit.

Visiting Penang, 2018

A very belated report!

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

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

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

A clean hostel-like hotel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The garden is well kept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And slowly Georgetown appears through the cloud cover

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

General view of the hill. Bellevue is bottom right.

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

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

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

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

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

The garden is located between Balik Pulau and Air Hitam.

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

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

We walked around with LCK as our guide.

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

And Shades of White

Black & White

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

Taiping, June 2022

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

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

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

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

Some details of the restoration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanuman

Inside the temple. Right the shrine of Muniswaran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cemetery next to the church has interesting tombstones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short visit, but full of variety!

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.