Netherlands trip, 2023 week 4

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

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

Thursday 15 June

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

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

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

Friday 16 June

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

Saturday 17 June

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

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

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

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

Sunday 18 June

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

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

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

Monday 19 June

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

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

Tuesday 20 June

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

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

Wednesday 21 June

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

Thursday 22 June

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

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

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 3Β 

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

Thursday 8 June

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

Friday 9 June

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

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

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

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

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

Jur had prepared a nice dinner.

Saturday 10 June

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

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

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

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

Sunday 11 June

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

Monday 12 June

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

Caroline is always fascinated by the view from my apartment.

Tuesday 13 June

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday 14 June

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

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

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

This was the third week.

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 2Β 

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

Thursday 1 June

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

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

Friday 2 June

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

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

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

We will keep the Maritime Museum for a next visit.

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

Saturday 3 June

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

The church of Valkkoog and its cemetery.

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

Sunday 4 June

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

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

Monday 5 June

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

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

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

Tuesday 6 June

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

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

The museum has a nice sculpture garden.

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

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

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

Wednesday 7 June

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


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

This was the second week.

Netherlands trip, 2023 week 1

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

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

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

Thursday 25 May

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

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

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

Friday 26 May

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

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

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

Saturday 27 May

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday 28 May

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

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

Monday 29 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 30 May

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

Wednesday 31 May

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

This was the first week.

A Wedding Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth course: steamed pomfret with ginger in soy sauce.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dutch Trip up North

In 2015 I published a blog Trip up North and two years later another one, both about trips to the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia. During my present stay in the Netherlands I have made two trips to northern provinces, so here is a report about my Dutch Trip up North πŸ˜‰ .

During my stay in Valkkoog with my sister Lous and brother-in-law Arend we made a day trip to Den Helder, the most northern town of the province North Holland. It is the main naval base of the Netherlands. There is a maritime museum which I may visit another time, because Lous and Arend wanted to show me two other attractions of the town.

The first one was unusual, a public library: School 7. From the outside it looks like a modern.building.

But look at the facade on the onther side and you will see something different. The modern library is an extension of a primary school, built in 1905. The structure of the old building has been cleverly preserved and is visble everywhere inside the library.

Originally the school had two floors , each with six classrooms and toilets for the pupils. The former toilets are now places where you can read a book, listen to a poem or watch a video.

Here are a few pictures of the modern extension. Not suprisingly the library has won prizes, both in the Netherlands and internationally. More info about the awards here (in Dutch).

The library has a friendly atmosphere, you can sit down and read a book or enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack.

We had lunch at Lands End, the most northern (mainland) point of North Holland.

Two seals are watching the Wadden Sea. At the horizon you can see the Wadden island of Texel.

Another surprise in the afternoon, the Hortus Overzee, a botanical garden in the center of Den Helder town, in a residential area. Started in 1939 as the City Nursery, but around 2000 transformed into a tropical botanical garden, with for example a Japanese garden, a waterfall etc. Amazing.

The Bird of Paradise flowers (center) are quite common in Malaysia, but it was a surprise to see them here.

There are several greenhouses, where tropical plants are kept.

It was a real pleasure to walk around in these gardens.

One week later I visited my brother Ruud and his partner Jur in Groningen. On my way I first stopped in Dokkum, to visit my friend Gerrit, who was my student when I started teaching in 1976. So we know each other more than 45 years!

We walked around in Dokkum, a nice historical town.

In the past Dokkum had as harbour, ships could use the Dokkumer Diep to reach what in those old days was called the Lauwerszee.

Left the city hall (1610), right the windmill Zeldenrust.

Left the public weigh house of Dokkum (1593).

The St Boniface church (1871) built in Neogothic style by Cuypers (Rijksmuseum and Central Station in Amsterdam). In 754 Bonifacius was murdered in Dokkum, I learnt in primary school πŸ˜‰ .

This is one of the 11 fountains , a series of art works, created in Friesland in 2018. This fountain is cooled inside, so the outside is often covered with hoar frost, but during my visit it was too hot πŸ˜‰ .

A nice town, worth a more detailed visit in the future.

I continued my trip to Groningen where Ruud picked me up from the station. Beautiful weather, time for a refreshing beer. 0.0% beer, getting more and more popular these days.

The next day we visited the northern part of Friesland. Right the Keersluis Munnikezijl, built in 1882 to improve water drainage in northeast Friesland.

Flooding was always a problem in this part of Friesland. After the devastating Christmas Flood of 1717 it was decided to block the Dokumer Diep. The Dokumer Nieuwe Zijlen were completed in 1729 and are now National Heritage.

Left the monument that was erected in 1729 after completion of the works. The right picture shows a monument to remember the resitance fighters who lost their lives against the Germans at the end of WWII.

Our next stop was at the small village of Moddergat (~ Mud Hole). It was a fishing village where in 1883 17 of the 22 ships were lost at sea during a storm, killing 83 fishermen. A few of the fishermen houses have been restored and are now an interesting museum.

In one of the houses the interior can be admired. Often two families lived in one house.

It was another day with beautiful weather. The right picture shows a monument to the women who, especially after the disaster, must have had a tough life.

Our last stop was at Wierum, in the past another fishing village. Built on a terp, a man-made hill. Originally the church was the center of the village, now it is close to the dike, because part of the village has been swallowed by the sea.

More monuments, left a memorial for the 22 fishermen who perished during another severe storm in 1893. Right a statue of a fishermen’s wive who had to walk across the mud flats to stab sea worms, which were used as bait by her husband, What a life! More info about Wierum here (in Dutch)

This part of Friesland was virtually unknown to me. . Here is a Google map of the region, where I have marked the places I have visited.

The next day, on my way back to Amsterdam, I stopped for a while in Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland, to have lunch which my friend Nellie. We know each other since 1961, when we both were freshmen at the Free University of Amsterdam. The work of art near the station is another one of the 11 fountains, mentioned above.

A tiring, but rewarding 3D2N trip up north in the Netherlands.

Taiping, February 2023

Before starting to write this blog, I decided to take a look at the two blogs I wrote about my visits to Taiping last year, in March and June. I noticed that my Taiping visits are usually very similar: I meet friends, enjoy the Lake Gardens, explore the town and its heritage, have nice food. etc. This visit was not different, so be warned ;- .

On 15 February I took the ETS to Taiping I like train travel, it is more relaxing than driving. I always choose a seat in coach C, because the canteen is there πŸ˜‰

In Taiping my friends Lay Chun and Kar Seng were waiting for me. We had lunch in the 226 Kim Hai restaurant in Aulong, where they are regular customers.

Nice food and as usual they didn’t let me pay for it. Malaysian hospitality!. From left to right, pork ribs, bitter gourd omelet (my favourite) and mantis shrimps.

After lunch they dropped me at Furama. From my hotel room I always had a view of a beautiful (but abandoned) bungalow. I was a bit shocked to see that the bungalow had been completely destroyed and replaced by a non-descript eatery.

After taking some rest I walked to the Novotel where I met my friend Derrick and his “gang”. They were on a road trip, staying overnight in Taiping and he had asked me to show them Taiping. As they had already been walking around in the Lake Gardens, I took them to Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld), where we walked around. Here a view from the bridge.

The first railway in the FMS, from Taiping to Port Weld, was opened in 1885. Dismantled in 1941, now only a signboard remains. On our way back we had dinner in Matang. The Light House restaurant is famous for its seafood porridge.

The next morning my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel. We had breakfast together, another tradition. This time we had thosai in a mamak.

I had asked Yeap if he had contacts in the Taiping Sikh community, because I was interested to visit the Gurdwara Sahib. Not surprisingly he had, after breakfast we went to the Gurdwara where we met Datuk Balraaj Singh. The present Gurdwara was built in 1970 to replace a beautiful building, completed in 1921. The Taiping Gurdwara Sahib has an interesting history, going back to the times of captain Speedy, who in the 1870s went to India and came back with a group of Sikh sepoys to protect the interests of Ngah Ibrahim. A few years later they formed the Police Corps of Perak and in 1881 a wooden Gurdwara was built in the police compound. During the first world war, most Sikhs left to fight and many didn’t come back. Access to the gurdwara was problematic for their families (high security), in 1916 it was decided to build a new gurdwara.

Left the modern gurdwara, right the only remaining image of the beautiful old building.

Yeap’s wife was interested to see the gurdwara and joined us. Visitors are welcome, but you need a headcover. I had brought my cap, for Yeap and his wife there were shawls. What a handsome couple πŸ˜‰ . We first visited the main hall (called the darbar), the entrance door was decorated with the Ik Onkar symbol, meaning literally There is only one Creator.

The darbar is a big empty space, dominated at the far end by an elevated throne on which rests the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism. First I thought we were alone, entering the hall, but coming closer to the “throne”, we noticed that somebody was sitting behind it, reading the book. It was the Granthi, the ceremonial reader of the Guru Granth Sahib.

A gurdwara also has a langar, a community kitchen, where free vegetarian meals are prepared by volunteers for everybody, irrespective of religion or race. There is also a school and a library. Left the communal kitchen, right a few classrooms.

The courtyard of a gurdwara always has a big flagpole, carrying the Sikh flag. As there was no wind during our visit, you can not see the Khanda on the flag , the official symbol of the Sikh faith, After finishing his reading, the Granthi came to greet us and offer us a cup of tea. Here I am standing between him and the caretaker of the gurdwara.

A nice experience and a very interesting religion!

I went back to my hotel but stayed there only a short time, until Goh, another THS friend picked me up and took me to his house. He is a good photographer, a few years ago we had explored Taiping, resulting in an blog Taiping Old and New. He is also an avid gardener and I had asked him if I could have a look at his garden. His wife prepared coffee and we had a nice “senior” chat

He had a big collection of Desert Roses. We are trying to grow them at home, not easy. He also showed me the budding flower of the Queen of the Night, a species of cactus that only blooms for a single night. I asked him to send me a picture of the flower, which he did the following day. So beautiful.

It was almost lunchtime, we went to the Casual Market, where we had char kuey teow. There are two stalls in Casual Market, preparing this popular food, this time we had the fishball variety. The official name of this food court is Larut Matang Hawker Centre, sometimes also called the Cashier Market, but Goh was adamant that this was not correct.

After lunch we drove to the foothills of Maxwell Hill. The next day an exhibition “A Tale of two Hills” would be opened in the Maxwell Base Camp, we decided to have a look already

Everybody was busy with last-minute preparations, but they still had time to show us around. Left Suet Fun (mentor of the project) explaining the project to another early visitor. Right a description of the four contributions. Narrative and narrator are the new fashion words πŸ˜‰

The contributions contain photos, videos, text. Here are two narrators with their narratives.

After Goh dropped me at my hotel, it was time for a well-deserved rest, Later I went to the Lake Gardens. A few years ago part of the Circular Road has been closed for traffic after a few raintrees had fallen on the road. It is now the Raintree Walk, very popular. One more part , until the Zoo, is now also for pedestrians. Very good initiative of MPT (the Taiping town council).

Until now four of the majestic raintrees have fallen on the road.

Several other trees have fallen in the opposite direction and still manage to survive.

Some more pictures of the Lake Gardens. I like the photo of the ladies who have brought a table and chairs and are enjoying an afternoon tea (?) at the water edge.

A walk in the Lake gardens in not complete for me without having a look at the cannonball trees.

I had invited Bok Kin and her husband for dinner that evening and they suggested the new Brew House, next to my hotel. I asked them to notify me when they had arrived in the restaurant, then I would join them in a few minutes πŸ˜‰

The food was not really that special, but it was very nice meeting them.

During my visit in June I had visited a number of Hindu temples with Muthu Pulai, another THS member. He had suggested a day trip to a Muniswaram temple in Prai (Penang) for the following day, but when I was back in my hotel, I received his message that he had to cancel the trip last-minute. So I had to improvise a program for the next day.. Fortunately my friend Halim was free.!

I decided to start with Chee Cheong Fun breakfast at my usual stall no 37 in the Circus Grounds food court opposite Novotel. Very close to Furama, on my way I passed the colorful Dobi Line.

At the CCF stall I met Foo, earlier working at Furama, having breakfast with a friend. The stall is now managed by the son of Mr Tong, who has retired. Food quality still the same.

Later Halim picked me up from my hotel. First we went to his house, He has a lovely house and a beautiful garden.

Halim has recently started painting and I was interested to see the results. I was quite impressed. A few months ago he had a mild stroke, causing him some speech problems and I was even more impressed by the way he handled this (hopefully temporary) handicap. He carried a notebook to write down what he couldn’t tell and was not shy to communicate with other people.

There are several places I always like to visit when I am in Taiping, many of them heritage related. We had a look at the Residency pillars, cleaned a few years ago by THS and other NGO’s. See my report Taiping October 2020. They still look quite impressive.

The same can not be said of the remains of the former Casuaria Resthouse, still a ruined mess.

Then it was time for lunch, in the nearby New Club

Halim told me that he could see a waterfall from his home in Taman Lake View and that he would like to visit it. I told him that it was the Kamunting fall (Sg Ranting fall). After lunch we drove to the Indian temple near the Water Reservoir, where the trail to both Taiping waterfalls starts. I told him the trail to the Ranting fall is not that easy. We will see, during my next visit.

Back in my hotel, there was the usual afternoon rain.

After the rain stopped, I walked around the town. The egrets were still coming back to roost, It is a fascinating sight to see the flocks of birds return around 7 pm

In Jalan Kelab Cina the faΓ§ade of a shoplot has collapsed a few months ago, damaging a few cars parked in front. The owner has now put up shielding with a warning sign “Park at your own risk”. Through a hole I could take a photo of the interior. Will be interesting to follow the development, if any, of this property. Taiping has (too) many of those ruins.

Next I walked to the Central Market. Part of it, Siang Malam is being renovated. Left a picture I took last year June, right how it looks now. There is progress !

Left the interior of the Siang Malam, still a lot has to be done. Right the main building of the market. No visible activity since last year.

Not really hungry after my lunch in the New Club, I just had some snack food in my hotel.

The next day I woke up early for a day trip with my friends Henry and Soon Lay. Visiting temples and caves around Ipoh was the target of this trip. We did so many interesting things, that I wrote a separate blog about it Take Your Time. Here two pictures, to give you an impression.

The next day was already the last one, going back by ETS in the afternoon. First I had breakfast with Henry and Soon Lay in D’Cherry , Tupai district.. According to Henry the best Nasi Lemak in town. Quite good.

After breakfast they were willing to drive me around the town, so I could have a look at a few of my “favourites”

Recently the STAR published an article about the Taiping murals A total of nine has been planned. We passed one that was still under construction. Here is a picture taken by me next to a Google Earth Street View. Personally I have reservations about this approach, using the wall just as a canvas. Compare it with what Zacharevic has done in Penang and Ipoh, basically using the structure of the old wall instead of obscuring it..

Here is another (in)famous example. Again the wall is just used as a canvas. Infamous because Amelia Earhart never landed in Taiping. See my latest blog Did Amelia Earhart land in Taiping? Two recent newspaper articles, from the STAR : QuickCheck: Did pioneer female pilot Amelia Earhart make a stopover in then-British Malaya? (verdict: “FALSE”), and from the NST: Earhart’s Taiping mural will not be erased . Sigh, Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur

Then it was time for what I call the Shame of Taiping, the two heritage buildings on Station Road, the former Perak Railway building and the Rest House. In 2013 and 2019 I wrote blogs about it, Shame on Taiping! and Taiping Bandar Warisan. Here a few photos, when you compare them with the two blogs, you will see that the decay has progressed.

The Perak Railway Building (Later PWD). At least now solidly fenced off (after the interiors was demolished completely)

The Rest House has also been fenced off, but it is still easy to enter.

Opposite those two ruins, the impressive buildings of the King Edward VII school. But don’t be mistaken, when I visited the school in 2018, parts were not accessible because they were infested by termites.

Finally a photo of me and my favourite ruin. Located at Jalan Sultan Jaafar, behind KEVII I read that the the land is for sale for RM 1.3 million. I would like to find out who were the original owners/tenants and why this bungalow was left to rot.

After Henry and Soon Lay dropped me at my hotel, I packed my stuff, checked out and waited for Halim. Our plan was to visit the Kota Ngah Ibrahim, have lunch, after which he would drop me at the Kuala Kangsar station.

First we went to the Ansari Chendol, where the biasa chendol was still only RM 1.80.

Then we drove to Matang where the fort has now be renamed Muzium Matang. Because it is more than the fort now. The building next to it, which I always called Speedy’s bungalow, has been renovated and is open to the public, free of charge. That was the reason for our visit, the fort itself I had visited many times,

The beautiful building next to the fort was actually the Security Guardhouse of Ngah Ibrahim’s police force.

We spent quite a lot of time in the museum, lots of information, the captions were not always easy to read

The restaurant Halim had in mind for lunch was Selera Azrorasa, located in Matang Gelugor. Famous for its fish curry, he said. Nice location, very remote. We ordered food and soon discovered that the service was very slow. And it was still quite far to Kuala Kangsar. I was getting worried.

Finally we decided that we had to leave, we asked the waiter to “tapau” the food (common practice in Malaysia to “take away” food) . Ten minutes before departure I arrived at the station. Halim took our lunch home and told me later that the food was good. I ordered coffee and sandwiches in the train canteen πŸ˜‰ A funny ending of a very rewarding Taiping trip.

First ‘party’ in our penthouse

In December 2021 we moved to our new penthouse. It took us more time than expected to do the renovation and furnish it according to our (mainly Aric’s) taste πŸ˜‰ . Recently we have started to receive guests..

Our first guests, in November, just for a drink, my Gang of Four.

In December a real dinner, prepared by Aric, for a group of friends.

And in January we invited Aric’s family for a drink at home after a dinner with them in a nearby restaurant.

After all this went well, Aric wanted to invite his family and relatives for a CNY gathering. About 25-30 people, in Chinese style where everybody brings a dish for dinner . Actually in the US this is called a Dutch Party πŸ˜‰ We didn’t expect the party to be noisy, but Aric decided to “warn” our neighbors anyway, by putting a friendly note on their doors.

His sister Aei Ling arrived early to help with the preparations.

It had been raining heavily, after it stopped Aric had to put back a Chinese decoration that had fallen down.

Around 6 pm the first guests arrived.

The younger generation

And the older one, enjoying a glass of Malaysian Timah whisky

Many of the ladies were helping to prepare the dinner. I just provided drinks.

Our huge dinner table was very useful now, Here the ladies are putting everything on the table.

Dinner is ready! A delicious variety of food. Aric is inspecting.

He had himself also prepared various dishes, durian cake and blueberry cheesecake, but I took only a photo of one of his signature dishes: abalone.

Time for dinner. There was enough to satisfy everybody.

After dinner there was time for chit chat and watching TV.

The kids were playing cards in Aric’s office.

And the seniors were having a chat in the garden

Before leaving of course the traditional group photo had to be taken. . Here there are two, they look the same, spot the difference πŸ˜‰

It was a very successful CNY gathering.

Me as a Student

A few weeks ago I published a blog post Me as a Physics Teacher. Searching my archive for photos, I came across several pictures taken during my “student” days. So here is a post about my life as a student.

Here is the only photo I have about the start of my “student” life πŸ˜‰ Taken when I was 5 year old, during my stay at the kindergarten school.

Some photos must have been taken during my primary school time, but I cannot find any in my archive. My results were good, I skipped a class and was only11 year old in 1955 when I went to the Christelijk Lyceum in my hometown Alphen a/d Rijn. In those days a Lyceum was a school type with two courses, a five year one (HBS) and a six year one (Gymnasium). The Gymnasium stream had Greek and Latin as additional languages (besides Dutch, English, German and French) and prepared for university.

I was admitted to the Gymnasium stream. Here is my 2 Gym class in 1956-57. I am standing, fourth from the right.

One year later, class 3 Gym. I am standing in the back row, third from left. Next to me my best school friend Bram and my physics teacher Smit, who played an important role in my decision to study physics.

Our Gymnasium class was already quite small, but in class 5 Gym it was split in two, Alpha and Beta. The alphas got more Greek and Latin, the betas more mathematics and science. Here is the small 5 Gym Beta class with our Greek language teacher Flink. He was a nice old-fashioned gentleman, and we accepted willingly the awful smell of his pipe tobacco (smoking in the classroom was still permitted in those days). Can you find me? Sitting in the center, next to my friend Bram.

The usual school photo, in class 5 Gym Beta. February 1960, I am still 15 year old, will be 16 in April.

The final examination for Gymnasium classes was quite special in those days. In addition to the written tests, there was also oral ones, taken by your teacher and a university professor. After an exciting day, the end result was discussed by teachers and visitors in the staff room. We had to wait in a classroom for the verdict. Luckily in our small group everyone passed.

Time to celebrate, here in front of my family house.

Many of us continued our studies at various universities. The famous Leiden University was close to my hometown and a logical choice, but I was the first in my (extended) family to go to university and my parents preferred the Christian Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. They managed to find lodgings for me with a nice (Christian) landlady. I was only seventeen year old, in retrospect too young.

I enrolled for physics and mathematics. and I also joined the student corporation of the VU. In those days the student corpora had severe initiation rituals. The aspirant members had their head shaven and were humiliated in many ways a couple of weeks, before they were accepted. Here is a picture I found on the Internet, taken in 1961. I still vividly remember the experience.

At the end of 1961 a few of my classmates had a kind of reunion. Our favorite teacher of Dutch language, Miss Dubbeldam, was also present. Notice that my hair is growing back already, pity that I don’t have a picture when my head was clean shaven.

My room in Amsterdam was actually a kind of garden house. Private, but to reach it, I had to pass through the house of my landlady. Here I am standing in front of my rooms, around 1963. I did not really enjoy those first years at university, as soon as the lectures finished (Saturday morning!) I took the bus back to my hometown and stayed there with my family until Monday morning.

After I was accepted in the student corporation, I became a member of the sorority (“dispuut”) Odysseus. Weekly we met for drinks and there were regular meetings, where you could train/show your oratorical skills. A nice “cultural” dispuut, but still too macho for the immature guy I was. After a few years I left the club.

I had a few good friends. One of them is Nellie, we first met when we were both freshmen, more than 60 year ago. Here I have joined Nellie at a party of her :”dispuut” Notice how formally dressed I am, in a three-piece suit..

I was a diligent student. On the wall of my room the certificate that I was a member of the student corporation.

In my room with some more friends. Jan, my best friend in those days, is trying to sing something from Bach. We were a serious bunch.

Pictures taken at the same time. I had bought an old piano and was still following piano lessons in my hometown. It must have been a party, with the bottles stored in the piano, but I don’t remember what we celebrated. .

In those days university studies were split in two parts , the “kandidaatsexamen” and the “doctoraalexamen”, more or less equivalent to present day Bachelor and Master degrees.

I passed my “kandidaats” in 1965. In those days taking four years for this degree was quite normal. For the second phase, we had to follow lectures, pass tests, but also .work in the physics laboratory, taking part in excursions to other universities etc. I chose nuclear physics as a specialism and worked in a group, led by Anne de Beer, who was doing research for his PhD thesis. A very enjoyable few years

In 1967 I took part in a trip to the UK where we visited several laboratories

At the end of the trip we enjoyed a nice dinner. Notice that we are smoking cigars.

At the end of 1967 an important event took place in my life, resulting in a big change in my outward appearance. It was hippie time, my hair grew longer, my clothing became informal and I got interested in popmusic. See my blog Musical Nostalgia.

In those days military service was still compulsory, but you got a deferment if you studied. In 1968 I was given a test to determine whether I had leadership qualities. It was fun, here I am (no 26), I didn’t try to qualify because I had already decided to become a conscientious objector in case I had to go into military service.

Anne, the leader of my group defended his dissertation on 20 December 1968. He asked me and another student to be his paranymph, an old tradition. Formally dressed in white tie, but with long hair, I was of course subject to funny remarks.

A few months later I obtained my doctoraalexamen (Master of Science degree), I became a doctorandus .My university asked me if I would like, to stay , get a part-time job as scientific assistant and do research for a Ph.D. .I was honored and accepted. As my interest was more in theory than in experiments, it was decided that I would do research in theoretical nuclear physics.

Although I was no longer a student, I was still entitled to a student identity card

For various reasons it took me a rather long time to do my research and write my thesis. Here are a few pages of my thesis.

Here I am defending my thesis, 2 September 1976. Paranymphs were no longer needed.

It was a public ceremony, colleagues from the physics faculty were present, my proud family on the first row. My physics teacher from the Lyceum was there (second row, second from right), I had already accepted a job as physics teacher and started a few weeks earlier. The principal of my new school was there and a teacher colleague with a few young pupils from one of my classes (one row below the top row, in the middle).

That was the end of my academic career, although I still published an article about my research in 1978

Me as a Physics Teacher

In 1976 I started as physics teacher. at a secondary school in Amstelveen. The physics department had an amanuensis (technical education assistant), Dick Vader, who was also an avid photographer. Of course we are both retired, but still in touch. Recently he sent me a collection of photos taken by him during my first decade of teaching and I can not resist the temptation to publish them in this blog.

I was a hippie in those days, 32 year old when I started, with long hair, that was already beginning to thin πŸ™‚

1976-1977, Dick Vader is assisting me to make dry ice, for use in physics experiments

My first year was not easy. As a flower-power hippie, I found it difficult to exert authority. Fortunately I had a small group of final year students, where I could relax after hectic junior classes.

Preparing a demonstration of an alternating current motor

Look how they are watching the demonstration. A teacher’s dream.

I was still smoking pipe in those days. Not in the classroom of course, But no restrictions in the staff room and even the students were allowed to smoke in their own student canteen, and outside the school premises. Those were the days ;-). Soon I changed to cigarettes, to smoke pipe you need to be more relaxed

As I played the flute in those days and there was a school orchestra, of course I joined. Here with a French language teacher.

Still in my first year teaching. Explaining electrical circuits. I should have cleaned the blackboard better πŸ˜‰ .

1977-1978 My second year. Feeling more settled.

Not 100% sure what I am doing here. Probably showing the existence of the critical point of carbon dioxide.

1980-1981 Helping my students with their homework.

In 1980 Rubik’s Cube became a popular toy. Once I had a competition with my students who could solve it fastest. I remember that I was not bad, but I didn’t win.

A teacher also has administrative duties (left). Not sure what I am doing in the right picture. Reading a stopwatch? My blackboard is still a mess. Pictures from around 1982

1983-1984 Here I explain a bit of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Not really part of the physics syllabus, but I liked to show my students a glimpse of what they would learn at university (if they decided to study physics πŸ˜‰ ).

1983-1984 Students in their final year had to do experiments themselves and report about them.

I had also to do experiments myself.

1987 I don’t remember what I am doing here and why my students are so interested to watch me.

This was the last photo , taken by Dick Vader. I continued teaching for another 15 years.