Giant Joss Sticks

After Aric had heard that a temple near Kuala Pilah had built three giant joss sticks for an upcoming festival., he suggested that we should go there and have a look. Kuala Pilah, in Negeri Sembilan is quite far from KL and it took us almost two hours to reach the temple. The temple is located about 7 km sount of Kuala Pilah, along the road to Tampin. We were not the only visitors, there was a massive crowd. Well organised, we followed instructions to find a parking place.

We started our visit with the giant joss sticks. And huge they are, almost 20 meter tall. Visible from far away.

.The yellow ribbon left is a tape measure. Starting from 0 m at the top until almost 20 m at the bottom.

Beautifully decorated with dragons. Here are details from the three sticks

Left the top part of the center joss stick. Notice the many supporting cables in the right picture.

There is a lot more to see in this Si Thean Kong temple. It is a Taoist temple, dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods. Originally it was located in the center of Kuala Pilah, but moved to this new location in 2015. Still not yet completely finished, there are plans to add a pagoda, but already quite spectacular.

The Nine Emperor Gods festival takes place in the beginning of the ninth lunar month, culminating on the ninth day. This year that will be on 4 October and that explains the huge crowd of devotees. On that day the crowd will be much larger. Usually the temple will be more quiet, see this YouTube video.

Here is a drone video of the temple complex, taken by Aric.

We walked down from the joss sticks to the main temple.

The main temple

Inside the temple you have to take off your shoes. Better remember where you left them, with this crowd it might be not easy to find them back. You can give a donation for the ongoing construction.

After visiting the temple we walked around. Well organised. Here a view of the monumental entrance arch. Tables and chairs for the visitors to rest.

And eat! There was a hall were free food was served, I had a plate of mee goreng , while Aric was busy droning. The right picture shows a contraption, where a waterspout would rise in the air when you blew in the horn. Not related to the Nine Emperor Gods, just fun for young and old.

I took a short video of the horn blowing.

Here is the monumental stone arch, the biggest in Malaysia and already in the Malaysia book of records.

View from the roadside. At the main event on 4 October, there will be a big procession, where the “boat” in the right picture will take part.

We made another round, climbing up to the joss sticks and down again to the crowd

Aric took another video of the temple complex.

The crowd had grown a lot

There was entertainment, left a traditional Chinese opera, right a modern light show.

There were also many food stalls, but with very long queues, so we gave up, walked back to our car and had a late dinner at a Malay stall in Kuala Pilah.

This temple will become a major tourist attraction in Negeri Sembilan and even in Malaysia. Many of my friends are not yet aware of this place.

The Saloma bridge

The Saloma Bridge is a pedestrian bridge crossing the Klang river and the AKLEH highway. It connects KLCC to Kampong Baru and was opened in 2020. Here is a Google Earth screenshot.

The bridge is walking distance from the Kampong Baru LRT station. The left picture shows the bridge from the Kg Baru with the Twin Towers in the background. The right picture is from the KLCC side, the bridge ends at an extensive Muslim cemetery, an elevated walkway leads you around it

The bridge is brightly lit, it has become a tourist attraction, especially in the evening. The colors change all the time. No wonder that all visitors take many photos.

Here is a video of the bridge with the changing colors.

More photos. THe red color is the most brilliant, The light patterns on the bridge change all the time, sometimes showing the Malaysian flag.

Here is a video with the flag. Notice how the flag is waving πŸ˜‰

Walking in the “tunnel” of the bridge is also interesting.

After a last picture we crossed over to the Kg Baru side, where we had dinner in a Malay stall. Nice food, chicken, sotong and veggie plus drinks RM 32,

A recommended excursion!

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.

Batang Kali again

Half a year ago I published a blog My Waterfalls in which I described 48 waterfalls visited by me (with my friends) since 2007, but never included in my website Waterfalls of Malaysia. When you look at the list, you will notice that there has not been much waterfall activity during the last few years. After 2017 only two “new” waterfalls in 2021, the Batang Kali fall and the Pencheras fall. The reason for my lack of activity was partly the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting traveling possibilities, but mainly my growing lack of confidence.

In 2015, during a rewarding “expedition” , Sg Siput Waterfall Recce, we had to cross a river to reach the intimidating Lata Kaku.

In my blog I wrote: I don’t know why, but I felt uneasy, stumbling often, maybe the years are counting….Β In the following years that feeling got stronger. I have decided not to visit remote waterfalls anymore. And also only hike in the jungle when accompanied by at least two “strong” “young” friends ;-). My visit to the Batang Kali waterfall in March 2021 is a good example. I went there with Edwin and Teoh, the hike took about one hour and the waterfall, though not spectacular, was nice with a big pool.

When I told my Dutch friend Paul about this waterfall, he was interested, so we needed two young men to join us. Fahmi was willing, but Aric was too busy with his laundry shop. Fortunately Rani was available. On 23 July we met at the Kedongdong recreational park, from where it was a 800 meter walk along. the tar road to the trailhead.

Right after the start we had to cross the Pencheras river. Last year we had to wade through the river or cross on a fallen tree, now a simple bamboo bridge had been built.

There was a trail, although not always clear. Locals collect bamboo here, there were remains of sheds and several side trails, but with the help of Rani we found our way.

Many bamboo groves.

Here and there fallen trees blocked the trail.

Halfway we had to cross the Batang Kali river to the other side. No bridge here, so we got our shoes wet.

There was still a trail and of course there were numerous leeches. Tiger leeches mainly.

After about one hour we arrived at the waterfall. More water than last year.

Enjoying a bath.

Of course we took many pictures.

Upstream there are more waterfalls, but they require river trekking. A few years ago I would have continued to explore them. Now this waterfall was enough for me. After playing around for a while we hiked back. Time enough to look around and enjoy nature.

Almost back, we came across a few spectacular ginger plants. Left a torch ginger, right a beehive ginger.

After the hike it was time for lunch. Rani had to hurry back for a birthday party, Paul, Fahmi and I went to the World of PhalaenopsisΒ cafΓ© in Ulu Yam. Pleasant surroundings, nice food.

In the future I hope to have more waterfall hikes, similar to this one.


In one of my blogs I mentioned the Australian collection of Malaysian topo maps. I was interested to use one of these maps and add my waterfall trips. Left the map, published in the 1940s, notice how few roads existed in those days. Estates everywhere. Right the same map, with my trips indicated. The Batang Kali waterfall is at the right .

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!

Penang & Taiping, 2022

A scuba diving friend of Aric, Tony, has an apartment in Georgetown and invited us and a few friends for a food trip to Penang. He was also interested in Taiping, so it became a 4D3N tirp, two nights in Penang and one night in Taiping.

Tony lives in Kota Kemuning. After meeting him, we first had breakfast at Kheng Chew Kopitiam. From left to right Aric, John, Tony and Rodney. I had my favourite breakfast, half-boiled eggs and toast. with coffee.

With only an intermediate sanitary stop we drove straightaway to a small village, Bagan Samak, not far from Parit Buntar. Here is a Google map of the region, as you see it is a very small village. Surprisingly there are quite a few popular restaurants.

A friend of John had suggested the Sloam Mit Thai restaurant and that was a good choice. We had catfish, lala, prawn crackers, fried pork and paku (ferns)..A good start of our food trip πŸ˜‰

We continued to Penang, where we decided to have a dessert in the Kek Seng coffee shop. Founded in 1906 the cafΓ© is famous for its durian ice-cream and its ABC. Nice antique furniture

The coffee shop is not far from the Komtar tower. Left picture from the ground, the right one from Tony’s condo, where we arrived around 3 pm and had a well deserved rest.,

Tony’s apartment is spacious and has wonderful views

In preparation for our trip Aric had selected a few interesting food venues. One of them was the Peng Hwa Lok Lok in Pulau Tikus. Lok Lok is a kind of steamboat, where the food is skewered on sticks, which you dip in boiling water. Interesting at this stall is that the skewers are already present on the table and regularly refilled. You keep the sticks which at the end are counted to determine what you pay. The place is very popular, you share a table with others. A very interesting experience.

Back in the condo we enjoyed the night view and had a glass of wine

The next day we went again to the Pulau Tikus market, this time for Apom Manis at the coffees hop of Swee Keng. Another must-try on Aric’s list. You have to come early otherwise they are sold out.

After breakfast we split for a while. I visited a friend, LCK, who is living in a colonial mansion at Macalister Road. We had a nice chat with coffee, durians and interesting miniature bananas from his own garden in Balik Pulau.

The others visited the Penang Botanical Gardens.

When they came to fetch me, LCK invited them for more durians.

For lunch we went to the New World Park, where we only had some light food, because more food was waiting for us in Tony’s condo πŸ˜‰

Through Facebook, Aric had discovered an Assam Laksa “shop” that did delivery service only and had good reviews. Here you see Tony and Aric preparing the laksa. Aric loves this kind of noodles and has a website, Assam Laska List in which he describes and assesses the various Assam Laksa shops. His verdict: eatable, but not that special

Afternoon view of Gunung Jerai, from the condo.

We had bought (expensive) tickets for the Komtar tower. More precisely for the Komtar Skywalk, added to the tower in 2016. These top floors offer spectacular views of Georgetown. In the left picture I have marked with a x the location of Tony’s condo.

But the views were not what we came for ;-). Both the 65th and 68th floor have glass walkways, where you can look to the ground below, 250 meter down. The walkway on the 65th floor is the most scary, because the glass is transparent and colorless. I have no fear of height, but, to be honest I had to force myself to stand on this glass. Here Aric is lying down.

Of course we took many pictures. Once you are on the glass, you feel safe, but the first step is really scary.

On the 68th floor a curved skywalk has been created. If you look carefully at the Komtar picture at the beginning of this blog, you can see the “horseshoe” sticking out. A limited number of people is allowed to enter at any time. Because the glass floor has a blueish color, it is less scary.

We wanted to see the sunset and Georgetown after dark, so we had to spend quite some time on the roof, taking more pictures πŸ˜‰

The sunset was not special, but the view of Georgetown with the lights on, was worth the waiting

On our way down, we passed this giant durian. Rodney doesn’t like the King of Fruits πŸ˜‰ The Komtar tower was nicely illuminated.

We had Crab Char Kuey Teow at the Bee Hooi Cafe for dinner and as a dessert Tong Shui at the Traditional Home of Dessert ,

We walked a bit along the esplanade. I took a photo of the City Hall (1903), just to show that I was not only interested in food πŸ˜‰

The next morning , before leaving for Taiping, we visited the scenic Hean Boo Thean temple, at the edge of the Yeoh jetty, dedicated to Guan Yin.

We lit candles. I wrote my Chinese nickname πŸ˜‰

On our way to Taiping we stopped for lunch at the Law Cheang Kee restaurant in Nibong Tebal , another eatery on Aric’s list. Mud crab porridge is one of their specialities. The fresh stock of crab was just brought in when we arrived. We also had fried kembong , a kind of mackerel.

This was our table when we left.

We arrived in Taiping around 3pm and had cendol and pasembor at the Ansari Famous Cendol shop, before checking in at the Flemington Hotel. From the rooms and especially from the roof (with swimming pool) you have a beautiful view of the Lake Gardens

After a short rest we went out again, to visit Port Weld, now renamed Kuala Sepetang. On our way we had a look at one of the charcoal kilns. During my last visit, a few months ago, I was disappointed that it had become very touristy. But this time, almost 6 pm, it was deserted and very scenic.

One of the kilns was working. Controlling the temperature inside to transform the mangrove wood in charcoal, is a complicated process.

Another kiln was being filled with mangrove logs

We walked around in Port Weld and had a nice view from the bridge.

I had invited a few Taiping friends to join us for dinner in Teluk Kertang. There are several popular seafood restaurants in this village (where in 1879 Isabella BIrd landed, see my blog). We had booked at table in the Lemon Tree restaurant. It was a pleasant meeting with nice company and good food.

The next morning we walked in the Lake Gardens. Splendid weather.

Not even all Taipingites know that the Lake Gardens have a few Cannonball trees. After I “discovered” them, many years ago, I always have a look at these magnificent trees..

Here is another view of the gardens, with Maxwell Hill in the background.

After our walk we went back to Flemington to take a shower and check out. My friends were going back to KL, I was going to stay a bit longer. I dropped my luggage at my usual Furama hotel and then followed them to the old Railway station where we had another Assam Laksa.

It was a nice food trip. About my two extra days in Taiping I will write a separate blog.

Backershagen => Perdana View

On 30 March I flew from Malaysia to the Netherlands, I wrote a report about it: Perdana View => Backershagen I stayed in the Netherlands six weeks in which I visited family and friends and took more than 1000 photos. It will take time to write posts about the trip, the first one in three years! On 11 May I flew back and I decided to write a (short) post about it, mainly about the rules and regulations related to COVID-19.

When I booked my trip in February, Malaysia was planning to reopen its borders, which they did on 1 April. The new rules were: a negative PCR test, less than 48 hours before departure, a negative Antigen test within 24 hours after arrival and 5 days in home quarantine. Acceptable for me, although of course I was not happy with the PCR condition, as it meant that I could only be sure that I could fly, one day before departure.

So I was really relieved when the Malaysian government announced that from 1 May, the two tests and the quarantine were no longer needed. Only proof of full vaccination and you needed to have the Mysejathera app installed on your mobile. This app contains all your vaccination details and for my flight I had to create a Traveller Card in the app. Which I did.

Of course I still had to limit my luggage to less than 12 kg. And I had to clean the flat (and the fridge) in Backershagen, as it would be empty for many months. Left picture, doing the last laundry, right picture, collecting my stuff.

KLM advised to come to the airport at least three hours before departure, because of extra COVID checks. As usual my brother Pim brings me to the airport and after checking in we have coffee and a snack. But not this time. At the check-in counter I was told that I had to proceed through security check and passport control to gate E1 where they would check my Covid documents and issue a sticker. Also they only could give me a boarding pass for the flight to Singapore. There I had to go to a transit counter and get a boarding pass for the connecting flight to KL. Fortunately they were willing, after some discussion, to check in my cabin bag and take it straightaway to KL. Flying is no more what it was before πŸ˜‰

So I had to wave goodbye to Pim from a distance. At the E1 counter officials were checking whether I was fully vaccinated and had a Traveller Card. As I was early, there were only a few people queueing. I got my sticker and they told me the departure gate, E9. Finally I could relax with a Cappuccino and a brownie.

When I passed E1 again on my way to the gate, there was a big queue with slow processing. Good that I had been so early πŸ˜‰

It was a full flight, continuing to Indonesia after Singapore. At the airport and in the plane face masks were still compulsory.

After take off at 9:45 pm, dinner was served. No first round of drinks anymore, and no cognac with the coffee. One ridiculous detail, there was an announcement asking passengers to remove their masks only after everyone in a row had been served.

New for me was that passengers had access to WIFI during the flight. Full access for a fee, but one hour texting was free. So I used WhatsApp to text a friend, I am now flying over Rumania!

I was worrying a bit how to get the boarding card for the connecting flight. But when we exited the plane in Singapore, a lady was waiting with this paper in her hand. She guided us to the terminal and transit counter where again my documents were checked and a second sticker was put on my passport.

The flight to KL takes only about 45 minutes.

I was wondering what kind of COVID-control Malaysia would have at the KLIA airport. The answer: nothing at all. Apparently the checking in Amsterdam and Singapore, resulting in two sticker, were enough. Surprising.

There were long queues at Immigration, but there was a special counter for Diplomats and MM2H passengers, with only a few people waiting.. And I didn’t have to wait long for my luggage!

KLIA arrival hall was rather desolate looking.

The whole procedure was so fast, that I had to wait a few minutes for Aric. On our way back we stopped for food, my favourite hokkien mee. In the middle my passport wit the two stickers. And to the right a photo that shows me, tired but happy: Back home.

Altogether a smooth flight back

Perdana View => Backershagen

There are two places I call home, Perdana View in Petaling Jaya and Backershagen in Amsterdam. Most of the time I live in Malaysia, once or twice a year I stay for a couple of weeks in the Netherlands. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was almost three years ago that I visited the Netherlands. In the picture below the apartments are indicated with an X, left Perdana View, right Backershagen.

In February I decided to book a trip to the Netherlands from 30 March until 11 May. I was fully vaccinated, including a booster shot. The Netherlands were opening their borders and Malaysia was planning to do the same. I only needed a negative PCR-test, taken less than 48 hours before my planned departure.

The weekend of 20 March I had visited Taiping, see my report Taiping, March 2022. On the last day of my visit I had been in close contact with a Covid-infected friend and although I should be immune, I was a bit worried, so I did an antigen self test, which was negative. Still I was nervous when on 28 March I went to my GP for the PCR test. Relieved when I received the negative result the next morning. Left the antigen test, right the PCR test

Because of the uncertainty, I only started packing after I received the negative test result, one day before departure! When I booked my ticket, I expected that, being a KLM frequent flyer, I was entitled to one piece of cargo luggage (23 kg) free of charge. But my level was too low, so I could only bring 12 kg cabin luggage. I managed to take only essential stuff, of course I had warm clothes in Amsterdam. The last evening I could relax in our roof garden πŸ˜‰

In the past KLM had a direct flight from KLIA to Schiphol airport, but nowadays I first had to fly to Singapore. When I booked my ticket, I had a Singapore Airline flight to Singapore (20:40-21:50) with a connecting KLM flight (23:35 – 06:50). Perfect, less than a 2 hour transit in Singapore.

But a few days before departure KLM rescheduled my flight “for operational reasons” Departure from KL at 2pm with Jetstar Asia and from Singapore with KLM at 23:05, resulting in about 8 hours transit in Singapore. How to spend that time? The departure of the KLM flight half an hour earlier was probably the reason, to change the connecting flight from KLIA.

We left Perdana View early at 10 am and that was a good decision because KLM had not notified me that the Jetstar Asia flight would not depart from KLIA but from KLIA2, the former Low Cost Terminal. Nearby KLIA, but still a hassle for us and a bad move of KLM.

I was pleasantly surprised by the service of Jetstar. I think they were not used yet to KLM travelers. They decided to accept my cabin bag as cargo luggage and directly transfer it to Schiphol, so I didn’t have to carry it around in Singapore. I had to show my negative PCR test, that was all. There was time enough for a nasi lemak πŸ˜‰ Passing Malaysian immigration was smooth.

When boarding started, they invited me to came forward first, for the first time in my life I entered an empty plane. And during the short flight (less than one hour) I was one of the few passengers who got a muffin and a bottle of water. Kudos for Jetstar

Thorough fogging of the plane and not a full flight.

In Changi airport I noticed the departure time of 23:05. Eight hours to spend. I had visited Changi Airport in 2019, admired the famous Jewel, but now I was in transit. However there are an amazing lot of things to do while in transit. You can even make trips to the city while staying in transit! I only visited the gardens in Terminal 1. There are three of them.

From left to right the Artifical Tree garden, the Waterlily garden and the Cactus garden.

I bought a book and found a quiet place to read.

I had dinner at the Burger King, quite good quality.

Many shops were still closed

Shock! The KLM flight was retimed to 23:35, the original departure time! So I could have taken the 20:40 SQ flight and saved 8 hours of time. The flight (from Jakarta) was unpleasantly full, but fortunately i had an empty seat next to me.

Usually the KLM flies from KL to the Netherlands over the Ukraine. Of course they did not because of the war in Ukraine, the plane went far south. As usual I could not sleep well. We landed early at 6:05 am, the pilot announced that the temperature was 1Β° Celsius with a chance of show.

Immigration was surprisingly smooth, no Covid checking at all. Nobody was wearing mouth masks. Because of the cold I considered taking a taxi, but finally decided to go the usual way, a ten minute train to Amsterdam-Zuid and from there a 15 minute walk home. I survived the walk, but it was bitterly cold.

Here I am standing in the lift to my apartment. Yolanda, Paul’s sister who has a key of the apartment, had bought flowers, a nice welcome.

As the apartment had not been inhabited for more than two years, I had to go shopping at the nearby AH. And have my first lunch, with cheese, herring and strawberries, of course.

It was a cold night, with snow.

Here are some pictures I took the next day.. Some daffodils were trying to survive. Real winter atmosphere.

I had to solve several problems that day. The prepaid sim card of my mobile had expired, I needed to buy a new one. My laptop had problems, I had to buy a new keyboard/mouse. And the central heating was not working properly. Not a nice start of my visit. But still I could enjoy a pre-dinner drink

And prepare my first, very Dutch dinner.

Saturday a guy came to repair the central heating. And a bicycle pump was deliverd after an online order. Because of course the tyres of my bike were completely flat after three years.

That Saturday evening, three days after coming home, I could finally relax and enjoy the tulips.

Sunset and view from my apartment Sunday morning. At least a bit of blue sky. But still unpleasantly cold.

More blogs about this trip to the Netherlands will follow

Taiping, March 2022

The last time I visited Taiping was in October 2020, one and a half year ago. High time to visit my 2nd hometown again. I used public transport, first the MRT, then the ETS. The MRT was pleasantly quiet and in the ETC waiting lounge people kept distance.

Ticketing and boarding is very modern these days, the train was also not crowded and left punctually on time. There is a canteen on board, but I had prepared coffee and biscuits.

I managed to take two heritage pictures during the trip. Left the interior of the Kuala Lumpur station, one of Hubback’s masterworks, and right the Victoria bridge over the Perak river, near Kuala Kangsar.

It has become a nice tradition that Tung Lay Chun picks me up from the station and that we have lunch together, this time also with her husband Kar Seng. They suggested the 266 Kim Hai restaurant in Aulong, where they had been several times.

Delicious food, from left to right bitter gourd omelet, asam pedas fish curry and pork fried in fermented bean curd..

After lunch they dropped me at my usual Furama hotel, where I always have the same room.

After a long nap, I went out to the Lake Gardens, around the corner from Furama.

It was a Friday afternoon, no rain, many families and friends were enjoying the Raintree Walk, on foot or on a rented bicycle. Very pleasant atmosphere. I am often critical of MPT (the Taiping town council), but their decision to make a part of the Circular Road a pedestrian area has worked well.

The actual reason to create the Raintree Walk was that one of the magnificent raintrees had fallen down and blocked the road. Instead of removing it, the tree was left there with some support. It became a tourist attraction, but recently it was discovered that the tree trunk was rotting, so a big part had to be removed (left picture). The middle picture shows the second toppled tree. It is still doing well. And a few weeks ago a third raintree fell down (right pic). Here they have erected it again, with a lot of support. Will be interesting to see if it can survive..

The Chinese Pagoda bridge

After such a long absence I kept taking pictures. The picture to the right shows the Cannonball Tree, the Lake gardens have a few of these interesting trees. No flowers this time.

Last year there was a lot of excitement in Taiping because a pair of Hoopoes had landed and nested in the Lake Gardens. To control the stream of visitors, traffic had to be regulated. These signboards remain, hopefully the birds will come again.

Evening is falling, time to return to my hotel.

On my way back I passed the remains of the historic Lake View Hotel. A heritage food court has been opened in front of it. And I had a look at the bungalow which I had discovered in February 2020 and visited in August 2020. Then it was empty, now one guy was living there.

After my sumptuous lunch I didn’t feel hungry, I decided to have a look at the food stalls of Siang Malam, temporarily relocated from the pasar to the dobi line. I had a Chee Cheong Fun, not very special.

The next morning I had CCF again, now at Mr Tong’s stall, according to many the best in Taiping. While having my breakfast I accidentally met Foo Kok Heng, who used to work in Furama hotel. It was he who told me about the bungalow πŸ˜‰

My “assignment” for that Saturday was to have a look at many of the heritage buildings in Taiping and see if there had been any changes after my last visit. I used a rental bicycle of the hotel. Be prepared for a mixture of positive and negative observations!

First I had a look at the Taiping Tourist Office. I was not surprised to find it closed, it often was during earlier visits. Now apparently some renovation was going on. My friend Halim told me later that the roof was leaking (already for many years). The Tourism Office in Taiping is run by a NGO, which I find surprising, it should be run by MPT.

Positive news about the restoration of the famous Pasar. A start has been made, the stall holders have been relocated to a temporary market, the plan is that they will come back after the project is finished. That may take a long time.

At the moment they are working on the reconstruction of Siang Malam, the wet market and a popular eatery. Let’s hope for the best.

A few weeks ago it was in the news that fire had destroyed part of an old bazar, the Tsen Loong Bazar. I had a look. Fortunately only a few stalls along Main Road had been affected, mostly flower shops. Left picture shows the Main Road façade, right picture the Pasar Road stalls, still operational. The middle picture shows the entrance of the impressive Tsen Loong Hakka Association opposite the bazar on Pasar Road..

Next on my list was the Amelia Earhart mural, commemorating her landing at the Taiping aerodrome on 20 June 1937. A beautiful mural, only a pity that Amelia never landed in Taiping as I convincingly proved in my two blogs about Amelia Earhart and Taiping , part 1 and part 2. Sigh.

Opposite one of the ruined buildings in Taiping, for years already nothing has happened.

A short break at Ansari’s Famous Chendol. No visit to Taiping is complete without a cendol at this iconic place. I paid RM 2

Taiping is a town of contrasts. Nicely restored heritage buildings and pathetic ruins. I don’t want to offend anybody, but for me it is part of Taiping’s charm, compared with vibrant towns like Ipoh and Georgetown.

Left the Ceylon Association, beautifully renovated. Right the town Rest House, left to rot.

Although the Rest House is fenced off, it is still easy to enter. I walked up to the first floor. The structure is still solid, with immediate action it could still be saved, I think.

The building next to it, the former Perak Railway building, has finally been solidly fenced off, no jalan tikus anymore, But years too late, all valuable stuff has been stolen already, Have a look at my 2019 report Taiping Bandar Warisan

Last stop before going back to Furama were the Pillars of the former Residence. The cleaning operation by THS and other NGO’s was successful. The VIP chalets of the former Casuarina Inn are ruimes, but again, that is the charm of Taiping.

Graffiti at the entrance. On my way back I had an accident with my bike, I overlooked one of the many potholes. I could easily have broken bones, but fortunately I only had some scratches and bruises. The Furama staff was very helpful in applying a bandage.

In the afternoon I went out to visit Mrs Long in Barack Road. Another tradition, we had a long chat. I came on my bike, as you can see in the picture, where Mrs Long is standing in front of the beautifully renovated house.

That evening I Had dinner with Anand Pillai in what used to be the Pusat Makanan Taman Tasik, but now has been upgraded to Medan Selera Tai Hu. Nice atmosphere. Just around the corner of Furama, I had food there so many times..

The next day I went out with Halim to explore the region around Matang. We started with a breakfast of thosai. .

In this Google Earth map I have marked the locations we visited. The other map is a topo map from 1942. It is interesting to compare the two . The Port Weld railway has gone but you can still drive along the tracks, now a minor road (marked in red).

Our first destination was a cemetery, already indicated on the topo map. Just beside the road from Simpang to Port Weld. At one side a huge Chinese cemetery, In a few weeks time it will look much better kept, after Cheng Beng. At the other side there is a Hindu cemetery. Interesting for me, I thought that Hindus usually cremated the bodies and scatter the ashes.

I took several pictures of tombstones.

Two more pictures, the left structure one looks very Indian, but the right one looks almost Chinese.

We continued to Kota Ngah Ibrahiim, now renamed Matang Museum. As both of us had visited the (interesting!) museum, we didn’t stop, I just took a picture of Ngah Ibrahim’s tomb. After the murder of Birch in 1875, Ngah Ibrahim was exiled to the Seychelles. In 1887 he died in Singapore and only in 2006 his remains were transferred to the Kota.

Next to the Kota an attractive mansion is called Speedy’s bungalow. Not yet open to the public. In the same grounds a few nice Malay houses.

Our following stop was at Teluk Kertang, where Isabella Bird landed in 1879. I am a fan of her, read my blog Isabella Bird and Taiping for more info about this intrepid British traveler.

In those days, before Port Weld and the railway was built, Teluk Kertang was the main port of Taiping. The region is famous for its high-quality charcoal, made from mangrove wood.

I have visited the charcoal kilns several times, when they not yet had become a popular tourist attraction. We only had a quick look, to observe that it is quite commercial now..

Time for lunch. Halim brought me to a Malay Mee Udang restaurant in Port Weld. Tasty, fresh prawns in a nice gravy.

Then it was time for “new” discoveries. On Google Earth I had found three Indian temples in the region between Matang and Taiping. Two of them, next to each other, can only be reached from the small road that has replaced the former railroad tracks. On the topo map there is a short railroad track, splitting off to where these temples now stand. No idea why.

The first temple is dedicated to Puchai Amman, the Green Mother, an incarnation of Parvati, Shiva’s wife, And green the temple is. A grand building, it looks very new.

Quite a crowd of devotees. Nice statues everywhere

The statue of Pachai Amman was covered with a veil. I don’t know much about Hindu religion, so it was not clear to me if this covering had a religious meaning.

Next to it another huge temple dedicated to Lord Murugan. Full of intricate details. It was a burning hot day, the lighting was not suitable for photography, I will come back another time, with an Indian friend, who can explain more about the religious background.

The third temple is just beside the no 1 trunk road, at Simpang Halt. In the past Simpang Halt was a small railway station on the Port Weld line. This temple is dedicated to Lord Muniswaran, a minor Hindu deity.

I have to study more, here is an interesting blog about Muniswaran worship. It was still very hot, with blinding sunlight not easy to take photos

Intriguing statues.

From the three temple we visited, this one is my favourite. Surrounded by a nice garden. Smaller scale than the other two.

Mission accomplished. On our way back to Taiping we crossed the New Village of Aulong and had a look at the remains of the Taiping Aerodrome. Not much is left of the control tower

This may have been a hangar. Halim still felts young enough to play some football.

After some rest in Furama I went back to the lake gardens around 7 pm, to watch the roosting of the egrets. Within 15 minutes flight after flight of egrets arrived at the bamboo bushes near the Jubilee jetty. Impressive.

Later Halim picked me up from my hotel for dinner. We went to the FMS restaurant, a new building on the location of the former Raja Rest House. Popular Malay meeting place.

First time I had Sop Tulang. Delicious. The satay was also not bad.

View of the Lake Gardens by night. ON this kind of photo even the monstrous Novotel hotel gets some charm.

It was a rewarding, very pleasant outing.

The next day, before going back by ETS, I had breakfast with my friend Yeap in the Lian Thong restaurant, another tradition for me. I love roti goyang (eggs on toast).It was nice to see back Mr Teoh, the owner, after one and a half year ;-).

My train trip back went smooth and was again punctual. Here I am waiting at the station.

Train and MRT not crowded.

It was good to be back in Taiping.