Bukit Lanjan

In October 2005 we moved from USJ to Damansara Perdana, where we had bought a condo in Perdana View with a beautiful view of the forested slopes of the 335 high Bukit Lanjan.

In those days I walked often in Bukit Kiara, but I also explored Bukit Lanjan a few times. Here is one of my first hikes, January 2007. The GE imagery is from 2007. I have marked a few locations. MK Land had permission to develop the hill on condition that they would provide housing for the Temuan Orang Asli who were living on the hill. Bottom left you see the Desa Temuan, nice bungalows. The Armanee condo’s were under construction and a beginning had been made with the development of Rafflesia. On the top of the hill Mustapha Kamal had built his own residence.

Although the Temuan had moved to the new village, they still had huts and (durian) plantations on the hill, so the trails were well maintained.

A lot of development was going on, but our view of the hill was still unspoilt. Top left you can see the two Telecom towers.

Here is another hike, September 2009. It was durian season, we met a few friendly orang asli families and had durians.

We climbed up to the top, lost the trail, but managed to reach the Telecom towers, from where we had a nice view of the KL skyline.

Our hike ended in a funny way. We decided to walk back, following the tar road. That road has been declared private after the MK residence was built, with a guard house at the beginning. The guards at the house were shocked to see people approaching from the top of the hill. We explained that we had been jungle hiking. A guard on a motorbike escorted us down until the gate. From there we walked a trail back home

I walked a few more times in Bukit Lanjan in the period 2007-2010, in this GE screenshot I have collected my hikes. Notice de development of Rafflesia

In November 2010 we were shocked to discover that the forested hill slope was being logged. MK Land had sold part of the hill to another developer, Mammoth Empire.

We could watch the subsequent development from our balcony.

I don’t understand how a developer could get permission to build on such steep slopes. At one time even a minor landslide occurred where they had been drilling.

This is the present situation of what is called the Empire Residences, as seen from our balcony. A small part of the project has been completed, the rest has come to a standstill for several years already. The Low Yat forum has 46 pages about the Empire Residences, mostly negative. It’s a failed project, IMHO.

In the period 2010-2020 I still have been walking occasionally in Bukit Lanjan, but it became less interesting, because the Temuan no longer maintained their gardens and trails. Here and there fencing appeared, blocking access. Here is a collection of my walks in that period.

More than one year ago the COVID-19 pandemic started, causing a lockdown in Malaysia and limiting me in my freedom to walk and hike. I wrote a blog about it: Lockdown! .

Parks were closed, but I still could walk from my condo, following the tar road. During one of my walks I noticed a trail to the right, with a red-white marker ribbon. I followed it for some distance, it looked like a regular trail.

When I came back to the road, I met another hiker, Encik Wan, who told me that recently several trails had been developed by a group of active hikers, living in Damansara Perdana. They had erected a signboard about the Bukit Lanjan Community trails near my condo. A nice surprise, I became a member of their chat group.

On 16 January Wan took me to my first Bukit Lanjan trail, just starting from my front door, so to speak ūüėČ . A nice hike, views of the surroundings, some steep parts, where ropes were provided.

More hikes followed. Unfortunately it became clear very soon that MK Land was unhappy with this community initiative. They started to block trail heads , removed marker ribbons and supporting ropes.

I do not understand their attitude, no harm is done and the trails add value to Damansara Perdana and MK Land’s residential projects.

Most trails are still accessible and during the past three months I have been able to explore many of them. Compared with Bukit Kiara, the trails are more rough, after rain they can be slippery. Ropes are helpful.

Bukit Lanjan is still a green enclave, but surrounded by concrete jungle and highways.

This is my favourite tree on the hill. One friend calls it Jan’s tree because I like to take pictures of the tree with my friends,

The trig marks the highest pint of Bukit Lanjan at an elevation of 335 m above sea-level. Access is not easy. On one of my hikes I met friendly people who were surveying. I hope it is not a sign for more development of the hill.

For me hiking is not just for exercise. Enjoying nature is even more important.

And not to forget: relaxing during a hike with coffee and cake ;-)!

Here is a Google Earth screenshot of the trails I have been hiking in Bukit Lanjan the last few months. I really hope they will remain accessible in the future.

Batang Kali waterfall

Since the beginning of the lockdown in Malaysia (March 2020), I have visited only two waterfalls, Templer Park and Lata Iskandar. When you know about my fascination with Malaysian waterfalls, you will understand how excited I was when my friend Edwin suggested a trip to waterfalls in the Batang Kali-Ulu Yam region. Interstate travel was still prohibited, but these waterfalls are in the state of Selangor.

There were two options, either the Kedondong fall or waterfalls in the Batang Kali river, recently explored by him. As I had visited the Kedondong fall already, I was interested in the Batang Kali waterfalls. Interested but also a bit anxious. I am getting older and have lost my self-confidence in the jungle. I discussed my concern with Edwin and we decided to limit ourself to an “easy” waterfall in the Batang Kali River. Teoh, one of my waterfall “godsons” was eager to join as well.

Edwin picked me up from my condo at 7:30 am and took me for breakfast to the 333 Kopitiam in Ulu Yam Baharu, where Teoh was already waiting for us. We had bitter gourd pork noodles and yam pork noodles, especially the second one was delicious and a reason to come back.

We parked our cars at the Kedondong Recreation Park, for safety, although it meant that we first had to walk along the road about 800 m to the trailhead. We started hiking around 10 am

From the trailhead we hiked down to a tributary of the Batang Kali river, which we had to cross.

Crossing was easy. For the first time in two(!) years I was wearing my kampung Adidas.

There was a clear trail with beautiful bamboo groves. Locals probably come here to harvest bamboo, even a temporary shed was built.

Here and there bamboo had fallen across the trail, but still easy to pass.

It was a real pleasure to be back in the jungle. Only a few leeches.

We had to cross the Batang Kali river once. Easy.

After about 30 minutes we reached the waterfall. Not a tall one, but a lot of water and a huge pool.

Of course we took a refreshing bath.

Edwin is an experienced swimmer and managed to swim behind the water curtain. I took a video, you can hardly see his face behind the water, until he dives through it :-).

Here I am relaxing near the fall. A happy man. I am always a bit worried about bees and wasps as I am allergic to their stings, but there were hardly any in this pristine location.

After frolicking around, we took the same trail back to the main road. Two ways of crossing the river, using the fallen tree (Edwin) or just getting wet feet (Teoh and I).

Around 1 pm we were back at our cars, getting hungry. Teoh had to go back to work (!), Edwin suggested that we could visit an orchid farm in Ulu Yam, where they also had a nice café. This World of Phalaenopsis was a pleasant surprise. Large collection of orchids, friendly atmosphere

Well maintained place with not only orchids.

Although it was a weekday, there were many visitors both in the farm and in the café. I had a waffle with strawberries and ice cream for lunch. A place to visit again.

I wanted to buy an orchid to bring home, the red one I carry in the left picture. A friendly sales guy advised me to choose the one with larger flowers, they would last longer. Three orchids for RM 30 only.

A very rewarding outing. Thanks to Edwin for taking the initiative and to Teoh for his company. Real fellowship, good for boosting my self-confidence.

Here is a Google Earth of the Batang Kali region. The red part is along the road, the green one the trail. I have also marked the locations of the 333 Kopitiam and the orchid farm.

Kuala Selangor trip

Rodney, a UK friend of us has been in Malaysia many times, but never visited Kuala Selangor! A good reason to bring him there on a half-day trip.

On our way, near Bukit Rotan, we passed a Hindu temple that I had never visited myself. The present Sri Shakti Temple was consecrated in 2013 and is a monumental building, unfortunately closed during our visit.

The front of the temple has beautiful statues of elephants.

Because of the time of the day (3 pm) it was almost impossible to take good pictures of the temple. We will have to come back another time to visit the interior.

Our next stop was the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. We were the only visitors, maybe because it was very hot, but also because Malaysians and tourists hardly know about its existence. It is a mixture of secondary forest and wetlands.

After paying an entrance fee of RM 5 at the visitor center, we entered the park.

We climbed the view tower. During my last visit you could see a lake, with many egrets, but trees had grown, obscuring the view.

There was another visitor on the top floor, enjoying its siesta. We didn’t disturb it, but we were sure our presence was noticed.

It was a pleasant walk. We crossed a mangrove forest on a concrete walkway. Sturdy, but less romantic than the wooden plankway we remembered from an earlier visit.

It was low tide, there were only a few places where we could see water. The whole walk was about 3.5 km, we were very thirsty, almost dehydrated, luckily the visitor center was still open ,so we could buy some cool drink.

Our next stop was at Bukit Melawati, the main attraction of Kuala Selangor. From the top of the hill you have a good view of the countryside.

The cannons are a memory of the past, when there was a fort here. Of course Rodney and I had to prove our manhood ūüôā .

The present lighthouse was built in 1907, the original one was built in 1794 when the Dutch were still ruling this part of the peninsula.

The attractive lighthouse is a good background for pictures. We met a friendly Malay couple there. Left Rodney and me, right with Zarina and Rosni.

And there are monkeys, a few macaques, but mainly the silvered leaf langurs. The young ones are beautifully golden/orange, Zarina told us that there were no babies at the moment, but we were lucky to find a single one, down the road. Changing into an adult, its face grey already.

Bananas and beans are for sale, you can feed the langurs, and they are not shy, some even climbing on your shoulder.

A hidden, almost unknown, gem is the nearby Bukit Belanda (Dutch Hill). From the Dutch fort Utrecht, on top of the hill, not much is left, but the small lake at its foot is very scenic.

Before dinner we drove to the fishing village of Kuala Selangor, at the other side of the Selangor river. We watched the sunset from the Chinese temple there.

The Kuala Sungai (Ah Yu) restaurant in Pasir Penambang, chosen by Aric, has a splendid view of the Selangor River.

And the food was high quality too. Rodney and I could not resist the temptation of big bottles of Carlsberg.

Here is the food we ordered. Forgot to take a picture of the fish ball soup.

After our dinner we visited the Fireflies of Kampung Kuantan, before going home. It was almost full moon and the sky was clear, not a favorable time to see the swarms of tiny fireflies, blinking on and off in a synchronous way. But as it was a first visit for Rodney, still a nice experience.

A rewarding outing!

The Marker Wadden

Would you like to go with me to the Marker Wadden, my youngest brother asked me during my recent visit to the Netherlands.  The Marker Wadden? I knew about the Wadden Islands and the Wadden Sea, but had never heard about the Marker Wadden.

He explained to me that it was a project of Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Nature Society, to create a number of artificial islands in the Markermeer.

Ok, I knew about the Markermeer. Have a look at the left map, taken from the informative Zuiderzee Works entry in Wikipedia. After closing the Zuiderzee with the Afsluitdijk in 1932, it was renamed IJsselmeer, and gradually changed from a salt water lake into a fresh water one. Large parts of the lake were reclaimed to form polders. The original plan was to reclaim also the Markermeer, and a dike, the Houtribdijk, was already built between 1963 and 1975.

But the reclamation plans changed, and in 1986 it was decided that the Markermeer will remain a lake. When you look at the right picture, a Google Earth map of the same region, you will notice the different color of the water in the Markermeer. Because the lake is separated by a dike from the IJsselmeer, there is a lot of siltation, resulting in turbid water. This has a negative impact on the aquatic flora and fauna.

In 2012 Natuurmonumenten,  with other partners, presented an ambitious plan, to create  a couple of artificial islands in the Markermeer, using sand and silt from the bottom. The islands will not be used for human habitation, but will become a bird sanctuary.

The project has been accepted and is now in progress, with support of several sponsors. In the left picture you can see the location of these Marker Wadden relative to the Houtribdijk. The right images shows more details, the north-west island has a harbour and some infrastructure (footpaths and walkways), this island will be accessible to the public (but only if you have your own boat!). The other islands will be strictly nature reserves.

To show these Marker Wadden to the general public, Natuurmonumenten organised a temporary ferry service during the weekend of¬† 8-9 September and my brother bought tickets, for of course I eagerly accepted his invitation…:-)

The ferry left from the Bataviahaven in Lelystad. We arrived early, so we could have a nice seat and a cup of coffee. Many interested people, often  armed with binoculars and cameras.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at the jetty of the Marker Wadden

There were two walking routes on the island, 2.5 km and 6 km. We took the shorter one. At the start it looked like a crowd, but it spread out quite fast.

Work is still going on, but this was a weekend, so no activity.

Here I am posing as a climber of the Marker Wadden mountains…:-)

There is a lookout tower, solidly built.

From the balcony at the top you have a good view of the surroundings.

It was an interesting walk, In many places the work was still in full swing.

A warning sign for dangerous quicksand.

Regarding plant life, the philosophy of Natuurmonumenten is to let nature take Its course.Slowly¬† plants will start growing, from seeds blown over by the wind from the surrounding polders. I have my doubts about the single patch of sunflowers I saw…:-). Could it be that somebody has bought¬† a packet of sunflower seed and sowed it here?

We walked over a nice walkway, sat down and had the sandwiches we had taken from home. In a few years time this will be a beautiful region.

It will also become a paradise for bird watchers. During our visit we did not see many birds, because it was  not the migratory season yet.

We spent a few hours on the island and then took the ferry back to Lelystad. A very nice outing.

 

France 2018, part II

Status

See France 2018, part I , for the first part of our trip to France. Here is again a map of the places we visited.

In 1976(!), after my graduation, I applied for a position as a physics teacher at a school in Amstelveen. The rector (headmaster) in those days was Dr B.C. Poeder, he interviewed me and decided to give me the job. He retired long ago, but we had become friends and kept in touch. Therefore I knew that he was now living in France, in the region that Aric and I were going to visit.

I wrote to him, and he invited us to stay a few days in his house, in the small village of Robiac, about 50 km north of¬†N√ģmes. Take the road via¬†V√©z√©nobres, he suggested.

I had never heard about that village, but we followed his advice and decided to have lunch there . A romantic, medieval village, no cars allowed, we had to park quite far outside the walls

Walking around we were wondering if there was a place to have some food. We were lucky, found a nice shop where they prepared crepes and galettes. I had a glass of cider. Very nice people too.

When we arrived in Robiac, Carel was already waiting for us at the roadside, otherwise we might have missed the small road leading to his house. The nameplate on the letterbox still refers to his past as headmaster :-).

We were warmly welcomed by Carel and Joanne, his wife. The house is part of what before has been a school. The basement, formerly a goat stable, has been transformed in a guest room.

A big garden with many flowers.

Our hosts invited us for a nice dinner in Barjac, a nearby village.

The next day we enjoyed the swimming pool and the hospitality of Carel and Joanne, but also made a trip to a cave, the Grotte de la Salamandre. This cave was discovered in the 60s, access was possible only by abseiling through a hole above the cave! Five years ago the cave was opened to the public after an access tunnel had been excavated from the side of the hill.

You can still rappel down in the original way ( for an extra fee), we chose the tunnel..:-). A guided tour, clear explanations, the stalagmites and stalactites were illuminated with varying colors, some really very bright, but also with normal white light.

A very rewarding experience.

When you click on the left picture below to enlarge it, you can see at the top people who are abseiling from the hole in the roof!

The next day we said goodbye to our hosts and continued our trip. We had decided to follow the Gorges du Tarn, a long but very  scenic route. It is a canyon, 400 to 600 meter deep, eroded by the river Tarn. Spectacular views, like here of the village of Castelbouc, deep down.

The river is a favourite playground for kayakers.

We had lunch in La Malène

We stayed overnight in Millau, our Airbnb was a nice apartment, located in the historic center of the town.

Millau is nowadays known for its viaduct, but it turned out to be a surprisingly attractive town itself. The next morning we climbed the Beffroi, a bell tower consisting of a 12th-century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th-century tower.

It was a steep climb, but the view was worth the effort. The Millau viaduct was of course clearly visible and deep down the Halles, built in 1899.

In the Middle Ages Millau was an important town, especially because of a bridge across the Tarn river, consisting of 17 spans. Nowadays only one span remains with a house built on it, formerly a watermill. Very scenic.  In a nearby cafe we had coffee with a piece of fouace, a cake specialty of Millau.

The Millau viaduct is (at the time of writing) the tallest bridge in the world, with a height of 340 meter above the river Tarn. It is considered one of the great engineering achievements of all time.

The viaduct has become a major tourist attraction. We drove over it and also under it, when you look up at the supporting pylons from the river valley, they look so fragile!

Our next destination was Albi. Here a view of the town with the Sainte Cécile cathedral and the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) in the foreground. This bridge was originally built in 1035.

We stayed two nights in Albi in a very nice Airbnb , a complete house, a bit outside the historic center, easy parking, with a very friendly hostess, who advised us where to eat where to shop and where to park when we wanted to visit the town center. Airbnb at its best…:-)

The cathedral is an amazing building, constructed between the 13th and 15th century. Those were the days of the Cathar Heresy, and the Roman Catholic church wanted to make a clear statement of strength. What a contrast with for example the Notre Dame in Paris! It looks like a fortress and is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.

The monumental doorway was added at the end of the 14th century

The austere outside forms a strong contrast with the flamboyant interior.

Next to the cathedral the fortress of the¬†Palais de la Berbie, the Bishops’ Palace, dating to the end of the 13th century

Nowadays it is the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. We had a quick look , I am not really a fan of him..:-)

But the gardens of the Palace are beautiful.

For dinner, our hostess had advised us  restaurant Lautrec in Albi and that was a good choice!

Albi has of course many interesting old houses. The left picture also shows the belltower of the cathedral

Another useful advice of our hostess was to visit the small village of Puycelsi, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France . There are more than 150 of them…:-)

The weather was a bit grey during our visit, here is a view of the village

We parked our car outside the walls and explored the narrow streets, visited the church and had lunch.

During our trip we had already passed  many sunflower fields, but on our way to Carcassonne we found such a beautiful field that we really had to stop to take pictures..:-)

We visited Lautrec, another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The view of Lautrec might look similar to the view of Puyselci, but careful inspection of the two pictures will show you they are not the same…:-)

The weather was beautiful again, that could be the reason that we liked this village better. The walls are still there and the 14th century market square is attractive

We had lunch in a nice restaurant , Le Clos d’Adele. Good food, pleasant service, value for money.

After lunch we visited one of the other attractions of Lautrec, a 17th century windmill. A steep climb, but worth the effort, we could enter the mill and had a nice view of the surroundings. When there is enough wind the mill is still operating.

With Airbnb the host often doesn’t live in¬† the same building, so you have to contact him/her about your arrival time. That works well in general, but in Carcassonne it took us some time, the apartment also looked more like a hotel room. But it was ok, from our window we could see the medieval fortress in the evening light. But what were those strange yellow surfaces on the walls and towers?

The next day we explored the old town. It  the largest walled city in Europe and really impressive.

Not surprisingly it is a major tourist attraction with crowds of visitors in the narrow streets. We were lucky to find a restaurant with a secluded garden, where we had a nice lunch, again value for money

The name of the restaurant is Le Jardin du Carcasses, it has good reviews

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus was built in its Gothic form at the end of the 13th century on the site of an earlier church. It was the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803. Beautiful interior. But keep in mind that this church and also the citadel itself have been “renovated” in the 19th century by the French architect¬†Viollet-le-Duc!

Access to the medieval city is free, but to access the fortress and the walls you have to pay an entrance fee.

Carcassonne is  a Unesco World Heritage site already for 20 years and of course that had to be celebrated. The Swiss artist Felice Varini was asked to create a project.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‚Äėbroken‚Äô fragmented shapes.”

In this case he projected concentric circles on the walls and towers of the citadel. They look broken, only from one vantage point they are circles. Quite spectacular, of course many specatators, not easy to take a picture without people.

In the evening we came back especially to admire Varini’s work

Our trip was coming to an end, our last destination was the naturist village of Cap d’Agde. On our way we passed this strange landscape, the¬†√Čtang de Montady, a wetland, drained in the 13th century.

What to say about Cap d’Agde? Here is a picture of the beach, when you enlarge it, you will see that the sunbathers are naked…:-)

Nudist beaches are common in Europe, but Cap d’Agde is a nudist village, where you walk around, have a drink/ food on a terrace, go to the supermarket etc, all in your birthday suit..:-)

We had booked a room (Airbnb) with Bernard and that was a lucky choice, because he had been living there for many years and could tell us the do’s and don’ts. One don’t is that you can not take pictures of other naked people. Another one is that at night, during dinner, you are supposed to be a bit dressed at least…:-)

Bernard had two other guests, Christiane and Alain, a nice couple who had been regular visitors of Cap d’ Agde for many years. We became friends almost immediately…:-) The village itself is a nondescript conglomerate of concrete apartment complexes, but the company made our visit very enjoyable.

The second (also last) night of our stay we were invited to join our new friends to a dinner in a nearby restaurant. There was music, there was drag, and both Aric and I have been dancing! A fun evening and a worthy ending of our trip

It is amazing how much you can do in twelve days. After our return ot Amsterdam we needed several days to recover…:-)

Singapore 2018

Regular readers of my blog may remember that during my visit to Taiping in April 2017, I met a gentleman from Singapore, Dr Lee. We are both interested in (Taiping) heritage and kept contact by email. He suggested that we should visit Singapore, not only for its cultural heritage, but also for its nature, he could show us some interesting places.

So we booked a hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown for three nights and took the Aeroline bus to travel. Quite convenient

On my to-do list were a few of the recent modern buildings and one of them we passed already in the bus…:-). The Interlace¬†(2013) , a 1000-unit apartment complex,¬†which looks like numerous bricks irregularly stacked upon each other

From the bus terminal we took the MRT to Chinatown. The Keong Saik hotel was a good choice, the room was not big, but comfortable, and we had a view of another building on my architecture list, the Tanjong Pagar Centre (2016), the tallest skyscraper in Singapore. Although designed by world famous  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it did not look very special from our balcony. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple nextdoor was more interesting, but we had no time to visit it.

After a short rest, we met Dr Lee and walked with him through Chinatown.

Nicely restored houses and shoplots, many consisting of three storeys, unusual in Malaysia. Also here mural art. There are several works by Zacharevic, but we had no time to look for them. Next time…:-)

During our walk passed another modern building on my to-do list, the Pinnacles@Duxton (2009), a residential complex of 50 storeys high, dominating the three storeys shoplots of Chinatown. Initiative for this development came from Prime MInister Lee Kuan Yew, who was concerned about the exodus of residents from Singapore’s center.

We walked back via Keong Saik Road, beautifully restored houses. In the 1960’s this was the red-light district of Singapore! Dr Lee told us that in those days you could not pass the street without being addressed by the ladies of the night..:-)

For our dinner we went to the foodcourt in the Chinatown Complex¬†, where we met a few of Dr Lee’s friends. Nice food, nice company.

The next morning Dr Lee picked us up from our hotel and brought us to the “best nasi lemak shop in town” for breakfast. He was formally dressed this time because he had to work in the hospital that day.

But first he dropped us at the Botanical Gardens, where we spent the next few hours. The gardens are 158 year old and, since 2015,  an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We started with the Rainforest, a small part of the gardens, actually older than the gardens themselves! Of course Malaysia has more rainforest, but Singapore is one of the few cities with a rainforest within its borders.

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

On many places you can find sculptures, Here are two of them, Change Kuda (2011) by Chong Fah Cheong and Girl on a Bicycle (1987) by Sydney Harpley.

A few more pictures. To the right the Bandstand (1930), no longer used for musical performances, but still an iconic landmark of the gardens.

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

After our rest we had again enough energy to continue…:-)

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

The gardens are free and open all day but for the famous National Orchid Garden you have to pay an entrance fee. After some hesitation we bought tickets and entered. Very worthwhile. Never in my life seen so many orchid species!

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

First we wanted to take a “wefi”, then a friendly visitor offered to take the picture. Even better..:-)

It would have been no problem to spend the whole day in these gardens, but we had decided to spend the afternoon in another beautiful garden, the Gardens by the Bay, created in 2006 on reclaimed land. The public transport in Singapore is well-organised, we took the MRT to the Bayfront station and walked via an underground corridor to the gardens.

This passage has a few remarkable works of art. Left in the upper picture is a painting by Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing#915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular bands (1999). Further on both walls are covered with mirrors, which gives multiple reflections. Could not find the name of the artist

Perfect location to take a wefi..:-)  Can you find out who of us has taken this picture?

When you exit from the underground passage and look backwards, you see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel towering above you. One of the most impressive buildings I have seen in my life. I have stayed once there, expensive but it was worth the money..:-).

Entering the gardens you pass three smaller gardens, Malay, Chinese and Indian, Singapore is proud to be a multi-racial country. Far away the surrealistic Supertree Grove, but first we had a simple lunch at a snack bar.

Also in these gardens you can spend easily a full day. We had only limited time and decided to visit one of the two domes in the Gardens, the Cloud Forest dome. Expensive but 100% worth it.

Inside the dome a “misty mountain” has been created, with a waterfall, and pathways leading up and round the structure. Amazing and fascinating, just look at the pictures.

Of course flowers, mosses, ferns everywhere. These are fuchsia flowers, a favourite of mine.

Look carefully, two pictures show real flowers, the other two are fake!

In between the Lego “artworks”, there are real pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants.

A lot of maintenance is needed, but the result makes it worthwhile.

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

When we bought tickets for the Cloud Forest, we thought about combining them with tickets for the “canopy walk” at the Supertree Grove, but the friendly lady at the ticket counter advised us to wait, because there might be rain in the afternoon and then the walk is closed. Good advice, there was a downpour while we were inside the dome, when we came out we noticed that the canopy walk around the trees was empty.

We went back to our hotel and had some rest. Later Dr Lee picked us up and with two of his friends we went to the Kent Ridge Park, to have a view of the harbour. Nice surprise, his friends had brought pulut & mango for us. Delicious

Next we went to Labrador Park, where we walked a part of the boardwalk. Nice view of another building on my list: Reflections at Keppel Bay (2011), a luxury residential complex designed by Libeskind, another famous architect. Singapore knows how to choose…:-)

Here is the boardwalk

TIme for dinner. We went to the Alexandra Village Food Centre, where we had a tasty soup and claypot chicken rice from the well known Tai Liok restaurant . It really is an advantage to go out with Singaporeans, they know where to find the good food!

The next day, after breakfast in our hotel, we took a bus to the Southern Ridges for a long hike, from the Alexandra Arch bridge to the Henderson Wave. Surprising that Singapore has so many hiking and walking opportunities. On the map you can see also the location of the Labrador Park.

The bus passed two buildings I had seen before already, the Reflections and the Interlace

It was an interesting walkway. We met many student groups on a Learning Journey, as it is called.

We continued until the Henderson Wave, a pedestrian bridge with a unusual artistic design

From this bridge we had a nice view of the Singapore skyline. Dark clouds again, it was quite rainy during our visit

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

After this walk we took a bus to the city center, as we had planned to visit the National Gallery in the afternoon. There were still remnants of the Christmas celebration. Again we had a very simple lunch

We walked around and had a look at Singapore’s landmark, the Merlion.

View of the Theatres on the Bay, colloquially known as the big durians. Memories came back of a “concert” by MozART Madness, attended many years ago…:-)

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

We walked around in what is called the Civic District. Here many of the heritage buildings are located. Left another “wefi”, right the St Andrews Cathedral (1861)

The Victoria Hall began as Town Hall in 1862, the Asian Civilisations Museum is housed in what originally were the Government Offices (1864). The Old Parliament House, possibly the oldest surviving building of Singapore was built in 1827 as a mansion for a Scottish merchant. The National Gallery occupies two more recent buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall, both built in the first half of the 20th century

We decided to keep the National Gallery for the next day, and walked a bit more along the padang in the direction of two conspicuous buildings. The left tower is part of the Raffles CIty (1986) designed by architect I.M. Pei who has been responsible for many of Singapore’s skyscrapers. The right building was new for me, and it was only after I came¬† back home that I found out that it is¬† the South Beach development.

Looking back from the padang, the skyline of Singapore, the National Gallery, the Victoria hall with in front of it the Singapore Cricket Club.

It was in this club , the oldest one of Singapore (1852), that Dr Lee invited us for our farewell dinner. The club has a dress code, fortunately we had brought long pants, shirts, shoes. We started with an aperitif and what could be a better choice than a Singapore Gin Sling?

After our dinner we walked to the Singapore river for a few night view pictures. The majestic look of the Fullerton hotel suggest that is one of the prestigious old hotels of Singapore like the Raffles. Not true, the building is from 1928 and for many years it has been the Post Office of Singapore. It was only in 2001 that it became a five-star hotel!

After the posh dinner in the club, we enjoyed at a stall coconut ice cream as a dessert…:-)

The next morning we visited the National Gallery. There was so much to see and admire that I decided to write a separate post about this impressive museum: National Gallery, Singapore

 

In the afternoon we took the bus back and arrived home around 11 pm, tired but very satisfied. There is much more to do in Singapore and we are looking forward to come back soon.

 

Summer in October!

When I decided to come back to  the Netherlands in October, I knew the weather could be unpredictable, hesitating between autumn and winter. In old times October was called the aarselmaand    (hesitation month)

So it was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise that my first weekend was warm and sunny, even breaking records!

Here is a report about three summer days in October. Click on a picture to enlarge it

Saturday 14 October

With my brother Ruud I visited the Spaardammerbuurt, famous for its Amsterdamse School architecture. First we had coffee and cake in the Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen. This “farm within the city” dates back to 1880, was almost demolished around 2001, but just in time saved by a group of concerned citizens. More about this interesting story can be read here (in Dutch).¬†It is amazing that such a rural enclave exists, sandwiched between two railway lines.

We walked from the Buurtboerderij to Het Schip following this route. Not the shortest one, but worthwhile, you don’t realise that you are surrounded by development

When we arrived in the Spaarndammerbuurt, we were a bit disappointed to see that Het Schip, the famous creation of architect de Klerk, was being renovated, so I took only a few pictures. You can find more  in an  earlier blog Amsterdam Architecture

During my last visit the Schip museum was closed, fortunately it was was open now.  It is housed in a former school building and worth visiting.

We ended our trip at the Central Station. Beautiful weather and the¬†forecast for the next day was¬† even better…:-)

Sunday 15 October

The second day I went with my friend Yolanda to the Utrecht Hill Ridge, a  forested ridge of low sandhills, created 150.000 years ago as a moraine during one of the glacial periods. We followed a marked hiking trail of 12 km, indicated on the Google Earth map below.

It was a pleasant, easy walk.

Our hike took us to the Beerschoten and Houdringe estates and to the Pan forest. Stately lanes, beech and oak forest

Many  trees had beautiful autumn colours.

Mushrooms all over the place.

Hard to imagine that in winter this nice lake will become a skating rink.

The former coach house of the Beerschoten Estate now houses  an information center

It was a Sunday and with the sunny weather there were many visitors. There is also a sculpture garden

Monday 16 October

The third day I walked on my own in the region of Alphen, my birthplace. A polder walk of about 10 km. Green in the map below. Also indicated (in red) is one of the numerous Dutch polders . A polder is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes. This polder was created around 1785. Because they are low-lying, the rainwater must be pumped out by windmills into a river, in this case the river RIjn.

I took a bus to Aarlanderveen, where I started my walk. Nowadays Aarlanderveen has no shops and only one cafe. The cafe was officially closed, but the friendly owner was willing to serve coffee  with apple pie. A good start of the day.

The landscape can not be more Dutch…:-) Meadows, cattle, windmills.

You walk on narrow trails through the meadows, sometimes crossing fences

The polder marked in red needs 4 windmills, because in its deepest point it lies about 5 meter below sea level and one windmill can “lift” the water only about 1.5 meter. So they have to work together, like in the sketch¬†below. The Dutch word for it is a Molen-viergang and it is the only viergang in the world that is still operating.

Mill no 4 uses an Archimedes’ screw, the other three have scoop wheels.

Here is windmill no 4, the Putmolen, built in 1801. later than the other three, because one more mill was needed to drain the lowest part of the polder. That explains the odd numbering..:-)

.

Here is Mill no 1, when you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see no 2 and 3 in the background. This windmill discharges the water in the Rijn river.

Some details of this windmill. The right picture shows part of the scoop wheel.

Windmill 2 and 3

On the GE map you see that there is an (older) polder between the “red one”and the Rijn river. The easiest way to remove ¬†the water from the new polder would be to discharge it in this old polder, which had its own windmills.But understandably the owners of the old polder refused this, so for¬† the new polder a separate¬†drainage channel had to be created to the Rijn. Such a drainage channel is called a “wetering” in Dutch.

The problem is that the wetering of the new polder has to cross the wetering of the old polder. The left picture shows the location where this happens. The yellow line marks the wetering of the old polder, the red line is the wetering of the “red” polder. It passes UNDER the old wetering via a siphon (a duiker in Dutch). The right image shows how it works. This siphon was built in 1786.¬† Amazing.¬† I have marked the location of this siphon on the GE map

Not many birds in this time of the year. I noticed a heron and a cormorant. And of course many swans..:-)

A few more pictures.

It was a very interesting hike. A very informative website about the Molen-viergang (in Dutch can be found here.

Tabur East, 19 July 2016

Bukit Tabur, also known as the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, is located just north of Kuala Lumpur.¬†With a length of more than¬†16¬†km, ¬†this quartz “dyke”¬†is the ¬†longest of its kind in the world. The¬†razor-sharp ridge is¬†clearly visible on Google Earth.

Quartz ridge

It is a popular destination for hikers, but some parts are steep and require climbing, you must not have fear of heights.  At Tabur West  quite a few (sometimes fatal) accidents have happened, so recently it has been decided that you have to apply for a permit first. As a result Tabur East has become more popular and during weekends it can be crowded. I have climbed Tabur West several times, last in 2009, but Tabur East only once, in 2002. Here is the report I wrote then..:-)

When Edwin asked me if I would like to join him and a few friends to Tabur East, I eagerly accpeted his invitation. And what a wonderful hike it was! We went on a weekday and met only one other couple during our hike.

Here is again the Quartz ridge, with both my 2009 hike to Tabur West and the recent hike to Tabur East. Click on the image for a larger view.

Quartz ridge_trails

First I had breakfast in Deen’s Nasi Kandar¬†, where I met Edwin, Paul, CYTan and Kendary. From there we drove to Jalan Melawati where we parked our car and met Peter, Elaine and Rina. Before we started of course a¬†group picture had to be¬†made. From left to right, standing: Peter, Elaine,me, Paul, CYTan and Rina. In front¬†Kendary and Edwin. Peter is a regular hiker of Tabur East and acted as¬†our guide.

2016-07-20 00.26.01

From the car we first followed the water pipes to the actual trail head. There a sign¬†probably told us that we were not allowed to enter…:-).

2016-07-0212016-07-023

From there a steep climb took us to the ridge. Fortunately the many exposed tree roots made it easier and here and there fixed ropes were helpful too.  Some pictures (click to enlarge)

A short video of the climb

When you reach the ridge, the view is spectacular and really worth the strenuous climb. On the north side you look down on the Klang gate reservoir, on the south side there is the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur.

2016-07-19 09.18.53

2016-07-19 09.59.13

On the ridge going is easier, but you have to walk carefully. Nice quartz crystals everywhere.

To reach the top of Tabur East, a final steep climb is needed. Because the rock is so hard and full of hand- and footholds, it is not scary, if you have no fear of heights.

Arrived on the top, it is time to relax and take pictures.

I always try to have my picture taken in a position that looks spectacular, while still very safe. This one is a good example..:-)  The group picture is also not bad.

`

We continued a bit further, going down slightly until we reached a steep cliff from where we could see the next quartz hill, Tabur Extreme. No access from here. But a nice place for dramatic pictures. Rina climbed down first until the edge of the cliff, followed by Edwin and the rest. Adrenaline-filled fun.

Of course then they had to climb up again. Carefully. Watch Rina, a real daredevil…:-)

Generally going down a steep slope is more difficult than climbing up, because you can not easily see the suitable footholds. Here it was not too difficult because of the many footholds plus helpful ropes.

We took another route back, the least agreeable part of the hike, because it was a bit slippery here and there. The reward was that in our descent we crossed a durian and rambutan farm. Rina turned out to be an expert tree climber and collected lots of rambutans. The durians were delicious too.

Walking back to the car, I had a last view of Tabur East.

2016-07-045

It was a very nice hike, not in the least because of the pleasant company

Ayer Hitam, finally!

Numerous¬†times I had heard and/or¬†read about the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve¬†in Puchong. With¬†a waterfall, maybe even more than one….

But I had also heard that this forest reserve was a research project of¬†the UPM university and officially out of bounds. As I am a¬†good citizen, I was reluctant to trespass…:)

Last week I joined a so-called hashwalk, for the first time in my life. I will blog about it later. After the walk there was an open-air beer party where I met Master Ho, 76 year old and still going strong.  When he was 15(!) years old, he started a hiking group Pathfinders55, which still exists today. We came to talk about Ayer Hitam and I accepted his invitation to join him for a hike there.

Here is the location of the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve. Surrounded by urban development, it is surprisingly large. Our hike is marked in green.

Large map

Here is part of¬†the Reserve in more detail (click to enlarge). Our hike was about 10 km and¬†took¬†more than four hours. The grey line comes from Google Earth and probably marks¬†an”allowed” trail. On our hike we did not meet any¬†enforcement officials, maybe because it was weekend

map2

Master Ho had sent me a whatsapp where to meet:

Date: Sunday 22/5/2016
Meet time at the the purple(or pink you may call it) colour single storey
corner shop opposite the coconut stall
Start time: 9.30am

I was surprised that there was quite a big crowd that Sunday morning. The pink/purple house was easy to find and Master Ho was waiting for us. We took a group photo and started our hike. Clear trail, climbing up, then down, crossing a stream, then up again.

After about one hour we reached the waterfall. Many people there, enjoying a bath and relaxing. No rubbish! I understood that the local community is taking care about the place.

2016-05-22 10.50.27

2016-05-22 10.54.09

Here is a video of the waterfall

What next? We could take the same way back, but we also could have a look at the Blue Lagoon. Easy decision of course…:-) ¬†So we continued our hike, passing another nice waterfall (no people, access difficult) and an orang asli settlement. Nobody living there now, probably only when fruits (durians?) are harvested. Romantic setting.

Here is a video of another river crossing. Master Ho and I¬†decided to get our feet wet. Of course I was hoping that at least one of my friends¬†would fall…

Here is Peter, taking a bath in the BLue Lagoon

The second Blue Lagoon is even more attractive, with a small waterfall at its end.

2016-05-023

A pity that these lagoons are out of bounds, but understandable. Fortunately they are located deep inside the Reserve. It took us about two more hours to hike back to the pink house. Here are a few pictures to show the beauty of nature.

All the time we were in the jungle, but just before the end, we came out in the open and noticed this rock face with bright flags on top. Maybe because the day before it was Wesak?

2016-05-22 14.21.34

A very rewarding hike!

Qing Xin Ling

Have you ever heard about the¬†Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village in Ipoh? I had not, until Aric mentioned it to me as a possible “stay-overnight” place during our recent trip up North. It turned out to be fully booked, but we decided to have a look at it anyway, because you can visit it as a day-tripper (RM 6). In¬†the reviews (see¬†the link above), people complain¬†that the place ¬†can be overcrowded on¬†weekends, during ¬†our visit it was still ok.

Here you see the location of Qing Xin Ling. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, the image shows Gunung Rapat. Many caves and “wangs”, depressions enclosed by high limestone cliffs. Many Chinese temples too, one of them located at Qing Xin Ling. Recently the temple committee has transformed the temple grounds into a “Leisure and Cultural Village”, which has become so successful that the residents, living nearby, are complaining about traffic jams and parking woes.

Map

We paid the entrance fee and walked around. Mixed feelings. The location is beautiful, two lakes, surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. You can walk around the lakes, a number of brightly colored chalets has been built on the shores. Without the day trippers walking and cycling(!) around, it could have been a paradise.

But this serene atmosphere has been destroyed by the many artifacts constructed, to make it a kind of theme park. For example, what is a boat doing there, between the two lakes? From the deck you have a nice view of the two lakes, but for the rest it is an eyesore. Very strange.

It is a confusing mixture of memorabilia ( an old motorbike, a push bike, a horse cart) and kitsch. Aric as birdman, stickers instead of love locks. Hm, a tree root,¬†¬†let’s paint it as a snake. Shall we add¬†two dinosaurs? Anything goes…:-)

It becomes much more interesting when you walk up to ¬†what I would call “memory lane”, a path leading to the upper wangs, where a number of stalls and shops have been created with old/antique stuff. Here you could spend a lot of time. Mostly bric-a-brac, but still interesting

2016-01-26 15.27.32

2016-01-26 14.05.30

When you continue after this memory lane, you enter a completely different world. A trail leads up to Iron Hill, the top of Gunung Rapat. Recently this trail has been included in the “village”. In the beginning the trail is clear and well maintained, but it becomes steeper, there are ropes. You will pass old machinery dating back to when iron was mined here. As we were not prepared for a hiking tour we went as far as we could go, but went back before reaching the summit. Halfway, we had a nice view of Ipoh.

Will we ever come back here to stay in one of the chalets? No. But, better prepared,  we like to explore the trail to the top of Iron Hill.