In a recent blog, The Gang of Four, I wrote about the fellowship of Khong, Stephen, George and me, and the many trips we made during the past 15 years. At the end of that blog I wrote that we had not organised any activity during the Covid-19 pandemic and that we were hoping to continue the tradition soon.
Although the pandemic is not over, the situation in Malaysia became better during the last months and in November we organised our first outing since 2019. We had planned to visit a colonial mansion in Rasa, but unfortunately it was closed..
However, we had a sumptuous lunch at the WK restaurant in Ulu Yam.
Our next outing was on 20 January and our destination was Kampar. A two hour drive from KL, so we left early . First we had breakfast in the huge Kampar Medan Selera. I had a very tasty Chee Cheong Fun, Hong Kong style.
After our breakfast we visited the Kinta Tin Mining Museum. I had visited the museum in 2018, see my album Versatile Perak, for my friends it was new. It is an attractive museum dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps. Lots of old machinery, many dioramas.
Recently I had come in contact with Jacky Chew, the curator of the museum regarding some heritage issues. It was nice to meet him now in person. He is very knowledgeable about the history of tin mining.
Our next destination was the Battle of Kampar Heritage trail. The Battle of Kampar was a valiant attempt of the British Commonwealth forces to slow down the advance of the Japanese Imperial army in December 1941. Jacky Chew told us that the trail started next to a factory, north of Kampar old town. We found the factory and asked for further directions.
Mr Chee, the owner of the plant, pointed out where the trail started and also explained to us what they were doing in the factory. Basically it is a mineral processing industry. More info here. Very interesting and an unexpected bonus of our trip.
The trail starts next to the factory and was doable for us seniors ;-). Clearly signposted.
There is a memorial with info about the battle.
The wreaths in front of the memorial were put there a few weeks ago, at the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kampar.
From the memorial a trail leads to a few remains of the battle field, a bunker, a trench and the location of the former command post.
Here is a view from the Green Ridge. Not easy to imagine that this was a battlefield where hundreds of soldiers died, eighty years ago.
We went back to the old town for our last destination. After the success of the mural art of Zacharevic in Penang, mural art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia. KL, Ipoh, Gopeng to name a few. And now Kampar as well. The works of art are concentrated in a small lorong (alley) between the two main roads of old town. The quality is not always very good, but at least it is colorful.
Here is a collection of pictures.
Kampar has also quite a lot of heritage architecture, but there was no time to explore as we were getting hungry. Our plan was to have lunch in Sungkai , at the Choy Kee restaurant, but we found it closed, maybe we were too late. So we continued to Slim River, the Fook Seng restaurant, a favourite of Stephen.
We had pork knuckle, herbal chicken, tofu and bean sprouts. With drinks and rice the bill was RM 102. Value for Money VMF), one of the tenets of the Gang of Four 😉
We are already looking forward to our next outing!
In May 2020 I published a blog post Lockdown!, about our experiences during the first Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia. More than one year has passed since then. THe MCO was extended several times, then replaced by the CMCO (Conditional) and later by the RMCO (Recovery), Confusing? There is also an FMCO (Full) and an EMCO (Enhanced). For a detailed review of all the MCO variations, with timetable, see the Wikipedia article Malaysian movement control order.
In the beginning of the pandemic there were hardly any cases in Malaysia, but from October 2020 onwards the situation deteriorated. We are now in the 5th “wave”.
During the Recovery MCO, starting in May 2020, international borders remained closed, but interstate travel was allowed. We visited the Cameron Highlands in July 2020, and Taiping twice, in August and October. When the situation worsened, we could not travel interstate anymore, but inter-district travel (within a state) was still allowed. I visited the Batang Kali waterfall in March 2021 and the Rawang Bypass in the first week of May, a few days before even inter-district travel was no longer allowed. We could still walk, but only in our own neighbourhood. I was very fortunate because from my doorstep i could explore the many trails in Bukit Lanjan. In May and June I walked with friends a few times a week, here is one of those hikes, A Backyard Hike.
Then, on 1 July, the backdoor government announced an EMCO from 3 to 16 July in the Klang Valley (most of Selangor and parts of Kuala Lumpur). .Enhanced or Extreme? Physical outdoor exercise, considered by experts to be safe and healthy, was banned. Everybody had to stay at home, only one person in a household could go out for essential shopping (food, pharmacy).
During those two weeks we have been staying at home almost permanently, blogging, listening to music, playing games. We decided to spend more time to prepare food ourselves and only occasionally order delivery food. Every day we took a picture of our dinner. The original plan was that Aric and I would share the cooking duties, but it turned out that he did most of the cooking, often very creatively. Here is a report.
On our last day of freedom, I hiked with friends to a viewpoint at Bukit Lanjan. We had a beer and enjoyed the nice weather.
Durian season was starting, we bought online a few containers of Red Prawn and Musang King. Expensive but delicious. We still had Tau Fu Fa in the fridge and for dinner I prepared Spaghetti Carbonara with salad and a glass of wine.
5 & 6 July
The next two days Aric was the cook, the first day Chinese food, the second day Western style.
Tom Yam Stir-fried Chicken with Veggies (Broccoli, Eggplant, Shiitake)
BBQ Cuttlefish with mashed potatoes and veggies.
To get some physical exercise, I decided to go shopping on foot, not to the nearby Jaya grocer but to the TESCO, a roundtrip of about 4 km ;-). I did the same during the first lockdown, carrying a shopping bag to show the police that I was not hiking, haha. The TESCO car park was almost empty, the shops closed. Parts of TESCO also blocked, only a few customers. Eerie.
7 & 8 July
Two more dinners prepared by Aric. One Chinese and one Western cuisine.
Red Snapper with fermented bean paste & Chinese cabbage with fried dried Shrimp and Cuttlefish.
Baked Salmon with Lemon Sauce, Cheese-baked potato and salad.
Dutch food for a change. Pancakes. Two versions, an apple pancake and a spekpannekoek with bacon, traditionally served with syrup. A glass of beer was a good accompaniment.
9 & 10 July
Although dine-in was not allowed, many restaurants still prepared take-away food. We ordered a meal from our favourite restaurant: fried rice, sotong, tofu soup and veggies. The following day I decorated a frozen pizza from the Jaya grocer with extra mushrooms and cheese.
Aric’s birthday. Of course no visitors, but he was spoiled with three birthday cakes!
We had a traditional steamboat dinner, ordered online. It included the cooking pot, the soup and a variety of ingredients.
I got my 2nd Covid-19 dose (AstraZeneca) on 12 July at the PWTC in Kuala Lumpur. That is a different state (Federal Territory), but for vaccination you could cross the state border without a permit. No police check on our way. The organisation was very professional, separate stations for dose 1 and dose 2. No queue at all for dose 2, I was in and out in 35 minutes and that included the compulsory 15 minute wait after being injected.(right picture)
12 & 13 July
The steamboat dinner was so copious that we could not finish everything, there was enough for another meal. The next day Aric prepared Tom Yam chicken with green veggies
14 & 15 July
My turn, two Dutch meals. Pancakes again, but now prepared by me, the dough a bit thinner. I managed to turn the pancakes in the traditional way, by lifting he frying pan upward, so the pancake will turn over in the air. The next day I prepared Hutspot, a traditional winter stew in the Netherlands. Very simple recipe, carrots, onions and potatoes. Could not find the smoked sausage, but the sliced pork (from a can) was a good alternative. The pickled onions and gherkins are essential 😉
16 & 17 July
The last EMCO day, Aric surpassed himself with a fabulous meal of Giant Prawns in a Creamy Tom Yam sauce. The next day we ordered food, a Poké Bowl (Fish Bowl), healthy food, getting more and more popular in the Klang Valley.
End of EMCO
The EMCO was announced from 3 to 16 July, what would happen next? Looking at the daily number of new Covid-19 cases, I expected that it would be extended. On 3 July it was 6658 and on 16 July it had increased to 12541. But the government decided otherwise. EMCO was not extended, probably because it had no effect on the virus, only damaged the economy more.
So we went back to another MCO, actually not that much different. A few more shops could reopen (Aric’s laundry shop for example), two people from a household could go shopping instead of only one. Still no inter-district travel.
But for me a very important difference: Hiking around your house was allowed again. I waited a few days , because this government has a reputation of flip-flopping.
What a pleasure it was to hike again. For the time being I will hike on my own, keeping a safe distance to everybody. It is clear that they virus is endemic now, everybody can be a carrier, I am fully vaccinated now, but even that gives no 100% protection.
I had made myself a thermos with coffee and enjoyed my cuppa at the Hard Rock. I had to use the timer of my phone, that’s why I look so serious 😉
Two weeks of extreme lockdown. Of course we did more than eat, eat, eat. I listened to a lot of music, click on the image to listen to my favourite composer.
I re-discovered the films of Buster Keaton Here is his hilarious movie Our Hospitality (1923). Click on the image to watch the movie.
And I spent much time at my laptop. Here is a blog I published about the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme and his painting the Naked Truth (1896). Click on the image to read why I wrote a blog about the painting.
I did a lot of gaming too, for my mental health. Here are two of my favourite games, Hay Day and Homescapes.
The Covid-19 situation in Malaysia is still getting worse every day.
During our visit to Pat and Roger in 2015 we went with them on a 5D4N trip in the state of Victoria. First Roger took us to the Organ Pipes National Park. The “organ pipes” are basalt columns, their origin is volcanic and they are 2.5-2.8 million year old.
After lunch in the small town of Woodend we continued to Bendigo where we stayed overnight. In the 1850s gold was found here and Bendigo became a boomtown, attracting gold-diggers from everywhere. There is a goldmine that can be visited and there are numerous imposing buildings in Victorian style. A very pleasant town. This is Pall Mall, the main street. Left the War Memorial, in the middle the former Post Office and to the right, behind the trees, the Shamrock Hotel.
Many buildings are in the (Victorian) Second Empire style. From left to right the former Post Office (1883-1887), the Town Hall (1878-1902) and the Law Courts (1892-1896). Impressive architecture.
The monumental Shamrock Hotel began in 1856 but was several times rebuilt, until the final version in 1907.
Just a few more architecture pictures.
The Rosalind park was where the goldrush started in 1851. It has been a Government Camp before it became a park.
The Alexandra Fountain is located at the entrance of the park and was designed by William Vahland, the main architect of Bendigo in those days. A poppet head is a frame at the top of a mineshaft, supporting pulleys for the ropes used in hoisting . This poppet head comes from a different gold mine and is now a lookout.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral is unusually large for a small town. Construction started in 1897, in Gothic Revival style, but was completed only in 1977.
We had dinner in the Wine Bank on View, a favourite of Roger. It is a wine bar and wine merchant.
They also serve delicious food.
We moved inside for the main course.
The next morning Aric and I visited the Central Deborah gold mine, now no longer active and a major tourist attraction. We took the 85 metres: Underground Adventure excursion, very interesting. Overalls, boots, miner’s hat with lamp. A traditional miner’s lunch was served underground.
Various aspects of a miner’s life, changing room, showering, medical assistance.
Our guide explaining where we will go and the poppet head which will lower us down.
An ore deposit, where gold can be found.
Not easy to take pictures underground.
Lunch 85 meter underground.
Before we continued our trip, we visited the Chinese Joss House Temple (1871). During the gold rush many Chinese immigrants came to Victoria to work in the mines.
Our next destination was Echuca on the banks of the Murray river, where we stayed two nights. We had pizza for dinner.
The main attraction of Echuca are the paddleboats. Echuca was founded in 1850 and became fast a major inland port. Nowadays it is a major tourist attraction.
Paddleboats brought their cargo to the Echuca wharf where it was unloaded and transported by rail to Melbourne. The wharf is now Australian Heritage.
Of course we went for a trip, with the paddle steamer Pevensey. It was built in 1911, used to transport wool and still has its original steam engine.
Impressive machinery. Must be a tough job to be a stoker!
The interior of the Pevensey.
Two more paddle steamers. It was a very interesting excursion
In the afternoon we drove around Echuca and visited the Cape Horn Vineyard. The Echuca-Moama bridge dates from 1878, to reach the vineyard we had to cross the Stewart’s bridge (don’t worry, the new one is hidden behind the old wooden structure).
Roger is a wine connoisseur, I am just pretending 😉 .
Of course a day is not complete without drinks and food!
The next day we had a short stop at Kryabam , where we visited the former Town Hall (1895), now an art gallery. Just to prove that we are interested in more than food 😉 .
We continued to Rushworth, another goldrush town. Nice buildings , but not so spectacular as in Bendigo.
I had seen on the Internet that near Rushworth there was an old gold mine with a ghost town. I asked Roger if we could visit that place. He agreed but regretted it when it turned out that the access road was bad, causing some damage to his car. Fortunately Aric could repair it 😉 .
The Balaclava mine is an open-cast mine. The tunnels have been closed for safety reasons, so there is not much to explore.
The ghost town of Whroo is not much more than the cemetery. Hard to imagine that once the town had several churches , a school, a library and a few hotels.
We stayed overnight in a motel in Nagambie and had an al fresco dinner at the Nagambie lake.
A beautiful sunset!
The last day of our trip we visited Yea, another small town, with some interesting buildings. The Shire Hall is from 1877, the Grand Caledonian Hotel was built in 1901.
Yea was founded in 1855, because of the gold rush, but now it is primarily a farming and agriculture town.
The Yea Wetlands are worth a visit,
We had lunch in an heritage building, the E.S Purcell’s General Store (1877).
On our way back to Upwey, we had a stop at Yarra Glen for a drink in the Grand Hotel (1888).
It was a very rewarding trip. Amazing how much we could do in just a few days.
After our trip to the Cameron Highlands had shown us that traveling in Malaysia was possible again after the lockdown, a visit to Taping was of course my first priority. I booked four nights in my favourite hotel Furama, we drove to Taping on Thursday 13 August, Aric went back to KL on Saturday, I stayed two more nights and went back home on Monday by ETS. Here is a report.
My friend George was also in Taiping and suggested that we could have lunch in a Tupai food court, Sin Wong Kok, where they had the best popiah in town, according to him. When we arrived , my friends were already waiting for us, George and Jenny, and also Suet Fun and Peter. A nice start of our trip and the popiah were delicious indeed.
Of course we took off our face masks during the lunch, but in public we were good citizens.
After checking in at Furama and taking some rest, we went out in the evening and drove to Simpang for the famous char koay teow prepared over charcoal fire. Char koay teow is a favourite of mine, I had visited this stall before, but for Aric it was a first. The shop has been operating since 1972, nowadays the son has taken over from the father. The char koay teow was perfect, we also had very nice stingray.
On our way back we stopped for a while at the Lake Gardens and had a look at the Chinese Pagoda bridge. That the bridge is illuminated is in itself not a bad idea, but the gaudy and continuous change of colors is ugly, IMHO. Judge for yourself.
The next morning we had chee cheong fun for breakfast at Tong’s stall in the small food court in front of the Novotel hotel. That has become a routine for me when I am in Taiping 😉 .
Back in our hotel, we noticed a group of monkeys in the huge tree opposite the hotel. Spectacled Langurs, we were quite surprised to see them there, and were wondering how they would go back to the Lake Gardens, where they probably came from.
Our first stop this day was in Barrack Road where we visited Mrs Long, the sister of our Singapore friend ST Lee. Another tradition. During my last visit I had promised her a photobook with pictures of Taiping.
Our next destination was the Taiping Aerodrome. There was some activity at the entrance, friends told me later that they were preparing for a skydiving event on Merdeka Day.
I had asked Aric to bring his drone, here is the first result. The former runway is clearly visible.
I am working on a blog about Isabella Bird in Taiping and one of the targets for this trip was to visit places related to her visit in February 1879. AFter crossing the Straits from Penang and entering the Sg Larut, she landed in Teluk Kertang, from where she continued to Taiping. In those days this was the main port to ship tin to Penang!
Now it is a romantic stream, with quite a few shipyards and charcoal kilns on the opposite bank of the river
We continued to Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang), the successor of Teluk Kertang, where we had the famous curry mee for lunch.
On our way back to Taiping we stopped at Kota Ngah Ibrahim, mentioned by Isabella Bird in her book The Golden Chersonese. Next to the fort is Speedy’s bungalow.
The fort is now an interesting small museum, free of charge and worth a visit. The centerpiece on the ground floor is a statue of an elephant . According to legend this elephant came back from the jungle in the 1840’s with tin mud on its legs, starting the tin mining in the Taiping region. The first floor tells the history of the court case against the murderers of J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, who was killed in 1875. The trial took place in this fort.
The Kota has also been used as a school, a teacher training college and it was the HQ of the Japanese army during the war. Because of his involvement in the murder plot, Ngah Ibrahim was exiled and died in Singapore. His remains were brought back to the fort in 2006 .
A drone picture of the complex.
Our next stop was at the pillars in front of the ruined Casuarina Inn. The Taiping Heritage Society (THS) is planning a gotong royong (cleaning) operation of the pillars. The bungalow still existed in 1961 and has been used as accommodation for visiting Residents and Governors. Some of the (34) pillars are completely overgrown, cleaning them will be a formidable job.
A drone picture of the hill with the pillars and the ruins of the Casuarina Inn (originally the Taiping State Rest House).
From the same location the drone took a nice picture of the Lake Gardens. Just visible in the bottom right corner is the former Residence of the Assistant Resident, now the DO’s bungalow. Speedy started building it, Maxwell lived there and received Isabella Bird as his guest in 1879. Of course in those days it was only a simple bungalow, as described in her book.
We decided to have dinner in Yat Sun, one of Taiping’s landmark restaurants. It has now two branches, both in Jalan Pasar. The original establishment was closed that day, so we went to the new one. A bit lacking in atmosphere, but the Hainanese chicken chop was still very good.
After our meal we were looking for coffee and cake. We tried Yinn’s but found it closed. The owner told me later that they close earlier these days because of the covid19 crisis. So not everything is back to normal yet. The beautiful illumination of the facade (the former town house of the Hai San leader Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee) deserves a picture.
During my last visit to Taiping in February I had a look at a bungalow in Tupai, near my hotel, which had been overgrown for years, but recently cleaned. The building intrigued me and with the help of a friend I found out who the owner/caretaker was. Yeap, the president of the THS contacted this Dalbir Singh, who was willing to give us a tour of the inside.
Here is the bungalow, looking glorious in the bright morning sun.
The bungalow is in good condition. The house has not been inhabited for a long time, but it looks like the last residents moved out just recently.
Hopefully this house, built in the 1930’s, will get a new lease of life. I would not mind living there 😉 .
Next we visited Crystal Creek. A larger contrast is hardly thinkable. We wanted to have a look to see if apartments here could be a good investment.
We had a look at a penthouse, apparently never inhabited yet, so a massive “renovation” would be needed. The view from the balcony is spectacular, but we found the general atmosphere of Crystal Creek disappointing. Many condo’s are for sale, or used for AirBnb. A bit of a failed project, despite its own waterfall?
We had lunch in the Peace Hotel, char koay teow again. Notice the nice decorations on the pillars. Built it 1928, it is one of the many decorative buildings in Taiping.
After lunch Aric drove back to KL and I took some rest. These days I am a volunteer gardener at the TTDI edible garden, so I was interested when my friend Lay Chun told me that she had started a garden behind her house a few months ago. She showed me around, I was surprised how much she had achieved already in such a short time.
Taiping is called “Rain Town”, but during this visit there was not the usual afternoon rain. It was a Saturday, many people were at the Lake Gardens, boating, walking or just relaxing in the grass. Taiping, my 2nd hometown 😉
When I visit the Lake Gardens, I always have a look at my favourite cannonball trees. For those Taipingites who don’t know the location, here are the coordinates: N 4° 51.05′ E 100° 45.10′
One problem I have in Taiping, is paying the bill after a dinner with friends. They are hospitable and generally faster. This time I was the host at Restoran Yes and I found a trick, by warning the waitress halfway the dinner that the bill was for me. It worked.
We had pig trotter, fish curry, sotong, tofu and veggie. Total bill RM 119.80 for six pax. Amazing 🙂
Halim had told me that he was free for a trip on Sunday, did I have an idea? I suggested that we could explore Kuala Kangsar and surroundings and he agreed.
Actually I wanted to visit two places related to Isabella Bird. In February 1879 she travelled (by elephant!) to Kuala Kangsar to meet the Resident Hugh Low. She stayed a few days in his Residence, a simple bungalow on a hill top. This bungalow was demolished in 1904 to make way for the King’s Pavilion, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback in 1906, and meant as a residence for visiting Governors of the FMS. Now it is a school.
Nearby is one of Hubback masterpieces, the Ubudiah Mosque, completed in 1917, in my opinion the most beautiful mosque of Malaysia.
Next to the mosque is the Royal Mausoleum of Perak, built in the same period. The two tombs in the right picture finally gave the answer to a question I have often asked (in vain) my Muslim friends :-). Graves have either two round tombstones or two flat ones. What is the difference? The answer is, the round tombstones are for males, the flat ones are for females.
After Kuala Kangsar we went to Kota Lama Kanan. Ever heard about it? After Birch was killed in 1875, the Brits retaliated of course with the Perak War as result. The decisive battle of Kota Lama Kanan was fought against Maharaja Lela and his army on 4 January 1876.
Nowadays Kota Lama Kanan is a peaceful rural district. We went to the mosque and were pleasantly surprised to find there a cannon, according to the caretaker dating back to the battle.
Why was I interested to visit this place? Because Isabella Bird also went there on 16 February 1879. Riding an elephant and crossing the Perak River on it. At that time, three years after the battle, the region was still a “black area”. Detailed story in my forthcoming blog about Isabella in Taiping.
From the mosque you can walk down to the mighty Perak river. It looks impossible to cross this river on the back of an elephant.
We were intrigued by the mention of a Batu Peringatan (memorial stone) on the signboard, looked around for a while, but could not find anything. Finally we asked the caretaker of the mosque who told us that the memorial stone was actually inside the mosque. He allowed me to enter the mosque, after washing hands and feet. A very nice guy.
Mansur Shah I was the 2nd sultan of Perak (1549-1577), he had his residence in Kota Lama Kanan, and in 1577, during Friday prayers in the mosque, he disappeared without leaving a trace. This memorial stone (round and only one!) has been placed in the mosque in 1916. Probably the sultan was kidnapped by the Acehnese. Interesting story.
Our last destination had nothing to do with Isabella Bird. I wanted to show Halim the Suka Suka Lake Retreat of my friends Aziz and Asiah, because I was sure he would love the place. I had stayed in this peaceful resort five times between 2010 and 2014, and it was nice to visit Aziz and Asiah again after a long time. Aziz buys old Malay houses, disassembles them and then rebuilds them on his resort. Halim liked the place very much and I think he will come back soon.
It was a wonderful day, full of variety, really grateful to Halim, hope we can do something similar during my future Taiping visits.
The next day I took the train back to KL, but in the morning I still had meetings with friends. First breakfast and an interesting chat with Anand in Lian Thong. Later, after checking out at Furama, my friend Bok Kin picked me up for lunch, again at Lian Thong. Bomb Mee this time.
After lunch she dropped me at the station. It was a wonderful visit, looking forward to go back soon.
Very convenient way of traveling with the ETS, and no problem with social distancing 🙂
Here is a short video taken by the drone. It shows the Taiping Aerodrome, the Kota Ngah Ibrahim and the Casuarina Inn with the the pillars.
A few months ago, Aei Yong, one of Aric’s sisters, came with the idea to celebrate Christmas with the family in Langkawi! She asked Aric to plan the trip, as she knows that he is a good organiser. He booked an Airbnb in Kuah, 23-25 December.
It turned out that not everybody was available, so finally we went with the two sisters and their family, ten people in total. The ferry to Langkawi leaves Kuala Perlis at 1 pm and it is about a 6-7 hour drive from KL, so he decided that we would leave one day earlier and stay overnight in Kangar on the 22nd.
We went in two cars and met in Tanjung Malim for breakfast. I had my favourite eggs on toast, creatively prepared 🙂
Chinese names are not easy for me to memorise 😉 . Left Aric’s nephews Zhen Ee and Chun Yee. , right his two sisters Aei Ling and Aei Yong and in the middle a Kwai Loh, my nickname.
Around 4 pm we arrived in Kangar, the capital of Perlis, where Aric had booked comfortable rooms in Federal Hotel Kangar.
After a short rest we went to Kuala Perlis for our dinner in the Hai Thien seafood restaurant. Aric and I had been here a few times before and we liked the (Thai style) food very much. It was crowded, we had to wait a bit for a free table.
The food was delicious as usual. The advantage of eating with a larger group is that you can order many different dishes!
The next morning we had time to explore Kuala Perlis. There is not much to see, but there is a nice pedestrian bridge, crossing the Perlis river, with good views of the surroundings.
The Al Hussain mosque is quite attractive, and sometimes nicknamed Floating Mosque.
The ferry is relatively small, it was interesting to see how the experienced crew managed to fit so many cars and lorries.
The crossing to Langkawi takes a few hours. The weather was perfect and there was a small canteen where you could buy drinks and snacks.
Around 4 pm we arrived at our Airbnb, a nice, modern house, located in the outskirts of Kuah.
Spacious, many rooms to accommodate our group.
Usually we decorate our condo in Damansara Perdana during Christmas and this time we had taken all the Xmas stuff with us.
The plan was to have our Christmas Eve dinner in Western style. There are not that many restaurants in Kuah that serve Western food, but Aric had found one, the ARTS Cafe. He called them to make a reservation and they asked us to come over already to select what we would like to eat the next day.
After we had made our choice, we looked for a suitable restaurant for our dinner. Our original choice , the Wonderland Food Store , was too crowded, we found a good alternative in seafood restaurant TEO.
Another elaborate selection of tasty food
The next day, after our breakfast we first visited the Durian Perangin waterfall on the slopes of Gunung Raya, Langkai’s highest mountain. I had visited this waterfall in September 2007. Now there was a lot less water, but still enough to enjoy a nice bath.
I took a lot of pictures. It was a good place to frolic around.
The waterfall was a very suitable background for modelling photos 🙂
After spending almost two hours at the fall, we drove to the top of the Gunung Raya, at 881 m the highest point of Langkawi. There is a view tower from where you are supposed to have a 360° view of the island. We were also expecting a cafe there for lunch. But everything was closed, already since February 2018!
Next we drove to Cenang Beach for KFC(!) lunch and the tax-free shopping malls. After that back to our Airbnb for a short rest.
Before we left for our Christmas Eve dinner, there was time to take an official family picture.
The ARTS cafe had prepared all the food we had ordered, I forgot to take pictures of all dishes, some people had ordered pasta, others pie, grilled salmon, lamb shank, fish and chips, etc. Nice food.
Many paintings on the walls of this cafe, another occasion for some more modelling photography.
Back home, it was time to wish each other a Merry Christmas.
On Christmas day we visited the Langkawi Sky Bridge and of course we were not the only ones. First we had to use the Cable Car. Well organised, we had to stand ready for the gondola, which doesn’t stop, not much time to jump in 🙂
The cable car has a station halfway, where you get out and can view the surroundings. In the picture you can see behind us the summit station and the sky bridge.
Another gondola brings you to the top.
There is a viewing platform, from where you have a good view of the sky bridge. Notice that the sky bridge is quite a bit lower than the cable car station. It is possible to use the so-called Sky Glide, a short funicular railway, but you have to buy tickets separately for it and there was a long queue. Here is a negative comment of a visitor: Don’t use the SkyGlide.
We decided to walk down, in about 20 minutes. A much better option, although it was rather hot :-). Walking on the sky bridge was a worthwhile experience, for me the first time, because during an earlier visit it was closed for maintenance.
We spent considerable time at this major tourist attraction, so it was almost 5 pm when we arrived at the second destination for the day, the beach at Tanjung Rhu. Crystal clear water, a sandy beach, casuarina trees for some shade, a nice place to relax and take a sea bath.
We had read that at low tide it was possible to walk from the beach to one of the rocky islands (the middle one in the picture below). It was low tide and indeed, you could walk quite far out, as you can see, and on the Internet I have seen pictures that there was even a dry “sand road”, leading far out. But when we were there this was impossible.
We could walk quite far, shallow water, swimming was not easy.
Almost sunset. A romantic beach. This picture was taken at 6:30 pm
Aric had planned our last dinner at Laman Padi Langkawi , a Malay restaurant, surrounded by rice fields. We arrived a bit too late, it was dark already, but we could still see the nice surroundings.
The next day we took the ferry back to Kuala Perlis.
From Kuala Perlis it was a long drive back, we stopped in Bukit Mertajam for lunch in the Sentosa Corner, a very popular eatery, famous for its yam rice.
A relative of the family was living nearby, we paid the couple a short visit.
It was a very successful, but also exhausting trip 🙂
We traveled by ETS train from KL Sentral to Butterworth, a very comfortable journey. From Butterworth we took the ferry to George Town. This way of reaching the island is more romantic, compared to the usual way (by car and bridge).
Our hotel was on walking distance from the jetty, but we were hungry and needed lunch first . We found a busy food court, where I had Penang Assam Laksa. The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is very well located in the heart of the historical town.
After some rest we went out to explore the town. We started with the Khoo Kongsi. More photos .
The weather was nice. We walked past many houses of worship, in the Guan Yin Temple a celebration was going on with a performance of Chinese opera.
George Town is a haven for foodies, in 2014 I wrote a blog about it, Penang Food. This time we were looking for halal food. We first walked to the Esplanade. because we remembered that there was a Malay food court there, but it was closed already. Beautiful views of the floodlit colonial buildings!
Walking back we ended up at the popular Kapitan restaurant, where we had an acceptable Tandoori Chicken.
The next morning we were in the mood for a dim sum breakfast, but of course most dim sum places are not halal. We were lucky to find a gem: Dim Sum Valet . Delicious dim sum, a very friendly Malay couple, they started the shop beginning of this year. Worth visiting!
We still had some space left for a dessert. Our friends Pat and Roger had visited George Town recently and were very enthusiastic about the durian ice cream of Kek Seng. They were right, it was delicious.
Our first target for the day was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A wonderful museum, surprising that I had never heard about it earlier! More photos .
We spent considerable time in the museum, there was a lot to see. For lunch we went back to the food court at the Esplanade that was closed yesterday evening. Now it was open, we had the famous Mee Sotong of Hameed Pata . A long queue, but worth waiting for it
In the afternoon we explored the colonial architecture of Beach Street. One bank building after another prove that in those colonial times George Town was the financial center of Malaya. But not only banks, also emporiums, shops, opulent residences. More photos .
We visited a few more mural artworks, and we were not the only ones. Actually I am not happy about the mushrooming of mural art in Penang (and in the whole of Malaysia!). Not always is it high quality and the economical Law of Diminishing Returns is valid also here. More photos .
After a short rest in our hotel we went out for dinner to the New Lane Hawker Center. I had good memories about this place from earlier visits, but this time I was rather disappointed. Too many tourists, too expensive. We had popiah, oyster omelet , kerang and stingray.
Our last day in George Town already. We had breakfast with Roti Goyang at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. The soft-boiled eggs were really shaking (goyang) surrounded by the pieces of toast. Very nice.
The Sun Yat Sen Penang Basee was the last museum on our list. Sun Yat Sen had his office here in 1912 when he was looking for support for the Chinese revolution. More photos .
A last round of more mural art. Some of them quite nice, in the humoristic Zacharevic style. More photos .
Before taking the ferry back to Butterworth, we had lunch near our hotel, in restaurant Jawi . Peranakan food, friendly service.
After lunch we took the ferry back to Butterworth. Paul and Fahmi went back to KL, I stayed in Taiping for couple of days more, see my report Taiping, July 2019 .
It was nice to visit George Town. But as a result of being a Unesco Heritage Site, it has become very touristic. Fancy museums, I may be old-fashioned, but for me it doesn’t add value.
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 Nîmes. Take the road via Vézénobres, 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.
The guest apartment
A large swimming pool
It was still very hot!
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.
New and old bridge
Only one span remains
Formerly a watermill
Coffee with fouace
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…:-)
Our “home” in Albi
Ground Floor with dining room
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
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 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!