A Day with May

About two years ago, during a visit of Taiping, I met May during a walk in the Lake Gardens. We had a friendly conversation and later kept in touch via email.

During my last visit we managed to meet again. First we had a walk in the Lake Gardens, beautiful as ever. Next we had breakfast with dim sum in the North Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (!) near the lake. Delicious glutinous rice too! I told her that George and I were planning to go to Austin Pool, and May was interested to join.

Austin Pool is similar to the better know Burmese Pool, but less crowded. Clear water, some cascades and a bit further along the trail a nice waterfall with a deep pool. Young daredevils were having fun in the water and May could not resist the temptation to take a bath herself.

We ended up in one of the famous cendol shops of Taiping.

A half-day well spent!

International Day of Peace 2012

Did you know that there exists an International Day of Peace? I didn’t.
It falls on 21 September and has been observed since 1982.

In Malaysia the activities are concentrated in Taiping.Why there? In the 19th century there have been several wars fought between rivaling Chinese gangs about the tin mines of Larut. When these wars came to an end in 1874, it was decided to rename Larut in Taiping, which means “everlasting peace

And peaceful it is, these days. I am a regular visitor, and see it as my second hometown.

When I arrived this time, my Taiping friends told me about the Peace day, that there was a bicycle rally and if I liked to join.

The morning started with heavy rain, but just in time the sun came through. Quite a number of people had assembled near the Lake Gardens

It was a nice, relaxed ride around the gardens and the town. At the “finish” we were rewarded with breakfast, while a band played (bagpipe!) music.

And here is an official picture.

It was a nice morning, I met several old friends and made new ones

To end this post with some trivia, I had number 179, anything special about that number?

Answer: it is a prime, and even a sexy one…:-)

How is the Sun doing these days?

My last post about the Sun is from August 2010. At that time it had become clear already that the present Solar Cycle 24 would be a weak one. We are now two years further, the maximum in solar activity is expected around September next year. Time for an update.

Here is the most recent prediction, with data points until September

The current prediction is a (smoothed) sunspot number maximum of about 76. That is low! We have to go back to Cycle 14 in 1906, to find a lower maximum value of 64.

Here is a graph of the Solar Cycles over the past four centuries. With red crosses I have marked the 1906 maximum and the (predicted) 2013 maximum.

You will notice that the last half century we have had a “wave” of solar activity. Is that coming to an end now and will we enter a period of low solar activity? Nobody knows, as we do not understand very well the origin of the Solar Cycle.

Both the Maunder minimum (17th century) and the Dalton minimum (~ 1800) had influence on the Earth climate. Severe winters in Europe as can be seen in paintings of the Dutch School, like this famous one by Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634)

Now we live in a period of global warming. There are strong indications that our carbon emission is at least partly responsible for this. But could there also be a contribution due to the high solar activity during the last fifty years? Those are sensitive questions..:-)


All my friends should know by now that I am addicted to waterfalls. My website Waterfalls of Malaysia contains almost 180 waterfalls, most of which I have visited personally.

Yesterday I have added two more to my list in the Bentong region. Bentong has a famous waterfall, the Chamang waterfall, a dangerous one, almost yearly people drown here!

Chamang waterfall with a warning signboard in red

Here also is the start of the long trail up to Gunung Rajah. Recently my friend Siang Hui had discovered two more falls along this trail.

Visiting those two falls was the target of Rani and me. The month of the Hungry Ghosts had just passed, so it should be safe, LOL.

After a steep climb up from the Chamang car park, we reached a nice level road, leading us via an Orang Asli village in about 1.5 hour to the first fall, baptised Lubuk Chamang by Siang Hui.

And a magnificent lubuk it was! The fall was not high, but strong with a huge, deep pool in front of it. A good place for a coffee and a dip.

Lubuk Chamang

Unfortunately I was stung by a bee here. Maybe a Hungry Ghost, lost on his way back to his grave? Bees like me very much, because I am a sweaty person. The bad thing is that I am allergic for them. After I had a near-anaphylactic shock, two years ago, I always carry antihistamine tablets, and even a Epipen in case of emergency.

Not needed this time

I did not need it this time, but still I had an uncomfortable half hour, before the allergic effects subsided. After I had recovered, we decided to continue to the second fall, in a tributary of the Perting river. This fall was tall, but not much water.

Anak Perting

During the trip I took pictures with my iPhone. Combined with the GPS data, it resulted in an EveryTrail report Perting Fall . Here is a Google Earth screenshot of our hike


Kiara again

Another walk in Kiara with Pola Singh, this time joined by Chow, another avid hiker. We started as usual from the Lembah Kiara park.

This time I recorded our hike with EveryTrail, an interesting smartphone app, where you combine the GPS data with the pictures taken, add captions and a story and then publish the result on the Internet.


Here is a screenshot of the hike. Each red dot represents a picture.

When you start the slideshow you will be able to follow our hike.

Try it out: Kiara again


Climbing up from near the Penchala highway to the top of the hill was a steep climb, as you can see in the altitude map below …:-)!

I walked along the Northern fence to the viewpoint, interested how the fence was doing after the work had stopped. Several openings have been created, legally or otherwise. I found a cute small gate for the little critters, because only monkeys are able to climb the fence, even taking a relaxed rest on top of it!

Plants start covering parts of the fence, a tree has fallen down, hopefully nature will fight back.


Malaysia Boleh!

According to local newspapers, a Malay Teachers organisation and the Ministry of Education have published  “guidelines” to help parents to identify gay and lesbian “symptoms” in their children so they can take early corrective measurements.

Muscular body, V-neck shirts, big handbags, wow!

At first I thought it was a hoax, but it seems to be true and has now reached even international newspapers like the Guardian (396 comments)


V-Neck :    Check!

Big handbag :   Check!

Muscular Body :  Hmm…. Fail

You can imagine the uproar this publication has caused in Malaysian Cyberspace.

Hundreds of, often hilarious but also very embarrassed, comments.


Of course it is actually worrying, showing that Malaysia, although having a first-world economy, still has in many respects a third-world mindset. Because this is not an isolated incident.

For example, recently Mohd Amin, the vice president of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia said that LGBT rights should be “excluded from a human rights declaration currently being drafted by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

And a few months ago in the state of Terengganu, 66 Muslim schoolboys have been  sent to a gay ‘cure’ camp after school teachers identified them as being effeminate.

Malaysia Boleh!


Election results

The preliminary results of the Dutch elections were known already the same evening of Wednesday, September 12, but the final results (including postal votes) took a few days longer.

The good news is that the populist party PVV of islamophobic and anti-Europe Geert Wilders lost dramatically. The leftist and anti-Europe SP also lost.Big winners are the conservative-liberal VVD and the socialist PvdA. Together they have now 79 seats in the House of Representatives (150 seats), a majority.

However, their programs are quite different, so it will not be easy to form a coalition between the two.

Here is a map of the Netherlands with the 2012 election results.

The map shows the biggest party in each town/village, just to give an impression about the local support for a party. We don’t have a district system, but proportional representation, so votes for other parties are not lost.

For comparison, here is the map for the 2010 elections

Quite a big change! The grey color is the Wilders party. The most dramatic change is the almost complete secularisation of the country. The Christian parties have been decimated in this last election. That’s another piece of good news for a secular humanist like me…:-)

Parliamentary elections in the Netherlands

Today is election day in my motherland. We had a cabinet crisis a few months ago, when the populist, islamophobic, anti-European PVV party of Geert Wilders withdrew its support for the coalition government.

After this crisis the popularity of this party increased and for a while it looked like it might become the biggest party..:-(. Fortunately the electorate has come to its senses. The polls now indicate that it will be a fight between the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Conservative Party (VVD).

For the first time in my life I am now a postal voter! Because my residence is no longer in Amsterdam. I had to register myself in the Hague, and received my voting form two weeks ago. I had to send it back to the Dutch embassy in KL, before 3pm today.Here I am voting, in my living-room..:-)

Tomorrow we will know the result. I will keep you updated.

A trip to Gombak

A few days ago my friend Keong asked me if I was interested to join him for a trip to Gombak.The plan was to  visit the orchard of Raman, a Semai Orang Asli who would demonstrate various traditional techniques.






We met in Gombak, crossed a tunnel under the Karak highway and walked for about 20 minutes beside a small stream to Raman’s orchard. He showed us how to build a traditional shelter and the working of traps to catch squirrels and other small animals.






Another part of the program was an instruction in the making of good knots. Very useful for me, as I bought a hammock recently, but am still lacking the skills to use knots properly.



We finished this very interesting half-day trip with a lunch prepared by Raman’s wife.

Click here for a full report of this  trip on Multiply

Another Kiara Walk

During the last few years I have become a regular walker in Bukit Kiara, one of the few remaining green lungs in Kuala Lumpur. Often on the tar roads with my walking buddies of the Kiara Bunch. But also exploring the numerous trails, well maintained by the mountain bikers.
At the moment, the hill is under siege. A lot of destruction is going on and an atrocious fence has been constructed. Fortunately a few (illegal?) openings have been made in this fence, so it is still possible to access the remote northern parts of the hill.






A few days ago I went for another walk with Dr Pola Singh, who is active in the Friends of Bukit Kiara group. We almost got lost, and walked for about 10 km. Nice trails but also you could see in several places that “civilisation” is encroaching.

We discovered a complete kampung in the forest!

There are many more trails to be explored, so this will not be the last time that we will walk here!