Journal 30-11-2012

Last weekend I have joined a trip organised by MyCat to the Sungai Yu Wildlife Corridor near Merapoh. We did not see any wildlife, but visited a waterfall, a canyon and a cave, camped in the jungle and had big fun. Good for my self-confidence too, after my two recent mishaps.

Here is our group before we started. Detailed report here.

And here I am at one of the waterfalls

Have you heard about a “historical discovery” on the planet Mars by Curiosity? Next week Monday a press conference has been announced by NASA and I was getting excited, because although I think that we may be alone in the Universe, it would be wonderful if we are not. Here is the Curiosity

But today I read that no evidence for organic material has been found yet. After the announcement of the historic discovery a funny cartoon was published in a Dutch newspaper. The Mars chocolate bar is a popular sweet in the Netherlands.

Here is the cartoon:

Next week my Kiara kaki Henry will travel to the USA with his wife to visit his son there. With a few Kiara friends we had a kind of farewell lunch at TK Chong near my condo.

In Memoriam

Last week Aric’s father passed away after a prolonged fight against cancer. He was not yet seventy years old.

He was a good man and will be dearly missed by his wife and children. I liked him, he always had a big smile for me, it was a pity that his knowledge of English was about as bad as my knowledge of Chinese, so our communication was mainly nonverbal.

It was only two months ago that we had a family gathering in Parit Baru, where Aric took this impressive picture.

The funeral rituals have taken place, following the Taoist tradition

At the cemetery


Waterfalls of Malaysia

In my post about the Pisang waterfall I wrote that about 9 years ago I came in contact with Khong. He had started a website about Malaysian waterfalls, but had recently become more interested in birding. We became friends and I took over the maintenance of the waterfall site. On 28-10-2003, we registered the domain name

Khong had used several free web hosting services for his site, so my first task was to integrate all his material in this new site with a new design. In the beginning only falls in Peninsular Malaysia, later Sarawak and Sabah were added. Here is the original design.

In the past nine years the number of waterfall pages has increased from about 75 to more than 150. Also there have been many structural changes like a news section and the possibility to add comments. This is the present design

For more information about the history of the site and the members of my team, click here. The website is quite popular and attracts on average ~ 1000 visitors daily. Regularly I receive email from visitors, asking for more information, or with suggestions for new waterfalls. It is a nice hobby, some friends nickname me the Godfather of the Malaysian Waterfalls, LOL

One year ago I added a script to the site, that gives nice statistics about the website visitors and where they come from. Below is a screenshot, taken on November 16.

A total of 300.000 visitors coming from 160 different countries. It is interesting to see the geographical distribution. Not surprisingly most visitors come from Malaysia (75%) and Singapore (12%).  USA is third (4%). But there have also been visitors from Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, the Aland Islands etc.

My ancestors

As you probably know, our species, homo sapiens, evolved, 200.00-150.000 years ago in Africa. From there they migrated all over the world. All humans living now, have  common maternal  and paternal ancestors.

How do we know this? By studying mutations in our DNA!

The idea is simple. Every now and then mutations occur in our DNA. If a mutation occurs in the DNA of an individual, will this mutation also be present in the DNA of its offspring? In the reproductive process the genes of father and mother are mixed, so that is difficult to say. There are however two exceptions!

One is the Y-chromosome, which inherits exclusively from father to son.The other one is the DNA in the mitochondria, the power plants of a cell. They come from the egg, and therefore from the mother.

By studying the mutations in the Y-chromosome we can trace back our paternal lineage to the Y-Chromosomal Adam. And in the same way, studying the mutations in the Mitochondrial DNA, we  finally go back to Mitochondrial Eve

Here are the approximate migration patterns for the paternal lineage. When you click on the picture, you will get an enlargement, where you can see the numbers in the various branches, like M173, M175, etc. This are the markers for specific mutations in the Y-chromosome. In the table estimates are given when this mutation took place. People with the same mutation in their genes are said to belong to a haplogroup

Last year, surfing the Internet, I found the website of the Genographic Project, managed by National Geographic. For 99 USD you could order a DNA ancestry kit to determine either your paternal or your maternal lineage.

As I was just reading the impressive masterpiece by Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor’s Tale, I became interested and ordered a kit. Here I am taking a swab to collect some DNA from my cheek.

The kit contains a code number that you can use to check the progress of the analysis.

After about two months I got the result. My haploproup was R1B. Nothing special actually, the majority of Europeans belong to this group…:-)


Here is the migration path of my (paternal) ancestors. About 50.000 years ago my paternal ancestor (M168) left Africa. His descendants traveled through the Arabian peninsula to Central Asia. They were hunter-gatherers, following the big game through the savannas, until they (M45) reached the big mountain ranges of Hindu Kush and Himalayas.

About 30.000 years ago, a branch split off with a new mutation (M207) and traveled to the West.  Keep in mind that they were not tourists, their movements were mainly determined by climate change and the availability of food!

In Europe this “Cro-Magnon” tribe met the Neanderthal people, which they outcompeted by their better skills and tools.

So that is my paternal lineage. Actually we ordered two sets, also one for Aric. His haplogroup turned out to be O, also nothing special, shared by the majority of Chinese in Southern China. It is interesting to see where our lineages split! In the image below I have combined our migration routes. The split occurred about 35.000 years ago in what is nowadays Tajikistan. In those days and in that region there has lived a man who is the (male) ancestor of both Aric and me. I find that fascinating.

So fascinating, that we ordered two more sets, this time to find out more about our maternal lineage.Here are the results combined in one picture.

Aric’s mtDNA haplogroup is D, mine is H Our common great……….great-grandmother migrated from Africa about 70.000 years ago. Still in Africa, about 65.000 years ago a split occurred, much earlier than in our paternal lineage. Aric’s maternal ancestor migrated far north to central Asia and Siberia. Members of haplogroup D eventually reached the Behring street and arrived in the Americas, about 15000 years ago

My maternal ancestors did not migrate as far east as my paternal ones, they remained in West-Asia and later migrated north across the Caucasus mountains into South-Russia and from there into Europe.

It is possible to make a more detailed (and more expensive) analysis of the mutations in the DNA, but for us this is enough. We know now, that we are family, LOL.

Mind you, our common maternal and paternal ancestors were NOT married, they did not even live in the same time! If you want know how that is possible, you should read Dawkin’s book.

Journal 15-11-2012

Malaysia is well know for its large number of holidays. This week had two. One is the Hindu celebration of Deepavali, the second one was yesterday, Awal Muharram. It is the beginning of the Muslim New Year. The Islamic calendar starts in 622, the year when Muhammad emigrated with his followers from Mecca to Medina (the Hijra). As the Islamic calendar is lunar, years are shorter than in the Gregorian calendar, so Awal Muharram moves forward by 11/12 days each year. The present year is 1434 AH (Anno Hijra)

I decided to revisit on this holiday the Kanching waterfalls with my hiking friend Rani. I have been there countless times, but for Rani it was long ago. He was surprised how beautiful these falls actually are. Falls yes, because there are many tiers. The lower ones are crowded on a day like this, but the higher you climb, the fewer people you meet.

The two falls at the bottom right of this collection are virtually unknown and require river trekking. Unfortunately, many of the popular tiers are quite polluted, Malaysian style..:-(

It is durian season now, and today the Kiara Bunch has been to a stall in Kepong where they sell Raja Musang, the “King of Durians” for a very reasonable price.

Each of us bought durians to take home and we also took a few to nearby restaurant Kah Hing in Taman Sri Sinar, where we had a lunch with their famous Pork Trotter Noodles and Vietnamese coffee.

Just now Aric and I had the ones, taken home. The taste was excellent. But the number of ‘biji’ inside was very disappointing. Here are the two (!) durians and their content

Aric said immediately, when he saw the durians, they are too small, the bigger ones contain a lot more seeds. Actually BC had told me that the shop owner also had warned him that the big ones (RM 14/kg) contained “twice as much” as the small ones (RM 12/kg. Still, BC had made a booking for the cheaper ones. Penny wise, pound foolish…:-)?

Thanks anyway, BC, for bringing us to this shop. But next time I will pay the few ringgits more.


Journal 12-11-2012

It is now about two months ago that I started this blog. I am very happy with the concept, should have done it much earlier..:-).

Until now my posts all had a specific topic, science, a waterfall, a trip, etc. Today I have created a new category, Journal, for my posts with mixed news. Here is the first one.

Today during my walk in Kiara with BC, I spotted a lot of mushrooms on a slope. When I pointed them out to BC, he got very excited, they were delicious, he said. So we started collecting them, just in time, for more people had already discovered them. Forgot to take pictures of the picking, but here is our harvest:

There were other mushrooms as well, as it had been raining heavily the last two weeks. This one is a beauty, the Bridal Veil Stinkhorn, apparently edible too, but we did not try.

Later that day, doing my shopping at TESCO, I noticed this beautiful rangoli , you see these Indian decorations in many places these days, as it will be Deepavali tomorrow. This “Festival of Lights” is one of the most important Hindu festivals and a national holiday in Malaysia.

BC had given me a portion of the collected mushrooms, assuring me that they were not poisonous. I believed him, but of course also checked it on the Internet..:-)  The Malay name is Cendawan Busut, meaning Termite’s Nest Mushroom. They can only be found near termite’s nests! They are edible and considered a delicacy. So I prepared and tasted them. Yummie, delicious indeed!

Thanks BC, for the treat.

To my followers: you will have noticed that I am adding posts quite often these days. If you do not like to get an email after each post, you can edit your profile here and choose for a weekly digest.

Pisang waterfall

It was about 9 years ago that I visited this waterfall, near KL, for the first time. On a camping trip with Aric along the Gombak river I had noticed a sign to the Pisang waterfall. Searching the Internet I came across a web page by a guy, named Khong, about this and many other waterfalls.

I contacted him, we met and we found out that we shared many interests, so we became friends. Without him my life in Malaysia would have been very different…:-)

A few days ago I went back to this fall with my friends Rani and Grant.

A detailed report about the trip can be found here

I also used my iPhone to record an EveryTrail report about the trip.


Various faces of Bukit Kiara

Bukit Kiara has many faces. Here I show a few.

First of all, for those readers not familiar with Bukit Kiara, it is one of the remaining green lungs of Kuala Lumpur, enclosed by residential areas. In the past it was a rubber plantation, later some tar roads were built for easier access, the grey lines in the map.

Most of the regular walkers limit themselves to these tar roads. That is the first, slightly boring, road face of Bukit Kiara

Related to this road face of KIara is the maintenance face. A landslide occurs, trees fall down during a storm, a drain has to be repaired.

Much more interesting is the maze of trails, created and maintained by TRAKS . They are doing a wonderful job. During weekends it can be busy with mountain bikers, but on weekdays you will hardly meet a living soul. Here is the trail face

Then there is the river face of Bukit Kiara. A river? Yes, the Sg Penchala has its source here. Along this budding stream runs one of the most attractive trails.

Then there are the birds, the flowers, the fungi. An occasional snake, squirrel,  tortoise. No deer or wild boar, so no leeches! The nature face

Is it therefore the garden of Eden? No, there are less pleasant faces. During the last year the authorities haven constructed a fence around the part of Bukit Kiara that has been designated to become a park. Ugly, expensive and useless. After protests of many people, the construction has been stopped, a discussion is now going on about the removal of this fence.  Personally I am not optimistic if that will happen. Here is the fence face

And unfortunately there is also pollution. Where not in Malaysia…:-( The (illegal) rubber tappers leave behind, plastics, empty cans, etc. So there is a rubbish face too

All the pictures were taken during a 1.5 hour walk, a few days ago. You can follow the walk with a slideshow of the pictures on EveryTrail .

Here is one more face, personally I think it is a negative one. I had noticed in the center of the tar loop big sheets of plastic, and I was wondering what it might be, so during my walk I went down the slope and discovered a BMX playground! Must have been constructed recently and I understand that TRAKS is not involved.So here is the BMX face. At least the covering sheets should be given a camouflage colour!


Hairy Crab

Tonight we had Hairy Crab at the Dragon-i restaurant in 1-Utama!

For a long time already Aric wanted to taste this Shanghai/Hongkong specialty and when we noticed that the Dragon-i restaurant had a Shanghai Hairy Crab promotion, we decided to have a big splurge. Because even as a promotion those critters are expensive.

Here they are, flown in directly from China. You can see why they are called hairy. Their size is quite small, each crab is on average ~180 grams

The menu started with dumplings, filled with crab meat. A Shanghai delicacy, the dumpling has some soup(!) inside, you must eat them very carefully, otherwise the (hot!) soup will spill on your clothes and /or burn your mouth..:-)

Next was a soup of chicken with fish maw. In general I don’t like this fish bladder (too fishy taste), but this was very nice, no fish taste at all.

Then it was time for the main dish. Four crabs were presented on our table with the accompanying tools. Would we like to dissect them ourselves, asked the waitress, or should she do it for us. We are both experienced crab eaters, but this time we thought it better to let her do it. And that was a good decision.

It’s a pity that I was too shy to take a picture while she, with surgical precision, dismembered the crabs, unshielded them, removed unedible parts, and finally arranged the rest in the form of a crab again. Amazing and already worth the money…:-)

The signature feature of these crabs is the roe inside. That’s why you will see them on the menu only in certain times of the year. Sinfully delicious.

The next two dishes were fried rice with, yes, crab meat and broccoli in a sauce of, sure,  crab as well.

We could not finish the rice, so we asked to put what was left over, in a doggie bag. In Europe I would not dare to do it, but here in Asia is it very common,even in posh restaurants. The final dish was a desert with dumplings filled with sesame in a ginger soup.

For sure not a very healthy dinner, but extremely enjoyable!