Journal 30-12-2013

One more day to go, high time to write a journal about the last weeks of 2013, so I can start 2014 with a clean slate…:-)

We went back to Sabak Bernam two times, related to the passing away of Aric’s father, 20 November last year. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, many events follow the lunar cycle, so on 9 November this year there was a memorial ceremony. A meal for the deceased, prayers and the burning of gifts for him in the hereafter.

Ceremonial meal

Burning of gifts

The second time was at the Winter Solstice, an important solar event in the Chinese calendar. We went to the cemetery, near Bidor. Aric took a beautiful picture of the whole family around the grave


Here are a few more pics

We attended the wedding dinner of one of Aric’s cousins. In traditional style, with nine courses, cutting of the cake and yam seng singing.

Family picture

Nine courses

Of course I had several meetings with friends. Sometimes I am lazy to take pictures, but here are two. A visit to my friend Khong’s house to admire his garden and a dinner with friends of Aric in Chinese Muslim restaurant nearby our condo. Quite good food.

Meeting Khong and George

Dinner with Denise and Faresh

I made two waterfall trips with Eddie Yap. He guided us to a remote waterfall, which he had visited once before. So remote that even he, an experienced guide, could not find it back during the first trip..:-). We found a waterfall, but not the one he had in mind. It was a nice trip anyway, we had a relaxing bath in hot springs near KKB. Of course we had to come back, to find the missing fall! This time Eddie found it, a very pristine fall, access not so easy. A well hidden secret, we will keep it that way…:-)

We celebrated Christmas in the usual way, relaxing at home with a nice home-cooked dinner…:-)  Poached egg on mushroom with spinach as a starter, baked salmon with pak soy as main course, blue cheese (for me only, haha), and zabaglione with forest fruits as dessert. Cleaning the kitchen later was quite a job!


After dinner

We always create our own (digital) Christmas and New Year card. This time using the Christmas decoration in our living room. Aric used his Photoshop expertise to “clean” the picture, I added the text.



What better way to end the year than by visiting a waterfall! My Dutch friend and former colleague Dick was in Malaysia and wanted to visit a waterfall. Paul was also interested. Chiling is only open to the public during weekends, so there was a crowd. I have been there so many times now, but each time it is again a pleasure to visit this most popular waterfall in Selangor. This picture was a lucky shot, it looks as if only the two girls are there!

Chiling waterfall

We visited first the upper fall, as usual less crowded, then the lower fall. On our way back we had lunch in the WK restaurant in Ulu Yam. Here are more pictures.



Recently I got a phone call from my friend Paul. “I have booked a trip to Singapore, with an overnight stay in the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Leaving tomorrow. Just got news from my friend that he is unable to join because of a problem in his family. Can you replace him”?

I was free that weekend, so of course I did not say no…:-). Two years ago I had visited this iconic hotel and enjoyed it very much, see my report.

The next morning our bus trip to Singapore took about 6 hours. There is now a MRT station near the hotel! That afternoon we spent a lot of time in the infinity pool..:-)



Here are more pictures of the hotel, the shopping complex  around it and the views from the Skypark on the 57th floor. The weather looked a bit threatening, but we had no rain

After our dinner (in the food court, the Marina Bay Sands restaurants are too expensive.. haha), we walked a lot in the the town and around the marina. Here are some night views.

The next day we visited the Gardens by the Bay This park of more than 100 hectares, on reclaimed land, was not yet open to the public during my earlier visit. The park itself is freely accessible, but for some of the attractions you have to pay. From the park you have nice views of the hotel and the Singapore skyline.



You can easily spend many hours here. Access to the two domes is expensive, we did not go in, later we heard that it is worthwhile. But we visited the “canopy walk” Here is a collection of pictures.

The next day,before we took the bus back to KL, we visited the Haw Par Villa. This theme park, containing over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicts scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism. Created in 1937 by the makers of Tiger Balm, its main attraction are the Ten Courts of Hell

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Access to the park is free and easy, there is a new MRT station around the corner. Not so many people know about its existence. The park is a photographers delight. Here is a selection of my pictures.

And here is what you can expect as punishment for what you did wrong in your life. Don’t worry too much. Before you are reborn in your next life, you will be served a cup of tea of Forgetfulness, so you will not remember anything in your next life!

This Haw Par Villa is definitely worth a visit!

Bukit Kiara: Not All Is Well

One year after the infamous Bukit KIara fencing project was brought to a halt by then Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung, the Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) received a letter from Jabatan Landskap Negara (JLN) that the fence would be completed, instead of removed…:-(

Again a protest march was organised, the third one, on 28 September 2013. I could not attend as I was traveling in Europe. According to a STAR report more than 2000 people took part in this peaceful demonstration

Protest walk

Did the walk have any positive effect? Not at all. Soon the bulldozers started again, trees were felled, access roads created, forest destroyed. This part of the fence is separating Bukit Kiara from the Sprint highway. Only bikers come here, they noticed that several of their trails were blocked and/or destroyed.


access road

Here is a map of Kiara with the fence. Thanks to TRAKS. The yellow part has been recently constructed. As you see, there is a tiny part of the park fenced in between the highway and the plot leased by Berjaya.

Kiara Map

In an earlier blog, called Birdbrains? , I had already explored this location, after the work was stopped. Here is a picture from that blog, showing that they were really planning to build the fence in this moronic way.


Now that this part of the fence has been completed, I was of course curious to see if JLN had really continued this folly. They did, this is what I found

Kiara fence


Here are a few more pictures, taken recently during a hike with Dr Pola Singh.

I recorded our GPS track with EveryTrail:


Click on the link Kiara Fence to follow our hike on EveryTrail.

Each red dot represents a picture

We started at the Sri Hartamas school

On our way back we went through the small gate and walked along the highway back to our car.


Personally I think that the fencing issue is a lost cause. JLN is not interested in any form of cooperation with the people who are using and loving Bukit Kiara.

More is happening these days. Bukit KIara is hilly, with some steep slopes along the access roads. Sometimes (minor) landslides happen. Like for example this one, last year, a relatively big one.


A few weeks ago JLN decided to solve this problem in a shocking, “maximal impact” way. Here are two pictures of the present situation. They call it slope reduction. Sarcastic comments galore: “If there is no landslide, JLN will create one” , “the rape of Bukit Kiara“, etc.

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slope reduction

The location where this “rape” is taking place, is indicated on the TRAKS map above in a brown color. This is the left one in the map. JLN must have been so happy with the result, that they have created a second one, along the tar road leading from the crossroads to the Equestrian club.

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There are many similar slopes in Bukit Kiara, so the rape may go on. Felling the trees at this second “landslide creation”, one of the trees damaged the fence at the other side of the tar road. Divine justice?

Fence damage


This may give some hope for the future. I have seen more locations where fallen trees have damaged the fence.

As usual in Malaysia there is money available to build something, but no money is reserved for maintenance. If that is the case here, slowly the fence may disappear (maybe sometimes helped by volunteers, haha).


If you want to get regular updates about the Bukit Kiara situation, you should go to the TRAKS FB page and “like” it. Or visit their website.

You may have recognised the “Not All Is Well” in the blog title as a quote from Hamlet. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet continues: I doubt some foul play

The Sandakan Death Marches

In 1945, with the WWII coming to an end, the Japanese Imperial Army forced the prisoners of war (POW), kept in the Sandakan POW camp (Sabah), to march from Sandakan to Ranau, over a distance of more than 250 km. Many of the POW’s died during these marches, by disease or starvation. If they were too weak to follow, they were killed by the Japanese guards and left behind. As a result nobody survived these marches, except six, who managed to escape. These marches are now known as the Sandakan Death Marches.

I had never even heard about it, when I visited my friend Joe Yap in Sabah, a few weeks ago. Neither had she, nor many of my Malaysian friends which I questioned later. On our way to Sandakan, after enjoying spectacular views of the majestic Kinabalu mountain from the Kundasang cow farm, Joe asked me if I would like to visit a nearby War Memorial. A war memorial, I asked, what happened here?

Kundasang War Memorial signboard We entered and there was this signboard, full of information. After reading it, we were hooked and decided to adjust our traveling program in such a way that we could learn more. In the report about my Sabah trip you will find more details and pictures

Here is background information about the Sandakan Death Marches.

When Singapore fell, 15-2-1942, thousands of Australian and British soldiers were taken prisoner of war by the Japanese. In 1942 and 1943 they brought  about 2700 Australian and British POW’s to a camp, about 8 miles from Sandakan. They were used as a labour force to build a military airstrip. The location of the camp is shown in the map below. It is now the Sandakan war memorial.The military airstrip has become the Sandakan airport.

Batu 8 camp location

Sandakan War memorial

In the beginning living conditions were more or less acceptable, but throughout the years they deteriorated, with heavy punishments and cruel torturing becoming the order of the day. Many people died or were executed in the camp. When it became clear that Japan was loosing the war, the Japanese High Command ordered that the POW’s should be taken to Ranau, on the slopes of the Kinabalu. At that time (beginning of 1945) about 1900 POW’s were still alive. A trail was prepared through the jungle and the swamps and in January 1945 a first group of 470 men started the march. Here is the route they took, the black dashed line. The modern main road is in red.Death March Map

The men were selected because they were relatively fit. They had to carry heavy loads and did not get enough food rations, so many of them died on the way, through illness or exhaustion. If they were no longer able to follow the group, they were killed or left to die. The ~250 survivors who were able to reach Ranau, had to build a camp, where the conditions were even worse. When the next group arrived, in June 1945, they found only six POW’s still alive.

The second series of marches started on 29 May 1945 with approximately 536 prisoners, even less fit. Only 183 of them managed to reach Ranau. Two men managed to escape during the march, were helped by locals and eventually rescued. Another four managed to escape after arrival in Ranau. One of them was Keith Botterill, second from right in the picture. Next to him two other survivors.Read here his report 


The approximately 250 people left in Sandakan were so ill that initially the Japanese intended to let them starve to death. However, on 9 June it was decided that 75 of them should  march to Ranau. They were so weak that none of them survived beyond 50 km from the camp.

The remaining POW’s died in Sandakan, by starvation, often executed by the Japanese, some of them even after the surrender of Japan, 15 August 1945.

Final count: 2428 POW’s died in the Sandakan and Ranau camps, or during the marches. Only six managed to escape and survived.

These days a lot of information is available about the Sandakan camp and the death marches, but that has not always been the case! In the aftermath of the war, the Australian Army has tried to keep the details of the Japanese war crimes outside the publicity. Officially  because they wanted to spare the feelings of the next-of-kin.

But there was more. The Australian Imperial Army was aware already in 1944 of the atrocious conditions in the Sandakan POW camp. A rescue operation was planned, operation Kingfisher , but by a combination of misinformation and blunders it came to nothing. The army wanted to keep this scandal covered. For many years it was not clear what exactly had happened and how bad it had been.

In 1998 the Australian historian Lynette Silver published a book; Sandakan, a conspiracy of silence.

bookIn this book of almost 500 pages, she gives a detailed account of the situation in the Sandakan camp and the death marches, based on interviews with the six survivors and diary notes left behind by those who did not survive.

It is not always easy reading, but worth the effort and an impressive tribute to all those, often young, men, who perished.

Nowadays much more information is available.  The Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs has published  a very readable report: Laden, Fevered, Starved , and doing a Google search for “Sandakan Death Marches” will give many more hits.

There are now even several travel agencies which offer Sandakan Death March trips Some of these agencies quarrel about what is the original death march trail, not so easy to determine after almost 70 years.


And what to think about this advertisement for a Sandakan Death March Rafting Adventure? With this introduction

The Sandakan Death March Rafting Adventure begins with an inspection of the the camp site, followed by refreshments. ”

Strange and rather disconcerting, that this tragedy is being used for commercial purposes.

On our way back from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu, we noticed several signboards, indicating the route of the Death March trail. Like this one near Quailey’s Hill, where 24 year old Allan Quaily was brutally murdered by the Japanese guards, when he had no more energy to continue the march.



The surrounding landscape is so peaceful now. Difficult to imagine the suffering of those who marched and died here. DSC_6866


Dutchman meets Orang Belanda

Recently I have visited my friend Joe Yap in Sabah. We had a nice time, full of activities. Here is a detailed report: Sabah November 2013

One highlight was the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, located about 50 km from Sandakan.


Near Sandakan there is also the better-known Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, but I preferred to see the Proboscis Monkeys. Why? Because these splendid animals with their characteristic big noses and their potbellies are called in Malay: Orang Belanda, which means Dutch Man ! Not really a compliment for me and my compatriots… haha. Are our noses really that big? And our bellies that pot?

Here is a Dutch Man in all his glory.

Orang Belanda

And here is a Dutch Lady with her child. She has a pot belly too, but her nose is smaller.


The Proboscis Monkey is endemic to Borneo and considered an Endangered Species. Years ago I had seen them in Bako N.P in Sarawak, but only from a distance. Here they are used to humans and come close, especially during feeding times.

Feeding time

During our visit there were two (adult) males, each with his harem. Several of the females had children. These monkeys are really a photographers delight! Here is a collection of pictures.

Besides the Proboscis Monkeys, there are also Silvered Leaf Monkeys. In Peninsular Malaysia you can find many of them in Kuala Selangor. Beautiful animals.


Here also a few more pictures. They have long beans for lunch

There are also a few hornbills (Oriental Pied)

Oriental Pied Hornbill

We enjoyed our visit tremendously, although I can understand that not everybody is happy with this project. The sanctuary is a small strip of mangrove forest and belongs to a oil palm plantation, as can be seen clearly on Google Earth.

Labuk Bay

A very small strip, hardly a sustainable habitat for a (fairly large) group of monkeys. They depend for their food on the Sanctuary and are almost domesticated. Exploited, say the critics. Very different from the Sepilok approach where the Orang Utans are taught to live independently of humans. Here are Tripadvisor comments, varying between “terrible” (21) and “excellent”(178).

My advice: visit the Sanctuary and judge for yourself 🙂