Traveling

Aric and I like traveling and in the past twenty years we have visited many countries. In this blog post I have collected all the trips we have made between 2002 and 2019. Most of these trips I have documented in reports, in which case I give the link with a short description and a few pictures.

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Europe, May 2002

Aric’s first trip in Europe. I had planned an ambitious itinerary, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France 😉 . In those days I didn’t keep a blog, so details have become vague. We traveled by car, stayed mostly in hotels, camping occasionally. We did Venice as a daytrip from Padua and took a train from Florence to Rome, because Aric absolutely wanted to see the Colosseum!

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Bali, February 2003

We visited Bali only a few months after the Kuta bombings, tourism had come to an almost complete standstill. I kept a diary and published four picture reports about various aspects of the trip: Nature, Culture, Sawah and Personal.

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Sydney, October 2003

In 2003 I didn’t have a MM2H visa yet, therefore I had to leave Malaysia every three months.. Originally we had planned a trip to Beijing, but finally we decided for a short holidays Down Under. Sydney is a very pleasant town and we could easily have spent a much longer time there. Even with the sometimes winter-like cold weather, so we have hardly visited any of the famous surf beaches!. Here is a pictorial report Sydney 2003. The captions of each picture link to separate sub-reports.

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Beijing, June 2004

When my three-months visa expired, we decided to visit China this time. Beijing was our destination, but we also visited the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs etc. Here is a report with the Highlights of our trip. Detailed reports can be found in Beijing 2004.

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Cambodia, January 2005

Of course Angkor Wat was the main destination of our Cambodia trip. But we started in Phnom Penh and visited the Killing Fields. By boat to Siem Reap and after three days of Angkor Wat, we continued to Battambang. I created a kind of travelogue this time: A Pictorial Travel Report of a Trip to Cambodia.

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Sabah, May 2007

An adventurous trip, well organised by a friend of Aric. First we went snorkeling on Manukan island, next there was wild water rafting on the Padas river and the culmination was climbing Mount Kianabalu. I stopped at Laban Ratah, Aric made it to the top. After a relaxing time at the Poring Hot Springs we went back to KL. Here is the travelogue: Sabah Trip.

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Vietnam, July 2007

Air Asia had a promotion with free tickets to Hanoi, we could not resist the temptation and went to Vietnam. First we stayed a few days in Hanoi, a very pleasant town, although it was very hot. We made a trip to Halong Bay, very worthwhile. Instead of visiting Hue (too hot), we took the train to Sapa in the mountains. Finally a few more days in Hanoi. Here is the travelogue Vietnam, July 12-21, 2007.

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Sarawak, December 2007

A short trip to Sarawak to attend the wedding of a Dutch friend with a Bidayu lady. Of course we managed to include a few waterfalls and also an Orang Hutan rehabilitation center. More details in Sarawak, (14-17)-12-2007.

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Thailand, November 2008

A friend of ours, Dick Sandler, has a resort near the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand and Marcia, another friend, has a house at Railay Beach, near Krabi. We took a flight to Krabi, spent some time there, then took a boat to Railay , where we celebrated Loy Krathong on the beach. In Khao Sok we stayed in a romantic tree house and visited a waterfall. More pictures in Thailand (Krabi & Khao Sok) 2008

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China, July 2009

In July 2009 we went back to China for a very special reason, to see for the first time in our lives a solar eclipse! Solar eclipses are only visible from narrow regions on Earth, in this case a part of China. We decided to start our trip in Hangzhou and watch the eclipse there. Then to continue our trip to Suzhou and finally Tong Li. All three places famous tourist attractions. Our trip resulted in three albums, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Tong Li.

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Melbourne, October 2009

A few months later we visited our friends Pat and Roger in Melbourne. I had visited them before, so I could guide Aric around in Melbourne. Our hosts took us on a very nice trip along the Great Ocean Road. We also saw kangaroos and had delicious food. Here is the travelogue Melbourne, October 2009.

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Sarawak , March 2010

Our friend Keong invited us to join him on a trip to Semban. This village in the Bungo range south of Kuching, is famous for its “ring ladies”. High up in the hills, it is called the “Village above the Clouds”. We stayed a few days in the village, enjoying the hospitality of the Bidayu people and hiking to impressive waterfalls. Here is the report, Village above the clouds, February 2010.

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China, family visit, May 2010

For our third trip to China we visited the Teochew region, where Aric’s family originally came from. For a long time already it had been Aric’s wish to organise a trip for his parents and his favourite uncle and auntie to their roots. It was a very successful and rewarding trip, resulting in three albums, Shantou, Chaozhou and Chenghai

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Thailand, August 2011

We were invited to attend the wedding of my former student Raoul with his Thai boyfriend Aunn and decided to combine this event with a visit to some world heritage sites and waterfalls. We took a flight to Bangkok and rented a car there. We visited Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet and the Khlong Lan waterfall. After the wedding party we drove back to Bangkok where we stayed a few more days. Here is the travelogue Thailand (16-24)-8-2011

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Greece, September 2011

If I had to make a list of our most fascinating holidays, our trip to Greece would probably be number 1. We did a lot during 16 days, starting with Athens, followed by Delphi, Meteora, the Sporadic Islands and Santorini. I compiled four albums, one about Athens, one about Delphi & Meteora, the third one about the islands Skopelos & Skiathos and the last one about Santorini. A magical world.

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Singapore, November 2011

The reason that we visited Singapore again was to attend a concert of the MozART GROUP, classical music with a humorous twist. The concert took place in the concert hall, nicknamed the Durian, We stayed in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and of course enjoyed the infinity swimming pool. We also visited the Haw Par gardens. Report is here: Singapore, November 2011.

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Europe, September 2013

Our second Europe holiday, two weeks this time. Again a full program, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein (!), Switzerland and France. Many highlights, the most spectacular one was the Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe. Four albums about this trip, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

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Barcelona, September 2013

Back in Amsterdam we still had some time before Aric went back to Malaysia. So we booked a flight to Barcelona , one of my favourite towns. The town of Gaudi, for me it was the first time to visit the Sagrada Familia cathedral, still unfinished. We liked the tapas, the paella and the sangria. But, like Amsterdam, overcrowded with tourists (like ourselves, I know).

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Taiwan, March 2014

For quite some time Taiwan has been on our list of countries to visit and this year we finally booked an Air Asia flight to Taipei for a 12-day trip. One reason was to try the Taiwanese food, but of course there was also the culture and the nature. We got addicted to onsen, the hot baths. Below pictures of the iconic 101 tower, the Chang Kai-shek memorial, the Shifen waterfall and the Yehliu Geopark. Many more pictures in the album Taiwan Trip.

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Norway, June 2014

Several times we have chosen a holiday destination because of a specific tourist attraction. We had never considered Norway until we saw a picture of the Pulpit Rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. We discovered that it was a doable hike, access from Stavanger. We booked a 10-day trip combining it with Bergen and Oslo. A very nice holiday, more pictures in the album Norway June 2014.

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Japan, October 2014

For many years we have been thinking about a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. Would there be a language problem? We booked a 9-day trip, booked a flight to Osaka, where we stayed a few days. Then Kyoto and finally Wakayama. Osaka and Kyoto are well known, Wakayama not really, we went there especially because of our addiction to onsen, the Japanes hot baths. Three reports: Osaka, Kyoto and Wakayama. A country to visit again.

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Melbourne, January 2015

Another visit to our friends Pat and Roger in Melbourne We explored the town and enjoyed their hospitality. They took us on a trip to Bendigo (goldmines) and Echuca (paddle boats). Two albums, one about our stay with them, Melbourne, and a separate album about our trip, Victoria

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China, September 2015

Our fourth trip to China, this time with our friends Pat and Roger. For them it was their first visit, Aric had organised the trip and was also our guide and translator. We started in Xi’an with its famous terracotta army. Next we went to Suzhou, where Aric and I had been before and after that to the water village of Zhouzhuang. Then they returned to Australia and we stayed a few more days in Shanghai. I created four albums about these holidays, Xi’an, Suzhou, Zhouzhuang and Shanghai.

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Laos, November 2015

A few months later we made a short trip to Laos. Writing this report I discovered that I had written several albums about details of our trip, but never a comprehensive report. Here is a summary with links to the detailed reports. We took a flight to Vientiane and from there a bus to Luang Prabang, where we stayed a few days. We attended the (touristic) Alms Giving ceremony and visited many temples. We made two trips, one to the Pak Ou caves and one to the impressive Kuang Si waterfalls. On our way back to Vientiane we stayed two nights in Vang Vieng, where we visited another cave, the Tham CHang caves and made an interesting excursion in a Hot Air Balloon. Back in Vientiane we visited the Buddha Park.

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Portugal, September 2016

When Aric and I visit the Netherlands , we try to include a short trip to another part of Europe. This time we decided to visit Portugal. I had visited Lisbon in the past, now we also visited Porto and a few other towns. A very pleasant and friendly country. Two albums, Part 1 about Lisbon, Sintra , Obidos and Porto. Part 2 about Aveiro, Monsanto and Evora

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Taiwan, August 2017

Our second visit to Taiwan (for Aric even his third). This time we wanted to explore the whole island, so we rented a car. But first we visited the Penghu islands, off Taiwan’s West Coast,. to see the Twin Hearts. A beautiful country, full of nature, culture, food and onsen. Better read the report for the details Taiwan, August 2017. .

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Singapore, January 2018

A short trip to Singapore, to visit our friend ST Lee, explore the Gardens by the Bay, visit the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum. Here is a report Singapore 2018. I was so impressed by the museum that I created a separate album about it: National Museum, Singapore.

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Japan, March 2018

We timed our second Japan visit so that we could attend the famous Hōnensai fertility festival on 15 March. We were hoping to see the Fuji mountain, expecting lots of sakura blossom and planning to visit as many onsen as we could find. We were very fortunate to achieve all these goals. I wrote a report about the highlights, Japan 2018, in which I announced more detailed albums, but that never materialised.

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Bhutan, April 2018

One reason that I didn’t write detailed reports about our Japan trip was that one month later we visited Bhutan. You can not travel on your own in this isolated country, we booked a tour for the two of us and were very lucky with our guides, who became friends almost immediately. There were many highlights on this 10-day trip, culminating in our climb to the Tiger’s Nest. Here is a travelogue with many more photos: Bhutan 2018.

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France, August 2018

My former principal is living in Southern France, we are friends and he invited us to visit him. We took a flight to Montpellier and rented a car. There are many historical places in that part of France, we visited quite a few of them. We enjoyed a few days the hospitality of my friend and his wife. Two reports about these holidays. France 2018, part I about Nîmes, Arles, Avignon and Pont du Gard. Part 2 about Robiac, Millau, Albi, Carcassonne and Cap d’Agde.

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Guilin , March 2019

There is so much to see in China. This time we visited Guilin in Southern China, famous for its limestone karst hills. We explored the town and its surroundings. the weather was not very favourable, cold and grey. We stayed two nights in Longji with its terraced rice fields. Next we visited Yangshuo, the main tourist center of the Guilin region. In my report Guilin, March 2019 I announced three more albums, another promise I never kept.

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Paris, April 2019

When Aric’s sister visited us in Amsterdam, we still found time to spend a few days in Paris. We managed to see quite a few of the Paris highlights, one of then, the Notre Dame, sadly destroyed by fire just one week before we arrived. More photos in Paris, 2019 .

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Italy, May 2019

During our stay in the Netherlands, after visiting Paris with Aric’s sister, we made a short trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy. We stayed in La Spezia and made daytrips to the various fishing villages, sometimes walking from one village to another. Here is the travelogue: Cinque Terre, May 2019

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Singapore, December 2019

A social Singapore visit to meet friends and to see the Christmas decorations. In Orchard Road they were disappointing, but in the Gardens by the Bay quite spectacular. We also visited the new airport at Changi and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. And our friend ST Lee invited us for a ballet performance of the Swan Lake. Here is the report: Singapore 2019

That was our last traveling trip abroad. Of course we had plans for 2020, another China trip with Aric’s family and in summer a visit to Iceland with its waterfalls, glaciers and hot springs. But then came Covid-19, the borders were closed in March 2020 and still are.

We have been very fortunate that we were able to visit so many beautiful places. Those times may never come back..

The Witch’s Broom Nebula

In April the ESA/NASA project published this stunning image as its Picture of the Week. In this blog I will first show some pictures and then give an explanation and some background information.

The image was taken by the Wide Field Camera 3 of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The image shows a very small part of the Witch’s Broom Nebula, also called the Western Veil Nebula. I have marked the (tiny) location of the detailed image with an x (click to enlarge)

This nebula is in its turn part of the Cygnus Loop. Upper right the Witch’s Broom Nebula, lower left the Eastern Veil Nebula.

Getting confused? Here is the relation between the various images. Left the Cygnus Loop, in the middle the Witch’s Broom and right the detail.

The Cygnus Loop is located in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan). Deneb and Vega are very bright stars. The Cygnus Loop (Veil Nebula) is marked in the lower left

This YouTube video may also help

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About the Cygnus loop and the Veil Nebula

The Cygnus loop and the Veil Nebula are the remnants of a supernova. Many thousands year ago a massive star (much more massive than our Sun) had used up all its “fuel” and exploded in a final spasm before dying. In that explosion, much of the star material is ejected, leaving behind a neutron star or even a black hole. For a short period the star can outshine its whole galaxy!

In this NASA infogram, the development of such a massive star is given. It contains lots of information, but you can skip the details for this blog.

Much research has been done about the Cygnus Loop, the Veil nebula and the star that caused it. The Cygnus Loop is huge, its diameter is about six times the diameter of the moon. You need basically a telescope to see it.

It is a so-called emission nebula. The gas and dust in the nebula is ionised by the shockwave of the exploded star and the light we observe is the light emitted by the atoms in the nebula. The color of the emitted light depends on the kind of element. Very simplified: hydrogen emits reddish light, oxygen bluish light etc. When you look at the image of the Witch’s Broom nebula, you see that it mainly consists of (ionised) hydrogen and oxygen.

Determining the distance of the Cygnus Loop is a complicated process and you will find many values on the Internet. A distance of ~ 2400 lightyear is nowadays accepted by most astronomers. This would give the actual size of the Cygnus Loop as 130 lightyear! The loop is still expanding with a speed of ~ 1.5 million km/h

When did the star explode? Many different estimates. In the release of the first picture above a value of ~10000 year is given ( and a distance of 2100 lightyear). Humans living in that time would have observed the sudden appearance of a very bright “new” star, brighter than Venus and probably even visible in broad daylight. That explains the name (super)nova with nova meaning new in Latin. Supernovae are very rare, the last one in our own Milky Way, visible from Earth, was observed and studied by Kepler in 1604.

Scientists are still searching for a neutron star, or a blackhole in the center of the nebula, but until now nothing has been found.

A lot more can be said about supernovae. In the infogram above they are called “Engines of Creation” and that is an apt description. After the Big Bang the Universe consisted of hydrogen and helium, there was no oxygen no sulfur, no calcium, no iron etc. But Earth and all living creatures are built from those elements. How come? The answer is simple, all those elements have been formed inside stars! We are literally Star Children.

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About the pictures

The Wide Field Camera of the Hubble Space Telescope takes colorful pictures. Wrong! It takes black and white pictures as do basically all other telescopes. But it uses a filter to select only a specific color (range). And it takes pictures of the same object using other filters, selecting different colors. For the picture above with the stunning details of the Witch’s Broom five filters were used. And those filters are not just simple pieces of red, green or blue glass. A widely used filter is the H-alpha filter, that only lets through the red light of hydrogen (technically: a wavelength of 656 nm, bandwidth a few nm). Here is a picture of the Cygnus loop, using a H-alpha filter.

Compare it with this photo, taken with a color camera without any filters. Dominated by the numerous stars, the Witch’s Broom nebula is (almost) invisible,

Other popular filters in astrophotography are SII and OIII filters They select the colors of ionised Oxygen blueish and Sulfur (reddish) respectively and block all the other colors.

Combining pictures, taken with different filters, you must assign colors to the black and white images. One option is to choose colors that correspond closely to the color of the filter. In that case the result will look more or less “natural”. The red-blue image of the Cygnus loop is a result of combining the H, O and S filters. But of course you can assign different colors to the B&W pictures. Like in the image below, where hydrogen is green(!), oxygen blue and sulfur red.

The Hubble Space Telescope can also use infrared or ultraviolet filters. Here is the Cygnus loop in ultraviolet, blue has been assigned to the B&W image.

The Hubble website has a very informative section The meaning of color in Hubble Images. It shows how the B&W images can be combined in various ways. Very readable, with examples. Here are three.

Left is Mars, where the three filters have been assigned their “real” color. In the middle the famous “Pillars of Creation”, a star forming region. The red hydrogen is depicted in green, the red sulfur light in red and the green oxygen light in blue. The last example shows Saturn in unusual colors, because the B&W pictures were taken with various infrared filters. Near infrared is shown as blue, the middle range as green and the far infrared as red.

Finally here is again April’s Picture of the Week . The text says that It is a combination of five B&W images, Hydrogen in red, oxygen in blue and sulfur in green. No information about the other two.

A Backyard Hike

About two months ago I wrote a blog about Bukit Lanjan. Although these days Bukit Kiara is open again, I still hike regularly in my “backyard”. A group of active hikers living in Damansara Perdana is maintaining the trails and exploring new ones. One of their recent discoveries is a rocky outcrop, from where you have a nice view of the surroundings. It is becoming popular now, a nice place to relax and have a coffee or a beer. Aptly named the Hard Rock Café. The red track in the GE screenshot below is a short and interesting route to the Hard Rock.

Yesterday I went again, with my friend Bee. We started from my condo and met a group of Armanee Condo parents with their kids, also going for a hike. Good initiative, in Dutch we have an expression: Jong geleerd is oud gedaan. (Google for a translation)

We started with the pink trail (see map). Last week I had noticed that parts of it were almost overgrown. I had mentioned it in the chat group and the trailblazers replied that they would take care of it. They did, here is the amazing result. Left the situation one week ago.

I like the pink trail, the few steep parts are provided with ropes.

On the rocky outcrop we met the parents and their kids again. Really nice!

A tarp is under construction for shelter in case of rain. I noticed some nice flowers

When I visited the Hard Rock two weeks ago with my friend Rahim, he constructed a nice rock cairn. They are not meant for eternity, rain or strong wind can make them collapse. One week later, a new smaller one had been created, and this time nothing was left.

Here Bee is creating a new one.

And here is the result. Mother and child. When I visited a waterfall , I always left a cairn. Here is a blog about it: Rock Balancing.

After the Hard Rock Café we did not yet go back, but continued to the maroon traill (see map). A hiker friend had spotted hanging bird nests along the trail at two locations. It was no problem to find them.

These nests have been created by Baya Weaver birds. Fascinating. The nests were not used at the moment.

The maroon trail is longer with many steep parts.. A disadvantage is that part of it runs quite close to the highway, therefore very noisy. Ropes are helpful and we found numerous ginger flowers this time.

We also found a nice jackfruit tree.. Bee spotted more fruits high up in the tree

The second location of weaver nests had only one nest, high up in a tree. To get back home we got lost for a while, finally we found the trail, completely overgrown..

We finished our hike at the Datuk Shrine next to Perdana View condo. For reasons unknown to me, MK Land had blocked the exit with barbed wire, but you can still pass without problems.

Total hiking distance and time 5 km. 3 hours (including many stops)

The Rawang Bypass

The Rawang Bypass is a highway opened in 2017 to avoid the frequent traffic congestion in Rawang. It contains the highest roadway viaduct of Malaysia, with pillars up to 58 meter above ground level. It is possible to hike from Rawang to a viewpoint high above the viaduct. Deco Diver, a friend of mine, has written a blog about this hike with a clear description of the route to follow.

We started with breakfast in Rawang. Not easy to find a shop that was open, because of Ramadan, but after some driving around we managed to find a place where we had an acceptable mee goreng.

Looking for the trailhead we overlooked the one suggested by my friend, but found another one nearby. Apparently the location is popular with Rawang hikers, signs indicate the various trails. A nice, easy walk.

The trail passes a few shrines, an Indian Hindu shrine and next to it a Chinese Datok Kong one.

After a little more than 1 km we reached the highway, which is still at ground level here. You can cross to the other side by a drain, but we continued on a maintenance road next to the highway. Easy walking, although not very interesting.

After about about 600 meter, the viaduct starts and you can cross under the highway to the other side. Mind your head 😉 .

The view of the supporting pillars is quite spectacular, we met another group who was coming back from the viewpoint and also stopped here to take pictures.

After crossing a drain on a flimsy bridge, the climb to the viewpoint starts. There are steps and ropes to help you.

Halfway you have already a nice view of the viaduct.

The climb becomes more challenging because you have to follow the drains. and they are constructed to guide the water down, with slanting steps. Care is needed, fortunately there are ropes attached to give you support.

The steep stretch is only a few hundred meter long, you have to climb about 60 meter to reach the viewpoint. A big tree gives shade, it is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the view.

Of course we took pictures to prove that we have been there.

Aric had brought his drone.

In this drone picture you see how the highway has been cut into the rocks. Notice the yellow marker, top right. That’s the viewpoint. It is often called Bukit Matt (Matt hill), although it is not a Bukit at all.

The viaduct. The main reason to build an (expensive!) elevated viaduct was to save more forest.

After a coffee break we climbed down the same way. Going down you must be even more careful! Not suitable after rain. We saw some nice pitcher plants.

We walked back on the maintenance road until we reached the drain. Beware! Before you reach this wide drain, you will pass two very narrow ones.

There was not much water, it will be different after a downpour.

Swiftlets have built their nests inside the drain, Aric managed to take pictures of them.

Walking back to the car we noticed these markings . Physical distancing according to the SOP! A reminder that the Covid pandemic was still around. No idea if anyone would follow these rules in this natural environment.

Another Hindu shrine near were our car was parked.

The whole trip took about 3 hours. We were hungry and our friend Jennifer, who lives in the region, knew about a Hakka eatery in Rawang, where they serve Lei Cha as a specialty. We went there and it was a good choice.

They also prepare healthy juices and even Lei Cha pizza! The owner is very friendly. We will come back.

It was a nice excursion. Here is a Google Earth screenshot, where I have marked a few locations. The yellow line marks the shorter, but less interesting route.