Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: National Memorial

After another mediocre breakfast – only a tad better than the previous hotel’s, we climbed aboard a bus for a half day city tour of Kuala Lumpur.


First stop was at the National Memorial.


It’s a simple, but moving memorial to Malaysia’s fallen servicemen and women.


Our guide, who was more than a little interested in his own performance, pointed out the meaning of various parts of the Malay emblem which has been in use since 1988.

At the top, the 14 pointed star represents the thirteen states and the Federal Territories of Malaysia. The crescent, beneath the star, represents Islam, the official religion. These are both in yellow which symbolises the country’s monarchy.

The shield is supported by two Malaysian Tigers,traditional Malay symbols. They are retained from an earlier Malay armorial ensign.

The shield itself has five asymmetrical daggers (called kris) across the top; below that, are the four colours of the Federated Malay States (red, black, white and yellow). On either side of them are a Penang Palm (with extra stripes representing the Penang Bridge) and a Malacca Palm. And below them is the national flower of Malaysia, a Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) that sits in between the state arms of Sabah and Sarawak.

The motto is Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu  which means Unity is Strength.

Much thought obviously went into the design of the country’s emblem.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.08.38 PM


The Penang Bridge, a symbol of Malay’s progress on the coat of arms, is proudly recognised in Malaysia as an architectural wonder. It’s 16.9km (10.5m) long.

(Photo Wikipedia Commons)




The clean lines of the central memorial commemorate three wars Malaysia has fought… World Wars I and II and the ‘Malaysian Emergency’ against Britain from 1948 to 1960. The latter makes interesting reading on various sites on the internet… too complicated to go into on a web post such as this.


The National Monument.


This plaque describes the origins of the monument complex.


The National Monument is circular in construction.  The columns, with their gold coloured bases, look as though they are floating. (They are very similar to the pillars used in the National Mosque we visited later… maybe the same architect. I’m not sure.)


Interesting patterns are created by the elements that make up the walls.


With the sun in the right position, the walk-way puts on a light and shade show.


A large statue sits in the middle of a shallow reflection pool.


Another on the many fountains that play water into the pools.  The surrounding smaller fountains, in the shape of waterlilies, were not spraying water when we visited.


A view of the back of the sculpture with some of the KL skyline in the background.


A highly-perfumed frangipani bloomed beside a path we walked down.


An intriguing pattern was formed by these concrete steps.


Another pattern was formed by these rubber strips, cut from old tyres, which were used to hold back the soil on a steep bank. A good use for old rubber.


A natural erosion prevention method – the matted roots of a banyan tree.


Spider Lily (Hymenocallis littoralis)

After a pleasant visit to this well designed, maintained and thoughtful National Monument, our next stop was to another place of National pride, the National Mosque. More of that anon.


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Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Twin Towers

After a long, long day travelling from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, it was good to stretch our legs on a local walk not too far from the hotel.

DSC03436.JPGOur first exploration was in a busy, vibrant local market.


The ceiling was light and bright.


A light shade showing many different shades of light.


After wandering in the Central Market for awhile, we caught a train for just four stations to visit the famous KL Petronas Twin Towers. It sort of hurts your neck to look up at these amazing twin towers with their joining walkway.


The front entrance was all but blocked off with important looking vehicles including an ambulance, and lots of police.  We learned that the Malayasian Prime Minister was visiting for some reason or other.  Anyway, it was a cloudy, smoggy day, so nobody wanted to pay the price to be hurtled to the top in one of the high-speed lifts.


An impressive line of fountains leads towards the main doors of the Towers.


With my back to the building, the fountains and pools disappear into the distance.


We wandered around the plaza shops for a bit before walking through to the back of the building where there’s a shallow lake.  A light and sound show takes place as it gets dark, so we waited around for that.


Every colour in the rainbow was used to highlight the twisting and pulsating fountains.


‘Twas a delightfully colourful show.


Water patterns constantly changed.  The colourful fountains spurted, squirted, spun and twisted to very loud music. 


The performance lasted around 5 minutes and was no doubt repeated on the half hour.


By the time the light show finished on the fountains, the Towers had taken over. Quite a sight!


After the show, we returned by train to Chinatown where flower stalls were still doing business. On the way back to the hotel, tired after a long day, we stopped at a stall to buy some food for ‘dinner’… noodles and a large Tiger beer for AUD8. It was just a short walk back to our hotel where we arrived at 21.45, more than ready for bed.

More of our time in KL anon.


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Malaysia: Penang to Kuala Lumpur

After a morning spent in temples, it was good to be out and about in other parts of the city of Penang despite the blazing sun and high humidity.


Our first stop was at Cornwallis Fort, a stone fortification which still sports some cannon.


Aimed at the sea, the direction from which an attack was expected, they were absolutely useless when the enemy approached from inland!


Modern Penang.


Bright and cheery graffiti..


Chew Jetty heritage site.


Finally we ended up at Chew Jetty, one of a series of mostly interlinked wooden jetties which were originally used by fishermen but has now become a tourist destination with all the junky trappings. Many families live in houses built on the jetty, some of them have been there for three generations.

Our guide knew that durian fruit puffs could be bought here so we each tried one. Durian is that tropical fruit that stinks and is banned from all hotel rooms as the foul smell lingers long! They taste wonderful but do have a bit of an acquired taste about them.


A colourful pot plant growing at the front of a Chew Jetty house.


Chew Jetty occupies a prime piece of real estate.


A small cafe on the Jetty surrounded by plants.


More colourful potted plants.


A ceiling of Chinese lanterns


Penang supports a busy harbour.


Coastal freighters and barges anchored in the bay.


So that was Penang. Next morning we were up early and on our way again, this time our destination was KL.  After a very forgettable ‘included breakfast’, our mini-bus left at 07.30 for the central bus station.


There we climbed on board our rather splendid inter-city coach which left at 08.30. The seating configuration was 1 x 2 so there was plenty of room for us to enjoy the large reclining seats. Very comfortable indeed.

What wasn’t comfortable was the way the Indian driver drove the bus. He was one of those stop, start kind of drivers who had no thought whatsoever for his passengers being tossed around behind him. Within 20 minutes of leaving the bus station, he had to swerve violently to avoid rear-ending a small car that decided to make a right hand turn in front of us. Stuff went flying everywhere.  As well appointed as the coach was, there were no seat belts… but at least we knew the brakes worked!

Our driver overtook everything that dared to be in front of him. I don’t think there was another bus that overtook us on the journey… but we overtook every other coach. The only time he slowed down was when he spotted a speed cop crouched down beside an overpass pillar. But once passed that, he was back to his old tricks. Even so, our estimated 9 hour trip took a very long 11 hours 15 minutes.


Once within the city limits of Kuala Lumpur, we saw a smoggy view with some of the harbour and the city buildings in the distance.

On the way into the city, passed one unfortunate Mercedes Benz driver who was throwing open his car’s bonnet to expose a fire that was well alight. Considering the slowness of the traffic, I doubt whether a fire appliance would have got to him in time to put out that fire before it had completely burnt out the vehicle.

Not very much further on we passed a poor fellow who had come off, or been knocked off, his motor bike. He was lying on the road where he fell with a visible leg injury and who knows what other injuries. A policeman was standing over the injured rider. The only other protection was an orange traffic cone a little way in front of the accident scene.


It seems like bicycles are definitely ‘in’ in Kualar Lumpur!

After finally arriving at the Central Bus Station, we jumped on a service bus for the 20 minute ride to our hotel which was very conveniently located near Chinatown. It was 15.30 by the time we managed to get to our rooms… and we had just a 15 minute turn-around before setting off on a walking tour of Kuala Lumpur. But more of that anon.


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Malaysia: Penang: Wat Chaiyamangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple

The third temple we visited on our tour of the city was a Thai Buddhist Temple, the Wat Chaiyamangalaram, which is the most popular of Malaysia’s Thai-style Buddhist temples.  It’s just across the road from the Burmese Dhammikarama Temple so it was interesting to compare and contrast the Thai and Burmese styles of architecture and statues.


Wat Chaiyamangamlaram Temple, sometimes shortened to Wat Chaiya, was founded in 1845 by a Thai Buddhist monk.  The 5 acre site was given by Queen Victoria as a gesture of goodwill to Penang’s Thai community in 1845. The land was presented to the people by Mr. W.L. Butterworth of the East India Company of Penang. His name is commemorated in the name of the Butterworth Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Penang.

The first monk, Phorthan Kuat, was a Theravada Buddhist monk from Thailand.  He was known as the “Powerful Monk”.  Maybe his power came from the amount of Laksa that he ate!  Legend has it that he was very fond of that local Penang speciality.  Even today some devotees bring a bowl of laksa as an offering to his shrine.


This temple’s most famous feature is a 33 m long (108 feet) reclining Buddha which was built in the late 1960’s.  This one is only half the size of the 66m long reclining Buddha at the Temple in Yangon, Myanmar which we saw on a visit there a few years ago.


Like all reclining Buddha statues, this one depicts Buddha on his death bed, lying on his right side with a blissful expression on his face as he prepares to enter Nirvana.


Behind the Reclining Buddha there’s a wall of funerary urns in niches.


Photos, along with the names of the deceased, adorn each niche.


This Buddha, with a somewhat quizzical look on his face, is meditating in front of the urns of the deceased.  He’s sitting in the so-called adamantine (diamond, or full-lotus) posture with tightly crossed legs, so that the soles of both feet are visible.

His mudra or hand position signifies meditation (dhyana).  It may be made with one or both hands.  When made with a single hand as here, the left one is placed in the lap signifying the principle of wisdom.  Ritual objects may be placed in the open palm of this left hand. His right hand is placed over his heart.


I was interested to see a more modern sculpture of some notable monk.  His hands are in the gesture of meditation (dhyana).  The right hand is placed above the left, with the palms facing upwards, and the fingers extended; the thumbs of the two hands touch at the tips, thus forming a mystic triangle.  His legs are in the half-lotus or yoga position.


A close up shows the method of construction of this sculpture and the unusual and rough way in which the gold leaf has been applied. It’s really rather eye catching.


By contrast, a more traditional style of craftsmanship.  It’s interesting to note that no Buddha images were made during the first few centuries after the life of Lord Buddha. They first appeared during the 1st and 2nd century A.D. in India and, ever since then, a traditional Buddha image needs to be ‘properly rendered’ according to a list of rules.


A wall of stylised Buddhas.


In front of this wall of Buddhas is a rather different depiction of Buddha; somewhat militaristic at first look.  But the hand position is one of prayer; a position common in the namaste greeting gesture that means “I bow to you”.


Gifts of flowers may be given to this white robed Buddha.  There’s a monetary offering box and candle holders at the feet.  In the mural in the background, monks are depicted with their food bowls.  It is customary for temple monks to walk through the streets each morning receiving prepared food in these bowls from devotees.  Some people bring food to the temple as an offering to Buddha, food which is then used by the monks.  They have just two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, with just water in the afternoons and evenings.


A much more colourful rendition.  The right hand is held down in a gesture of charity.


The architecture of main entrance is of modern Thai Buddhist style although the pagoda has retained its original 1910 design and structure.  The entrance way is guarded by two brilliantly coloured, fierce looking dragons and ‘guard soldiers’.


There’s incredible attention to detail in all of the decorations.


The dragons are decorated with brightly coloured mirror tiles that glint in the sun.


And just before we left this temple, there was a message for all those who were born in the year of the monkey!  Having just missed out on being a monkey follower, I guess I also miss out on the virtue of ‘wosdom’ and the possibility of becoming famous. Oh well!

It had been a very interesting morning but we were relieved to be told that we had now concluded our visit to the major temples of Penang.  We were somewhat templed out! However, I hope you’ve found the various facets of these temples as fascinating as I did.

More of Penang anon.


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Malaysia: Penang: Dhamikarama Burmese Temple

The next stop on our tour in Penang was to a different type of temple, this time the Dhamikarama Burmese Temple, the only Burmese Buddhist Temple outside of Myanmar. Built in 1803, it shows that there have been Burmese people living in Penang for a very long time.  The types of statues here are very different from those at the Kek Lok Si Temple that we’d visited earlier in Penang.


There is no one correct way to depict the Buddha as can be seen by the many different versions of the Buddha in different temples and by the different decorations.


Craftsmen are likely to be influenced by the type of Buddhism they practice, their culture, the type of statues that they have been brought up to know and worship, as well as by their own creative inspiration.


Hand positions mean different things.  The palms and fingers pointing upwards and held close to the chest and pressed together is called namaskara, anjali or simply namaste (prayer) and means “I bow to you”.


This venerable monk tied a sacred thread around Brian’s wrist.


Candles are bought and lit and offered to the gods.  These are made in the shape and colour of the sacred lotus flower.


Another ornate pavilion in the temple complex.


Detail of one of the gables.


These jolly fellows hold a bell which is rung three times by the faithful.  A heavy wooden stick (not shown) is used as the striker.


The main statue in this complex is draped in golden robes and surrounded by elegant golden filigree work and is backed by row upon row of small white Buddha statues.


Some of the many thousands of Buddha statuettes to be found around the walls.


Worshipers have paid for many of these Buddha statues. These two, numbers 999 and 1,000 have the names of the donors written beneath the statues.


Many Buddha heads show a face with a serene smile symbolising the Buddha’s peaceful and calm nature. The cranial bump on the head represents the knowledge and wisdom which the Buddha attained after being enlightened. The urna, a small bump between the eyes symbolises the Buddha’s all seeing supernatural vision.


Most Buddha statues are not really meant to be portraits of Buddha himself. They are symbols of the enlightened state. However, the elongated ear lobes on statues have an interesting story. They represent the way ancient Indian men and women commonly wore ear plugs. When children were small, their ear lobes were pierced and a small clay cylinder was put into the holes. Increasingly large cylinders were put in the lobes as the child grew. Eventually, the lobes would have stretched enough to accommodate plugs with diameters of up to 6 centimetres. The Prince who became Buddha would have worn such ear plugs. He would have taken the plugs out when he renounced the world, leaving his ear lobes very long.  Elongated lobes on statues thus indicate Buddha’s renunciation of his previous life as a Prince when he became a monk.


Statues in various meditation poses can be found at almost every part of the complex.


Hands are shown in various ritualised or stylised poses, each pose a specific meaning.


This Buddha is representative of the monks from Vietnam.

Both hands on this statue have meaning. The thumb and forefinger forming a circle is a gesture of debate or discussion (vitarka).

The other hand, in which the fingers bend together with the thumb and index finger meeting, is the flower holding gesture (kataka).Fresh flowers are sometimes put between the fingers of this hand.


This statue represents monks from Laos.

The hands represent a gesture of protection or blessing (abhaya). Hands raised and unarmed have signified, good intentions, friendship, or at least peace, since prehistoric times. It was a way of showing you meant no harm since you did not carry a weapon. The gentle facial expression adds to the symbolism.


An arm extended facing all the way down with the palm facing outwards is a gesture of charity, a gift bestowing compassion or grace (varada). All very fascinating.

There was obviously much more to learn about the symbolic meaning of these statues, but we had to move on… to yet another temple. More of that anon.


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Malaysia: Penang: Kek Lok Si Temple b

Our visit to Penang’s Kek Lok Si Temple was not over yet.  Just to recap… This is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.  It consists of a maze of pavilions, manicured gardens, courtyards and at least ten thousand Buddha statues all set in a spiritual location in the hills above Penang.  Construction began in 1890: It was opened in 1910.  In the previous episode of musings, we had walked about half way down the hill through the complex, but there was much more to see.  So let’s walk on!


We walked into yet another pavilion.  I looked for some different photo opportunities, ones that many people miss when going through such an overwhelming temple complex.


This Buddha is backed by the rays of a symbolic sun.


He’s protected by a large glass case – with nasty reflections! but the incense smoke adds some interest to the photo. I’d love to know what the inscription reads.


These wall tiles depict the sacred lotus flower… a powerful Buddhist symbol.


Small elephants parade around this ceiling cornice.


Smoke patterns from incense sticks.


Intricate bronze relief.


Patterns on a large bronze pot.


As I mentioned before, there are many different deities in this temple complex. This grand fellow, coated in much gold, is protected behind glass… hence the reflections.


“Good” triumphant over “evil”.


This happy, fat Buddha brings a smile to everyone’s face. He’s also kept behind glass and is surrounded by intricate gold patterns and highly decorated poles.


A many armed deity; an upper hand holds a ship’s wheel symbol. The lower hands show the gesture of banishing or warding off evil (karana).  The front arms are held in the gesture of prayer. There seem to be four different faces, one facing each of the four points of the compass, under a crown which includes a small Buddha. A horse’s head tops the lot. Perhaps this deity is meant to ward off dangers for sailors and for travellers.


A beautiful example of the pink form of Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior).


Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior); the more common red form.


A line of Buddhas protected by an ornate colonnade.


Looking back up through the gardens and pavilions to the Statue of Guanyin.


Looking further down the hill and out to the city of Penang.


A trio of Buddhas.


Note the swastika over the heart of this statue.  It’s an ancient religious symbol dating back 3000 years.  It was a highly auspicious talisman, evoking thoughts of reverence, good fortune, and well being.  The question is often asked: “How did such an auspicious and truly noble symbol come to represent tyrannical oppression and racial genocide; perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes of world history.”  Hitler’s German swastika is reversed and turned 45º from the vertical.


In 1930, this seven storey Pagoda of the Ten Thousand Buddhas,”Ban Po Thar”, was added. It has a Chinese octagonal base, a middle tier of Thai design, and a spiral crowning dome that is Burmese in style.  This pagoda reflects the combination of Mahayana Buddhism,  Theravada Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals that blend into a harmonious whole at this temple complex.


We walked on down through more garden terraces, and endless shops at every level selling all sorts of religious paraphernalia, until we came to the end of this fascinating visit to the Kek Lok Si Temple.  We took a cable hauled funicular back down to the town.

But we were not done with temples yet!  More anon.


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Thailand: Krabi to Penang & Kek Lok Si Temple

I decided to have a day off in Krabi while the others raced all over the place getting cooked on beaches in 35 degree heat.  I’m not a beach person anyway so that was OK.


But I did venture out on to the streets and wandered around enjoying myself  for nearly three hours.  This was an attractive promenade by the beach.


Long-tail boats line up waiting for tourists to go for a noisy ride.  Some were fishing boats.


With a backdrop of those karst ‘mountains’, the streets of Krabi were tree-lined with wide footpaths.  The trees provided some very welcome shade in the stifling heat.


The Thais are a very patriotic people.  The King is being honoured in this tribute.


This fine, well stuffed pizza was enjoyed by some of the group.  I usually chose Thai food.It had been good to have a quiet day before we began travelling on our way again, this time a long day in a coach to drive from Krabi in Thailand to Penang in Malaysia.


We stopped at one of the many 7 ELEVEN stores that abound in these parts. They are a great source of snacks and ice-creams and a place to stretch tired, bus cramped legs.


The doorway to the 7 Eleven was littered with footwear. The locals generally take their footwear off before entering many businesses.  It was obviously a sign we should do the same.  Slip-on, slip-off footwear is definitely the go here.


After filling up at the servo, we drove on for what seemed like endless miles more, until we crossed the Malaysian border and finally arrived, a very weary group, in Penang.


Next morning we were taken on a city tour of Penang.


It was quite smoggy and there was a lot of dust and smoke in the air as well.


Our first stop was at Kek Lok Si, the Temple of Supreme Bliss.  It is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia and consists of a maze of manicured gardens and courtyards.The site chosen for the Temple is called “Crane Mountain”, a spiritual location in the hills above Penang . Construction began in 1890 and it was opened in 1910.


Not all of the Temple complex is that old. The crowning glory is this gigantic statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. This 30.2m (99 ft) bronze statue was completed in 2002. It replaced the previous plaster statue which was damaged by fire a few years earlier. The bronze statue is surrounded by a 60.9 m (200 ft) three-tiered pavilion which is supported by 16 very ornately carved columns. This is the tallest statue of Guanyin in the world.


This very gentle looking Guanyin looks out over the city of Penang.


A nearby ‘demon’ statue is said to ward off evil spirits.


The Temple complex is made up of many very attractive pavilions like this.


Incense sticks burn in front of the entrance.


These pineapple-shaped jars contain beeswax and are burnt as an offering.


…a different view.


All surfaces of the pavilions are highly decorated.


This pavilion is presided over by a many armed deity. There are many different deities across this vast temple complex, reflecting the diversity of the ethnic origins of the Buddhist devotees who worship here. Worship also takes many forms: counting prayer beads, burning incense, proffering cash offerings or just bowing and clapping to let the deity know of your presence in the temple. All are interesting to observe.


A close-up of this many-armed deity.


Fruit is often presented as an offering.  The brass container is an incense burner.


Gaudy plastic flowers “decorated” this quiet corner.


I’m always on the lookout for slightly different door handles. I liked this one.


Prayer ribbons could be bought from vendors. Each ribbon carries with it a thoughtful or pleading message and is tied, along with countless others, to a tree.


Beautiful Chinese style lanterns like this one added yet more colour.


Back out into the gardens, there were more interesting sculptures.  Some of them, like this monkey, represented the symbols of the birth years.  2016 is actually the year of the Monkey so I thought I belonged to this guy. But this is all based on the Chinese calendar, so, as I was born before the 8th of February, I belong to the previous year’s birth sign which was the Sheep, Goat or Ram.

As I mentioned earlier,  Kek Lok Si , the Temple of Supreme Bliss is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia, so there was still lots more to see here. More anon.


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Thailand: Kayaking near Kabri

Waking up at Mr “Air’s” house caused a scramble for the two downstairs toilets and two shower rooms.  We were spoilt with Western toilets (good) but the shower was just a large container of cold water, with a dipper, which was used to splash water all over the place, including one’s own body.

After breakfast we were on our way again but just for a short ride to Krabi Town where we arrived around 09.00.  It was much too early to get our rooms at our next accommodation, Ben’s Guest House, or so my diary told me, so we left all of our belongings in a store room for later retrieval.  Then it was back into our mini-van for a 30 minute drive to a sea kayaking area.


I’d never been in a kayak before so this was going to be an interesting day!  I just hoped my camera would stay dry.  I guessed it wouldn’t matter if I fell in and got wet.  At least it would be one way of cooling off.  But my camera might not appreciate a swim so I put it in a zip lock plastic bag to be on the safe side.


It was in another stunning landscape surrounded by more of those Karst formations.


I was teamed up with John who had done some kayaking and, after donning life vest and listening to some basic instructions, we set off on calm waters in our red and yellow craft.


It was dead calm so the zip lock plastic bag was dispensed with and photos a plenty were taken.  Here, John is doing the same.


Milling around on our frequent stops.


It was a very easy paddle.


Quite leisurely actually!


More of the same.


We paddled up a steep sided gorge.


Mangroves formed an impenetrable thicket along the muddy banks.


We met an earlier group already heading back to the launching place.


On an open muddy section I spotted this mud skipper…


…along with this blue-legged crab.


Nearby was an orange clawed crab.


The whole exercise was most enjoyable.  It was very hot but being on and in the water made it all the more bearable.


Back to the hotel and reunited with our luggage, the afternoon was free.  I remembered to take a photo before we messed up the bed by having a papa nap.  I am a granddad now! And I had time to download my photos into my small computer.

We met up again at 15.00 to walk the short distance to the beach… going via a convenience store to buy some beer, soft drinks and nibbles to have on the beach while watching the sun set. “Stupid” left his SD card back in the hotel, didn’t I,  having been interrupted while downloading my photos.  I had my camera, just no SD card.  So no sunset photos.

The sun having set and the drinks finished we moved on to a restaurant where we had another wonderful Thai dinner.  I chose mixed seafood which was served in a whole fresh coconut.  Scrumptious!

Brian got chatting to a young German couple sitting just behind us.  Somehow or other the four of us ended up in a nearby, very noisy, bar where great conversation was had over another couple of beers. We eventually parted company and wandered back to the main street. It was virtually deserted since it was 01.45!  The plan was to walk back to our hotel but we missed the turn and ended up getting lost. What to do?  We eventually got a tuk tuk that took us back to the hotel.  We were just a little the worse for wear.

After dinner, Brian and I ventured into a show where 12-15 ‘Ladyboy’ performers strutted their stuff all tarted up and dressed most lavishly in bright colours and covered in sequins and feathers.  There was no expense spared in the amount of make-up used either.  It’s not the kind of show I’d go to at home but in a different country where you’re unlikely to be spotted by someone you know, well, anything goes.

Brian got chatting to a young German couple sitting just behind us.  Somehow or other the four of us ended up in a nearby, very noisy, bar where great conservation was had over another couple of beers.  We eventually parted company and wandered back to the main street.  It was virtually deserted since it was 01.45!  The plan was to walk back to our hotel but we missed the turn and ended up getting lost.  What to do?  We eventually got a tuk tuk that got us back to the hotel.  We were just a little the worse for wear.

And so ended 18th March, or rather began 19th March.  More anon.


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Thailand: to Mr “Air’s” Homestay near Krabi

We had a restful morning… we didn’t have to have our bags out until 11.00.

After another delicious, freshly prepared Thai meal for lunch we were ready to leave for a two and a half hour private mini-bus transfer to a one night’s home stay at Mr “Air’s” home near the town of Krabi.  This promised to be an interesting experience.


We’d been told that all the boys would be in one room together and the ladies would share another room.  And another experience to look forward to…the shower was just a large container of water and a dipper.  Perhaps, we thought, one night would be enough?


We four boys were ready for anything… well almost for anything!  It turned out that we had two rooms to share so we weren’t as crowded as we could have been.


We only had time to throw our bags in the door before we headed off on a guided walk around Mr “Air’s” spread out village.  It’s a Muslim village.

I knew not to go too close to these red ants… they pack quite a bite… so I used the tel lens on the camera to make them look much closer to me than they actually were.  Discretion is by far the better part of valour.


These pods belong to a tamarind tree, (Tamarindus indica).  The tree grows naturally in tropical Africa and is a monotypic taxon, meaning the genus Tamarindus has only one species.  The pods contain an edible pulp that is both bitter and sweet at the same time. This pulp is used widely in cuisines around the world.  It is also used in traditional medicine and as a metal polish.


These fruits belong to the cashew nut tree (Anacardium occidentale).  Once the green fleshy outer coat is removed the familiar shape of a cashew nut is more obvious.  The elongated stem above the fruit can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled to make a liquor.  The green coating of the seed can be processed to yield substances that are used as lubricants and in paints.

The cashew tree originally comes from Brazil but the trees are now widely grown in Vietnam, Nigeria and India as a valuable crop.

The tree is very attractive. It produces beautiful rose-coloured scented flowers in panicles, followed by enticing red fruits before the nuts are produced. Cashew nuts are highly nutritious, containing high amounts of vitamin C and are excellent sources of calcium, iron and vitamin B1.


These fruits are called Rose Apples (Syzygium jambos).  It grows naturally in Southeast Asia and is cultivated widely elsewhere as an ornamental and fruit tree.  Interestingly, it belongs to the Eucalyptus family although it is often confused with being a member of the guava family.  The fruit is rich in vitamin C, has a texture similar to a nashi pear and is often eaten with spiced sugar.

The wood is dense and is used in the production of charcoal.  The tannins that can be extracted from the tree are showing interesting antimicrobial properties.  In some places it is used in traditional medicine.


We met this lady on our walk.  She was out collecting herbs for the evening meal.


Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.) has eye-catching purple berries.  A wide-spread genus being found in east and south-east Asia, Australia, Madagascar, south-west North America and South America.  Tropical species are evergreen, whereas temperate species are deciduous.  The berries last on the plant well and are an important survival food for birds and some animals when more attractive alternatives are no longer available.  The highly astringent berries can be made into wine and jam.


Adenium obesum, variously called Mock Azalea, Kudu, Impala Lily and Desert Rose, depending on where it comes from, is native to the Sahel regions, south of the Sahara (from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan), and tropical and sub-tropical eastern and southern Africa and Arabia.  The sap is used as an arrow poison throughout much of Africa and as a fish poison.


A double-flowered form of Adenium obesum.


A wild Ageratum species was growing as a weed on disturbed ground.


A rubber tree plantation.


Mr “Air” showed us how the trees were ‘tapped’ for their white latex.


The delicate white petals of Bauhinia sp.


At this accommodation everyone asked to help in the preparation of the evening meal. Much of the food we were to prepare was freshly picked from the garden.


We chopped and Mrs “Air”collected the prepared pieces to be cooked.


There was plenty of fresh food prepared and ready to cook.


…and more


…and even more.


These chillies went into a mortar and pastel.


The ground up chilli paste was a LITTLE warm!


And then dinner was cooked… thanks to Alif and Mrs “Air”. It was really good.

More anon


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Thailand: Khao Sok National Park Caves

After cruising through the stunningly beautiful karst formations that surround the dam, we were ready for the next part of the day’s adventure… a visit to some caves.


We were to get to the caves by riding on, or really gliding, across the still waters of the dam on a bamboo, ‘raft-like’, boat. Safety vests were to be worn on these craft!


These strange craft had there own small bay on the dam complete with floating chalets that can be hired for the night…. though that wasn’t our plan.


We waited at the landing stage for our turn… but there were not too many other tourists there that day which made it a pleasant place to be.

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Ready, set,go! One of the other groups we shared the dam with.

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It was all a bit of fun!


When we arrived at the caves and disembarked our bamboo rafts, we had to make a steep climb up to the mouth of the cave.  In this photo, I’m looking back to that entrance and the rickety bamboo handrail that gave a little confidence although not much support!


Most caves are rather wet places to explore with water dripping through the ceiling of the cave. Wonderful stalactites like this one are produced by the precipitation of minerals as the drips of water dissolve the limestone. Most stalactites are icicle shaped formations that hang from the ceiling and have have pointed tips. This one is a group of such forms.


Mineral formations in caves are, in the main, either stalactites and stalagmites. This is an example of a stalagmite, an upward-growing mound of mineral deposits that have precipitated from water dripping onto the floor of a cave. Although many stalagmites have rounded or flattened tips, this one has formed as a pillar on the cave floor.


Weird shapes and patterns were everywhere.


More stalactites hanging free from the ceiling as well as attached to the wall of the cave.


Iron oxides, dissolved with the limestone, left these stains as the moisture evaporated.


Filigree edges to some of the stalactites attached to the side walls of the cave. Further iside this cave, a column from above has joined up with the stalagmite that formed below it.


A fairy-land of crystals.


After exploring in the dimness of the caves, we came out into the bright light of day again to make our way down the steep slope back towards the water of the dam.


By the time we boarded our long tail boats for the ride back across the dam, it was 17.15 and we were looking forward to a cool drink and dinner after a good day out.


We’d obviously been very lucky with the weather. By 17.45 when we returned to our vehicle, dark clouds were forming and the water took on an ominous look.


The girls opted for some pretty amazing looking cocktails while we waited for dinner at a restaurant near to Morning Mist Resort.  We guys settled for a cold beer.


The stir-fried noodles were good too.


We capped the night off at another small bar where a fire-dancer performed.


And the girls made the most of some more fantastical cocktails!

It was nearly 23.00 by the time we got back to our rooms.  I un-stuffed the doona and used the covering as a sheet.  This time, I slept like a log.  More adventures anon.

Video on Vimeo: Khao Sok National Park, Lake Cheow Larn and Cave


All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

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