Malaysian Road Traffic Signs

Road traffic signs in Malaysia generally follow the international standards used in Europe, but there are a few which have been tailored for local conditions. This one is my favourite:

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It informs users of this busy urban dual carriageway that bullock carts, trishaws, pedal-powered food carts and bicycles are not permitted.

The chances of seeing a bullock cart these days are rare. I recall seeing some in Malacca about 25 years ago. They were used to ferry tourists around the padang. They’ve gone now. This may be the only bullock cart left in Malacca:

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Trishaws have all but disappeared too as a means of transport. There are a few in the main tourist area of Melaka for selfie purposes. This working trishaw was spotted in Penang a few years back:

Trishaw-Penang Food carts are still around but they too are under threat as urban councils tighten up on hygiene laws and parking spaces. I snapped this photo in Muar some time ago (probably would cost a lot more than RM 3 today):

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It’s a shame to see these icons of traditional culture disappearing from modern Malaysia, to be replaced by sanitised shopping malls, food trucks and Uber cars. All that’s left is the road sign as a reminder of what has been lost.

Selangor Tin Dredge

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To my knowledge there are only two surviving bucketline tin dredges in Malaysia. One is the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge near Batu Gajah which I wrote about on this blog a few years ago. The other is located near Dengkil in Selangor.

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I have seen the Dengkil dredge many times from a distance since it is visible from the main road when driving to the airport. Today I tried to see it from up close.

Thanks to Google Maps it was easy to find the best way to approach the dredge which is surrounded by lakes created by the dredge’s excavations. A gravel road takes you part of the way. This road is busy with rubbish trucks as one of the lakes is being used as a landfill. 

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I parked the car next to a lake and walked the rest of the way, a distance of about 1 km each way. The path is not too overgrown and I did not see any ‘no trespassing’ signs. There was a barrier blocking the way to cars but again no ‘keep out’ signs.

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Finally I managed to get near the dredge which is an enormous piece of engineering. According to Liz Price’s excellent blog, this is the Sri Banting Dredge, built in Malaysia in 1974 (much newer than the colonial-era Tanjung Tualang dredge) and weighs 4,800 tonnes.

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It was not possible to go on board as it was moored a few metres off-shore and there was no gangplank. Anyway it is private property. There were a couple of vigilant watchdogs on the dredge to deter trespassers.

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No doubt this dredge is earmarked for sale at some stage. Many of the other tin dredges in Malaysia were sold off to foreign buyers such as this one which was towed to Bangka Island in Indonesia in 1987.

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If no buyer can be found it would probably be sold for scrap and that will be the end of Selangor’s tin mining heritage. At least the Tanjung Tualang dredge is being preserved as a museum by the Perak State Government and should be open to the public, long overdue, at the end of this year.

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Dragon Fruit Farm – Sepang

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I visited a dragon fruit farm today near Sepang, not far from Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport. The farm is called Multi Rich Pitaya, ‘pitaya’ being another name for dragon fruit.

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Dragon fruit’s scientific name is hylocereus derived from the Greek word hyle (meaning woody), the Latin word cereus (meaning waxen). Woody and waxen doesn’t sound particularly appetizing but it probably refers to its cactus-like stems rather than the fruit.

The fruit is thought to have originated in Central America and was introduced into Vietnam by French missionaries in the 19th century.  Cultivation has since spread to all corners of the tropical world and some Mediterranean climates like Turkey and Israel, though Vietnam is still the world’s leading exporter.

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Types of Dragon Fruit

There are three varieties of dragon fruits grown in Malaysia:

  • Red skin with red flesh.
  • Red skin with white flesh.
  • Yellow skin with grey/white flesh

All varieties have edible black seeds, like kiwi seeds but softer.

The yellow sort is not common in Peninsular Malaysia, though it is grown in Sabah. The white flesh variety is still probably the most common but the red flesh sort are more sought after (and more expensive) as they taste better. The white flesh variety can often be rather bland and disappointing.

Multi Rich Pitaya only grows the red variety.

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Uses of Red Dragon Fruit

Best consumed raw, preferably chilled, either by itself or as part of a fruit salad.

Mixes well with plain yogurt to produce a fantastically coloured dessert.

Can also be made into juice, smoothies or sorbets.

They are easy to peel. The skin is inedible but can be processed to make food colouring.

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Reputed Health Benefits

  • High fibre content aids digestion and reduces body fat
  • Rich source of vitamin B, C, calcium and phosphorus
  • Improves eyesight
  • Controls hypertension
  • Helps control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes sufferers
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves skin conditions
  • Rich in lycopene, thought to help prevent cancer
  • Helps prevent gout and arthritis
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Low in calories

If even only half of these claims are true it would seem foolish not to eat it!

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Dragon Fruit Flowers

The flowers bloom briefly, for one night only. They are large and attractive flowers with a sweet tropical fragrance when in bloom. Unopened flower buds can be cooked like vegetables. Dried flowers can be processed to make tea.

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Multi Rich Pitaya Farm

This farm welcomes visitors. You can wander round the farm and buy some fresh dragon fruit in their basic shop. The ones you can buy here have been allowed to ripen fully on the vine and taste much sweeter than those you find in the supermarket.

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They also sell dragon fruit enzyme drink which is a delicious and healthy tonic.

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Multi Rich has a family of caged monkeys.  The large male monkey doesn’t look happy in that small cage and it would be better if they were released or rehoused somewhere more suitable.

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If you want to visit you can find the contact details and GPS co-ordinates on this photo.

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Dragon Air?

Strange Bedfellows – Porcupine & Tortoise

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At Paya Indah Wetlands near Kuala Lumpur there is a family of porcupines who live in the same compound as a family of giant tortoises. In the heat of the midday sun they snuggle up next to each other in this shady shelter.

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With their armour-plated shells, tortoises are one of the few animal species that are immune to spiky porcupine quills.

Unlike this poor boa constrictor in Brazil which foolishly tried to take on a porcupine with painful consequences:

Ouessant & Pasopati

I have been on two submarines in recent months. Not underwater thankfully but safely berthed on land and now serving as museums.

KRI Pasopati

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The first is the Submarine Monument in Surabaya, Indonesia. KRI Pasopati is a Whiskey-class Soviet-era submarine built in Vladivostok in 1952 and acquired by the Indonesian Navy in 1962.

It weighs 1048 tons and is 76 metres long. She was well armed with 6 torpedo tubes, 4 at the bow and 2 at the stern. I had not realised how huge these torpedo are – probably over 6 metres in length.

The submarine has seven cramped compartments housing the torpedoes, the diesel-electric engine, navigation, communication and other equipment as well as the living accommodation for a crew of around 50 men.

According to the museum’s brochure, this vessel participated in Operation Trikora,  an Indonesian military operation to gain control of Netherlands New Guinea, which later became Irian Jaya (now Papua / West Papua).

SMD Ouessant

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The other sub I visited is the Ouessant which is now the Submarine Museum in Melaka, Malaysia. The Ouessant is an Agosta-class conventional (non-nuclear) submarine built in Cherbourg in 1978 for the French Navy. She was decommissioned in 2001 and from 2005-2009 she served as a training vessel and used to train Royal Malaysian Navy personnel, while still based in France. Since she was never really integrated into the Malaysian Navy fleet she maintains her French name.

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This submarine is shorter than the Indonesian one (67 m ) and is designed for a complement of 5 officers and 36 men. She only has forward-facing torpedo tubes but can also deploy Exocet missiles.

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Boys and girls considering a career as submariners should visit museums like these before they sign up. The claustrophobic working conditions would put most people off and the courage needed to serve in a submarine during wartime means that only a special kind of person need apply.

Jalan Bellamy – Kuala Lumpur

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Jalan Bellamy, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, has been the home of Alice Smith’s Primary School campus since 1952. For the benefit of those Old Alice Smithonians who might be feeling nostalgic about their school days here is how Jalan Bellamy looks in 2017.

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It is actually one of the better preserved streets in KL, with a number of old colonial bungalows still in use and lined by massive mature trees. You can even hear roosters calling in places. Most of the bungalows are of identical design so perhaps the former colonial occupants were all officials of the same seniority.

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It is a short road (about 700 m long – it may have been truncated when the Jalan Istana highway was constructed) and it was named after H.F. Bellamy who was a civil engineer and director of the Public Works Department in the late nineteenth century. He participated in the construction of the famous Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Dataran Merdeka though he was not in charge since his boss wrote that he was lacking in talent and drive to execute such a major construction programme. A Mr. C.E .Spooner from Ceylon was brought in over Bellamy’s head to run the project. How terrible that poor Bellamy’s job appraisal report is still being banded about on the internet after all these years but at least he got a road named after him.

Jalan Tun HS Lee Fire Brigade

He also had other interests. He headed up the Selangor Volunteer Fire Brigade and he might well be in this old photo.

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Next door to Alice Smith is a Hindu temple called Sri Thirumurugan.

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Opposite the school is an old bungalow housing the KL office of the Veteran Association of Malaysian Armed Forces.
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The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina is also on this street. KL is probably a nice quiet posting for Bosnian diplomats.
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Next door is the mirror image of the embassy only this time with a blue roof. It is occupied by a government sports and welfare council office with the catchy acronym MAKSWIP.
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A more modern building is the National Civics Bureau (Biro Tatenegara) of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Nationhood Academy (Akademi Kenegaraan).
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Another pair of bungalows with identical designs to MAKSWIP and the Bosnian Embassy are nearby. They are called Rumah Meranti 1 and 2 and are probably used as government offices or rest houses.
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The best house on the street is Rumah Melaka, a wonderfully preserved colonial mansion which is the official residence of the Chief Minister of Melaka when he is visiting the big city of KL.
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The street ends next to a park called Taman Dusun Bandar (urban orchard park) which opened a few years ago at some considerable expense. It’s a very nice park. It’s just a pity that I was the only person there, apart from the gardening staff.
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A much more busy place is the adjacent Medan Ikan Bakar – barbecued fish hawker stalls. Specialities here include grilled squid, cat fish and mackerel wrapped in banana leaf. According to Lonely Planet, when the nearby Royal Museum was still used as a royal residence, the King would sometimes send one of his staff to buy an order of grilled stingray from one of these stalls.
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Serunding means ‘floss’ and comes in three flavours, fish, beef or chicken. I think I’ll stick with Oral-B mint flavour.

Malaysian Conman?

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The way Malaysian English is pronounced and understood, it is perfectly reasonable for an air-conditioning servicing business to call itself ‘Aconman’.

Some people though might hesitate before trusting someone who calls himself a conman.

An unfortunate choice of brand name or just a clever way of getting noticed in a crowded marketplace?

Scaremonkey

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We all know about scarecrows but what do you call this effigy, suspended high amid the trees in a neighbourhood garden here in Malaysia?

Perhaps it is a scaremonkey, intended to discourage our local macaques from stealing the homeowner’s ripening coconuts. But monkeys are pretty clever creatures. Will they be fooled by some empty clothing? They seem to have very good eyesight and are alert to the slightest movement. Maybe a scaremonkey flapping in the breeze will be enough to deter them.

Or perhaps it is just a decoration to provide atmosphere for halloween later this month.

Guinea Fowl Farm – Semenyih, Selangor

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Guinea Fowl

Ever tried to eat Guinea Fowl? Guess what, they taste just like chicken, only better. More flavourful and more nutritious. At least, that’s what I’m told.

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Casey Teh, owner of Ostrich Wonderland and The Guinea Fowl Farm.

Yesterday I was invited by Mr. Caseh Teh, the owner of Ostrich Wonderland in Semenyih, Selangor, to revisit his farm and take a look at his guinea fowl and poultry business, which operates on the same site, under the official name of Mutiara Chicken.

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It was nice to see the ostriches again, who were looking contented and well looked after in their spacious enclosures.

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Chickaboo and friends sheltering from the hot sun.

Since my last visit in 2013 (read blog here), one of the ostriches has become a celebrity. She’s named Chickaboo, the runaway pet ostrich who became a YouTube sensation when filmed jogging down Kuala Lumpur’s Federal Highway after escaping from a moving vehicle. It must have been a scary experience for poor Chickaboo but she is now enjoying her film star status at Ostrich Wonderland.

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Newly hatched ostrich chicks, just a couple of days old. They cannot stand up yet.

While ostriches are popular as a tourist attraction, Mr. Teh says they are not so profitable to farm commercially and in particular they do not like Malaysia’s rainy weather, being originally more accustomed to the arid regions of Africa. For this reason, Mr. Teh has diversified into farming guinea fowl, various popular and exotic chicken breeds, goats and other animals.

He currently has around 5,000 guinea fowls. They are mostly of the grey, helmeted variety.  They are gentle and timid and you have to move slowly around them to avoid disturbing and agitating the whole flock.

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A confusion of keets.

Did you know?

The correct collective for a group of guinea fowl is a confusion which sounds rather silly but is quite apt given their skittish behaviour. The cute baby guinea fowl are called keets.

Guinea fowl originate from African tropical forests. They are hardy and disease resistant which makes them easy to raise. They are an active avian producing tender, nutritious meat which is more tasty than regular chicken. The meat contains more amino acids and less fat and cholesterol.

Mr. Teh told me that an ambassador from a West African country is a good customer of his for guinea fowl meat saying that the gamey flavour is more popular with Africans than white meat chicken.

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Silky Chickens – Used for soup.

Mutiara Chicken stocks a wide variety of free-range chickens including:

  • Kampung Chicken
  • San Huang Chicken
  • Mini Cochin Chicken
  • Curly Feather Chicken
  • Onagadori (Yokohama)
  • China Black Chicken
  • Wen Chang Chicken
  • Batik Chicken
  • Castrated Chicken – Ayam Sunat
  • White Silky Chicken
  • White Polish Chicken
  • Black Polish Chicken

The castrated chickens are said to be sought after for their flavour while the ingredients for Hainan Chicken and black chicken soup can be obtained here. All the birds are slaughtered onsite under hygienic conditions and frozen meat is on sale in the shop.

Ring Necked Pheasant can also be seen here as well as turkey (Ayam Belanda).  Ayam Belanda translates as Dutch chicken. Malaysians like to name animals after the Dutch  – the Malay word for proboscis monkey is Orang Belanda meaning Dutch Man!)

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Gaggles of geese and ducks wander around the farm, giving a very tranquil, pastoral atmosphere to the place.

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All the plants growing on the farm seem to have their purpose and uses. This clump of bamboo for example provides shade to the pony and chickens while dried bamboo leaves make comfortable bedding material for the hatchling enclosures.

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Mulberry Bush. The fruit is sharp and tasty, like a blackberry.

Mr. Teh used to grow organic vegetables but he found that they require too much attention to prevent insect attack and, once ripe, they have a short shelf life. So instead he has given over the space to grow mulberry bushes which bear edible fruit while the leaves are used to make healthy mulberry tea.

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Prize billy goat with his own collar. The farm has a thriving herd of goats producing fresh goats’ milk daily.
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The shop at Ostrich Wonderland sells decorative ostrich eggs, chicken eggs, meats from their various birds, essence of ostrich with ginseng and cordyceps, mulberry leaves for tea and mulberry seedlings.

Visitors are welcome to tour the farm as part of their Ostrich Wonderland admission. School excursions are also welcome by prior arrangement.

You can find details of location, opening hours and admission fee on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Malaysia’s Route 66

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When we hear the words ‘Route 66’ we naturally think of the famous highway in USA, the one where you ‘get your kicks’ according to the 1946 song. That road originally ran for 2500 miles heading west from Chicago through the heart of America all the way to Santa Monica, California.

It is less well known that Malaysia has its own Route 66, in Kelantan, a much more modest affair only 96 km long, running from Jeli to Dabong and on to Kampung Bukit Tebok where it merges with the Central Spine Road.

Malaysia’s Route 66 might be less famous that its American namesake but it does boast some fine scenery and a couple of natural attractions along the way.

Here is the map (click top right corner to enlarge):

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Jeli to Dabong is 51km. Route 66 continues for a further 45km after Dabong before joining up with the Central Spine Road.

The route begins at the small town of Jeli, not far from the Thai border.

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Heading south you soon approach the mountainous landscape of Gunung Stong State Park. I think these are the twin peaks of Gunung Stong (1433m) and Gunung Ayam (1504m).

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The State Park comprises 21,950 hectares of virgin jungle reserve and is intended to serve as a conservation area for rare creatures such as wild elephant, tiger, hornbills, serow and tapir.

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Despite the State Park’s protected status, I noticed some logging activity going on in various places.

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This is the Sungai Balah, a tributary of the Sungai Galas and Kelantan River which eventually flows into the sea near Kota Bharu.

The Jelawang Waterfall (or Stong Waterfall) is estimated to be 300 m high, one of Malaysia’s tallest, and easily visible from the main road at Dabong.

It is a short drive to the Gunung Stong State Park HQ where there is a ticket office, guides for hire, a cafeteria, toilets and accommodation. The resort, known as Stong Hill Resort, has seen better days but appears to offer basic accommodation for adventurous types.

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Termites seem to have eaten this chalet and all that remains are the concrete stilts and a toilet.

I paid RM 2 to enter the park as far as the waterfall. If you want to climb Gunung Stong you need to pay more and hire a guide.

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The waterfall is certainly spectacular although difficult to photograph in its entirety from this vantage point.

A party of local school boys had fun making the rickety suspension bridge wobble while I was walking across it.

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Next I stopped briefly in the quiet town of Dabong. Looking back from Dabong you can see the waterfall with Gunung Stong above.

There is a railway station (Jungle Railway) at Dabong and most tourists wishing to visit Stong arrive by train.

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A short distance outside Dabong is the Gua Ikan Recreational Park. This 150 million year old cave complex includes three caves, Gua Keris, Gua Batu Susun and Gua Pagar.

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I couldn’t find a way into the caves which did not involve getting very wet. The recreational park itself was badly overgrown. If I ever go back to this area I would hire a guide to take me up Gunung Stong and show me around the caves.

Malaysia’s Route 66 is a scenic drive. Let’s hope the logging companies do not spoil the scenery. It seems the forests are losing their battle with loggers but sometimes the trees find a way of striking back!

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