Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hiking in the Cameron Highlands

KUALA LUMPUR

From Yogjakarta I flew back to Kuala Lumpur where I stayed for a while. Because of the sweltering heat I was looking for some indoor entertainment and found the Museum of the National Bank of Malaysia an excellent choice. It was soon to become my favourite building in the capital. It was fully airconditioned and usually empty, the toilets were marble and spotless, it afforded free wifi and the cafetaria produced reasonably priced cappuccinos. The staff seemed happy to have some distraction.  The museum must be a costly affair to maintain and with so few visitors the economic soundness of its exploitation seems debatable. Moreover, visitor numbers would soon dwindle as I prepared to leave the city.
The museum was, naturally, all about money and related items. Vaults, for example, where the money and gold are stored (for all we know). The interior of the vault of the Teikoku Bank was unscathed after the Americans dropped their bomb on Hirsohima. The rest of the city was obliterated. The Federal Reserve in New York has a vault 80 feet under the ground surrouded by solid bedrock. Very safe. The vault of the Federal Reserve in Cleveland has a door that weighs 100 tons. That’s equal to mumble mumble humpback whales. I forgot how many, I am not very good in humpback whales. No windows apparently.
All kinds of money were on display: a replica of a yap stone from the Caroline Islands in the Pacific. It had a diameter of I don’t know how many humpback whales and they possibly constituted the only stones in history to ever become legal tender. There was a short period of inflation in the nineteenth century when an ingenious American Irish sailor imported stones from nearby Palau. Nowadays, the stones form a fixed money supply as they are no longer imported or produced, which means inflation is non-existent, some economists would say that with increasing goods and services, deflation is unavoidable. Quantitative easing is predictably cumbersome… Another problem is the size and weight of the stones as the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry them..
For the rest there was all you want to know about the ringgit, the Malaysian currency. On the top floor was a small art exhibition.

Later, I stepped inside a Burger King, to give in to a craving for french fries. Feasting on fast food I worked on some notes. Just as Jean-Paul Sartre, I would imagine…

THE CAMERON HIGHLANDS

Jim Thompson disappeared in the Cameron Highlands in 1967. He was an American silk merchant who lived in Bangkok. One day he went for a walk and never came back. His body was never found. Very mysterious all that. The main attraction for me was the cool climate. I had enough of the debilitating heat.

Everything is wrong. More steel, more concrete, more roads.

To  get away from these I undertook walks through the surrounding jungle.

On my first jungle walk I met the Entomologist in the photo above.

Another walk led me to the top of Gunung Brinchang, wich was a bit  more challenging as there were some steep ascents through mud and tree roots. Low hanging clouds meant it was dark and damp and I was sweating profusely. From the top there was a road leading back to the town that passed the so called Mossy Forest. An elaborate consturction seemed purposely built for Malaysians who are less inclined to physical exercise than most foreigners from overseas. Wooden stairs and bridges accommodate an easy stroll from the car park.

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Pitcher plant

When I researched the Cameron Highlands I found different ages for its surrounding jungle. Most often cited was 130 million years. If this is true than the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex (otherwise known under its more splendid name the King of the Tyrant Lizards) might have roamed these forests….An entertaining thought.

Walk 5, 3 and 8 to Robinson Falls. Dismissing rumours of a mugger relieving tourists of their valuables, threatening them with a big knife. I carried a stick. I was not afraid. Trail eight seemed abandoned and I heard more noises from animals. Strange and eerie whoops sounded around me and a whisper that increased and culminated in a shrill high scream. Walking around here made it easier to understand the natives’ belief in the supernatural. It was overcast and under the trees it was remarkably dark. Monkeys rustled in the branches, but I knew not the kind. Silver leaf monkeys, but  more likely longtail macaques. I saw one sitting on a branch with a long tail.
And just when you think you are lost and expect any moment to stumble over a shallow grave with the bones of Jim Thompson, you see a little sign on a tree educating you about the the name of the tree, hung there by the Malaysian Tourist Board…. I couldn’t help thinking these signs would greatly help illegal loggers

Everything is wrong.

My neighour is wrong. She is an Englishwoman and at least a hundred years old. She feeds fish to the cats and now the grounds stink of fish. Why does she feed the cats? It’s wrong.

The Chinese manager at the hostel shouts at the little dog. Siiiiiit! Sit!… goo’ boy.
Why does he speak English to the dog? It’s wrong.

 

Odds and ends

After going through  my photos of my recent visit to the Prambanan temple complex near Yogjakarta, I thought it worth to publish a few more of them in this post.

Left:       Restoration efforts
Middle: Suprisingly realistic portrait
Right:    Earthquake damage

For Dutch readers a small compilation of Indonesian words of Dutch origin:

kamar pas
kantor pos
gordyn
sprei
vitrage
spanduk
knalpot
asbak
handuk
wortel
duit

 

Left:      Toilet instruction at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Right:    No sumbanging in the park: VERBOTEN

On my return in  Malaysia there were some interesting stories in the newspapers. Because of censorship, the newspapers resemble some latterday Pravda with many stories about the booming economy and the general advancement of the nation. Maybe it is for this reason that redactions try to spice up the pages a bit:

It was reported by the New Straits Times that a monstrous python (7,5 m) was found near a construction site. However, shortly after it was caught by members of the Civil Defence, it suddenly died after laying an egg. The government spokesman suggested that the reptile had possibly committed suicide. The egg was handed over to the local wildlife department, presumably to investigate its culinary value. Nasi Goreng Special.

In another part of the country there were several schools which reported outbreaks of mass hysteria. An interesting phenomenon which doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. Several girls claimed they had seen a so called pontianak, a female vampire, in the toilets…. According to the paper: To date, more than eight ustaz, a bomoh and Islamic traditional experts have come to help.
An ustaz is a muslim scholar trained in Islam and Islamic law.
A bomoh is a Malay shaman.
And Islamic traditional experts are a bunch of bearded nitwits.

 

Yogjakarta

The flight from Bali to Yogja was painless. The captain was muttering pleasantries over the intercom while we were flying amid towering cauliflowers. The girl next to me was painting her face most of the time. It needed a lot of work, apparently.
Meanwhile, I had many fears. Mainly about the woman in the seat in front of me.She would crush my knees when reclining her seat. I would ask her not to. She would be  angry. I would be polite. She would not understand me. The person next to me might mediate. But eventually, none of this happenend of course.
There was a lot of turbulence and the captain asked us to remain seated. After that put the plane on the ground. We were in Yogjakarta.

Prambanan2

Sketch of Prambanan temple

On my second day in Yogjakarta I took the bus to Prambanan. The city’s public bus system is excellently designed and line 1A is very convenient as it runs from the airport to the city centre and stops also at the Prambanan temple complex, roughly 15 km outside the city centre. Foreigners have their own entrance where they are provided with a free cup of coffee. It seems a nice gesture but one pays dearly for the privilege as, naturally, foreigners pay a hefty surcharge for visiting this site.

After  exploring Prambanan I walked around to another temple further away that predates both Prambanan and the famous Borobudur complex. It is the Candi Sewu, which, in Javanese, means A Thousand Temples, which is a very generous estimate for what in reality are some 249 temples, though most of them are now merely piles of rubble.These are, interestingly, arranged in a so called mandala figure, symbolising the Buddhist universe. After Borobudur it’s the largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia.

MargeSimpson8

Marge Simpson

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Sculpture at the Candi Sewu

 

This photo I took of  a sculpture at the Sewu temple seems evidence that 9th century Javans had knowledge of the Simpsons.