Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Last Hurrah on the FRIM Canopy Walkway

When I learned that the FRIM treetop canopy walkway would be closing for good on 30th June 2017, I made a booking for a private party and invited my friends to join me on a Farewell Treetop Walk. The arborists have determined that the health of the supporting trees has been affected and it was best to dismantle the walkway and reforest the area. This is good news for the trees, although not so good for tourism. 16 of my friends joined me on this guided walk and we had a splendid time. I thanked each tree for the oxygen, support and joy they provided and we did our part in picking up litter from the forest trail and picnic areas on the way down.
Malaysian stingless bees (Kelulut) in their hive at the base of a ficus tree.
Massive ficus (strangler fig) tree that has killed its host.
The flower of the Barringtonia asiatica (also known as the Fish Poison Tree, or Tuba Ikan in Bahasa).
Listening to a briefing by our guide, Johnson.
Tacca chantrieri, also known as Bat Lily, Bat Flower and Devil Flower.
Trees exhibiting the Crown Shyness phenomenon. See, even trees know how to observe personal boundaries and personal space.
I love Elephant Ear Plants (Colocasia).
We finally arrive at the ranger's hut at the start of the canopy walkway. Our group is listening intently to the safety briefing from the forest ranger in this photo...
... Which was delivered by one of the rangers up in this watchtower hut! What a fun place to work. It's like having your office up in a treehouse or something.
Rangers hard at work in the canopy walkway watchtower office.
Finally it's our turn to go on the canopy walkway! Andrey goes ahead of me. I am still the sweeper, of course.
All smiles to be so close to the forest and trees that I love so much. Hello, trees! You're looking exceptionally stunning today! Hello, forest! My, look at you, you charmer!
And this how the suspended walkway is connected to the trees. I can imagine why the arborists claim that the health of the supporting trees is affected. Poor trees. Thank you, trees, for your wonderful service. We will free you of your shackles soon.
Can you spot the city in the distance? It's okay if you are unable to. Not really worth looking at when you have a fantastic secondary forest beneath your feet.
Doing the treetop dab. Photo credits: Marcus.
Approaching the next watchtower.
Adorable tiny fuzzy caterpillar. I shall name it the Teddy Bear Caterpillar.
Rudhra, Baby Ava, Angela and me enjoying our hike down. Photo credits: Hari.
A little waterfall and stream sighted on our hike down.
Our group crossing a little stream. Photo credits: Hari.
Spotted a knot on a vine that resembled a skull.
A yet-to-be-identified leaf of ethereal beauty.
My trademark big grin, next to a very tired, thirsty and grumpy Justin. I was trying to encourage him to keep going. Photo credits: Shamila.
Goodbye and thank you for the memories, FRIM Canopy Walkway!

Farewell, Ampang Park.

Malaysia's first shopping centre, Ampang Park, which has been operating since 1973, lost its appeal against MRT Corp for the acquisition of the mall for the MRT construction project. The initial plan to build the MRT lines underground and incorporate Ampang Park into its design could not be carried out. Demolition is expected to be scheduled soon. I have many fond memories of this charming old mall, and went to say goodbye to some of my favourite shopkeepers and take photos for posterity. 

Ampang Park has been overshadowed by its posh neighbours, Avenue K and Suria KLCC, but still manages to retain its charm, character and dignity.

Like many older malls, the shops are in rows and the common areas are not fully air-conditioned.

The best thing about older shopping malls like Ampang Park is that it is not a glass-and-chrome, hermetically-sealed, air conditioned monstrosity. Individual shops and booths are air conditioned but the common areas of the mall are not. Clever architectural features such as these round 'windows' allow for ventilation. I like to think these round 'windows' mirror the circular logo of Ampang Park.

There are two authentic Turkish restaurants in Ampang Park and this one bakes fresh simit and pogaca daily.

The open-air entrance to Ampang Park.

I shall be very sorry to say goodbye to Love Music, my favourite music store. The shop proprietor informed me that they will close down as music sales has been in decline since the introduction of music downloading. Not many people purchase CDs or records anymore. I used to come here on payday to buy a CD or two.

Love Music has been in business since 1974. I am very very sorry to see them go.

I found this banner very sad. I bought my first G-Shock from this shop, and when I was the Sports and Social Club President for MLJ back in 2002/2003, I used to buy watches for our company annual dinner lucky draws from this shop.

Ampang Park may be old and frumpy but it has lots of character.

Goodbye is such a difficult word to say, Ampang Park. I wish things had been different.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Batu Arang Exploration

I grew up not far from this place. Batu Arang was known for its coal mines and brick kilns from the 1900s until the 1970s. Most of its original residents have left the town due to increasing soil erosion resulting in sinkholes. It's now a heritage town with abandoned brick kilns, red brick buildings and sleepy old shophouses. I decided to go explore this semi-forgotten little town one weekend and invited my friends along.

The abandoned brick kiln which brought Batu Arang its fame and wealth back in its heyday.
Exploring the tunnels of the old brick kiln with Marcus, Hari and Jay.

Nature taking over, slowly but surely.

Ficus roots having a good grip on a crumbling brick pillar.

More unfinished red brick buildings -- these are the school caretakers' quarters.

The Chap Khuan Chinese primary school. The red brick walls kept the classrooms cool even in the hottest of weather.

A group photo at the town square for posterity.

The Chapel of St. Michael, probably constructed in the late 1930s. I was immensely excited to see this Art Deco masterpiece out in the boondocks.

April 2017 In Pictures


1st April: Clinic work at the SPCA on a ridiculously rainy Saturday.

2nd April: It's a burgers-and-beers kinda night at The Daily Grind with a couple of friends. I had the Portobello Mozza Stack -- hold the cheese! -- with a side of sweet potato crisps. All kinds of awesome.

5th April: So 'Luna' here gave us all a big surprise today. While being prepped and shaven for 'spaying', it was discovered that 'she' was, in fact, a tomcat. Don't ask -- maybe his dingle-dangle was too small to be visible, maybe he was just so black and furry down there that nobody could see a thing, maybe i just never checked properly. Anyway, his new name is Logan.

8th April: Reached home at 1.30 a.m. but still managed to get up in time to do the Chow Kit Run. 6km for a good cause.

8th April: Productive day at the SPCA. Some of the teen volunteers helped to exercise, train and bathe the dogs, and a scout troop from the neighbouring school helped to upgrade the dog playground as part of their Eagle Scout Project. Mama Brenda and her puppies, Clifford and Marilyn, are finally adopted -- together! -- and so we celebrated with cakes and champagne.

9th April: Logan rocking the bananas to help them go beddy-bye.

15th April: Another busy Saturday at the SPCA. Managed to bathe and tickwash the dogs before the rain. The Eagle Scouts have completed their habitat improvement project. Had the pleasure of the company of a 13-year-old volunteer, Liam, for lunch and we ended up discussing the implications of Brexit.

16th April: Annual Feline Easter Egg Hunt at the Wee Green Flat.

16th April: The Little One's first Easter egg hunt.  It has been raining so heavily all day, we had to hide the eggs in the porch and not the lawn.

17th April: My friend Farida came over to play congkak with the cats and me. Katniss here looks deeply concerned over her imminent defeat to Farida.

18th April: Time to put my jars and cloth carrier bags to good use at The Hive Bulk Foods. I love packaging-free shopping.

19th April: So this kinda sorta happened during an 8-minute phone call. I may or may not have gotten ink on my desk. I ran out of space for Raphael's sai.

19th April: Earth Day themed tuition class at the Beacon of Hope community tuition centre. I got my teens to work in pairs and gave each team one of my Green Living articles on energy and water conservation, fuel economy and the 3Rs, among others. They had to understand, summarise and interpret the articles, create a poster on the assigned topic and do a 5-minute presentation in front of the class. I am so very impressed with how far my teens have come. At the start of the academic year, they were so self-conscious that they would not even answer questions when spoken to. I am very proud of them for trying, learning and growing, and for their genuine interest in environmental responsibility.

22nd April: Earth Day cleanup at the Urban Community Forest, Malaysian Nature Society.

22nd April: Gasp -- so it's true, after all: I am pro-science! I believe in technological and engineering solutions to environmental problems! I believe in big-picture solutions and not merely reusing paper clips and making baking soda toothpaste! I don't think microwaved water kills plants or that Coke is used to clean bloodstains off highways or that shampoo will give me brain tumours! Time to sacrifice me at the altar of those rubbish natural living coconut-oil-and-deep-breathing-will-cure-cancer David Fraudocado Wolfe-type sites and stab me with my own compostable bamboo toothbrush!

23rd April: Bathing and tickwashing dogs at the PAWS shelter on a scorcher of a Sunday afternoon. So. Many. Ticks. Ugh! The Itchy and Scratchy Show!

 24th April: Hauled 7 bags of trash out of the forest reserve and park. Bloody macaques made a mess of the place and emptied the bins.

25th April: More than delighted with the quality and beauty of the original woodcut prints I ordered from social justice and art activist collective Pangrok Sulap. I purchased these during their fundraiser for Bro Oliver, one of the artists in medical need. Very proud to be supporting such brave local talents, and proud to be supporting freedom of artistic expression.

25th April: Just a random Batman bento because I wanted to store nuts and soybeans in the Batman container. I love Batman. He is the archetypal Byronic protagonist -- dark, brooding and badass. Also, because Batman is human and mortal (yes, I know he is a fictional character), he represents the ultimate in human potential and ability to me, and is therefore the Ubermensch.

29th April: Carrying heavy bits of wood and construction materials up a forest trail is way harder than I thought it would be. Clearly I need to work out. Photo credits: Justine Vaz.

29th April: A fun group photo, courtesy of Justine's helpers.

9th April: Rewarding myself after the morning's forest school construction and trail cleaning. So very glad I found this place. Food that nourishes both the body and conscience at Sala KL -- you have to try it to believe it's not vegan! I had the Nasi Lemak and Chili Bowl, hot tea and a brownie . Service is incredible and I am made to feel very welcome. The ambience is lovely and food is just delicious and lovingly made and served. This happy herbivore will definitely be back very soon.

29th April: Received a gift of Star Wars adhesive bandages from my friend Mun Yee in Singapore.

30th April: Early birthday celebration for Nic. This is just the first of our 2-3 desserts -- Raindrop 'Cake'. Ordered this for the sake of novelty, but seriously guys, I make waaaaay better agar-agar and konyakku jelly. Raindrop cake -- not worth the hype.

30th April: Ice cream sandwiches with Nic to end April 2017 with a bang!