Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awesome BONSAI

Amidst the profusion of colours at the Floria 2010, Putrajaya, the bonsai was another show stealer. The exhibits caught my attention though the dominant colour of bonsai is green, as we know it.

Up close with the exhibits, it is not difficult to see why bonsai lovers put patience and artistry into this art of tray cultivation (literal Japanese translation).

The many visits to the nurseries have not lured me to cultivate bonsai . Somehow, the appeal of the painstaking cultivation is lost on garden enthusiasts, like myself. Many nurseries do not have the luxury of exhibiting their bonsai in a 'perfect' setting - for viewers to appreciate its beauty unmarred.

This time round, it certainly was more than a cursory look. I enjoyed the exhibits which were placed at eye-level. I could just imagine myself being Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians looking at the small trees which in normal conditions grow big. I also noticed someone on duty keeping a good eye on the precious and expensive exhibits.

I wouldn't have guessed my hubby was swayed by the beauty of the bonsai . Our last stop was at a stall selling bonsai plants and the paraphernalia that go with the art for hobbyists. He bought himself a tiny one in a polybag to try his hands. That is a small step into the immense world of bonsai ! I guess fingers will have to get busy to train the young juniper plant to a desired shape with plenty of tlc too!

The asam jawa bonsai

The tree, the pot as one unit harmonizing

The ixora red bonsai

For some peace and quiet?

Majestically gnarled

Two tones to the twisted trunk

Ready to wire up??

Set me free!

Essential tool - to trim and prune to keep the plant a miniature

Your choice - size and shape to suit the plant

Which sage to choose from?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fancy Fauna - Putrajaya

Nature's beauty was on display at the recent Floria 2010 themed Tropical Splendour at Putrajaya.The media and word of mouth succeeded in getting the crowds there. My brother-in- law, a professional photographer and publisher called me knowing my affinity for flowers.' Don't miss it,' was his caring gesture on the phone. I caught the tail end of the spectacular exhibits. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile trip to this event, the third so far.

The day started gloomy but as soon as the sun shone, the beauty of the flowers glowed gloriously. Tropical Malaysia has so much to offer to the world. The cameras, humble to the sophisticated clicked like crazy. Such great memories to take home long after the flowers have faded.

So much attracted me. Yes, 400,000 flowers in the floral and garden exhibits thrilled my senses. Besides, 10 international designers from far flung Serbia, New Zealand, UK, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Indonesia made their presence felt.The theme flower was the Heliconia. It was such an amazing display. For now, zoom in with me on the Fauna Adventure - flowers celebrating our fauna.

Swinging happy - free to roam and eat of the fruits of the jungle.

Bird of heliconia pride! A head -turner of hours of labour to dress him.

Monitor lizard in the lush vegetation juxtaposed among raffelsias.

Bees and butterflies flit and colour our landscape

Ladybird, ladybird/Fly away home/Your house is on fire/Your children are flown
- a child's nursery rhyme of our humble ladybird - a gardener's friend

Someday my prince will come! The handsomest I've ever seen.

She swims the seas and comes ashore to lay her eggs. But humans want them for a hearty meal. So her days are numbered. So great is our loss.

Raffelsia in full bloom. Note how the texture comes alive - thousands of rose petals intricately overlapped and pinned down individually.

The sun bear, the smallest in the bear family. Who treads stealthily to steal your fur, bile or cage you as a pet?

Roosting hornbill - note the prominent casque on top of the upper mandible.

The elegant crane

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brekkie with Friends

You know certain things connect you to a place /thing when there's a special request. That was the case when our guests from Australia came visiting en route from their European holiday. Having spent a good number of years in the Far East, it was time to retire and settle in Melbourne.

We had a late breekie at Raju's. Few locals will not know of this place. In fact, it is synonymous with a banana leaf meal 'al fresco.

Sit yourself under spready trees and canopies. Enjoy the open air. Watch the world pass by - morning joggers dying for that meal, happy hordes of school children laughing and chatting , office workers meeting for a quick catch up, family members having family moments and happily tucking in with their fingers to lick it all up! Just beyond the fence, in the wide open field of La Salle school, activities of the Boy Scouts etc make up the scenario as one indulges in a banana leaf meal.

The waiters were at the ready, almost! Eagerly we waited for the banana leaf to be placed - that signals the start of a meal. That morning, we wanted a straightforward thosai/ roti canai with sambar and chutney. Too much eating had taken place over the past few days. That morning all we wanted was some no frills food.

Smartly-attired to serve customers

G. enjoyed the thosai and specially wanted 'roti telur'. It's hard to forget those days in Brunei where the stalls beckon and the food is delicious, if you know where to go. With the food, we ordered our drinks - teh halia , teh tarik and limau - all 'kurang manis'. That important request to keep it almost sugarless!

I was too busy stuffing myself and didn't get round to clicking any pictures of thosai. As for thosai (many variations of spelling - dhosai, tosai ) it is a thin pancake made of rice and gram dhall which has been lightly fermented. Raju's is a South Indian outlet and thosai is definitely it. We were served dhall and coconut sambar as accompaniments. The four of us were pretty adept with our fingers tackling the thosai and roti canai. For the second round, we ordered paper thosai - extra thin . It came rolled like a important document! I would have loved to see it sitting high like a tent on a the plate, as some outlets do.

Well, G and M, Ravi and I wish you happy days in Melbourne. AirAsia has shrunk the fares for us to visit you and vice versa!

Flattening the balls of dough

Flip flops with dough and you get roti canai! I was asked to click the 'swing' of the roti canai.

Hot off the griddle

Help yourselves !Food comes in stainless steel containers

Wash your food down - with teh tarik/ teh halia

Hey! where are the pyjamas for this banana??

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homeward Bound

It was time to fly home. It is an inborn instinct to make the hazardous journey and follow their instincts and fly the path they know so well.

Yearly, many nature enthusiasts gather at the Tanjung Tuan Reserve, Melaka to look skyward as the migratory raptors (birds of prey) fly over this rest spot. They soar on the thermals to save on energy. Up, up and away to cries of oohhs and aahhs. The people down below 'inspect' them on their binoculars. Others shade off the sun's rays and scan the sky. Somewhere in the crowd are the bird counters. They keep a tally of the visitors and give us the grand total of our feathered friends. Facts and figures are important markers of conservation.

Welcome to our VIP visitors

My husband, daughter and I made this special trip to be at the 11th annual Raptors Watch (13 -15 March) jointly organised by the Malaysian Nature Soc (MNS) and the Malacca state government. Kudos to them for this eco event which is proving to be an event much awaited in raising awareness on the conservation of raptors and their habitats and at the same time encouraging nature -linked activities around Tanjung Tuan Reserve.

The importance of Tanjung Tuan cannot be overstated as the headland is the closest landmass to Indonesia and Sumatra. Tanjung Tuan is ideally situated for the birds to have a stop over for rest and food before flying off north to their breeding grounds in temperate Asia.

We timed ourselves to be in there around 10 am as the best time to watch the raptors is between 11am to 3 pm. Not only were the birds there to wow us but an old friend, affectionately called Uncle Foo who taught me the ropes of birding was also there. Not forgetting, Ee Lynn, who was the livewire emcee . Imagine, having the honour to shout ( yes, shout !) out the arrival of the raptors.

Other booths like the Perhilitan Melaka kept us engrossed . Again, the conservation message rings clear - vote in the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to replace the outdated Wildlife Protection Act 1972 for stiffer penalties to be enforced for poaching and wildlife crimes.

The spring raptor migration begins in mid February and lasts till April. So, come second week in March 2011, keep my fingers crossed, I'll be at Tanjung Tuan to see the birds homeward bound.

One of the' darlings' that visit us - Crested Honey Buzzard. Picture courtesy of Laurence Poh.
Other raptors include the brahminy kite, black baza, white -bellied sea-eagle, and more.

Celebrating birds on tee shirts

Take your pick - oriole, mynah, bulbul, sparrow

Let your spirit soar too!

There's a place in my heart for the birds

I bought a booklet on garden birds and am all the wiser knowing them now!

Volunteers with eager youths after the nature walk.

RAP it up! Birds rulz! We're backing you all the way!

Limbo low - it was also fun time. Good thing the birds don't fly so low as they are safer on higher ground !

Our beloved tapir - still going strong .

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Those tin - rich mining days

I call it the 'big ship'. We stepped on and walked around this ' ship' at Tanjung Tualang. Interest was already aroused when we saw the dredge buckets at the Clearwater Sanctuary Resort where we stayed overnight to celebrate Father's Day. In fact, it has been nearly 20 years ago when a friend in the mining industry conducted a tour on a working dredge at Batang Berjuntai, Selangor. Only this time round, the dredge at Tanjung Tualang is just a tourist attraction and sadly, it is not in its prime condition anymore.

The tin mining industry was once a major contributor to the Malaysian economy. In the heyday of tin-mining in the mid 19th century, the state of Perak was one of the most active areas. Towns like Ipoh, Gopeng, Kampar and Batu Gajah have a rich history of tin -mining. Rich, extensive alluvial tin were found in these Kinta Valley towns and Larut. Coupled with spectacular demand from the industrialized countries and the arrival of indentured labour from China, the tin industry rapidly expanded to become the largest in the world.

As tin -mining industry developed, it was not without fierce local rivalries. There was much disorder among secret societies and other rival groups. Soon, it was clear that British intervention was necessary to settle matters for tin mining to prosper -roads , railways and ports were opened to facilitate the supply of tin to growing demands from the outside world.

The tin mining industry collapsed due to a variety of reasons viz. falling in tin prices, rising cost of production, substitutes like aluminium, plastic etc for tin, high taxes etc.

Eye-catching structure at the main entrance of the Clearwater Sanctuary Resort, Batu Gajah. The Resort is one example of former mining pools turned into recreational places.

A bucket dredge is essentially a chain of expensive buckets costing sterling pounds 100 in the 1920s. The buckets go up one ladder and down another. The lip of the bucket cuts into the ground as it begins its upward journey and carries a chunk of the ore-bearing ground up to the dredge, dropping it out into the works, as it turns over at the top of the ladder to begin the downward journey.

The dredge is usually floated in a paddock or an artifcial pool when it begins work. Then the dredge cuts away one wall of the pool and dumps the waste sand against the opposite wall. so that the pool and the dredge floating on it advance together. The bucket dredge works best in swampy land. source : Kinta Valley/ Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Technology by Khoo Salma Nasution& Abdur-Razaaq Lubis

Tribute to the glorious past

'Big ship' afloating in Tanjung Tualang

The 4,500 tonne giant, Dredge No.5 of Southern Malayan Tin Dredging, designed by Payne & Co., was built in 1938. It ceased operation in 1982. TT5 is at Chenderong near Tanjung Tualang.

Signs of the times - the dredge is listing and the pontoons need repairing- can this industrial heritage be saved?

Model of a tin-mining site

Book -keeping by Chinese labour

Weight in gold ... oops! sorry in tin!

Safety always

Those days of dulang washing - hard working woman miners

This is one method strongly associated with women miners. They swirl the tin-bearing ground with some water in their dulang to concentrate the ore which is then tipped into a pail.

The Chinese women wore long- sleeved samfus and trousers of black or indigo blue. On their heads they wore wide-brimmed hats. Under these they wore a triangular scarf, using another scarf to cover the back of their necks.The hats had a tassle on either side , the colour of which indicated if the wearer were married or still a maiden : source Kinta Valley/Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development

Different methods of tin -mining in Malaysia - dredging, gravel pump, open cast, dulang

Gravel pump method involves spraying high -pressure jets of water on rocks containing tin-ore and breaking them up. The tin- mining material is then washed down a depression called a sump. A pump brings the material up a palong, a gently sloping wooden structure which separates tin from other materials. Wooden bars known as riffles across the palong trap the heavier tin ore, leaving the rest of the materials to be dumped as tailings.

Tin ore