Month: June 2012

Sunrises and sunsets of 2012

I love the sun.  I have always tried to spend time in the sun.  And fortunately I haven’t ever been very diligent in applying sunscreen, which we now know is largely the cause of the melanomas, skin cancer and other problems.  I have mostly been sensible and not got burnt too often, although over the years it sometimes has happened. We also now know that the sun, and the Vitamin D it provides, gives so many health benefits – which sunscreens filter out, of course.  I basically really didn’t believe all the propaganda against the sun because I just felt the sun was good. Look at Natural News  and Mercola for many articles on the health benefits of the sun.

And I love the beauty of sunrises and sunsets.  Every day, if i can, I try to catch both.  Here are a few of the photos I have taken over the period from the winter solstice 2011 to the summer solstice 2012.

Firstly, this sunrise is taken just after the winter solstice, at Gurney Drive,  Penang, in the direction of George Town…

Gurney Drive Penang

Oops – missed the equinox. This is sunrise looking east from Kuala Besut on the Malaysian east coast…

Kuala Besut sunrise

Then a sunset from Perhentian Island, off the east coast of Malaysia…

Perhentian sunset

And you can just walk across the island from where the sun sets to see the sunrise…

Perhentian sunrise

And now let’s jump continents to Australia – where I saw many great sunrises and sunsets. Firstly, Margaret River, Western Australia…

Margaret River sunset

Next, a couple of thousand kilometers north, a sunset in Broome, taken from the plane just before landing…

Broome sunset

Then, still in Broome, a couple of sunset photos taken from Cable Beach…

Cable Beach sunset, Broome

And with camels…

camels returning home

And finally, before leaving Broome, a sunrise – but from the west side of the peninsula…

sunrise at Cable Beach, Broome

And now a few thousand kilometres away –  to Adelaide, and a sunset…

Adelaide sunset

I only caught this by accident – I was travelling from the city to the suburbs in an older train carriage that had no electronic display showing the next station – so I missed my station, and had to alight at the next one and return. As a result the timing was perfect to catch this scene. But now over to Victoria, heading in the direction of Melbourne from the west, and a sunrise…

KFC sunrise

The same sunrise with the Colonel…

KFC sunrise

From deep in the south of Victoria comes this next sunset…

Lakes Entrance, Victoria, sunset

And now much further north, in south N.S.W, and a sunset…

Merimbula sunset

And a little further north, a sunrise in Narooma, N.S.W…

Narooma sunrise

But I was pretty cold while on the beach taking a lot of sunrise photos.   And now a sunset in Sydney, overlooking Middle Harbour…

sunset in Sydney

Now, back in Penang, Malaysia, the sunset the evening before the summer solstice…

just before summer solstice, Penang

The morning of the solstice was very hazy, and this was the best I could get…

solstice sunrise, Penang

and sunset on the evening of the solstice…

summer solstice sunset

Penang Free WiFi

This blog now has an update here. Please read this for more and newer information.


About a month and a half ago – when I was away, so I didn’t notice – Phase 2 of Penang Free WiFi was launched.

Penang Free WiFi.

Soon after I returned I discovered it at Song River – where the signal was too weak to be useful.

At Bali Hai you get a very good signal, however.  It has also worked well at Bukit Jambul Mall (specifically in the White Coffee coffee shop) and at Queensbay Mall (specifically at the Queens hawker centre on the third floor).

A list of locations is available from the provider, here.  There are reportedly 1,550 free hotspots.

To use it it seems you must register – and if you value your privacy the form is very invasive – but there is nothing to stop you from inputting anything you want for many of the questions – the form doesn’t appear to use the Internet to confirm anything.

A stumbling block is that you need to input an IC number.  This is Malaysia’s ubiquitous Identity Card (called an IC or Mykad).  You probably don’t have one, and don’t want one. Where I come from, there is no ID card. It’s up to government to identify itself to us, not the other way around.  If you don’t input one you can’t seem to register.  If you are interested in the IC format check this article.

Unfortunately your passport number will not work.

So the Penang State government really has to decide whether it wants non-Malaysian residents and visitors to have access or not to this free service, and act accordingly.


Steps to access Penang Free WiFi:

Turn on WiFi on your device – (you use a lot more battery power if you just keep WiFi on)

Look at what hotspots your device finds

When you see Penang Free WiFi, connect to that

Start your browser, and the registration / logon page comes up

Once you have a logon, you can just log on – but at first you need to fill out a registration form, as detailed above.

So, from the second use, it is quite simple to connect.

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – some encouraging results

Although this is a tough hobby, sometimes something works.

This week I harvested quite a few chillies.

chilli plant

These chillies are hot within 24 hours of picking, and mild thereafter.

I had some on my home-made pizza

And this morning I noticed that the cape gooseberry had produced some fruit.  I had thought that after all these months of flowering, and then the flowers dropping, that this season they were just establishing themselves.

a cape gooseberry plant

But there are several fruit growing

a baby fruit pod

And there is even one passion fruit that is starting to ripen – I can’t wait to try that.  It just dropped off in my hand yesterday.

my first passion fruit

Interestingly, the mung beans, which I have companion planted with passion fruit, and which have always germinated a day or two after sowing the seeds, are suddenly not germinating.  I wonder if they know that now birds are eating them once they have fruited and have beans in pods, so they have decided simply not to grow in this spot.  Up until now they have been most reliable.  But netting has not stopped the birds getting at the pods.

A blue pea flower is growing locally, and being a legume, would also companion plant well with passion fruit. And it’s quite fast growing and pretty.  So I have started to grow this one with them. You dry the flower and cook with food (e.g. blue rice) to colour it blue. Or it can be used to make tea. The Thais apparently use it to make juice.  I am wondering if I can use it in a cocktail instead of Blue Curacao.

And right now the plumbago is very happy.


Right now the plumbago is not being attacked by bugs, and having no trouble with the weather.

happy plumbago

Those hazy, hazy, hazy days of summer – in Penang

2013 update

I was up early to watch dawn on the summer solstice. Fat chance.  There was an impenetrable haze.

looking towards Gurney drive, Tanjung Tokong and Straits Quays

The rainy season seemed to end on Saturday June 9th, and then Sunday 10th was a beautiful, clear, sunny day.  From Monday the haze appeared, and it has been hazy ever since. It feels like the haze began earlier this year than in previous years, and seems also to be more persistent, and worse.

Government readings  show the Air Pollution Index has hit unhealthy levels in some areas. In previous years I never noticed it affecting my health, but for the past few days I have been coughing, and worse.

“Haze caused by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia blanketed parts of Malaysia including the capital Saturday, causing air pollution to hit unhealthy levels.

Haze is an annual problem during the monsoon season from May to September as winds blow the fumes from Sumatra across the Malacca Strait to Malaysia.” Source, Inquirer News

This is what we have been told, generally – it’s Indonesian farmers causing the problem, year after year.

“Indonesia’s government has outlawed land-clearing by fire but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.” ibid.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department attributes blame for haze in general to many factors, such as the weather conditions during these months, but does say, “Firstly, we should refrain from open burning of waste. Most incidences of local haze can be traced to this activity.” MOSTI  So, this department is more circumspect. Is it really largely the fault of Indonesian farmers?

Today’s print edition of the Sun (the online version does not correlate closely with print edition) says that 150,000 masks have been distributed to schools, and that the state of Penang was moving its outdoor activities indoors for this week.  Band-Aids, not a solution.

As this happens year after year, one would think the causes would be well-known, and action would have been taken by now to solve the problem.  But the state officials are merely urging the Federal government to find a solution.

I would have thought that civil legal action could be taken by the Federal and State governments of Malaysia in Indonesia, or some other venue, against the individuals who are causing the problem, obviously choosing one or more large landowners to start with.  I suppose Indonesia does not have the common law, which would be straightforward, but still, harming people’s health must be unlawful. Should the case be won, other large-scale landowners would have to desist. If indeed it is the Indonesian farmers’ fault.  There seems little point targetting governments or corporations as they have unlimited funds to fight; and anyway, it is always individuals that make decisions within those institutions, so individuals should bear the responsibility. I am not happy that individuals somewhere are deliberately making me sick.

This season is the best of the year for tropical fruit – durian, mangosteen, rambutans, dragon fruit etc. so it would be a  pity, not to mention inconvenient to leave the country for these months.

Eventually the sun was strong enough to appear through the haze this morning.

summer solstice – not quite dawn, but at least the sun appeared


The morning was very windy, and some of the haze was blown away, so around lunch it was quite a bit clearer. But not really clear.

Again looking towards Straits Quays, after lunch

Finally, sunset on the summer solstice.

summer solstice sunset

Segafredo Gurney Plaza revisited

Segafredo, a coffee shop, has moved from its location between Gurney Plaza and G Hotel, to the other (Kelawei Road) side of Gurney Plaza, on the ground floor to the right of the entrance as you enter Gurney Plaza.

The Kelawei Road side of Gurney Plaza

It is certainly far quieter a location – for the customer and for their business. The information boards at Gurney Plaza now make no mention at all of Segafredo, and my phone’s GPS led to the old location. On the web, Facebook, however, shows the correct location.

Segafredo outside

Segafredo’s interior is all sparkling and new.  Indeed, you can also sit outside, and it’s comfortable outside once the sun has set and it is cooler.


Against the side wall are some armchairs where you can relax.  Next to each set is a power point, and Segafredo provides free WiFi, so you have all you need if you also wish to spend hours with your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

armchairs – power points against wall

There is a wine cool room you can see at the back of the photo above, but I regret I didn’t get around to investigating it.  Next time.

part of the coffee and drinks menu

Presumably to increase business, make the shop look busier, and to create customer loyalty, Segafredo had a deal with Groupon on Tiger beer and Guinness, and this was why we were here.  Many of the patrons that night were also there for the same reason.


Indeed, it was the best Guinness I have had in Malaysia.  Thus, I didn’t have the coffee, although in the past it has been good.


We did eat a little, however.  Fish and chips; and sea bass.

one page of the food menu

The volume of food was not so great, but the quality was, and it tasted good. The food menu is not particularly extensive, either, but then, it is a coffee shop, after all.

So, overall we were pretty happy. The staff were friendly and helpful, the decor modern and new, the Guinness and food good, and we comfortably spent a few hours.  And by oneself with WiFi and power, you are all set, too.


GPS: 5.4363995335833, 100.30902493914

Gurney Plaza, Kelawei Road Entrance, ground floor.

Free WiFi

A nice daytrip from Penang – Kulim Canopy Walk and Penang Bird Park

On a sunny day, this is a pleasant day trip.  Pack a picnic lunch, or BBQ if you are ambitious, swimming costume, towels water, hats etc. You don’t need hiking boots, as flip flops will do – although shoes would be better. No liability accepted etc. etc.

The general idea is to visit the recreation area and take the canopy walk, then optionally swim (?) or splash around in the nearby river, and after picnic next to the river.  Later, head back into Penang State and visit the Bird Park in Butterworth.  It’s a short drive back across the bridge to the island, thereafter.

And check the site for current information: Tree Top walk. There are plenty of sites with information, so I won’t bother repeating it.  And besides, I was there twice in 2010, so my information could be a little out of date. Another site about tree top walk.  And check the route, too – I don’t entirely trust this map.

Another site gives the coordinates of Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest as 5°24′49″N 100°46′49″E


And check the latest on the bird park, while you are about it.

Kedah map

In light traffic it takes about an hour and a half to two hours to reach to the canopy walk. Park near the river where you’d like to picnic later.  There are toilets, and you can change into or from a swimming costume when you wish.  Then walk through the arch and up the road for a few minutes to the actual entrance, where you pay the admission fee.

entrance arch

You can see a map of the walk.

canopy walk diagram

Just don’t get shot.

A few photos of the walk


a river runs by

the forest you are walking through

quite high

If you are lucky you might spot hornbills

sometimes you see wild hornbills

one of a pair of hornbills

After doing the canopy walk you can return to the car park, and then swim in the river.

the river near the car park

Well, soak, or play in the river would be more accurate.

it’s quite shallow, but quite a strong current in places

butterflies on the rocks near the river

a lot of butterflies

After your swim, a picnic by the river is nice.

Then drive back to Butterworth for the Bird park. Check what time the shows are so you can see one if you are interested.

bird show

Bird Park (Penang) Sdn. Bhd. Jalan Todak, Seberang Jaya, 13700 Perai, Penang, Malaysia.

Tel : 604-399 1899 Fax : 604-3991899

Little Cottage Café 2 – an Austrian enclave in Penang?

corner Gottlieb and Utama

When you approach the Little Cottage Café 2, when you enter it, and if you sit near the window with a view of the hills, you feel just like you are in Austria, or possibly Switzerland.  It’s very pleasant.

Little Cottage


Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here.

Lunch set menu

The bread roll was warm (microwaved? – I hate microwaves) and soggy, but when chewed it compressed and was hard to digest.  The soup was celery, and improved with the addition of the butter I would have spread on the roll, had I eaten more of it.

the soup and roll – two of the five courses

We ordered the lamb shoulder

lamb shoulder

and Monte-Cristo Chicken

Monte-Cristo Chicken

The main dishes comprised the third of the five courses.  They were OK – edible, but not special.

“courses” four and five

The dessert, mango jelly, one assumes, was made  – well let’s just say no mangos were harmed in the making thereof.  And the coffee was drinkable, but disappointing.

The waiter who showed us to the table was very polite and friendly, but the rest of the service was about usual for Malaysia.

I realise this is not exactly a glowing review, and I prefer not to be negative.  I have also read good reviews of the café.  However, I must be honest, or what is the point?

But despite all this, I enjoyed the atmosphere so much I will actually return – perhaps for a glass of wine or a drink.

31 Jalan Gottlieb, 10450 Penang, Malaysia (Corner of Jalan Gottlieb and Jalan Utama).
604-228 1128
11.00am-3.00pm, 6.00pm-10.00pm
GPS: 5.430484, 100.299531 (copied from another site, so I cannot confirm)

Parking – in the service road or outside the hotel – but can be limited.