Month: January 2015

itsy bitsy teenie weenie bugs ate my tea

chocolate tea

chocolate tea labelled as non-GM, I notice

Here in the tropics you can find tiny bugs, the size of a pin prick, in dry goods that you keep for a while.  e.g. rice, lentils etc.  They get to work eating the food you bought.  They leave powder behind, which is one tell tale sign.  I guess there are all sorts of tiny bugs, depending on the product.

I didn’t think they would be in my German tea that I bought in Germany, and I was eking it out as I can’t normally buy it – but after a year I found they had eaten it too.

The solution appears to be to eat what you bought soon after purchase, or store it in the freezer until you are ready to eat. They can keep warm living inside rice etc. apparently, but won’t come out of the grain because it is too cold.

I have lost grains, nuts and now tea to these bugs, so now usually only buy what I will soon consume.

a strange sickness

On Saturday I came down with some kind of allergy. It’s a bit like hay fever, in that I had a slightly sore throat, slight fever, a slightly runny nose, some sneezing, general dopiness and a propensity to sleep quite a lot. The best way to cope is to stay quietly inside at home, and not do much – just reading, watching films, and sleeping. No medication.  I almost never take medicine, anyway. Mrs Tropicalexpat had something similar and it took about week to clear up.

I don’t know if anyone else had this. But it is strange. I have had no hay fever since I’ve been in Penang, and I lived in three different areas, including four years in my present location. I haven’t changed my diet recently, gone anywhere unusual, got any mosquito bites, or anything I can think of. So, why now?

Anyway, as of Tuesday I am feeling much better. But it’s a mystery to me.

 

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in January 2015

After a few days in mid-December with no rain, I thought the rainy period had come to an end.  But then rain resumed, so we’ve had three months of rain and cooler weather.

So all through Christmas it was cool, and thus more Christmassy than usual.

a  grey Christmas

a grey Christmas

The Great Flood of early October eventually killed off all the papaya but one – and the ants and mealy bugs are trying to finish off the last one.

only papaya left after the great flood - and happy plumbago underneath

only papaya left after the great flood – and happy plumbago underneath

mealy bugs

mealy bugs destroying a papaya tree

mealy bugs

mealy bugs

this grasshopper has been eating some of my plants

this grasshopper has been eating some of my plants

I have fought back by putting more papaya seeds into the soil. A few have germinated.

a tiny papaya grown from seed on location

a tiny papaya grown from seed on location – one on the left dying – after snail attack?

a slightly bigger papaya grown from seed on location

a slightly bigger papaya grown from seed on location

a slightly bigger papaya grown from seed on location

a slightly bigger papaya grown from seed on location

It rained almost every day until about the second week of January, when the rain became less and less frequent.  When it hasn’t rained we’ve had glorious sunny and reasonably mild days.  As of the middle of the month it hasn’t rained for a week, and I have had to use town water instead of collected rainwater on the plants for the first time in three months.

great weather

great weather

So, with all the rain the passion fruit, which had decided the fruiting season was over and had stopped producing, reevaluated the situation, started flowering again and produced more passion fruit.  A second crop. There are about 40 green full size passion fruit on the vines waiting to ripen, now.  As a result vines weren’t growing. And now in mid-January, the baby vines are starting to grow as the rainy period appears to be over.  Baby vines which have really done nothing for months are growing tendrils in order to grasp onto something higher and grow up.

one of many passion fruit flowers

one of many passion fruit flowers

one of many passion fruit flowers

one of many passion fruit flowers

some of many passion fruit

some of many passion fruit

Every day now for the last month I have been gradually pruning back the passion fruit vines, then drying the leaves in the sun, and putting the leaves on the garden.  This allows more sun and air in as the vines get thinned, and seems like a good idea.  According to web articles I have read, one should prune back one third – which is more or less what I am doing.  I just have to follow the vines first to ensure I am not pruning anything which has fruit on it. Once I have picked the fruit I can do that part of the vine.

passion fruit seedlings I grew from seed

passion fruit seedlings I grew from seed

passion fruit seedlings I grew from seed - two weeks later

passion fruit seedlings I grew from seed – two weeks later

passion fruit seedlings under attack - snails or grass hopper

passion fruit seedlings in middle of photo under attack – snails or grass hopper

a passion fruit plant I grew from seed last year - it's been dormant for months, but now has tendrils reaching out

a passion fruit plant I grew from seed last year – it’s been dormant for months, but now has tendrils reaching out

Strangely two mock oranges I have grown from seed are now very sick – they had spent some time with a smaller pot of mock orange that wasn’t well.  All the others are very healthy, so I don’t know what is happening.

dying mock orange - why, I don't know

dying mock orange – why, I don’t know

Mock Orange loved the rain and produced lots of fragrant flowers, but not so many seeds thereafter – and the birds come and eat many of them. From memory, around Christmas many mock orange seeds germinated and I could then collect tiny seedlings and repot them as they grew.  This year was cool and wet, and perhaps that’s why this hasn’t happened.

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

the mock orange loved the rain

lime tree - hardly any growth for four years - but a few tiny fruit at last

lime tree – hardly any growth for four years – but a few tiny fruit at last

mango tree across the road - with lots of ripening mangos

mango tree across the road – with lots of ripening mangos

mango tree across the road - in the middle is a squirrel eating a mango

mango tree across the road – in the middle is a squirrel eating a mango

Mostly squirrels are leaving my passion fruit alone, as eating mangos, with their relatively thin skin is easier, I suppose.  But still the passion fruit are attacked sometimes. I always pick the ones that have just started to turn purple, to try to beat the squirrels, but they can tell which are ripe inside better than I can.

squirrel on the roof - it had just attacked one of my passion fruit and I scared it away

squirrel on the roof – it had just attacked one of my passion fruit and I scared it away

blue pea plant grwing well as usual

blue pea flower plant growing well as usual

cana lily

Cana Lily

Pumpkin vines have still been producing tiny pumpkins that just then rot – unless I pick them first and eat them – steamed and then with butter.  However, I notice one pumpkin that is growing towards adult size.  Other baby vines are starting to grow some more and spread.

pumpkin vines are growing

pumpkin vines are growing

the one pumkin so far growing towards full size

the one pumpkin so far growing towards full size

Now I have to use town water again for the plants, as I have used up the rain water supply.

my favourite accessory at the moment - RM5 from Daiso - and it works great

my favourite accessory at the moment – RM5 from Daiso – and it works great

I have put some more passion fruit and mung bean seeds into this pot. Let’s see if they germinate this time.

passion fruit and mung bean seeds, sown mid January

passion fruit and mung bean seeds, sown mid January

And just for fun I am growing a couple of papaya in pots at the moment.  I don’t know what I will do with them when bigger.

a couple of potted papaya

a couple of baby potted papaya

Aargh – chasing the squirrel away from my passion fruit again.

super-squirrel

super-squirrel

And the lovely weather continues.  This is normally the sunniest and hottest time of year.

lovely weather

lovely weather one morning at the Penang Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gurney View Hotel

On Gurney Drive what used to be a pub called “Overtime” is now a budget hotel called Gurney View Inn. And apt description if you are at the front of the hotel. It’s next to Coffee Island, and thus sort of the middle of Gurney Drive.

Hotel Gurney View

Gurney View Inn

They have no brochure, and say you can book on Agoda if you wish. Rooms with tax, they said, are RM105.  As long as you have no desire to swing cats in your room, and use the room only for sleeping, it could suffice.  It’s all new, and clean, and the staff I met were friendly.  I saw two rooms – a twin and a double. Here are a few photos.

2015-01-15 18.30.18 (Copy)

twin room

twin room

twin room

twin room

double room

double room

double room

double room

view from corridor

view from corridor

front has some parking

front has some parking

 

 

 

 

Three years, 600 blogs – and what have I got? Lots of statistics…

In the three years this month that I have been blogging, I have written just over 600 blogs.  And in the last few days I published a few incomplete drafts that may have been of interest, and deleted a great many more. Now my Drafts folder is gloriously empty.

Last year I read:

http://remarkabletravels.com/2014/09/04/what-ive-learnt-in-5-years-of-blogging/

and I figure it’s about time I got around to this topic myself.

The aim of the blog largely was to write about topics to make it easier for others living in Penang / Malaysia, or those travelling here.  With blogs of other travels I do thrown in.

If other bloggers have covered a topic and I have nothing unique to say, then I don’t bother to write anything, as there is no point.  A great many bloggers in Penang write solely on food, so I don’t so much.

The most popular posts I have written are on travelling to or visiting Langkawi, of which I have written several, the most viewed being  this.    Next are blogs on train travel in Malaysia, for example.  Other top posts are on learning to drive in Penang, and on the cost of living in Penang. And a blog on a restaurant I visited a couple of years ago in Queensbay Mall.  The restaurant is still there, is hopefully still good, but I haven’t eaten there in a while.

The Perhentian Islands are my favourite destination here, but not so many people want to read my blogs about them.

I attempt to update some blogs where I think this is important, and put a link in the old blog, but nevertheless the  old blogs still seem more popular.

Most viewers by far are from Malaysia, with the second place varying widely depending on the day, but more or less tied between the US, Australia and Singapore, with the UK in fifth place, and from 159 countries in total. But let’s just say that in Mali and Rwanda, inter-alia, I keep a very low profile. Only one view each.

I mostly don’t write anything controversial, so almost no one writes any nasty comments.  However, the automatic filter does a good job at keeping out the automatically generated replies. They are usually along the lines of how wonderful I write, and that perhaps I would like to visit their online portal selling whatever…

The most popular searches are for the aforementioned restaurant, for another nearby restaurant, for train trips and for other transport in Malaysia.

The average number of views per day is about 350 at the moment, the highest ever being 879 one day.  And all time views as I write is 225,000.

unfinished blogs – no. 17 – The best of Peninsular Malaysia in one trip

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

I really should finish this particular blog sometime.

October 22nd, 2014

——————-

Include round Malaysia trip last October, plus KL, Pankor Is, Penang, Langkawi, Perhentian

It’s easy enough to do a circle of Malaysia by car, but if you don’t go out to some islands you miss the best parts, which means you will have to either access the ports by public transportation, leave your rental car unused for your time on the island or in some cases fly there.

If you take your own car, then you have to return to it – you can’t leave it and catch a train further, without returning to pick up your car.  So mixed mode is difficult.

Mixed mode: KUL – LGW- PEN by plane, car via Kuala Besar & to Perhentian, other islands? http://www.pulaidesaru.com/ – s-e nr Singapore

By car

By train

By plane

 

unfinished blogs – no. 16 – Planning travel in Africa – Part II

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

March 3rd, 2014

This trip has fallen through  – it was supposed to be in September 2014.

————————————————–

PART I

Apart from North Africa, I haven’t seen any of the continent.  But it’s not easy, or so safe, so I started to work out some parameters on where I would consider visiting. Parameters such as : diseases, location, crime, safety, visa cost, railway travel possibility, flight availability.

Firstly I decided to eliminate any country with a Yellow Fever risk. Actually, that eliminates a vast swathe of Africa.  In north Africa that leaves basically Morocco, as I have visited Egypt and Tunisia.  And in southern Africa, Madagascar, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique.

Next, I looked at the homicide statistics:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

The statistics show everywhere is so dangerous, one should stay at home.  The UK, Australia, and most of Western Europe are about 1 person per 100,000 of population. Malaysia is 2.3, Thailand 4.8.  But South Africa 31.8! Zimbabwe 14.3.  Morocco is 1.4, so about the safest of the lot.

OK, so I can’t use this statistic and still travel.  As for road accident deaths:

Namibia is the worst in the world.  53.4 deaths per 100,000 of population. UK is 4.8, Australia is 6.8: Malaysia at 34.5 is pretty bad. Morocco is 19.3.
So, as far as possible travel by train or first world airline, but I still have the same list of countries.
Then I read the Lonely Planet guide, Seat 61, Wikitravel and Trip Advisor, with a view to crime against tourists in each country.  It seems muggings and robbery are common in most, with walking in daytime dangerous in some, even.  The police in Mozambique are depicted as thugs in uniforms, and an extra danger, on top of the muggers and robbers.  This leads me to eliminate Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland.  Johannesburg can’t be eliminated as it is the travel hub I’ll have to use, but one must be very careful.
Madagascar is not so easy for me to get to, and Botswana would take up too much time, so they are off the list, due to location.

Now, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe are the only countries left in the south, and Morocco in the north.  This looks like two separate trips, so I will leave Morocco out of the planning for now.

In these three countries one can do some, but not all, travel by train.  Flights on first world airlines are also available. Many of the eliminated countries charge outrageously for visas, but they are free except for Zimbabwe in the remaining ones.

So, that deals with my parameters, and eliminates as many of the risks as I could.

Next I have to decide how to get there from Malaysia, what to see, and then what route to take.  This will depend in part on where trains run. I will use the aforementioned guide and sites initially.

PART II

So, I have to decide how to get there from Malaysia, what to see, and then what route to take.

These are airlines I can use that fly to Africa:

AF.-AIR FRANCE
SA.-SOUTH AFRICAN A W
BA.-BRITISH AIRWAYS
TK.-TURKISH AIRLINES
KL.-ROYAL DUTCH AIR
EK.-EMIRATES
CX.-CATHAY PACIFIC
UL.-SRILANKAN AIR
RJ.-ROYAL JORDANIAN
AB.-AIR BERLIN
QR.-QATAR AIRWAYS

I will choose later, but initially CX PEN – HKG – JNB seems easiest from Penang.

What my friend and I want to do is the following: catch some trains, see some wildlife in the wild, do some walks, see some wineries, and see some of the South African Coast – particularly Cape Town.

Before I meet my friend, I am thinking of a side trip to Namibia, where I would fly into Windhoek, and then catch the night train down to Swakopmund, a German beach town.  Then catch the train back to Windhoek.  Then either fly from Windhoek back to JNB and on to Victoria Falls, or catch the bus to Victoria falls.  The (dis)advantage of the latter is that one passes though Zambia, so can see Victoria Falls from that side too, but then one officially requires a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate – which is not often checked on entering South Africa, but it could be.

So, the current plan is to meet up in Victoria Falls, and after a couple of days there, go to Huange National Park for some wildlife viewing.  Then catch the train to Bulawayo, where there is a nice train museum, I read.  From Bulawayo catch the bus, or bus and train, down to Jo’burg.  Then the night train down to Capetown, where we see the wineries and explore some of the coast.

This seems reasonable so far, so next is to find out the finer details.