Month: October 2015

Here comes the sun

no haze

no haze

For about five days now we seem to be haze free in Penang.  On Tuesday the air pollution index was 57, from memory, when I checked, and currently (Saturday 31st) it is 43.  When it was bad it was above 170 here – and possibly a lot worse.

I can breathe outside without feeling funny, I can exercise again, and birds have returned to the garden. But perhaps the mosquitoes will also return.  I have found that ants usually avoid where I put rubber bands, but less so during the haze.  Perhaps, like the mosquitoes, the haze disrupted their sense of smell.

Now the daily pattern is to be a bit cloudy in the early morning, turning sunny during the day, with a late rain shower or thunderstorm.  But yesterday evening, and possibly this evening too, the storm and rain might pass us by.  I could hear thunder and see the dark skies and lightning, but now the sky is lighter.  A pity, as then I will have to water the garden tomorrow.

We all hope that the haze is over for the year, and measures will be taken so it doesn’t return next year or thereafter.




10 minutes later a huge electrical storm hit.  Heavy rain and a lightning strike nearby.  The Internet went off for a few minutes.  I shut down and disconnected a few electrical devices.


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

October is supposed to be the wettest month of the year. So it hasn’t rained for three days.  As the haze on some days resembles the surreal landscape of the aftermath of a nuclear war, the rain is missed as it does clear the air somewhat, washes the haze off the plants’ foliage, and saves me the trouble of watering.  Anyway, rain is rarely an imposition as it normally rains for a no more than an hour or two per day.

The haze is making some plants sick, but not all.  It seems to be suppressing mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes detect us apparently by detecting the CO2 we breath out.  But with the haze they can’t easily detect it perhaps. On the other hand, I am coughing a bit now. Breathing outside smells poisonous. And I noticed that within a minute or two of heading off in the car from home, despite closed car windows and running air-con, my eyes had become itchy.

This morning at 7AM I looked out the window at the landscape and thought it just looked too poisonous to exercise.  I went back to bed.  Perhaps I will give up exercise entirely until the air is clean again.

haze one morning

haze one morning

repotted canna lilies into two pots

repotted canna lilies into two pots a fortnight ago – now I miss the blooms, but hopefully I will end up with two pots of blooming canna lilies

a couple of canna lilies starting to come up

a couple of canna lilies starting to come up after my repotting


caterpillar on lime tree – I left it alone so we’d get a butterfly


the same lime tree – the caterpillar ate all the nice new leaves – then got eaten itself by a bird, I suppose.  Next time I won’t keep the caterpillar as now I must wait for a while for new growth

happy lime tree

a happy lime tree – no caterpillars

beans growing

beans growing


pumpkins – they came up in the compost and I moved them to this garden.  They been there a week and seem happy and are growing.

aloe have created new babies

aloe have created new babies


tomato plant grew big – but no more tomatoes


tomato plant grew big – but no more tomatoes

passion fruit

passion fruit

passion fruit

passion fruit



sick mock orange

sick mock orange – I had kept it in the corner of death – other plants had died there but I thought this one would be fine – then suddenly it wasn’t

mock orange

mock orange


papaya getting bigger

many are flowering

many papaya are flowering

blue pea flower

blue pea flower always survives

oldest papaya

oldest papaya – the only survivor of the great flood of last October.  After one year it is finally starting to grow again


duranta is happy


Bougainvillea is not so happy with the haze

aloe vera

aloe vera is doing well

lemon grass

lemon grass is doing well

That’s it for this month.  We’re hoping the rains will come and the haze will clear. It would be nice to see blue sky again.

And now we have a thunderstorm, just before this blog is published on the web.  Lots of rain.


and the haze goes on…and other matters

this mornng - and it stayed like this all day

this morning – and it stayed like this all day – normally on the horizon you can see all the buildings around Straits Quays


HAZE:Towards the end of last week the haze had almost disappeared, and the future looked promising.  But it is back with a vengeance.  It is almost a surreal landscape.  On effect has been a significant reduction in mosquitoes.  Possibly because it is cooler – another effect.  My tan has now totally disappeared – normally I try to get some sun every day, but now I avoid being outside – and there is no sun, anyway.

QUEENSBAY MALL: I made one of my sporadic visits to Queensbay Mall recently.  I am there so rarely that it’s different each time.  I notice the third floor hawker centre is now open after its renovation – and it is bigger, brighter, cleaner and with a bigger variety of stalls than before.  I tried to look at all the stalls before deciding on what to eat, but gave in to temptation early at Karakudi, who have a restaurant in Little India, and used to have a branch at Hillside.  Thus I didn’t really see everything that was on offer.

OKTOBERFEST: The Malaysian German Society has the annual Oktoberfest this Friday and Saturday night from 7PM.  Other Oktoberfests usually appear at this time of year in Penang, but this year it’s been rather quiet in this respect.

CINEMA: It’s usually cold in the cinema, so I always take a sweater. But seeing “Everest” and “Bridge of Spies” – the latter set in snowy Berlin – without a sweater I would have frozen.  It used to be that the film started about 15 minutes after the start time, having many ads and movie shorts before.  Recently it has been 10 minutes. I usually try to time it to miss most of the ads, so this is important.

Penang Airport parking

Perhaps I am the last person in Penang to notice this, but sometime in the last few months the payment system for the airport car park changed.

Before you paid at a booth on the way out. Now you pay at a machine located between the taxi lane and the car pickup lane on the ground level just outside the terminal.  RM2 per hour.  This info might save someone an unnecessary walk.

sign in carpark

sign in car park – WordPress seems to be having a problem displaying this


Water cut again

As of about 2PM today, the water is cut again.  Without any notice.  I have no idea why.

Last week it was off for almost the entire day.  When we rang Indah Water that time they told us a contractor had accidentally hit a water main, and it was being repaired.

Nearby condos are being constructed, so water pressure often suffers. Drainage work is also done, so heavy rains cause less flooding now.

We filter the water for our house – once for the entire house and once more for kitchen water.  Then we set some of this aside for cooking, making coffee etc.  I also collect some rain water, so the plants can be watered.  A water cut, then, is an inconvenience.  I can’t shower, but can do most other things.

These simple habits make it easy when these cuts happen.  They are quite rare, and twice in a week is very unusual.


I’ve been in Penang for seven and a half years. The haze situation this year is the worst I have seen.

haze one morning - it's like this most days

haze one morning – it’s like this most days


My plants are suffering.  It has rained a lot, which has helped them. But just one day without rain and some plants look so sick.  After I water their foliage they look better.

Mostly I stay inside. I notice if I go outside for any length of time – including driving – my brain feels gummed up. I can’t think straight, and react slowly.

The newspapers say Indonesian farmers are responsible, if I understand correctly, as burning is the cheapest way to clear jungle or old palm oil plantations.  Is this true?  This has happened for years and governments appear to have achieved nothing.

Perhaps a few people should get together, check how to sue those responsible. If this is possible, then hire someone to get the evidence, and sue the people the evidence shows to be responsible.  The damages are huge – the population of Singapore, and the west coast of Malaysia are all suffering.

If there are people who are demonstrably sick, and if any company in Indonesia also has a presence in Malaysia, I would have thought they could sue the company under common law. I imagine Indonesia is civil law, but Malaysia is common law.

Today is Sunday. Outside nothing is moving. It’s very quiet and eerie.  Just the haze.