Month: October 2016

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in October 2016

It’s been raining quite a lot again, almost every day.  Some days quite heavily.  There was only haze on the odd occasion when it didn’t rain, but the haze wasn’t bad.  Usually October is wet, so it could turn out to be a very rainy year.  And quite cool.

I was away for much of the month, but what seemed to mainly grow was passion fruit vines and citrus trees.

citrus trees have grown really well with all this rain

citrus trees have grown really well with all this rain

 

citrus trees have grown really well with all this rain

citrus trees have grown really well with all this rain

 

grape vine

grape vine

 

hibiscus and bougainvillea in the sun

hibiscus. ginger poker and bougainvillea in the sun

 

duranta is happy

duranta is happy

 

bougainvillea

bougainvillea

 

rosemary

rosemary – so useful in the kitchen

 

likes the rain

Basil likes the rain, too

 

Canna Lily flowering

Canna Lily flowering

 

 

mock orange love the rain too

Mock orange love the rain too. They have grown.

 

really ripen

mini pumpkins

 

little pumpkins

another mini-pumpkin

 

passion fruit grow with the rain, but with little sun don;t ripen much

passion fruit grow with the rain, but with little sun don’t ripen much

 

squirrels are getting almost half of the passion fruit before I can

Squirrels are getting almost half of the passion fruit before I can.  So from this week I have been picking the heavy fruit even if very green, and putting them in a sealed plastic bag out in the sun when it shines.  It does seem to be ripening them. I keep the plastic bag more or less in my sight so that squirrels don’t find a new and very easy source of passion fruit. There are mangoes on the trees in the street.  Birds and squirrels should stick to these, I think.

 

mock

plumbago is flowering on

 

mockie flower

mock orange flower – very fragrant.  After rain they flower a lot.

 

passion fruit flower

passion fruit flower

 

It was actually sunny on Saturday, so I could dry some leaves to crush for compost

It was actually sunny on Saturday, so I could dry some leaves to crush for compost

Being almost November I would expect the rain to ease off, and it to become sunnier and warmer again.  We’ll see.  It’s the peak of the passion fruit fruiting season and there are probably 30 fruit growing on the vines, and I have maybe 15 in plastic bags in the sun ripening.  The season usually continues until around Christmas.

 

 

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Riding in Romania – Balkans trip anecdotes and photos

This blog mainly concentrates on providing information that will help in living or travelling in Malaysia.  However, I do blog a little about trips abroad.  On my recent trip to the Balkans I’ll do a series of short blogs providing one anecdote per country, and then a few assorted photos of the country unrelated to the anecdote.

Romania Buddy Bear

Romania Buddy Bear

I started my trip in Romania.  In late September there was a couchsurfing event in Timisoara, Romania.  On the last full day of the event one of the Romanian CS members organised bicycles for us, and we rode along the bike path by the river for about an hour to a cafe on the river bank for lunch.  And then later back.  This also fulfilled one of my aims of my trip, to do a little cycling.  It was really fun.

gathering at the riverside cafe before cycling

gathering at the riverside cafe before cycling

 

cycling out of town

cycling out of town

 

on the bridge where the bike path changes sides from one bank to the other

on the bridge where the bike path changes sides from one bank to the other

 

cafe by the river

cafe by the river

 

cafe by the river

cafe by the river

 

cafe by the river

cafe by the river

 

cafe by the river

cafe by the river

 

returning to the city

returning to the city

 

returning to the city

returning to the city

AND SOME ASSORTED PHOTOS FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF ROMANIA

Constanta, Romania - a club for senior men. So typical of the image of older European men - dresses in suits or similar, perhaps wearing a cap, and sitting with one or two others happily chatting

Constanta, Romania – a club for senior men. So typical of the image of older European men – dressed in suits or similar, perhaps wearing a cap, and sitting with one or two others on a bench happily chatting – or here in their club

 

The hotel I stayed in on my first night in Romania - Constanta on the Black Sea

The hotel I stayed in on my first night in Romania – Constanta on the Black Sea

 

Varma Veche - a resort on the Black Sea

Varma Veche – a resort on the Black Sea

 

Varma Veche - a resort on the Black Sea

Varma Veche – a resort on the Black Sea

 

Varma Veche

Varma Veche

 

sunset at Varma Veche

sunset at Varma Veche

a local train back to Constanta

a local train back to Constanta

 

a typical station - the station employee (right side in shadow of photo) standing at attention as the train leaves. I felt kind of honoured

a typical station – the station employee (right side of photo) standing at attention as the train leaves. They always do this.  I felt kind of honoured.

 

a tram in Bucharest

a tram in Bucharest

 

Parliament House in Bucharest

Parliament House in Bucharest

 

a first class slepper compartment on the night train from Bucharest to Chisinau, Moldova

a first class sleeper compartment on the night train from Bucharest to Chisinau, Moldova

 

early morning train from Brasov to Sighisoara

early morning train from Brasov to Sighisoara

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara

Sighisoara

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

a delicious Romanian stew

a delicious Romanian stew

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sighisoara, Transylvania

Sighisoara, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

Sibiu, Transylvania

Sibiu, Transylvania

 

western Romania countryside

western Romania countryside

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

Timisoara

Timisoara

 

In the very west, at the border with Serbia. Romanian border officials were very friendly.

In the very west, at the border with Serbia. Romanian border officials were very friendly.

G Hotel lunch deal

Eating out for lunch tends to be a better deal than at dinner.  And it gives you more time to digest, so I tend to think it’s less likely to put on weight.

G Hotel’s buffet lunch  seems a reasonable deal.  The third person is free.  Or if you are over 60 the price is RM55 rather than RM91.  Here is their brochure.

G Hotel brochure

G Hotel brochure

Have mobile phone can travel – and save weight

One of the aims of my recent trip was to see if it was practical and comfortable to use the mobile phone to replace many things I might otherwise take.  As such it would save weight and save money and perhaps be more convenient.

APPS – What I used the phone for:

  • Unsurprisingly, as a phone and for texts
  • GPS – to see where we are now on a map and if the train is about to arrive.  Saves weight as sometimes I used to carry a GPS.
  • As a map – Maps.me, Google maps – saves weight and money and is more convenient as you don;t have to track down a map
  • eBook reader – Google Play Books or xozo – saves a lot of weight as a guidebook and novels are on the phone
  • Exchange rate checker – Xe – could save money as you are prepared when you reach the money changer or ATM
  • Web – Dolphin
  • Check flights – web, sky scanner, kayak etc.  Saves time and money
  • Communicate via data – Skype and Viber with video,  and Facebook  Messenger, WhatsApp – saves money and time finding a phone
  • Making notes – OneNote – saves weight and it uploads to the cloud and you have a backup
  • Podcasts-downloading and listening Pocketcasts – saves weight over an MP3 player etc.
  • Camera a little – generic camera app – I carry a separate camera for better photos – but this is a good backup
  • Email – default app
  • Reading news- BBC, Daily Mail apps – it’s hard to find English newspapers
  • Translation – Google Translate – if you have a SIM you can communicate in all but the most obscure languages
  • Music- ES file explorer, VLC – saves weight over an MP3 player etc.
  • File management – ES file explorer
  • Photo editing – Photo Editor – you don’t need a PC to do this – saves weight
  • Guidebook – Lonely Planet on Google Play Books, Triposo – saves weight and money – ebooks are cheaper than paper books
  • Hotels- Triposo, Trip Advisor – might save money on hotels, but at least gives you heaps of info
  • Blogger- WordPress – don’t need a PC so saves weight
  • Scanner- Office Lens – does what a camera doesn’t – scans and adjusts angle so it becomes flat
  • Photo backup – Google Photos – backup in case of loos, theft etc. of you photos / memories
  • Alarm – default clock – don’t need a clock / watch
  • Entertainment – YouTube
  • Watch – phone display – don’t need a watch

So yes, it was practical and saved money and weight.  But travelling solo a backup would be useful.  An old smartphone would do fine. You can use the same charger as the other phone.  And a powerbank so that you won’t run out of battery power.  I bought a triple adapter so I could charge two phones and a power bank all at once if I wished.  You’d just need to prepare the smartphones before leaving and keep a few things on the old smartphone up to date as well while travelling.  Or take a tablet. My smartphone with cover weighs 210g, and my tablet with cover weighs 510g and uses the same charger.  The tablet gives a lot more convenience than just a spare smartphone, but it also is something more valuable that can be stolen or damaged.

Malaysian Airlines mobile phone check-in and boarding works

MAS  don’t sell the cheapest tickets over the phone.  So you have to book online for them.

While you are making the booking and before you pay you have a chance to reserve a seat or simply move straight on to payment.  What they don’t tell you is that they charge you extra to reserve a seat.  So you click on the reserve a seat button, choose one, and then you find out the charge.

You can’t check in until 48 hours before.  But MAS send you an email about 48 hours before with a link, you click on it and put in your booking reference to check in. At this stage you are allocated a seat, but you can change it without any fee.  You can print out the boarding pass, and / or have it sent to your phone.  With the latter you get a web link, which on clicking gives you the pass with QR code on your phone.  The check in was simple, fast and easy.

At the airport, before you enter security someone checks your passport / ID and boarding pass.  Simply showing the mobile phone screen with the boarding pass showing was fine.

Then, at the gate just before boarding, they want to see your ID or passport and the boarding pass.  This time they take your phone from you briefly to scan the QR code and then you proceed.

It all works fine – except if your mobile chooses that moment to run out of battery, restart due to system update, etc.  Having been in the IT industry, I believe in backups.  A printout as a backup is a good idea.

 

MAS boarding card on phone

MAS boarding card on phone looks something like this