Month: December 2016

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

Well, again not so much has changed. Every time I think the wet season has ended it rains again.  So we had a cool Christmas season. We’ve now had five days or so with no rain, and with quite a lot of sunshine.  The plants generally seem quite happy about this. But it’s happening again – three hours after I wrote the fourth sentence, dark clouds are gathering, and perhaps it will rain.  And indeed, it did rain on the 2nd and 3rd of January, as I update this.  And the evening of the 3rd was a big storm, with heavy rain and strong winds.  So, the wet and cool period is continuing so far this year.

passion rruit still growing

passion fruit still growing

passionfruit still flowering

passionfruit still flowering

squirrels are eating most of the fruit before I can pick them ripe

squirrels are eating most of the fruit before I can pick them ripe

squirrels are eating most of the fruit

squirrels are eating most of the fruit

So I covered the passion fruoit - but squirrels just bite through

So I covered the passion fruit – but squirrels just bite through.

Last year covering the passion fruit meant they were left alone by the squirrels, but this year they only worked for a few days, after which the squirrels just bit through them.  So I put some diluted turps on the envelope hoping the smell would keep them away.  That didn’t work, either.  Then I put some diluted Dettol on the envelopes. I will see what happens.  But with the rain it might not be so effective.

mock oranages are doing well as usual

mock oranges are doing well as usual

Canna Lilies keep on growing

Canna Lilies keep on growing

lime tree has new growth

lime tree has new growth

and limes growing too

and limes growing too

eggplant flowers

eggplant flowers

eggplant - just grew out of the compost soil

eggplant – just grew out of the compost soil

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lemongrass

we have these around the place

we have these ginger poker around the place

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a different lime tree

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ginger poker

grape vine

grape vine

aloe

aloe

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citrus

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hibiscus

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Bougainvillea

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sage is quite thirsty

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parsley doesn’t want much water

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rosemary also doesn;t want too much water

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they need watering every day

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duranta

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and some more ginger poker

the neverending search for crisps

Tropical Expat is always on the lookout for crisps.  Once a good brand is discovered, they soon disappear or suffer a massive price increase.

Sure, you can buy Kettle and such brands for RM15 or more – but GBP 3 for a packet of crisps?  Or you can buy local brands for RM3 or RM4 – packed so full of chemicals you’d need a six month detox session in India.

The other day I discovered these in Cold Storage.  Less than RM4, and no toxins. Strangely coming from the UAE.  A bit Kettle like, and needing a bit of added (sea) salt, but quite acceptable.

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But naturally when I went back to stock up, they were out of stock.

stock control in Malaysia is universally  terrible

stock control in Malaysia is universally terrible

door to door salesmen – “gas safety inspectors”

If you live in a condo I imagine the security will not let these guys in.  They walk along the street and ring the doorbell of each house. If someone answers they tell them there was a gas explosion in someone’s kitchen nearby and that they are checking all the gas canisters in the neighbourhood for safety. They try to give the impression that they are contractors working for the government. They wear a Petronas uniform – colours I am familiar with from the petrol stations, and they have photo ID’s with company address and phone number.  If you ring up the number the person who answers confirms they are who they say they are – which means nothing, as you don’t know anything about who you have telephoned.  The ID’s are easy to make and laminate anyway.

Their aim is to inspect your gas regulator, tell you it is unsafe – do a couple of tricks with lighting the gas where the regulator connects with the canister and making little flare-ups and explosions to demonstrate the danger.  And then to provide the solution – they just happen to have a safe, fancy-looking regulator with them they can sell you for RM300.

Conveniently they will take cash, or credit or debit cards.  But if you don’t want it they will go on and on about the danger you are in using your present regulator.  They will tell you the one you are using is for outdoor use – e.g. for hawker centres etc. It is not for indoor use.

An online forum noted it was RM280 when they were out doing this a couple of years ago. You can buy one online for a fraction of the cost if you want. They range from RM 30 to RM 80 if they come with gauges.  An ordinary Pensonic (a quality Penang brand) regulator is RM12.50 at my local hardware store.

sales-regulator-copy

Naturally I was appalled by the danger I had been in, and bought not one, but two – double the safety. Or maybe not.

visiting birds

I love my camera’s 30x zoom – often birds visit, but when they sense a camera pointing in their direction they take off. But sometimes I get away with it. I managed to photograph some oreoles and hummingbirds, birds that often visit. Sparrows visit every day. They are cute, but not colourful.

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Recent experience with airlines serving Malaysia

The free Expat magazine recently had an article (Travel Tidbits p33) on the ratings of airlines and airports. I don’t know how these ratings are achieved – for example, from how many flights / passengers these evaluations were gleaned, which class or all classes, etc.

In the past three of months Mrs Tropical Expat and I flew on a few airlines, so I will briefly comment.  These were all in economy class.

Malaysia Airlines, short haul – PEN – KUL – PEN.  Both myself and Mrs TE.
Ground staff are friendly and helpful.  Slight shortage of staff on flight, so they are busy.  Only a juice and a small packet of peanuts served.  I always ask for two, but on the most recent flight I was told he would return if there were any left over – so a few minutes later I was given another. They seem to be getting very tight

Malaysia Airlines, long haul – KUL – KIX (Osaka)
Ground staff are friendly and helpful. Shortage of flight attendants on board. Food not good.

Qatar Airways – KUL – DOH – OTP (Doha, Bucharest). Ground staff friendly, as were cabin staff. Food quite reasonable.

Turkish Airlines – SKP – IST – KUL (Skopje, Istanbul) – Ground staff very friendly and helpful, as were cabin staff.  Food was good.

Japan Airlines  – short haul – ITM – NRT – ( Itami = Osaka, Narita = Tokyo) rice crackers, miso soup,  sandwiches, juice, friendly staff on ground and in the air. Amazing service for such a short flight.

Japan Airlines – long haul – NRT – KUL.  Again, very good staff. Excellent food.

Disclaimer – I used to work for JAL – but I have to admit that during their financial problems a few years ago I was not so satisfied with them on board. I am very pleased about the improvement.

The article had Qatar Airways as number 2, and Turkish as number 7 – a different order than I would choose, but both are good.  It mentioned that Malaysian Airlines had dropped from 24th place to 34th place this year.  As noted, JAL’s service deteriorated during its financial problems, but now is back on form.  MAS is trying to solve its financial problems, but also unfortunately its sevice is suffering.  As recently as 2012, the article noted, MAS was in the top 10.  They were better in the past in my experience, and I hope they also return to favour.