Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Xmas

Wishing everyone, everywhere a Very Merry Christmas and a successful new decade in 2010.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Deforestation Dilemma

Deforestation is a major issue worldwide but particularly so in sensitive environments like the swamp peat forests of Asia. A peat swamp forest is an extremely diverse ecosystem with about 500 species of trees which can grow up to around 30m tall. Some are valuable timber species and there are also some  useful medicinal plants. From a conservation point of view these species are very important so it is an extremely large impact when this forest is cleared and burnt. All forest fires in the tropics are human related as naturally there is no fire in the system, hence the reason that the layer of plant material has built up to a thickness of around 10m. 
A peat swamp forest acts like a sponge, absorbing rain and river water, helps control floods during the rainy season and releases much needed water during the dry season. It is an ecologically important ecosystem for the regulation of climate with the trees absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing this in a thick layer of un-decomposed plant material or peat. The peat in this forest is up to 10m thick, has accumulated over the last 10,000 years and is one of the most important global stores of carbon therefore regulating the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 
Many of these peat swamp forest are illegally cleared and burnt for agricultural purposes. Regeneration of a damaged peat swamp forest will not be easy; after all, it took some 10,000 years for the peat to form. While rehabilitation of peat swamps has been inadequately studied it may take some 50 years for a damaged forest to re-establish itself; that is, assuming that its hydrology was not significantly spoiled.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens (日本庭園 nihon teien), that is, gardens in traditional Japanese style, can be found at private homes, in neighborhood or city parks, and at historical landmarks such as Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and old castles.
Some of the Japanese gardens most famous in the West, and within Japan as well, are dry gardens or rock gardens, karesansui. The tradition of the Tea masters has produced highly refined Japanese gardens of quite another style, evoking rural simplicity. In Japanese culture, garden-making is a high art, intimately related to the linked arts of calligraphy and ink painting. Since the end of the 19th century, Japanese gardens have also been adapted to Western settings.
Typical Japanese gardens have at their center a home from which the garden is viewed. In addition to residential architecture, depending on the archetype, Japanese gardens often contain several of these elements:
  • Water, real or symbolic.
  • Rocks or stone arrangements.
  • A lantern, typically of stone.
  • A teahouse or pavilion.
  • An enclosure device such as a hedge, fence, or wall of traditional character.
  • A bridge to the island, or stepping stones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The cycle rickshaw is a small-scale local means of transport; it is also known by a variety of other names such as pedicab, bikecab, cyclo, ortrishaw or becak in Indonesia. The term rickshaw is used more broadly, and also refers to auto rickshaws, and the, now uncommon, rickshaws pulled by a person on foot. Cycle rickshaws are human-powered, a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers in addition to the driver. Cycle rickshaws are widely used in major cities around the world, but most commonly in cities of South, Southeast and East Asia.
The becak in the picture was seen in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and is the best and cheapest way to get round the city to see all the sights.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas in Kyoto

We are off soon to spend Christmas in Kyoto, Japan so as I looked through my images I captured during my last visit in 2007 I came across this wonderful view of the Golden Pavilion temple. Kyoto has many hundreds of temples which are usually set in unique and peaceful garden settings which create a wonderful inner sense of peace and tranquility. Let's hope that 2010 brings more peace and tranquility to all.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Selangor St. Andrew's Society Annual Celebration

The Selangor St. Andrew's Society held their Annual Celebration on 28th November, 2009 at The Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur. Attendance was approximately 150 and the evening comprised of pre-dinner cocktails, toasts to the Agong and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, entry of the haggis, country dancing performed by pupils of Alice Smith school, buffet main course, display by St. Johns Institution Pipe Band, toasts to St. Andrew and guests, speech by guest speaker Mahbob Abdullah, dancing to The Gary Innes Band, dance instruction by Charlie Chong, cheese and biscuits, more dancing and of course plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

The Gary Innes Band Live at Finnegan's

The Gary Innes Band from Scotland played a one night only concert at Finnegan's pub in Desa Sri Hartamas on 27th November 2009 as a pre-cursor to their participation at The Selangor St. Andrew's Society Annual Celebration on 28th November at The Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur. The evening was enjoyed by all and Gary, Ewan and Hugh kept the audience entertained by their music and their on-stage banter. There was much dancing and frivolity enhanced no doubt by the copious quantities of liquid lubrication on tap at Finnegans.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shophouses of Ipoh

Ipoh lies around 200km north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and straddles the Kinta River which splits Ipoh into what's known as the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town of Ipoh has some wonderful examples of pre-World War II heritage buildings, Government buildings, colonial buildings and shophouses displaying classic and significant architecture.

A shophouse is a 2 or 3-story building with a kaki-lima or "five-foot-way" on the street front providing an open arcade and walkway. Traditionally the shop is on the ground floor with the residence above, the top floor of the shophouse extending out over the five-foor-way. The shophouses are attached therefore a continuous arcade is created along the street providing an ideal venue for trading or serving food.

The shophouse architecture results from the ingenious design of the builders to cope with the tropical climate. The verandah shaded the front rooms, thick brick walls helped to insulate the rooms from the heat, strategically placed light wells brought light and air into the house and the roof with a raised mini-gable at the peak increased air flow. Shutters and grills on the windows and doors also allowed free circulation of air as well as privacy.

Shophouses in Penang have been built for two hundred years and their unique structures clearly show the influence of the Chinese, Malay and Indian and European styles merged to the local environment. The pillars at the entrance to the shophouses advertise the shop owner with large embossed Chinese characters. One can also see some highly decorated shophouses with stucco figures, ceramic and glass decorations as well as other decorative plasterwork.