I spent part of the Easter weekend in Raglan and did my favourite walk up the hill from Manu Bay into the Bryant Reserve (about which I’ve written previously on this blog). On my way back, I picked up six cans that had been thrown out of car windows and were either crushed on the road or lying in the grass beside the road. It didn’t escape my attention that all six were RTDs. So I asked myself “Is there a correlation between people who drink RTDs and people who litter?” Perhaps we should not draw that conclusion on the basis of this small sample. The other question that sprang to mind was “Who in their right mind would discard any litter in this beautiful place?”

A load of rubbish


This is a common sight in suburban Ipoh – a load of rubbish on the corner dumped there by homeowners from the surrounding houses. There is a council rubbish collection three times a week but they don’t like keeping their rubbish in bins on their properties till the next collection. No matter that it will be scavenged through by the numerous stray animals that abound in all residential areas or that it may be scattered by wind. As long as their own properties are rubbish- free at all times, who cares about the surrounding area, even if it is very close by. The result is that the streets and verges of Ipoh are littered with plastic bags, boxes, cans, bottles, garden clippings and all sorts of larger items from cushions to mattresses to broken down washing machines. I find it depressing but it clearly doesn’t bother most locals, who continue this unhygienic practice despite then having to live with the unsightly consequences.

Eat your heart out Ohakune


Ohakune has its giant carrot, Taihape its giant gumboot and Paeroa its giant L&P bottle. Here in Ipoh there are these giant pomelos. It makes me smile every time we drive past. This is in the Tambun area of Ipoh, along one of the main arterial roads. Tambun could indeed be beautiful with the green hills that surround it and the dense jungle vegetation that now only exists in small pockets. However, I wouldn’t call it beautiful now that it is dominated by shabby housing, overcrowded roads and neglected shop lots. It is even less beautiful in the thick haze we are presently experiencing.

Jungle walk


We ventured into the jungle behind the golf course where we are now living. There is a pathway that leads to a series of small waterfalls. The water is clear and cascades over granite boulders, forming pools that are invitingly cool. The whole area is shaded by tall trees that have huge leaves. To get an idea of the size of the leaves we took the photo above, with my (very big!) feet as the scale. We were also fascinated by the tiny worm-like leeches that hurried in our direction as soon as they sensed us. We didn’t realise that any had actually latched onto us until we took off our shoes. When we removed the leeches from our ankles, the blood poured thanks to their clever anti-coagulating technique. We then took another path to get a view of the golf course and were met with the sight in the photo below. Someone had taken a lot of trouble to dump their rubbish in this otherwise pristine environment when they live in a city in which there is a rubbish collection three times a week.


Genting Highlands


The company’s annual dinner was held at a resort in the Genting Highlands, 35 kms from KL, last Saturday night. We had a very pleasant evening, with a delicious dinner and lots of good company and laughter. The next morning we decided to drive further up the hill to the highest  point, where there is “an integrated resort, with a casino, hotels and a theme park” to quote one tourist website. In my view it is the Malaysian 21st century version of Dante’s Inferno. The picture above is of just one of the high-rise hotels that scar the landscape. With 6000 budget rooms, the First World Hotel is by far the ugliest, its brightly coloured paint job now marred by huge patches of mould. Everywhere you look, there is more construction and the whole area is full of earth-moving equipment, piles of construction materials and dumping sites filled with detritus. You have to turn your back to the buildings and the noise and look out at the green, densely vegetated hills to get some idea of the beauty there once was on these highlands. I saw a lonely hawk circling some distance away and then landing on a discarded piece of machinery – it seemed a symbol of what this area could have been and what is has now unfortunately become.

I don’t understand


This has become my favourite expression since moving to Malaysia. There are many things I don’t understand – why large swathes of grass are cut with strimmers not mowers, why motorcyclists turn into an intersection without so much as a glance to check if there is oncoming traffic, why motorists strap themselves in but leave their children unrestrained even when in the front of the car, why “music” blares from speakers in parking lots and outside stores at a volume sure to deafen the people who work there if not the customers. I could go on. But what I really don’t understand is the persistent littering. Yesterday I drove from our house through a country area on the edge of Ipoh to the swimming pool. I usually enjoy this drive because it takes me past market gardens, small farms and even the national stud. But yesterday I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was caught for a few kilometres behind a truck (it can be difficult to pass on these narrow country roads) and I kept my distance because there were piles of crates, used for transporting fruit and vegetables, on the back that were not tied down. I was terrified that one would bounce into my windscreen. Every so often a piece of paper would fly off the truck and join the rubbish lying along both sides of the road. I don’t understand why people who make their living from the land would pollute it in this way. The photo above is of the charming Pavilion Square Tower in Kuala Kangsar. Built in 1930, it was used by the sultan’s family and British colonials to watch polo matches on the adjacent field. Not visible in the photo is the rubbish that lies all over the floors inside.

Life’s a beach

MY beach

From my previous post, you will know that beaches have featured large in my life. I was very disappointed when we went to Pangkor Island and first went to Penang to see that the beaches on the Strait of Malacca are polluted and not very inviting. It seemed that, to enjoy being on a beach here, one needed to go to a resort where the staff clean the beach in front of the hotel every morning. We are not really resort people, however, and besides we live in Malaysia now and can’t always behave like tourists. It was with great excitement then that we found this beach (see pic). It is on the Strait but, as you can see, the sand is clean and white. There is some rubbish in the parking area adjacent to the beach but none on the sand and very little in the sea. What a pleasure to lie on our towels under our newly acquired umbrella (huge plastic thing usually seen outside street restaurants in the city!) and not to see another soul. The water was too warm to be refreshing but coming out wet into the slight breeze was as cool as one is going to get here. We had our picnic lunch and read our books and dozed away last Sunday afternoon. We came home with sand on our feet and hung our beach towels and togs out to dry just as if we’d been to Raglan!



This is a view of the sunset over the limestone hills that surround Ipoh. When the air is clear (or clearish!) as on the evening we took this photo, it is very attractive. However, there is usually some haze caused by the heat and also the pollution from the numerous factories around the city. In the last couple of weeks, the haze has been very bad because we haven’t had rain for many weeks. It is extremely hot and the dry conditions are conducive to fires, which add greatly to the haze. It all makes me long for rain in a way that I haven’t since living in New Zealand. I think it is fortunate that I lived previously in South Africa – otherwise this kind of experience might do me in! Our neighbours tell me that a drought like this is very unusual and they are also disconcerted by the brown grass, wilting plants and trees shedding their leaves. May it rain soon and return our tropical surroundings to their usual lush greenness.

Pangkor Island

Pangkor Island

Last Sunday we drove from Ipoh to Lumut, a port city on the Straits of Malacca. We then got a ferry to Pangkor Island. This ferry has to rate as the most awful vessel I’ve ever been on. It is low-slung, sailing close to the water. All the passengers sit inside (fortunately with some cooling) and none of the windows open. I was lucky to sit beside a filthy window so that I could watch the horizon to keep the seasickness at bay. I had to very deliberately turn my thoughts from what might happen in an emergency, though there were life jackets on the overhead shelves. The first stop on the island was at a fishing village, where most of the houses were built on stilts over the water. Some fishermen lived on their boats judging by the hammocks and laundry hanging from the anchored boats. We got off at the next stop, which is the main settlement on the island. We then hired a scooter (I am grateful that my adventuring partner is a natural on two wheels!) and drove around the south side of the island. We stopped at a populated tourist beach to buy cold water and sat on a bench for a breather. A young Malay man was supine in a hammock close by. He came over to find out where we were from and was delighted that we came from New Zealand. His girlfriend had had a lovely holiday in what we ascertained was Rotorua from his description. He told us he was a part-time policeman and that he was spending the day “just smoking weed and relaxing on the beach”! We found a more isolated beach for a swim. The water was green, fairly clear and flat as a pancake – and I was with a surfer! It was not at all salty and had an almost oily feel to it. However, it was very refreshing on a day when the temperature had reached the mid-30s. Every settlement and beach on the island was marred by garbage. I struggle to understand why people who make their living from the environment pollute it. It is also not conducive to tourism. Next time we go for a swim, we’ll take a rubbish bag and clear the bit of the beach we want to sit on!

Tea time


We drove up to the Cameron Highlands last Sunday. The road from Ipoh winds its way up, with the views becoming more spectacular the higher you get. We stopped at the first strawberry farm we came to. Here they grow the strawberries in pots hung from overhead lines. The strawberry farms are covered with plastic roofs, which are very unattractive. I bought a punnet for RM20 (about NZ$8) and have been enjoying them (though they are not a patch on the strawberries from the farm on SH3 outside Ohaupo!) We wended our way through various settlements, most of which are ugly conglomerations of shanties, shops, small eating places and lots of rubbish. There are also smart hotels and a golf course named after the Sultan, who seems to be a keen golfer if the photos in the foyer of the club are to be believed. We then came to the tea estates. We’d heard that you could get a Devonshire tea up here and were looking forward to the scones. The first two tea houses we came across had nothing like that but then we glimpsed a little side road leading to the Boh tea estate. After a hair-raising drive up a very narrow, rutted road, dodging fast drivers coming down, we got to the tea house at the top and there we found scones, strawberry cheesecake and aromatic tea served in pots. Wonderful! We climbed up to the viewpoint above the tea processing factory and I actually put on a cardi – it was only about 21 degrees up there! There was a marvellous view of the tea plants in their bright green rows, following the slopes all the way down the valley. We’ll definitely go back there with all our many visitors.