New on Malaysia Traveller

In case you have missed them, here are some new pages added to my website Malaysia Traveller over the past few months.

Bukit Tinggi – Berjaya Hill Resort

Colmar Tropicale, Bukit Tinggi

Bukit Tinggi is a little corner of Alsace which has been created in the Malaysian hills. Find out here what the Berjaya Hills Resort has to offer.

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Taman Saujana Hijau, Presint 11, Putrajaya

TamanSaujanaHijau24

Taman Saujana Hijau is a lovely park in Putrajaya, designed with a European feel. Read details and location here.

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Teluk Intan Attractions

Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan See the top Teluk Intan Attractions and sights on foot with this self-guided walking tour. Map included.

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Malaysia Quiz – How Well Do You Know Malaysia?

MalaysiaMosques2 Test your knowledge of Malaysia with this picture recognition Malaysia Quiz. Can you recognise where these 44 mosques are located?

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Bukit Jalil Park – Taman Rekreasi Bukit Jalil

BukitJalilParkPths Bukit Jalil Park is a pleasant place to picnic, relax and exercise on the southern edge of Kuala Lumpur. Location map, opening hours and details here.

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Teluk Batik Beach, Lumut, Perak

Teluk Batik Beach, Lumut

At Teluk Batik Beach the family can enjoy a day frolicking in the sea and trying water sports. Lifeguards, shops and facilities are on site.

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Top Singapore Attractions – Best Things To Do In Singapore

TopSingaporeAttractionsSingaporeFlyer

Singapore is a beautiful city crammed full of interesting places to visit and things to do. Here are some of my favourite top Singapore attractions.

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Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery

BankNegaraMuseumBanknote Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery is spacious and modern and well worth a visit. Read here for my review with photos, opening hours and location details.

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HMS Amethyst in Malaya

HMS Amethyst BadgeIn March 1952, during the Malayan Emergency, the British frigate HMS Amethyst was engaged in counter insurgency duties along the coasts of Malaya. On 9th March  Amethyst  sailed 30 miles up the Perak River and shelled Communist jungle hide-outs. A newspaper article at the time wrote:

The operation took place in one of Malaya’s blackest bandit spots-a region of dense jungle and deep swamp through which the crocodile infested , Perak River flows.

I estimate that this raid must have taken place somewhere near Teluk Intan which I visited this week and where I took this photo of the river.

Perak River at Teluk Intan, February 2014

The Perak River looks very peaceful these days with no crocodiles on view.

Amethyst’s operation was successful in flushing terrorists out into the open where a number were killed or captured by waiting army and police units.

HMS 'Amethyst' Arriving at Hong Kong, 3 August 1949 from BBC website

HMS Amethyst is famous for another, less successful, river mission which took place earlier, in 1949, in China as described in this account:

On 20 April 1949, HMS Amethyst steamed up the Yangtze River to relieve the guard ship HMS Consort at Nanking, preparing to evacuate British and Commonwealth citizens caught up in the advance of the Chinese Communist Forces. At about 0830 hours, Amethyst came under fire from Communist shore batteries positioned on the north shore of the river opposite Low Island. Amethyst was hit again by several shells wounding Amethyst’s Commanding officer, who died from his injuries a day later. The ship managed to send off a signal to all ships in the area, “Under heavy fire, am aground, large number of casualties”. Amethyst received over 50 hits and holes below the waterline. During this time HMS Consort was sighted, flying 7 White Ensigns and 3 Union Jack flags, steaming down from Nanking at an incredible 29 Knots. Consort came under fire from the shore batteries but her 4.5-inch guns managed to knock out the enemy shore batteries and she attempted to take Amethyst in tow. HMS Consort  turned about with all guns blazing at the north bank batteries, destroying an enemy position. As she steamed up river for the second time she was fired on by a concentrated number of 37mm anti-tank guns.

She had taken 56 hits and lost 9 killed and 30 wounded. On the 26th of April, after being aground for six days and in the dead of night, a second attempt to free the Amethyst from the mud was successful after she had been lightened forward. She then proceeded to move up river and anchored off Fu Te Wei. Later that day a signal was received: “HM ships London and Black Swan are moving up river to escort the Amethyst down stream. Be ready to move.” But concentrated fire from batteries near Bate Point hit both ships; HMS London was holed 12 times on the port side and lost 12 killed and 20 wounded. HMS Black Swan had 7 wounded. Reluctantly the order was given for both ships to return down river. Finally Lt. Cdr. Kerans decided to make a break for open waters. On July 31st under cover of darkness, Amethyst slipped her cable and proceeded down stream to begin a 104-mile dash for freedom running the gauntlet of Communist guns on both banks of the river.The Amethyst, at full speed ahead, passed through to the mouth of the river and made contact with HMS Concord and sent the time-honoured signal. “Have rejoined the fleet off Woosung…God save the King.”

Yangtse Incident Movie Poster

A book was written about the incident and made into a film, The Yangtse Incident, starring Richard Todd.

This is an example of the British media turning a blunder (the decision to put the ships in such a dangerous situation in the first place) into a morale-lifting triumph, thanks to the heroism of the sailors and marines involved

Another casualty on the Amethyst was Simon, the ship’s cat who was seriously wounded when one of the first rounds tore through the captain’s cabin. The badly wounded cat was rushed to the medical bay where the ship’s surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night. He did survive however and after a period of recovery, returned to his former duties of chasing rats and raising the morale of the sailors.Able Seacat Simon 

Following the ship’s escape from the Yangtze, Able Seacat Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in the British press, and presented with the Dickin Medal , the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, in a special welcome when the ship returned to Plymouth.

Like all animals entering the UK, Simon was subject to quarantine requirements and sadly, whilst in quarantine, he contracted a viral infection caused by his war wounds and died on 28 November 1949. He was buried at the PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford.

Simon the Cat's grave

His gravestone reads:

IN MEMORY OF “SIMON”
SERVED IN H.M.S. AMETHYST
MAY 1948 — NOVEMBER 1949
AWARDED DICKIN MEDAL AUGUST 1949
DIED 28TH NOVEMBER 1949.
THROUGHOUT THE YANGTZE INCIDENT
HIS BEHAVIOUR WAS OF THE HIGHEST ORDER

In this respect, Simon has received a more fitting resting place than the 45 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel who were killed in the Yangtse Incident, of whom 22 were committed to the waters of the Yangtse and the remaining 23 were buried in a Shanghai cemetery which was subsequently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and built over. Their sacrifice has however been remembered in a plaque in the British Ambassador’s residence in Beijing and in a memorial at HMS Drake Naval Base at Plymouth.

Asia’s Cycle Rickshaws – A Dying Breed

During my recent visit to Malacca, I was interested to see how the town’s cycle rickshaws have transformed over the years.

This is how they look now, elaborately decorated with artificial flowers and fitted with a boom box under the seat playing noisy music. They don’t seem to stray far from the main square in front of Malacca’s old Dutch-era Stadhuis and Christ Church. The cycle rickshaw drivers prey on the coach loads of tourists and no doubt charge a good sum for a quick spin round the block or to pose for a photo.  Who can blame them? They have to make a living somehow and there is not much money to be made these days from cycle rickshaws as a means of public transport.

Malacca 2010

It was not always so. When I first visited Malacca way back in 1983, cycle rickshaws (or trishaws, or pedal rickshaws, or pedicabs or tricycles as they are also known ) were still used as a poor man’s taxi and they were a charming, unhurried way to get around the town centre which those days had far less traffic.  From a trishaw you could get a close up view of the streets and ask the driver to pull over anytime something interesting caught your eye. You were more in tune with the leisurely pace of  Malacca which was a very relaxed place at that time.

Malacca 1983

I was reading an article about trishaw drivers in Teluk Intan in Perak. This town is home to Malaysia’s equivalent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (a pagoda-like clock tower with a distinct tilt). This architectural oddity attracts visitors but not in sufficient numbers to sustain the cycle rickshaw drivers, of whom there were (in 2009) only four left and of these, three were in their seventies.  Apparently they can only earn around RM300 per month (less than USD100). They have to pay RM18.50 for an annual permit. The local trishaw licensing office must be one of the sleepier government departments as they have not issued any new licenses for decades.

It is sad but inevitable that the trishaw, as a means of public transport, is facing extinction in Asia. The only hope is that larger parts of historic heritage sites like Malacca and Georgetown (Penang) can be pedestrianised thus making the conditions right for trishaws. Of course they would have to charge tourist rates, which reach about RM30 per hour in Penang. This might attract younger people like students to do a bit of healthy trishaw driving in their spare time.

I have encountered a number of different trishaw designs in my Asian travels. Malaysia and Singapore have the driver sitting to the side of the passengers like the one pictured above.

Thailand and Macau have the driver sitting in front of the passenger, while Vietnam and Indonesia have the passenger sitting in front of the driver.

Macau 1980s 

In Macau in the early 1980s, it was quite normal to take a triciclo from the ferry terminal to somewhere like the Lisboa Hotel or Henri’s Galley, our favourite restaurant for giant prawns or African chicken. The tricilo fare was cheaper than a taxi and we would always negotiate the fare before getting in. But by the end of the journey, after staring at the driver’s sinewy calf muscles, we would often feel sorry for him and end up paying a generous tip.

Vietnam in 1993 was an ideal place for trishaw travel as there was very little traffic in those days apart from bikes. This very basic looking cyclo (as they are known in Vietnam) was typical of those found in Hanoi, where the design was lower and wider than those in Saigon. Hanoi cyclos could hold two people (slim ones) while Saigon’s were single seaters. They may have only carried one person but they could accommodate quite a few geese.

 Hanoi 1993Having a gander, Saigon, 1993.

Nowadays in Vietnam, the slow and cumbersome cyclo is banned from more and more places as they obstruct the cars, trucks and motorbikes which have multiplied rapidly in recent years. This is more or less the pattern all over Asia, though I understand that in Dhaka, Bangladesh (which I haven’t visited yet) the trishaw is still going strong, apart from on the major roads.

Ironically in the West, the cycle rickshaw has made a bit of a comeback where it seen as an eco-friendly and healthy occupation and ultra modern designed trishaws have apparently set up shop in places like London, New York, Germany and Ireland.

Hanoi 1993

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