We spent several winter weeks in Malaysia, George Town on Penang Island, and also Langkawi Island. The wildlife included large monitor lizards, flying lemurs, and hornbills.
Storm Callum makes Llanddwyn island inaccessible
Dwynwen’s Tale – Llanddwyn, “The church of St. Dwynwen” is located on Llanddwyn Island off the coast of Anglesey, itself an island, in North Wales. She is the patron saint of lovers and lived during the 5th century AD, one of 24 daughters of St. Brychan, a Welsh prince. She fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but rejected his advances, and depending upon which story you believe, was either because she wished to remain chaste and become a nun or because her father wished her to marry another.
In any event she prayed to be released from the unhappy love and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice and so she prayed that she be granted three wishes: 1) that Maelon be revived, 2) that all true lovers find happiness, and 3) that she should never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island to follow the life of a hermit. Dwynwen became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island.
It was said that the faithfulness of a lover could be divined through the movements of some eels that lived in the well. This was done by the woman first scattering breadcrumbs on the surface, then laying her handkerchief on the surface. If the eel disturbed it then her lover would be faithful. Visitors would leave offerings at her shrine, and so popular was this place of pilgrimage that it became the richest in the area during Tudor times. This funded a substantial chapel that was built in the 16th century on the site of Dwynwen’s original chapel. The ruins of this can still be seen today.
Llanddwyn Island is situated near the southern entrance to the Menai Strait and became important in the shipping of slate. A beacon was built at the tip of the island to provide guidance to ships and another more effective lighthouse was built nearby in 1845. The older lighthouse has now returned to service after a modern light was placed on top
Llanddwyn is not quite an island and remains attached to the mainland at all but the highest tides. I was there at the peak of storm Callum at high tide so access was impossible and there was only a fleeting glimpse of the remains of St. Dwynwen’s chapel.
Added a few images below of the same location on a Summer’s day –
Saint Tanwg – A vague story but a few interesting location.
Around 1 hour drive from Llanddwyn is Llandanwg, the “church of Tanwg”. Nestled in the sand dunes, the current small church is medieval, probably dating from the 13th century, although the presence of an inscribed stone which has been dated to the 5th century suggests the church was already in existence when Tanwg and his brothers arrived in the area early in the 6th century. This Llandanwg Stone is inscribed with two names, one being Ingenui; the other is indecipherable. Interestingly, the stone is not local and is believed to have come from the Wicklow Hills in Ireland and it is a reasonable conjecture that Ingenuus may have been the founder of the church in the late fifth century, and that St. Tanwg lived here a generation or two later.
Another stone, called the Equester Stone, is of 6th century date. It is inscribed Equestrinomine, an unusual form of wording otherwise known only from 4th century inscriptions in Italy and Gaul. The church still holds occasional services.
Cape Foulwind is a promontory on the west coast of New Zealand southern island. It was previously named Rocky Cape by Abel Tasman, the first European to visit it, in 1642. The present name was bestowed by English explorer James Cook in 1770
after his ship Endeavour was blown a long way offshore from this point.
Evocative, and both imposing and graceful at the same time, Himeji castle is the largest castle in Japan and was subject to a 5 years restoration which was completed in 2015. The castle dates from an original fortification built in 1333, and perhaps miraculously survived 1945 air raids which completely destroyed the city but left the castle intact. The walls are protected by a white plaster finish which is over 1 inch thick and made from lime, shell ash, hemp fiber, and seaweed.
The structure is interesting because from the outside it appears to have five stories but in the interior there are seven stories.
The castle is famously associated with Princess Sen.
The daughter of Shogun Tokugawa Hiteada, Princess Sen was married by her grandfather when she was only 7 years old to Toyotomi Hideyori. They lived in Osaka castle and several years later, after being defeated there in a major family dispute, Toyotomi Hideori and his mother committed suicide (or were forced to), whereas Princess Sen was rescued.
The legend surrounding Princess Sen is intertwined with the siege of Osaka Castle, her escape and the second marriage. It is a tale with all the romantic ingredients that made her one of the most popular Japanese characters. According to the legend a man named Sakazaki Naomori planned to take her as his wife and he is said to be the one who saved the Princess from Osaka Castle
However, Princess Sen refused to marry Naomori, whose face had been wrecked by fire when he rescued her, choosing in his place a more handsome alternative.
In 1616, Sen was married to Honda Tadatoki and a few years later they moved to Himeji Castle, where they lived till Tadatoki ‘s death, in 1626. After that, she left Himeji Castle to enter a Buddhist convent until her death, in 1666.
The charm of Himeji Castle has survived, as has the fascination for Princess Sen and her tragic fate.
The city is dwarfed by the castle, on a hill at the end of the main street.
There is also a nearby garden (nishi-oyashiki-ato garden) which was built rather more recently, in 1992, but in the old Edo style, and is very lovely.
Plenty of fish to choose for lunch, but the heron didn’t feed – must have had a big breakfast.
Some of the wldlife of Sarasota is best seen from the water, and we were lucky enough to find some cooperative dolphins and some hungry ospreys.
Views of Sarasota and surrounding area;
The dolphins, several of which stayed around the boat and in a very friendly manner even gave us a tail splash.
And the ospreys were hunting nearby,
Not an osprey but a lovely looking seabird nontheless.
And finally, a human creature enjoying the water, especially enjoying the wake from our boat;
The Myakka River State Park is in Florida, near Sarasota, and is a place where alligators like to congregate. In particular they like to spend time at one very special location; Park Rangers and guides say that though their numbers fluctuate greatly, they have counted as many as 120 at one time. It’s a place in the park’s nature preserve called “Deep Hole” and for reasons scientists do not yet understand it attracts the gators in large numbers.
The “Deep Hole” has been estimated at about 140 feet deep, but no one knows for sure the real depth. Apparently no one wants to go diving, with all those alligators around, to find out the true depth.
It is located in a 7,500 acre wilderness preserve area, and access to the “Deep Hole” is restricted to no more than 30 humans a day and it requires a special access permit.
Its called a wilderness area for good reason, and the vegetation along the way is interesting and photogenic.
But the reward for the hike is the sight of dozens of gators in the wild.
Images of Laos, Luang Prabang and vicinity.
The “Free The Bears” organization has an active program in six Asian countries to end the practice of bear bile farming. Bear bile and gallbladder is a component in Chinese medicine. Farming was at one time thought by some to be an acceptable alternative to hunting in the wild but most of the business, however conducted is now illegal.
Within Laos, most of the illegal trade occurs near the China border. The sanctuary near Luang Prabang has 38 bears with plenty of space and playthings including pools, climbing towers, and toys for stimulation. At noon each day food is hidden around their enclosures to simulate the work that they would need to do to feed themselves in the wild.
At the rescue center they mostly take care of moon bears, otherwise known as the Asian black bear or white chested bear. This bear is prevalent throughout Asia, and is mostly herbivorous, but is apparently very aggressive when approached by humans, as the following report from Japan illustrates.
In Japan, in 2016 three men died in bear attacks while harvesting bamboo shoots in three separate incidents in a mountain forest. The body of a fourth victim, a badly mauled woman, was subsequently discovered with reports saying she had been picking wild plants. Hunters killed an Asian black bear just 10 meters from the spot where her remains were discovered. Officials said Monday that human remains were found in the stomach of the bear. so these cuddly-looking guys can be fierce indeed.
A few images from George Town, Penang Island, Malaysia.
George Town was established by Captain Francis Light to establish trade relations in the Malay Peninsula, acting for the British East India Company.
Light landed on Penang Island on 17 July 1786 to estblish a commercial trading post, and establish a strategic location to check Dutch and French territorial gains in the region.
At the time, Penang Island was part of the Kedah Sultanate, which was threatened with imminent invasions from Thailand and Burma.Taking advantage of the situation, Light negotiated with the Sultan regarding the cession to the British East India Company, in exchange for British military protection.
Francis Light died from malaria in 1794.
A Trip up to to the top of Penang Hill.
A little chameleon fellow that joined us as we walked on Penang Hill.
Crag Hotel buildings.
The old Crag Hotel on Penang Hill. Around 1885 a bungalow was built on the site by Captain John W Kerr, an employee of the East India Company. Penang Hill was a favourite location for Europeans living on Penang to come to escape the intense heat and humidity of lower elevations.
In the late 1880s the Sarkies brothers, were busy establishing hotels throughout South East Asia, including the Oriental Hotel in George Town (from where this blog was drafted) and the famous Raffles hotel in Singapore. They bought the Crag bungalow and developed it into a hotel, opening it in 1894.
The Crag Hotel continued operation until World War 2. After the war, the building was disused for a decade before being leased to the Uplands School. The school opened in 1955. The relatively isolated location was considered a bonus in terms of safety – this was the time of the Malay Emergency. The school was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. Uplands School moved to a new site in 1977, and the Crag Hotel site was abandoned.
The site has seen brief action as a movie and TV setting which required some renovations, but has otherwise been mostly overgrown by jungle.
Another resident of Penang Hill,
View of the mainland city of Butterworth from Penang Hill.
Storm over the Strait of Malacca, seen from the Eastern and Orient Hotel.
Chinese New Year in Penang is spectacular.
The Kek Lok Si Temple “Temple of Supreme Bliss”is a focal point of festivals of the Chinese community in Penang and is one of the largest temples in S E Asia. For 30 days following Chinese New Year, thousands of lights turn the temple complex into a sea of light. The temples were built over a period from 1890 to 1930. The main draw in the complex is the striking seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas) with 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha, and the 100ft tall bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy.
Lion dancing, Chinese New year, Penang.
Just a few images from Kuala Lumpur, including the twin towers and preparations for Chinese New Year at the end of January.
The national mosque.
Fountain outside one of the many malls in KL.
Series from the twin towers
Ready for Chinese New Year at the end of January, entering a rooster year.
Obviously not Kuala Lumpur, but image from hotel room in Kota Kinabalu – would be better if the hotel windows were cleaner!
Sunday morning and walking up Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, around 3 miles and 2 hours up hill, in the rain.
Thousands of torii gates, originally dating from 711 AD.
If you look carefully you can J’s umbrella which takes a turn for the worst only a day or so later – stay tuned for further episodes.