Thursday, 25 August 2016


A holiday in Malaysia is always fascinating. However, one of the striking impressions of West Malaysia is the multitude of butterflies to be seen cruising and flitting about, even in urban areas.

Below is a selection of photos taken during our recent holiday...

The Lesser Dart is a rapid flier. Here, photographed resting in  the garden of a family member near Klang.

This Lime Butterfly was photographed in the same garden near Klang. It had alighted upon a dying papaya leaf.
Feeding on Bidens alba, a weedy member of the Aster genus, the Striped Albatross was a visitor to the Tibetan Temple, near Ipoh. This butterfly was a regular sighting during our visit.

A Lemon Emigrant photographed in Klang.

Photographed in Klang too, the Plain Tiger is easy to photograph due to its 'relaxed' flight pattern. I imagine that it is not a tasty meal for possible predators.
The Red Helen appears to have taken a liking to a mass planting of Periwinkle (Vinca sp) plants. It, too, was photographed near Klang.
The Straight Banded Catseye was photographed at ground level, attempting to camouflage itself.  The photo was taken near dusk at Tambun, Ipoh.
A Mottled Emigrant attracted to the colourful flowers of a bougainvillea in the township of Batu Gajah.
A Crimson Speckled Flunkey clings to its target plant in Batu Gajah.
A Blue Pansy butterfly feeding on Bidens alba. When its wings are opened flat, the Blue Pansy is a most remarkably-coloured species. This individual was photographed in Batu Gajah.
A Common Five Ring photographed along a bush path at Benum Hill Resort.
Along the same bush path, we photographed this Grass Yellow. Benum Hill Resort, near the township of Raub in Pahang, is an excellent venue for butterfly sightings.
Another member of the Dart family of butterflies. Benum Hill Resort.
A male Blue Moon or Eggfly. Benum Hill Resort.
A Common Evening Brown hiding in the undergrowth near a pond at Benum Hill Resort.
Bamboo Tree Brown. Benum Hill Resort.
A fearless Dark Blue Tiger takes a rest on outdoor furniture. Benum Hill Resort.
Common Palmfly. Benum Hill Resort.
A male Cruiser briefly settled at Benum Hill Resort.
Anderson's Grass Yellow at Benum Hill Resort. The Grass Yellows are difficult specimens to photograph. They are small and easily disturbed from their resting places.
A Rustic Butterfly seeking nectar. Photographed at Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village near Ipoh. 
The butterflies were in profusion after the rain at Qing Xin Ling. This is a Commander Butterfly.

This beautiful Little Maplet appears to be wearing pyjamas. Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village.

Lemon Pansy Butterfly at Qing Xin Ling...

A Common Mormon seeks out traces of water in this section of crushed stone paving at Qing Xin Ling.
A Malay Yeoman Butterfly at Qing Xin Lin, Ipoh.

The same Malay Yeoman in a different pose. It had rained heavily the previous evening, and the butterflies were taking advantage of the damp walkways to drink. 

This yellow butterfly appears to be a Lesser Gull. Like many of the other species, it was puddling at Qing Xin Ling.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Parit Jawa: A Fishing Village of Folklore

Our day with family in Muar was complete. We had experienced fine times in just being with family; we had enjoyed a satisfying lunch; we had paid fleeting visits to some of the obvious attractions of Muar township. It had been a pleasant day, and we had decided to round it off by visiting a small fishing village to the south… Parit Jawa.

Parit Jawa is just a short drive from Muar, roughly 20 minutes, through some beautiful settlements, the roads over-arched by lovely, flowering Albizia trees, the drive alone being worth the journey. Our visit on this day, is what might be termed a flying visit. A single afternoon.

We arrived about three. It was very hot. Nevertheless, we explored the environs of the little town. Aside from the vibrant colour of the fishing fleet clustered at dock, we were curious about the ‘harbour’ itself…

In the Malay language, a parit is a trench or a ditch. In the context of Parit Jawa, the trench is a man-made channel to a safe harbour, allowing entry and exit for the local fishing fleet through Pantai Leka or Leka Beach. In fact, the ‘trenching’ of Parit Jawa is believed to have been done by early settlers from the island of Java, Indonesia. Hence the name.

For my Australian readers, one must not associate endless strips of golden sand with the beaches of this Malaysian coast. Pantai Leka is primarily a mud flat, home to a wide variety of fish and shellfish species, bird life, reptiles and mammals. Mudflats of this type are akin to our east coast estuaries and estuarial lakes, a rich habitat.

Low tide at Pantai Leka

Our journeys are as much about learning about the local wildlife, as about experiencing new places, new sights, new flavours and about witnessing people’s solutions to the vexations of life. So it was for our trip to Parit Jawa… Even though we had come outside the October - March migration season for marine birds, we came in hope of seeing some local wildlife, and especially, one of the rarest storks in the world, the Lesser Adjutant… We were not disappointed.

The Lesser Adjutants were not in profusion, but there were enough of them to observe as they fossicked in the mudflats seeking out their sustenance, or perched atop channel markers. We also had hopes of seeing some other birdlife. However, it was still mid-afternoon and very hot, possibly not the best time for such an activity.

Lesser Adjutants

The waterfront park at Parit Jawa is well-equipped for observation: it has a ‘menara’ or tower at its northern end. It allows views, not only of the little town and its mudflats, but also of an adjoining stand of mangrove trees. During the main bird-watching season, this would be an asset for observation of the migratory birds.

View of the local park from the Menara

After a brief walk through the village, the heat of the afternoon took its toll on us and we decided to forego dinner at one of the famed local seafood restaurants. So, we began the drive back to our southern base: dinner in Parit Jawa would have to wait for a future visit.

This, however, is not the end of our Parit Jawa story.

Some days after our lightning visit, we sat down to dinner with family members, some of whom held long memories of life in the Muar region. Our visit prompted the retelling of a fascinating story about a fearful time for the residents along this coastline of Johore. It was the era of Konfrontasi or Confrontation, a time of tension and hostilities between the new nation, Malaysia, and its neighbour, Indonesia. This occurred between 1963 and 1966.

People were fearful of commando raids, or worse, a full-scale invasion from their neighbouring nation. Many from outlying areas sought refuge with friends and relatives in the larger towns, such as Muar. All able-bodied men of age, including the better-half’s father, were required to do security patrols of the streets at night. In fact, some families were so frightened that they barricaded their doors and blockaded their staircases to prevent forced entry.

In such a state of alarm and confusion, the local Chinese residents consulted the Deity through a medium in the Chinese Temple at Parit Unas, about six kilometres from Parit Jawa. According to legend, the Deity, Sin Chai Yah Kong, conceived and constructed three straw human-like figures, placing these on the beach. Then, with the magical touch of the Deity, the three became a thousand. To the approaching sea-borne invaders, poised to make an attack, these figures on the shore appeared to be a thousand live, armed Chinese. A veritable army. Faced with what appeared to be an impossible task, the invaders had second thoughts and left the Parit Jawa area. Many, many lives had been saved…

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Jackfruit: Aftermath of a Broken Limb

At the end of June, in a post entitled ‘The Straw Which Broke the Jackfruit’s Back’, I recounted the adventures we had experienced in dealing with the collapse of a major fruiting limb on one of our jackfruit trees. Sadly, this was our first crop of Sydney jackfruits, closing upon ripeness, a cause for great excitement.

Cradle of tree support
So, what could we salvage from the incident?

Our first action was to ‘Hire-a-Hubby’. His brief was to construct an adjustable, reusable tree branch support to secure the other main fruiting limb of the tree. This was completed within a fortnight, the heavy load of five or six jackfruits now much safer than in their precarious, pendulous state.

Line supports
Secondly, while holidaying in Malaysia, we purchased some metallic clothes line tops from a $2 shop. These items are intended to be placed on bamboo poles, a line strung between, for the drying of clothes. However, we could see value in these as branch supports for young trees with smaller fruit such as mangoes and longans. Six of these were purchased for later use.

Our third action was to leave the broken limb ‘in situ’ on the ground to see whether the fruit would mature and ripen. They did not. Unfortunately, there was little remaining attachment between the fallen limb and the trunk. The leaves withered. The smaller fruit began to rot and were discarded. One large fruit was retained. The dead limb was cut up and binned.

Green jackfruit arils... with seed
The retained fruit was opened and the arils (fruity bits) removed: I attempted to make a curry from the green jackfruit arils, using a recipe from the internet (Sayur Nangka Masak Lemak). The curry, with pieces of chicken added, was rather sweet, due to the influence of the green jackfruit. In fact, because of this sweetness, the better-half suggested that preparing jackfruit jam may have been a good use for the fruit.

A serving of Sayur Nangka Masak Lemak

The seeds have also been kept and frozen: my partner loves to eat boiled jackfruit seeds, which are reminiscent of the taste of chestnuts.

A lot of learning has taken place since the wind-induced damage to the jackfruit tree. One important piece of advice came from our family in Malaysia: on young jackfruit trees, fruit developing on the branches, rather than the trunk, should be removed. According to this theory, the tree is thereby encouraged to produce its fruit along its sturdier parts.

So, today, the tree still has a number of largish fruits in the process of ripening, and, an educated guess would place the ripening near the end of this month or during September. At this time, all the remaining fruit are in good condition with no signs of rot… Touch wood!

As a sidelight, I have noticed that our second jackfruit tree, grown from different seedstock, is producing cucumber-sized fruit at the moment, in the depths of our winter. It will be interesting to see how these fare in the coming months.

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Taman Eko Rimba Kledang Saiong

Visiting family in Ipoh, we were passed a copy of a local Ipoh newspaper by a helpful relative. In the article intended for our perusal, were outlined places of interest for tourists to the lovely city of Ipoh. Among these attractions was one in particular, which we had not heard of, namely the Kledang Saiong Forest Park, which, according to the article, covered an area of more than 2,000 hectares, and was home to a fabulous collection of Nepenthes (Pitcher Plants or Monkey Cups). Because we were nearing the end of our Malaysia trip, we made plans to visit the Park the very next morning. Besides, it was just a stone’s throw from our hotel in Meru.

So, breakfast in the Bandaraya Ipoh came and went and we drove the few kilometres to the forest park. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was closed, despite the signs advising that it should be open. This was disappointing, because the forest looked so beautiful from the gate. So, as an alternative, we went shopping for gifts at a mall, close to our Meru hotel.

Later in the afternoon, we tried again. This time, Kledang Saiong was open, and we were to discover later that it had been closed briefly during the morning for a religious observance.

On arrival, no camera at the ready, we spotted two large monkeys swinging in the trees at the front of the complex. Our immediate thought was that these were ubiquitous macaques, but we were given information to confound us later in our visit.
At the front office, we were required to sign in… You know the mischievous thoughts which pass through your mind at such an occurrence. “Is there a chance I will become lost in here?”

The entrance to the Nepenthes Garden

On completing the formalities, a young lady escorted us to the Pitcher Plant Garden. It was a small display, under shade cloth, of more than 70 species and hybrids from Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines and Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Australian breeders. The pavilion may have been small in area, but housed one of the world’s largest collections of Monkey Cups (Periuk Kera).

Nepenthes mirabilis var. globosa x rafflesiana (Malaysian hybrid)

Some of the cups were suitable for drinking water, others were not. Some were fertilised by trapping insects, one in particular, preyed on mice. Some of the plants were tall enough to require physical support, others were small enough to be considered ground covers. In dry weather, all the pitchers required watering each day. Furthermore, our guide showed us how the female flowers were fertilised by the male pollen-bearing flowers. It was a short, but captivating experience.

N. gracilis (Kalimantan, Sumatra, Singapore, East and Peninsula Malaysia, Thailand)

N. rafflesiana (Kalimantan, Sumatra, Singapore, East and Peninsula Malaysia)

N. ampullaria (Kalimantan, East and Peninsula Malaysia)

Mini-tour complete, the better half returned to the car in the company of our lady guide, whereas I walked alone through the park in the hope of seeing some wildlife such as birds or butterflies, or even monkeys, swinging and jumping through the trees, as we had seen on arrival. Within one hundred metres or so, I came across a sign on the edge of an unswept path… Dilarang Masuk… Binatang Yang Buas. I guessed it meant ‘Don’t Go There… Wild Animals’, so I did not press my luck. After all, who wants to have their camera stolen by a naughty monkey. I returned to the office, admiring the trees, birds and insect life, signed out, passed on my thanks and returned to the car.

Without even having time to plonk my heaviest feature on the car seat, my better half could not wait to inform me that she had been mauled by mosquitoes and that, at some time in the recent past, the rangers had sighted a tiger in the park! Along with snakes and vociferous gibbons (Monyet Ungka)... Is this what we sighted at the beginning of our visit. 

The Kledang-Saiong Forest Park is a fine venue for jungle walks. In addition, the locals use the park as a base for cooling off in the crystal-clear stream, and for barbecues and gatherings near the entrance to the park. However, its main attraction remains its excellent Nepenthes Garden.

N. sumatrana (Sumatra)
Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…