All posts by Lone Grey Squirrel

I am a scientist who enjoy the arts; a socialist who wishes to be rich; a food enthusiast who wishes to be skinny and a human who loves squirrels. Just a nutter trying to make sense of the world.

Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama)


What can you say about bamboo?  Bamboo is just a wonder.  Despite being relatively light weight, it has a greater tensile strength than steel and withstands compression better than concrete!  Not bad at all for something that is considered to be a primitive grass! In China, it is used as scaffolding for building construction.  It is also used as water containers and piping, creating chopsticks, building material, creating activated carbon etc.

But, you know, bamboo is beautiful too.  There is something magical, spiritual almost watching the bamboo sway in the breeze and listening to the sound of the leaves.  All the more so when you find yourself in the middle of an old age bamboo grove.

Welcome to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.  Located to the west of Kyoto, it is one of the top destinations for tourists and locals alike.  Beautiful.  I would easily included it in my Squirrel’s Secret Spot series except for the @#%*!@  crowd of people there!  Definitely recommend visiting off-season, during weekdays and as early as possible.  I went in early December.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Kyoto (Dec 2016) Arashiyama – Photo by LGS
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Kyoto (Dec 2016) Arashiyama – Photo by LGS
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Often said to look like the bamboo forest in the movie, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. (Photo by LGS)

It’s not all bamboo though.  There is also a UNESCO World Heritage Temple (Tenryuji), the scenic Hozu River gorge (go on a boat ride or a scenic train ride or combine the two), a monkey park and other attractions.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)
It’s not all bamboo!  View of the Hozu River (Photo by LGS)

And then, it gets even more excellent!  For about  a week in December, the forest is illuminated and it turns into a wonderland (Arashiyama Hanatoro event).

Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Magical Forest (Photo by LGS)
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Only distraction is the light of everyone’s handphones! (Photo by LGS)
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Another world. (Photo by LGS)
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Slow walk to Hozu River (Photo by LGS)
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Hozu River near Togetsukyo or ‘Moon Crossing’ bridge. (Photo by LGS)

All that wandering around and gazing at the wonderful sights will leave you famished.  Make a pit stop and refuel at one of the many restaurants, tea houses, food kiosks found all along the access to the forest from the railway station.  I am sure that its all good but I want to make a mention about this stall that makes yuba donuts from scratch.  Familiar yet different and tummy warming.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Yuba (skimmed soyabean skin) – Photo by LGS
Kyoto (Dec 2016)
Yuba made into donuts. Delicious. (Photo by LGS)

I loved this place so much.  I will be back!

 

 

Golden Pavilion (Kyoto)


My very first trip to Japan was many, many years ago.  I was there on work assignment to attend a meeting of conservationists.  It was a great opportunity to discover this singularly unique land and culture.  But at that time, the cost of living in Japan was probably the highest in the world.  Furthermore, I had only been working for a couple of years and I soon found out that I could barely afford more than a meal of instant noodles.  I certainly could not afford to make the train trip from Tokyo to Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto.  It was disappointing to be so close but…….no.

Then in December last year, I finally got to scratch my travel itch by going to Kyoto (only some 20 years late).  Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to share some highlights of my trip.

Let me start it off with the stunningly, radiant vision which is Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

This beautiful site dates from the 14th century but the pavilion had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1950.  There is a saying that “all that glimmers is not gold”.  However, in this case, it is! The structure is covered in a thin layer of gold leaf.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

We went on a cold December day but the sun came out from behind the clouds and the pavilion seemed to be radiating rays of light.  Definitely go when it is sunny for full effect.

I am usually not a fan of ostentatious, gaudy and self indulgent architecture but in this case, it works!  The pavilion seemed to naturally belong amongst the tranquillity of the reflecting pond and zen-like gardens.  The heron seemed to think so too.  Can you see him in the foreground of the picture above?

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

There was of course a whole gaggle of tourists on that day as well as a number of school groups making a nuisance of themselves.  But the magic of the place was still able to give inner peace.  If you do plan to visit though, try going on a weekday and as early as possible to avoid the crowd.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

This was the first time I had ever seen anybody sweeping the moss!  There were a lot of beautiful landscapes in the temple garden with water and moss which as you can see here was lovingly maintained.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

One can follow the trail up the hill behind the Golden Pavilion and look back down on the pavilion, the pond and the gardens.  There you will find a number of viewing points, a shrine and the unavoidable gift shop.  You might also find this charming lady tending to the moss with the pavilion in the background.

Kyoto (Dec 2016)

Another gem is this tea garden located in amongst the trees.  A great place to meditate on the wonders of a warm cup of tea on a cold day.  I actually did not stop here for tea but went back to the entrance where we could get Japanese soft serve ice cream.  So on that crisp and brisk winter morning, my wife had black sesame and I had green tea ice cream.  Very ying and yang.

More of Kyoto to come.  Watch this space!

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Like in the Movies


Most of us like action movies.  The explosions, the guns blazing, the mayhem and usually the good guys win and they look cool doing it.  For a couple of hours we escape into a fantasy world of thrills without any bodily risks or consequences.

But as recent incidents around the world has demonstrated, it is completely awful when it happens in real life and impact real people.

This last couple of weeks, a couple of Hollywood type stories played out on the streets of my city, Kuala Lumpur; stories with drama, action, suspense and intrigue.

Abduction

Pastor Raymond Koh was driving his car on an errand to deliver a food gift to a friend who was about to travel abroad.  At least three black SUVs screeched in,  blocking off  the road and boxing in his car. Men with black balaclava masks poured out.  A couple of them stopped oncoming traffic and another was seen apparently filming the incident.  Pastor Raymond was forced into one of the SUVs and the three vehicles then sped away together.  He has been missing since the 13th of February.

Pastor Raymond is active in a number of Christian charities and was the founder of Harapan Kommuniti (Community Hope) which holds free tuition classes for children and English lessons for adults from low income groups.  In 2011 though, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), in a controversial move, raided a community thanksgiving and fundraising dinner at a church and accused Pastor Raymond’s organisation of proselytising Muslims.

There has been no ransom demand or any communication from the abductors and despite numerous eyewitnesses and CCTV footage, the police have not reported any progress in their investigation.

Many Malaysians (including me) have been praying daily for his safe return.

Assassination

Our international airport was the ground on which our tale of international intrigue and skullduggery occurred; real James Bond stuff.  A Korean man traveling under the name of Kim Choi was making his way across the airport concourse to catch his flight to Macao when two young women approached him from different directions and appear to reach from behind and cover his face with a chemically laced cloth.  They then left as quickly in opposite directions.  After seeking help,  the man collapses and dies shortly later.

It is now believed that Kim Choi is actually Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  The two women have been identified and arrested.  One is a Vietnamese national and the other an Indonesian.  The Indonesian woman claims she was approached by some men and paid to carry out what she had been told was a prank for a TV show.  Police have also arrested a Malaysian man and a North Korean man.  Interpol has been asked to help hunt down four other North Korean men who left the country the same day as the incident.   The North Korean government has also objected to the autopsy investigation.
Malaysia continues to be making the news for all the wrong reasons.  Come on 2017, start getting better.
I will keep praying for Pastor Raymond and for Malaysia.  However, I promise to nudge 2017 along in the right direction by having more positive posts in the next couple of weeks.

Well, I’ll be……


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A joyous announcement to the big, wide world,

Celebrating the birth of a bouncing baby girl,

My niece made her debut  on the 26th of January

Two days shy of the Rooster and still a Monkey

Her beautiful name is Sofia but pronounced Safia

So wonderfully appropriate, like the “sa” in sapphire

Shining brightly of joy, love and hope realised

Know that  you are now and forever cherished

And while in your mother’s arms you snuggle,

I suddenly realised that I’m a Monkey’s uncle!

Dearest Sofia,

As you get to know me, you’ll get to appreciate my off kilter humor…… I hope.

Love,

Uncle ‘Tiger’ Squirrel

Monkey Go – Rooster Crow


Image result for monkey rooster zodiac

Chinese New Year is on the 28th of January.  On that day, we say goodbye to the Year of the Monkey and greet the Year of the Rooster.

I am sure that for most of us, last year has been a bit of a shocker. The monkeys have really been up to their monkey business.

One hopes that the Rooster will crow in a better year and so that is my new year wish for all of us.  May it be the break of dawn after a dark night.  May it be a return to sunnier times.

There is an additional point of interest for me this year as my sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a daughter.  Her due date is 26th of January.  If she is on time or early then, the baby would be a Monkey according to the Chinese Zodiac but just a couple of days later and the child will be a Rooster.  With no track record (being her first child), the bookmakers are refusing to offer odds.

What do you think? Monkey or Rooster.  Either way, I pity the child cause we all know Tiger is best, Squirrel is ‘best’-er and Tiger Squirrels are the super ‘best’-est!

Hallelujah! Christmas Blessings!


‘Tis the season to remember the gift of God to all mankind.

For unto us a child is born, a son is given….. (Isaiah 9:6)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

May you and your loved ones experience the joy and love of God this Christmas – a love that compelled God to send Jesus from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger, to live faultless amongst ordinary men and women, and finally to lay down his life for our sake on the cross of Calvary.

It is reason indeed to rejoice and praise God. This following video is of Kaylee Rodgers, a 10 year old from Nothern Ireland who has autism and ADHD. She began singing as a way to build her confidence. Together with the Killard House School choir of special needs children, she sings a Christmas worship version of ‘Hallelujah’. Jesus would be pleased.

Lyrics for “Hallelujah Christmas” by Cloverton

I’ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

For the Technologically Impaired


A friend of mine in Singapore has been involved in an initiative to reach out to senior citizens and improve their quality of life by educating them to the joys of computing and the internet.  This helps to keep them alert and engaged and some even go on to help charities and social programs using their newly learned skills.  A worthy effort.

One obstacle amongst the seniors is an inherent fear of technology and bewilderment brought on by unfamiliarity with the rapidly changing technology and technological jargon.

I confess that I too feel that I am falling behind the technological curve and in the danger of being left behind.  So as a public service, the Lone Grey Squirrel, wishes to share this informative video designed to be able to communicate at the level of senior citizens.