Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday Fire at Ampang New Village Light Industry Area

Sunday 31st March 2013. There was a fire in the Pandan area in Selangor this morning (possibly on the  border of Pandan Indah - Kawasan Perindustrian Ringan Kampung Baru Ampang area) at the Light Industrial Area of Ampang New Village. The area affected are some factories located between Jalan 14 (Ampang New Village Light Industrial Area) and Jalan 11 of the Kg Baru Ampang Tambahan/Pandan Indah Light Industrial Area , just off Jalan Pandan Indah.

The fire probably started just before 2am. By the time we noticed it from our balcony around 2.10am, the smoke plume had just risen to about eye level when viewed from our place. The fire was huge and on three occasions we saw huge fireballs erupting into the air.
Photo at 2.10am - the smoke plume was black and had just risen to eye level when viewed from our 13th floor balcony in Bandar Baru Ampang.
Photo at 2.14am - the fire getting stronger. After this there were several flare-ups that rose to as high as the height of the electric pylon.

At one stage, the fire seemed to be under control, and smoke that is more white in colour were seen rising from it. However, the situation took a turn and flames and black smoke were seen spewing from an area that wasn't on fire in the early stages of the event.
Photo at 2.29am The fire engulfing another building to the side of the fire.
Photo at 2.37am - You can see fire on the roof of the structure. This was after a huge fireball erupted from the fire.

Even now at 4.08am, there is an orange glow and white smoke rising from the area. Here's the video of one of the fire flare-up. The flare-up is around the 1.00 minute mark.

UPDATE: The area affected was at the light industrial area of Ampang New Village, just off from Jalan Pandan Indah, Selangor. I managed to talk to the wife of a factory owner who was there around midday. According to her, the fire appeared to have started from some factory on Jalan 11 (the Pandan Indah/Kg Baru Ampang Tambahan side), but spread and gutted theirs on Jalan 14 (the Ampang New Village Industrial Area side). She said thankfully her worker managed to escape unhurt and that she received a call about the fire past 2am.
Some of the workers cleaning up during midday. At that time, the firemen were also clearing up their equipment. The area razed was far less extensive than what would have been expected from the flames in the early morning hours of Sunday. Perhaps the gas canisters and large metal drums that were 'blown' open from the heat might be source of the intense flames and spectacular flare-ups.
After the fire, only a pile of scrap metal remains. The large metal drums must have taken a beating from the heat - the top cover have signs of 'blowing open' at the sealed edge.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Little Kai Lan Tale

Kai Lan is a common Oriental vegetable that is usually consumed by the Chinese stir-fried or blanched and dressed with oyster sauce. For local Malays, a popular way of cooking it is to stir-fry it with salted fish a.ka. kai lan ikan masin that you can order from almost any Malay restaurant here in KL.

Kai Lan or Chinese broccoli is related to Kale, Broccoli and Brussel sprouts, hence the similar texture and 'bitter' taste. The 'bitterness' of Brassica oleracea L. var. alboglabra is due to the release of glucosinolates when the plant tissues are attacked or bruised. These compounds in reasonable quantities are know to have health benefits, hence a dose of cruciferous now and then is good for you.
Kai Lan leaves have such an interesting texture and colour. Well, most of the Cruciferous vegetables do.

My first experience with growing Kai Lan started last year with the arrival of the seeds from Diana and boy did they do well in the balcony. In the early stages, I picked the young seedlings as micro-greens and discovered that were really sweet and tasty. With a cabbage-like sweetness and none of the bitterness of matured Kai Lan (or cabbage for that matter), I was eating it it raw. Hence I had to order more seeds from Diana, knowing that it is difficult to produce seeds of Brassicas if I go on picking them off as micro-greens.
I pick a handful of Kai Lan leaves now and then to add to soups or noodles. 

Only a handful made it past the 'baby' stage as the rest met with untimely death in my salads and stir-fries. As the remaining survivors grew, I picked the leaves now and then from those plants without cutting the stem away. Thus, it was more like a pick and come again vegetable for me. After several good batches of leaves, the hot weather towards the end of last year resulted in the plants bolting. The white flowers looked pretty so I kind of let them bloom, though I did pick it now and then as they add a spicy touch to salads or soup. However, most remained on the plant as it was also a nice sight to see them hanging out on the balcony, swaying with the passing breeze.
Lovely white flowers of Kai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) swaying in the wind. Pretty, but gives me vertigo looking at them as it is 13 floors down to the road below.

As time passes, some of the unpicked flowers developed into pods. As expected, all the pods that formed were sterile, as the plants were all flowering at different times or there were no insects to help with cross-pollination.  So last week I decided to decapitate the massively branched flower stalks. Not wanting to waste any of the leaves (including the small, lance-shaped ones on the tips of the flower stalk) I picked them off and made a bowl of soup with it. Surprisingly, it tasted OK. A little stronger in terms of the Chinese Kale taste, but definitely edible.
The woody stems making a point to show that there is still some life in them.

Now the tough stems have put forth more side shoots. So looks like the Kai Lan is here to stay...a little longer. They are indeed resilient and worth every bit of space given to planting them. Here's to another round of Kai Lan from the balcony...Cheers!
Making a comeback after being topped - looks like baby Kai  Lan, but she ain't a baby, she is old.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Hour 2013 - Kuala Lumpur

Here's a picture or two of KL powering down for the 2013 Earth Hour.

This was taken at 8.35pm (Menara Maxis clock time).

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day 2013

Today is World Water Day 2013. The theme for this year is International Year of Water Cooperation. This is of course very relevant to ensure water security for many countries since there are many transboundary river basins in the world.

Here are some interesting facts from the UN-World Water Day site:

  • 780 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • There are 276 transboundary river basins in the world (64 transboundary river basins in Africa, 60 in Asia, 68 in Europe, 46 in North America and 38 in South America). 
  • Each person in North America and Europe (excluding former Soviet Union countries) consumes at least 3 m3 per day of virtual water in imported food, compared to 1.4 m3 per day in Asia and 1.1 m3 per day in Africa (Zimmer and Renault, n.d.)
  • Up to 90% of wastewater in developing countries flows untreated into rivers, lakes and highly productive coastal zones, threatening health, food security and access to safe drinking and bathing water Over 80% of used water worldwide is not collected or treated (Corcoran et al., 2010).

Whilst Malaysia is not affected by international transboundary river basin issue, we do have a certain issue with state transboundary rivers. Also, we have a very high water use/demand per person per day. So think about where the water is coming from the next time you shower, flush the toilet, wash the car or water the garden.

PS: Tomorrow at 8.30pm is Earth Hour. Though it is good to see many public events lined up (e.g. Shah Alam, Sunway Pyramid, KLCC etc.), I am somewhat aggrieved that World Water Day did not garner as much interest as Earth Hour over here, sigh.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pantai Pasir Tengkorak - A Beautiful Beach with A Macabre Name

Pantai Pasir Tengkorak is a rather quiet beach on the northwestern side of Langkawi Island. The rather macabre name of the beach, literally meaning Skull Sand Beach or Sandy Skull Beach, should not put one off from visiting this peaceful cove guarded by rocky walls on both ends. The beach faces out towards the Andaman Sea and is guarded by Koh Tarutao (or Ko Tarutao), one of the island of Satun Province in Southern Thailand.

This is the left hand side of the Pasir Tengkorak Beach. (The zoom of the panorama can be changed by clicking on the magnifying glass icons on the bottom right of the flash object. Dragging the image moves it towards the direction. To restart the auto-scroll after re-sizing or moving, right-click on the object and select Play.)

This beautiful beach has been given various English equivalents for its Malay name. From Skull Beach to Sandy Skull Beach or even Skull Sand Beach. What is clear is that there is a strong connection of skulls to its name. And why on earth would anyone give such an ominous name to a lovely beach with crystalline sand?
Pantai Pasir Tengkorak in Langkawi, Kedah. The island off the coast is Koh Tarutao/Ko Tarutao of Thailand.  It was drizzling when we got to the beach late afternoon, hence the overcast sky.

Well, there are many stories behind the name of this beach, and some of it is tied to Ko Tarutao. One local folklore has it that in the past, a sea monster lived nearby, and bodies of its unfortunate victims would end up on this beach. Another version of this story is that it was a whirlpool that took the lives of the unfortunate seamen, but with similar consequences i.e. skulls being washed ashore on this beach.
A local inhabitant of the beach. The shell looks scary, and probably is the only thing that remotely resembles a skull that you can find on Pantai Pasir Tengkorak.

Yet another local story had it that in the past the Garudas and Jentayus (mythical birds) that lived on the nearby island (Ko Tarutao) waged a war. Many humans fell victim to this war and their bodies (and skulls) were washed ashore on this beach.

A third story and more a plausible explanation is connected to Ko Tarutao as a penal colony. The island in the late 1930s was used as a penal colony for Thai political prisoners. Due to the surrounding seas that is infested with sharks and have swift currents, attempts to escape the island are usually fatal. And guess where the bodies would end up...Pantai Pasir Tengkorak.
The beach is quiet and offers a good place for a romantic walk by the water's edge with your partner.  From the way the waves break over his feet, he must be enjoying his walk. His partner on the other hand, seemed a wee bit disturbed by the wet sand.

Besides that, support from the mainland was cut off to the penal colony during World War II. This resulted in the guards and prisoners, out of sheer desperation and need, banding together to form raiding parties that preyed on ships that sailed through the waters near this island. The dead victims of these pirates frequently ended up being washed ashore on Pantai Pasir Tengkorak, hence its name.
The trees with the reddish stem and branches are Syzygium chloranthum (Duthie) Merr. & L.M.Perry (syn. Eugenia chlorantha Duthie). Known locally as Kelat Merah, they are relatives of the Kelat Paya (Syzygium myrtifolium). Also in this picture are the common Kelat Jambu Laut (Syzygium grande (Wight) Walp. syn. Eugenia grandis Wight)
And growing epiphytically on the Syzygium chloranthum are some ferns and Hoya (waxflower). Unfortunately, I didn't  catch sight of any Hoya vines with flowers.

Nowadays, this beach is peaceful and sees only a handful of visitors due to the secluded location of the beach. It is part of the Pasir Tengkorak Recreational Forest (Hutan Lipur Pasir Tengkorak) and there are tables and chairs provided on the park grounds before the beach. Just by the beach, there are some basic amenities such as toilets, changing rooms and also prayer rooms for Muslims. On weekends and public holidays, there are a few stalls and vendors that ply their trade outside the gate.
A signboard by the entrance to the beach. A very good definition of forest.
Rabbit's Paw Fern (Drynaria sp.) on a tree in the recreational forest. The dry weather in the previous months  had left the fern dormant with only the dried, sterile detritus leaves still attached to the rhizome.

On the right hand side of the beach, there are some interesting rock formations and steps that supposedly lead to another part of the beach which we didn't explore. The rock formations on both sides of the beach (very visible on the right hand side) are examples of sedimentary rocks from the Machincang Formation that formed during the Early to Late Cambrian period (about 550 - 500 million years ago!).
The rocky walls on the right side of Pantai Pasir Tengkorak. These rocks are from the Machincang Formation. The stones on the beach (green with algae) are strangely pitted. Just above the high tide mark, one can see that the rocks are sedimentary in nature, made up of layers of sandstone and shale.

The Machincang Formation is predominantly made up of fine to medium-grained sandstone with subordinate coarse-grained sandstone, conglomerate and shale (Leman et al., 2008). At that time, Langkawi was part of Gondwanaland. If one takes a good look at the sandstone and shale found around this area, one can see that Mother Nature had carved some strange and somewhat grotesque patterns on these rocks.

This is the right hand side view of the Pasir Tengkorak Beach. (The zoom of the panorama can be changed by clicking on the magnifying glass icons on the bottom right of the flash object. Dragging the image moves it towards the direction. To restart the auto-scroll after re-sizing or moving, right-click on the object and select Play.)

How to get to Pantai Pasir Tengkorak: (GPS Coordinate 6.429644N, 99.727449E or +6° 25' 46.72"N, +99° 43' 38.82"E)

If you are coming from Kuah town, head towards Datai. For example, we came from Kuah town, hence we went through this route. If coming from the northern side, go down Jalan Teluk Yu until you reach a T-junction to Jalan Datai. There is a foodstall here called Kafe Simpang Datai. Turn right into Jalan Datai and continue on until you see the sign Hutan Lipur Pasir Tengkorak and a turning to your right. There's a parking area beyond the gate.

If you see a tunnel, you have overshot the place and reached Temurun Falls further down the road. In that case, turn around and head back to the Jalan Datai-Jalan Teluk Yu junction. The signboard and turning into Pasir Tengkorak Recreational Forest is on your left and highly visible.

If you come from the direction of the Langkawi Cable Car (from the south),  go down Jalan Teluk Burau towards the Danna. Follow Jalan Teluk Yu and at the T-junction with Jalan Pantai Kok (where you can see Telaga Habour), go straight on Jalan Teluk Yu. You will pass by Pusat Penyelidikan Langkawi UKM and Customs housing complex in a short while.

Continue to follow the road and turn left  into Jalan Datai at the intersection of Jalan Datai-Teluk Yu (this junction is clearly marked plus the Cafe/Kafe Simpang Datai is a highly visible landmark). Follow the road (Jalan Datai) until you reach the destination (Hutan Lipur Pasir Tengkorak).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A sojourn to Pekan Kuah Langkawi

This is another backdated post from my trip to Langkawi. I was in Langkawi during the Chap Goh Meh weekend for a work-related workshop. Having arrived via flight, colleagues of mine insisted on going to Kuah town for one very important reason...SHOPPING! Well not quite the only reason, for I also wanted to see the Dataran Lang (Langkawi Eagle Square) and the jetty complex since it was my first visit to Langkawi.
The eagle at Dataran Lang. This statue depicts a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus intermedius) in a rather aggressive posture perched on a rock.

On their shopping list were chocolates, chocolates, and more some bags to carry all the chocolates and other stuff back home. So off we go to Kuah town. We were lucky for the fact that one of my colleagues can be considered a 'hard-core' Kuah town shopper, thus we had no problems with getting around Kuah.

An assortment of duty free shops are abound around Kuah town and also at the Jetty Complex. You sort of see the shops over and over again, especially more popular names like Haji Ismail Group, Zeno etc. However, one is advised to check and compare prices, for some items might not be as cheap as it appears to be.

One area that we went not once, but twice was the Jalan Pandak Mayah area in Kuah town. There were rows of shophouses with shops like Haji Ismail Group, World of Perfume, Zeno etc. that beckon you to come in and part with your money. Suffice to say, our entourage left the area with the car boot full of stuff, which is not surprising as we have two housewives in our group. And oh, someone even bought a set of Corelle dinnerware.
Around Kuah town...duty free shopping is a curse for shopaholics and aunties (read housewives). Shoppers beware, if you don't have cash, most shops accept credit card. Worst still, you can use your bankcard (ATM card) in some of the shops.
Rows and rows of bags in front of a duty-free shop. A lot of people end up buying bags just to accommodate their purchases in Langkawi.

Nearer to the Kuah Jetty Complex is another shopping area called Langkawi Fair Shopping Mall. However, there were not that many people around the mall and the atmosphere just wasn't right for shopping. We left without buying anything, but the shopaholics in our group did manage to complete a price-compare mission.

Of course one cannot forget the Jetty Point Duty Free Complex that is adjoining to the jetty building. Numerous shops within the complex caters to the last minute shoppers clambering to buy more stuff before leaving the island. There were also cafes and fast food eateries over here if your tummy growls at you after all the shopping done.

Whilst the rest were shopping, I was busy taking shots of the Dataran Lang and the surrounding panorama. At that time, the weather was not ideal to say the least, thus shots turned out rather crappy and dull due to the overcast sky. To sum it up, Kuah is just a place for you to buy, buy and buy, and take photos of man-made attractions such as the Dataran Lang and the Taman Lagenda (Legenda Park - Legend on a Park).