Fire Breathing Dragon

November 30, 2016 at 12:30 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Itchyfingers first heard of this many moons ago when she was still a college student. Still remember visiting one with fellow classmates and our art teacher at one of the ulu (translates as “out-of-place”) parts of Singapore. There, we saw the “Dragon”. But when we visited it, it was still “sleeping”….

Itchyfingers is talking about the Dragon Kiln – a kiln built with bricks and earth, and originated from China. It is called the Dragon Kiln as it is very long and has a “head” and a “tail”.

Like the sleeping Dragon, Itchyfingers‘ memory on the Dragon Kiln soon went to sleep and has only been awaken recently when, out of the moon, on one fine day, I pestered Tisu Boy to bring me to visit the only surviving Dragon Kiln in Singapore. I have passed by the road with a big pottery pointing to the direction of the Kiln quite a number of times for the past few years, but just never find the time to go and check it out…

So this day, Itchyfingers finally found our way to Thow Kwan Pottery Jungle in the western part of Singapore. A pity it is really a bit out-of-the-way, as you still have to walk a distance if you take a bus there. For direction, see here.

Didn’t expect to see it the moment we stepped in….

dragon
The “head” or fire box of the dragon…This Dragon was built in 1940 and bought over by the Tan Family in 1965.

head
During the 1900s, Dragon Kilns were used for mass production of functional household and industrial wares like cups, jars and pots. The front portion (the head or fire box) is situated at the lower ground level and is the first point where firewood is fed in into the kiln at the start of the firing process.

size
I thought the one we visited at Ang Mo Kio was much longer and bigger…Didn’t have a camera then…what a waste!

stoke
The entire kiln is built on a gentle slope with a gradient of between 15 to 22 degrees. This is the “body”, a long and symmetrical structure made of joining semi-circular chambers. This elevated and semi-circular structure ensures a continuous cycle of heat within each section as the heat travels up the kiln. 

model
A miniature model of the Dragon Kiln. These openings, called the stoke holes or “eyes”, are located at designated spots in each chamber along the kiln body for fueling purposes. Wood fuel is fed through these stoke holes sequentially in stages to achieve an even distribution of heat throughout the kiln. Temperature inside the kiln is gauged by observing the colour of the flames through the stoke holes.

how-it-works
A poster on the wall explains how it works…

entrance2
One of the entrances into the kiln body…

tail
The heat and smoke from the firing escapes through a chimney, or “tail” of the Dragon, located at the highest point of the inclined ground, which is partially seen here…

entrance
Careful of your head! The entrance is quite low…

tunnel
The interior of the “body”…

Today, the Dragon Kiln provides a platform for artists and potters in fueling an understanding and appreciation of the disappearing art of wood-firing. To create awareness of the traditions, heritage and cultural aspect of the Dragon Kiln and promote interest in the art of pottery, Thow Kwang holds regular tours, talks and workshops in their premises.

pig
There is a large shop area where you can find lots of traditional and contemporary pottery, ceramic wares and cute bronze sculptures like this one!

house
A peek at the old house at the back…Really feel like going back in time to the 60s!

For Itchyfingers, we were so lucky to visit at the right time to find out about the next firing of the Dragon Kiln!!!!

fire
The Dragon shall be awaken and breathing fire again come this December 16-17! There will be free guided tour on 17 Dec at 2pm and 7pm. Walk-ins are welcome according to the leaflet! Itchyfingers definitely would love to witness this! 

Forest Walk – Sabah Trip #11

May 14, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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After the morning river safari on boat, we had breakfast and then it was free and easy time until the next activity. We decided to just explore around our camp area, and we were rewarded with many surprises!

tisuboy
A very easy walk with all the raised boardwalk at the campsite…You won’t get lost unless you venture out

broadbill
Just close to the dining area, we saw this beautiful Black-and-red Broadbill….Have been a while since I last saw this

white-rumped-shama
A melodious White-crowned Shama hopping around….

raptor2
Couldn’t be sure of the identity of this raptor. He was perching so high and called so loud…

rufous-tailed-tailorbird
Another old friend, the Rufous-tailed Tailorbird….

flycatcher
Not sure if this is the Sunda Blue Flycatcher?

The catch of the day must be this one…

Oriental-Dwarf-Kingfisher
The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher!!! So tiny and gorgeous!

king
The best thing was, we didn’t have to go far to look for it! It just landed outside our hut! 

kingfisher2
A peep at the bright pinkish/magnet back of this beauty

kingfisher
We were so happy that he landed right in front of us and stayed for almost 10 minutes!!!!!

lizard
Not sure which gliding lizard was this…super long tail that got out of the frame…

skink
Skink…

At around 10.20am, we took the boat and went for our jungle trekking….It was an interesting walk led by informative guide, but unfortunately a lot of the plants have only native names in Malay, so remembering them was quite challenging…hahah…

ant-nest
Were told this was the Fire Ant nest…not too sure about this…could be another kind of ant but the name was lost in translation?

evil
Evil-looking tree with big sharp thorns…These were much thicker than those of the Rattans…Can use this as weapon…wahahah

plant2
Rubbing the leaves of this plant is supposed to save you from mosquitoes’ bites…

leaf
Closer look. We tried it but not too sure if there were any effects….

plant
Fallen flowers that looked so similar to those of Canonball Tree

tractor-millipede
Saw a few of these Tractor Millipede again…

tractor
I nearly stepped onto this one…

centepede
Better leave the centipede alone…

caterpillar
Not sure which caterpillar was this…

cicadas
And lots of cicada moults! But this number was nothing compared to what Itchyfingers saw at New Zealand!

cicada
A closer look

fig
Tisu Girl with our Guide in front of this big fig tree….

Unfortunately it rained that night again, so we couldn’t go for our night walk…Pretty sure we could have spotted some interesting animals or insects….But well, that is nature…Borneo is certainly an amazing place to visit if you are a nature lover! Just be prepared to rough it out a little and you would be rewarded by the beauty of nature!

Also see related posts:
> River Safari – Sabah Trip #10
Visiting the Orphanage – Sabah Trip#9
Where is the Uncle – Sabah Trip#8
Wild Sabah – Sabah Trip#7
The Lost Gardens – Sabah Trip#6
A Close Shave – Sabah Trip#5
Boring Hot Spring – Sabah Trip#4
A Slow Slow Cllimb – Sabah Trip#3
A Different Garden – Sabah Trip#2
So Near Yet So Far – Sabah Trip#1

 

River Safari – Sabah Trip #10

April 11, 2016 at 12:29 am | Posted in itchy backside | 2 Comments
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We left the Operation Base for the campsite after a short briefing, around 2.30pm. Lights over at the campsite would only be turned on from 7am -12pm, which is fine…but the horrifying thing was to know that the bathrooms and toilets were very, very basic, or “Spartan in nature” as stated on their website, with only river water for shower! Wow, should have briefed us earlier! Then at least I could take another shower here since we had ample time after lunch…! Started to get a bit worried over what would be the condition…but too late to regret! Staying at Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp is a rough-it-out experience!

The journey to the jetty at Kinabatangan River would take about 1.5 hour depending on traffic condition. We were specially reminded to bring raincoat or poncho along if we didn’t, cos “the Camp is located in the Lower Kinabatangan Flood Plains – a Wetland and a Rain Forest. Floods can occur in a Flood Plain; often, it rains in a Rainforest and a Wetland isn’t exactly dry.”

mini-mart
The van made a stop at this old-fashioned mini-mart for us to buy ponchos and other essential items that we may need…But it was a bit of a rush and the shop was quite big with two storey…Only remembered to snap a photo of this old school shop from the van…

With us in the van was that quiet guy from Germany who stayed with us at the Operation Base. Two Australian couple followed our van in their own rental car. They would only be joining for one day.

jetty
After another short greeting from the staff, we were ushered to this jetty, and asked to  wrap our bags inside black garbage bags to prevent them from getting wet…It was a bit chaotic as the guys were busy loading food, ice and some other supplies so we were asked to carry our own bags and cross over… But with no straps to carry the bags on our backs, no way I could lug the backpack in my arms and walk that shaky bridge across to the jetty, especially with an injured leg…Luckily, they realised I needed help…hahah…

boat
A welfie with our boat mates…ooops…I covered most of them…hahahah

We were told that our boat would not be stopping for safety reason as the water was quite high, unless we spot wild orang utans. But we only saw birds like egrets, kingfishers and some raptors….no photos since all bags were wrapped…and no sight of the orange ape…😦

welcome
At around 5plus, we saw this welcoming sign! Their website says, “The Camp is near the Lokan River, a tributary of the Kinabatangan. The site of our Camp is on a native land that has not been cleared. The place is tucked between the Forest Reserve and the Wildlife Sanctuary.”

reached
Our trip mates….Another group of Caucasians were leaving on another boat for their ride, so we were not the only tourists here…

We were then led to the briefing area…It was starting to get darker, probably also because we were in the forest…Another guy introduced himself as M, and briefed us on our programme…

itinerary
Our 3D2N programme actually started from 2.30pm when we left the Operation Base…so we were only left with a night safari from 9-10pm for this first day. The second day will be a full day program from point 2-6, with breaks in-between. The third day would be just a morning boat safari before departing at 10.30am. For the Aussie couple, they would only be doing the first night safari and then the next morning safari. For a detailed itinerary, check out their website here (which we didn’t when we signed up…hahah)

After briefing, finally we could “check-in” to our “rooms”….All facilities at the Camp are in the form of raised huts.

room
We would be sharing “room” or rather, hut, with the Aussie couple…Every “room” has a latin name outside. Ours was Boiga Dendrophira, which is the Gold-ringed Cat Snake or Mangrove Snake. We have this in Singapore too but I have not seen a wild one yet… 

room2
There…no doors or windows, only a light mattress and mosquito net, and the floors are covered with linoleum. Only a bulb outside. We were advised not to put food, not even scented toiletries in the hut, especially in our packs, as there were instances where people woke up the next morning to find their bags bitten through, most probably by rats and squirrels to get to the food! So every hut has a plastic covered bin for us to deposit our food and toiletries…

I think I could bear with the simple sleeping arrangement, since we also had similar mattress and net at the local villagers’ house during our previous trekking trip in Vietnam. Now, time to check out the toilets!

loo
A two or three minutes’ walk on the raised platform led us to the bathrooms…The taps on the washing basins were not working, the flush in the toilets weren’t working either. The blue plastic containers were storage for  river water. So basically, we were supposed to scoop water into pails to shower and flush toilets…Would need to use bottled water for brushing of teeth and washing face! Reason why I didn’t take a closer photo? Cos the area had a lot of mosquitoes!

After looking at the bathrooms, I decided to skip shower…the water was so murky looking! How to bathe?! But Tisu Boy went ahead cos too humid in tropical rainforest!

Then, while waiting for dinner to be ready, it started drizzling…

kitty
Campsite kitty….

dinner
Kitty jumped on the dining table for some food…

The rain didn’t stop and at one point even got heavier…The earlier group came back, all drenched. But I think they said they saw crocodile in the water! How exciting and scary on a rainy night!

We went ahead when the rain got smaller. No wonder we needed ponchos! Saw owl and monkeys, but too dark and wet so no photos again!

drenched
Drenched! Ok, now I really don’t have to shower liao… :O

The next morning – rise and shine at 6am and set off half an hour later for morning river safari! And what a beautiful day with many sightings of birds!

stork-billed
Stork-billed Kingfisher

hornbills
A pair of male and female Oriental Pied Hornbills!

hornbill
The male with bigger casque

serpent-eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle

crested-serpent-eagle
Flight shot…

butterfly
Birdwing butterfly that flew reasonably close enough for us to take this photo…hahah…

We also saw so many endemic primates!

gibbon2
A lone Bornean Gibbon (Hylobates muelleri)

gibbon-call
Calling…

gibbon
Giving us a good look…

gibbon3
…before getting into action!

jump
Leap!

jump2
What a jump! We saw this same Gibbon on both days of our morning boat safari. He seemed to be always hanging around the same area so our guide could easily predict when and where to spot him…I hope there are others of his kind around so he could start his own family….

probocis
Finally! Wild Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in daytime! We saw a group last night but couldn’t take any photos cos of the rain and darkness…Endemic to the jungles of Borneo, they are certainly one of those bizarre-looking monkeys…look at the big nose of the male! That was supposed to be very sexy and attractive to females! Hahahah!

young
Young Proboscis Monkey. The bulk of their diet is made up of tough mangrove leaves which are pulled from the surrounding trees. Being leaf-eating monkeys, they have large and swollen stomach that is made up of chambers containing a special cellulose digesting bacteria that helps to break down the leaves. This is however, a very slow process and means that the Proboscis Monkey’s stomach is often full and can contain up to a quarter of the individual’s total body weight.

leap
Jump!

leap2
Another jumping one! They are very good swimmers!

look
We saw two groups of these unique-looking Proboscis Monkeys! Very easy to shoot if you have zoom lens!

monkey
A record shot of the Bornean Langur or Silver Leaf Monkey. They can live anywhere from warm humid, swamp forests of Borneo to cold mountain regions of Kinabalu Park

pig-tailed3
The Southern Pig-tailed Macaques. These are females. Traditionally this species of macaque is trained to climb coconut trees and to twist off the ripe coconuts with their strong hands

pig-tailed2
But these Pig-tailed Macaques are also quite aggressive. Here we have a handsome male and a juvenile…

long-tailed-macaque
We also saw a lot of these common Long-tailed Macaques… 

nest
Unfortunately, throughout our two morning boat safari, we couldn’t find any wild orang utans! Only managed to see this nest that orang utan made for roosting at night…

The guides were generally knowledgeable in recognizing the different animal species, except a mis-identification of this one…

fern
The very common Bird Nest Fern was being called an Orchid when our fellow boat mate asked what was it…!!!!

Certainly a very fruitful boat safari. It would be highly recommended to bring along a pair of binoculars to fully appreciate the animals!

Also see related posts:
> Visiting the Orphanage – Sabah Trip#9
Where is the Uncle – Sabah Trip#8
Wild Sabah – Sabah Trip#7
The Lost Gardens – Sabah Trip#6
A Close Shave – Sabah Trip#5
Boring Hot Spring – Sabah Trip#4
A Slow Slow Cllimb – Sabah Trip#3
A Different Garden – Sabah Trip#2
So Near Yet So Far – Sabah Trip#1

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