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Thursday, March 23, 2006

BOTANICAL GARDENS AND SHADY AVENUES


Wednesday, March 23

The driver picked us up early this morning for a 40 min. drive out into the country to a private estate known as Rimbun Dahan. (I've written about this in detail previously). We were met by Angela Hijjas, the wife of the architect who owns the estate. She greeted us warmly and, accompanied by the newest artist-in-residence there we were taken on an extensive and very educational tour of the botanical gardens. The young couple, Zoe and David, had just arrived from Melbourne and will be the artists in residence at Rimbun for the next year. The Hijjas family pays for everything by way of thanking Australia for their support to the family.

Rimbun Dahan was originally a fruit orchard that is now the centre for architecture, the creative arts and nature conservations. There's a 14 acre compound planted with indigenous S. Asian species, four studios for visual artists, a large dance studio, a restored village house, an underground art gallery, artists' accomodation, a class car garage (Hijjas collects old Rolls Royces and there were around 9 of them on display), and the Hijjas famlyhome and staff quarters. The compound is a residence for artists and writers and students of architecture and ecology.

Angela is a lovely woman and extremely knowlegable about the flora and fauna. It was certainly a bonus tour with lots of chances to ask questions and learn many new things. We saw everything from the nutmeg trees, cashews, various herbs and spices and even a couple of highly poisonous plants. ("One bit of this mixed in your tea and you're a goner!" says Angela.)

The beautiful old traditional village house was a highlight of the tour. It was moved here from its original location in Perak, and restored. It was built originally in 1901 and was possibly the home of a Malay historical figure Maharaja Lela. The house represents a unique blend of Chinese decoration and Malay architecture and demonstrates the objectives of the Rimbun Dahan programme to appreciate the rich experiences that emerge from bridging cultural differences.

There are various wild animals roaming about the estate and I happened to see one (from afar) a very large - maybe 4 ft. moniter lizard. Eek! There are monkeys and wild pigs too but we didn't see any today. After the tour around Angela served us ice lemonade in her house and answered more of our questions. I've taped most of the tour around the gardens and hopefully will glean enough notes to write a good article about Rimbun Dahan.

Forgot to mention, one highlight is the art gallery which is underground. Each artist in residence contributes two paintings to the permanenet collection. These are mainly Malay and Australian artists.

After we returned to the city, we walked over to the Menara Kuala Lumpur which is a communications tower similiar to the one in Toronto. It's 421 meteres high and is the fourth tallest telecommunication tower in the wrold after the CN Tower. The view was magnificent and I got lots of photos although the afternoon was overcast.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a sidewalk bar for a cold beer, just in time as suddenly there was a fierce tropical storm: very loud thunder, lightening and teaming rain.
We waited in the shelter of the bar until the storm passed, then carried on back to the hotel.
The temperature has been steamy hot but not unbearable, but we were more than ready for a long refreshing swim in the pool. And later we had dinner by the pool. I had a mai tai with an orchid in it. MMM good!

So it's off to the airport very early tomorrow morning for our flight to Langkawi.
Next report will be from the Island just as soon as I locate an internet connection.

We're having an amazing time! Still pinching myself to see if it's really all truly happening!

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