sign in a cave in Laos

1 December 2019

Sinkholes in Kuala Lumpur

At the end of Nov 2019 there were 3 sinkholes within 3 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The first one was in Jalan Maharajalala and was 3 m wide and a car fell in. Photo from the NST

Sinkholes are not uncommon in limestone and much of KL is built on limestone, but apparently these 3 sinkholes occured in the Kenny Hill formation, which occurs over a large part of the city.
“This is quartzite and phyllite — very strong, hard rocks that have weathered over hundreds of million years."

The holes are thought to have been due to fast flowing water.

See more on NST on 30 Nov.

2 August 2019

Judi Dench visits Gomantong

In July 2019, ITV on English TV showed a 2 part documentary on Dame Judi Dench's visit to Borneo. I wrote about it on my webpage, "Judi Dench's wild Borneo Adventure". In the second part of the programme, there was a few minutes coverage of Judi's visit to Gomantong.

I took some screenshots :

The famous guano pile that every documentary covers

A photo taken from my Gomantong blog, showing the same guano pile

5 July 2019

Update on the writing in Gua Datuk, Gng Rapat

The Star on 27 April 2019 had an article about writing found in Gua Datuk, near Ipoh, in Perak, Malaysia. See my blog.

On 2 May The Star had a further article, "Japanese writings found on cave walls". There is an interesting photo of some of the writing with the translation.

"The cave, where the Japanese writings were discovered, is believed to have once housed a temple started by a Nichiren Shu priest.
Nichiren Shu is a Buddhist school in Japan, founded by Nichiren Daishonin, that teaches and practises the Lotus Sutra (Buddha’s teachings) more than 750 years ago.
Experts from the state Park Corporation, Tourism Perak, Minerals and Geoscience, Heritage and Museum departments visited the cave last Friday.
Penang Nichiren Shu Temple committee member and a researcher (for the temple) Alexandar Ang said that he and several members discovered the inscriptions in 2011 after an extensive nine-year search.
This had come about after a priest mentioned to them about an old temple located within a hot spring area in Ipoh.
Ang said the inscriptions were in kanji, a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters.
There was an inscription stating the “second year of Taisho era in 1913”, which was a form of Japanese calendaring, he said.
“The temple was founded in 1913 by a priest referred to as Rev Baba from Kumamoto, Kyushu in Japan.
“It was named Ganryuzan Hokekyoji, and at a point in time the temple had 290 devotees comprising 80% local Chinese and Indians, 5% Japanese and 15% foreign nationals,” he said.
However, local experts and historians have yet to verify the writings.
There are currently three Nichiren Shu temples in the country – Klang, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Ang said the temple served as a place to learn and practise Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma.
Another committee member, William Tan, hoped that the writings would be preserved as a living heritage.
He said the cave was mainly used as a temple to propagate Buddhist teachings.
Last week, state Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing had spoken about the writings found in the cave.
The inscriptions, he said, were made before World War I.
He said the soldiers at the cave were probably intelligence troops then.
The cave is not open to the public for now."

1 July 2019

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River on Google doodle

On 30 June 2019 the Google doodle on the search page featured Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines.

This is the text :

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park: Google Doodle Celebrates Puerto Princesa Underground River
By Hannah Barwell - June 30, 2019

Google celebrates the seventh anniversary of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance with an extraordinary doodle.

The doodle features the entrance of Puerto Princesa’s underground stream with a boat of travelers entering the world’s longest underground waterways at 8.2 kilometers which is also famous for its stalactite and stalagmite formation.

On this day in 2012, the Puerto Princesa Underground River became a protected site by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It’s also a Philippines National Park .

“We are glad to showcase one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders through a special Doodle on the Puerto Princesa Underground River,” interim Country Manager for Google Philippines Ben King said.

He said it also serves as a nudge to travelers to help conserve the place.

“Aside from celebrating the destination, we hope that this effort serves as a reminder to do our part in conserving it.”

In 2012, Ramsar Convention, an international body created for the conservation of the important wetlands, tagged Puerto Princesa Underground River as “unique in the biogeographic region because it connects a range of important ecosystems from the mountain-to-the-sea, including a limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps.”

An announcement discharged by Google says “We are glad to showcase one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders through a special Doodle on the Puerto Princesa Underground River,” interim Country Manager for Google Philippines Ben King said.

He said it also serves as a nudge to travelers to help conserve the place.

“Aside from celebrating the destination, we hope that this effort serves as a reminder to do our part in conserving it.”

In 2012, Ramsar Convention, an international body created for the conservation of the important wetlands, tagged Puerto Princesa Underground River as “unique in the biogeographic region because it connects a range of important ecosystems from the mountain-to-the-sea, including a limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps.”.


25 May 2019

Batu Caves on McDonald's OOH campaign

In 2019 McDonald's came out with a very clever marketing campaign. It showed various billboards featuring iconic Malaysian attractions and places, made out of McDs products. The billboards use food to highlight what each Malaysian state is popular for.

For Selangor, Batu Caves was shown, using just fries. Menuju Tangga Batu Caves - to the stairs Batu Caves

In Ipoh, the billboard cleverly recreates the iconic "Ipoh" sign using fries and nuggets, but adds on "Mari Tak Sombong", "let's not be arrogant", to represent the state's famous tagline.

See more on this site. And on marketing-interactive.

8 May 2019

Prehistoric community discovered in Gia Lai, Vietnam

This is not cave related, but is still a very interesting piece of news.

On 8 April 2019 Vietnamnet reported :
"Discoveries made at the Go Da site, An Khe town, Gia Lai province, in 2014 are evidence that An Khe valley was the home of a prehistoric community. Over the past 5 years, Vietnamese and foreign archaeologists have unearthed and made public findings which have shocked many historians."

An Khe is in the Central Highlands in SE Vietnam.

"Archaeologist Phan Thanh Tung discovered the first stone axe at the Go Da site. Two top Vietnamese archaeologists, Doctor Nguyen Khac Su and Doctor Nguyen Gia Doi, came to An Khe to prove that prehistoric men lived here. 

The Vietnam Institute of Archaeology and Russia’s Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology worked under a 5-year cooperative agreement which expires this year to excavate the Go Da and Roc Tung sites in An Khe town.

Discoveries of the early palaeolithic sites in An Khe are evidence that the upper Ba river in An Khe was the home of a prehistoric community about 1 million years ago. 

This is the oldest known trace of humans and their cultural relics ever found in Vietnam. 

It’s important proof that nearly 1 million years ago prehistoric men had appeared in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

Discoveries of bifacial tools and handaxes in An Khe have also dispelled the view that in the West people had handaxes, indicating more advanced development, while in the East people had stone choppers, simpler tools suggesting a less-developed society.

Doctor Nguyen Gia Doi, acting Director of the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology, said “The An Khe site is one of a few rare relic sites in Southeast Asia and Asia, dating back more than 800,000 years. It creates a new notion of Vietnamese history. Previous findings at Nui Do are 300,000 to 400,000 years old. The An Khe findings have changed our conception of prehistory and man’s evolution.”

The excavation is still underway, but the preliminary findings have important value for writing Vietnam’s history, for exhibiting at museums, and for making An Khe an international center for the study of human cultural history."

28 April 2019

Chinese and Japanese writing in Perak caves

The Star on 27 April 2019 had an article "Japanese, Chinese writing dating back to 1913 found in Tambun's Gunung Datok cave".

The article, by Manjit Kaur, says writing believed dating back to 1913 has been found inside Gunung Datok in Tambun. This would pre-date WW1 and is from the Japanese Taisho period.

I first visited Gua Datuk in 1991 but don't have any photos of the graffiti.

Other caves in the Kinta Valley have a mix of Chinese and Japanese writing, which I was told by a Japanese friend Menju, that the writing is Kanji. Kanji means Chinese characters in Japanese. In the Japanese writing system, the characters are adopted from Chinese ones. Caves on the west side of Gunung Lanno show these characters. Although much of the graffiti there dates between 1930-50.

Gua Pulau (Prk 18/16) and Gua Batu Nesan (Prk 18/17) and Gua Selari (Prk 18/15) all have graffiti. My friend Law Siak Hong translated some Chinese characters as "continue to fight the battle" and "may our comrades continue to strive [for the cause]". There are also lot of names - Chinese, Malay and Sikh, also police.

There is also what we guess to be war graffiti, of a soldier shooting a man

See my more detailed blog about these caves, "Lanno revisited" in 2013.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

This is the majority of the Star article :
"Japanese and Chinese writing believed dating back to 1913 has been found inside Gunung Datok in
Tambun near here.
State Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing said the inscriptions that were written in charcoal mentioned the year 1913 and the Taisho period.
"1913 is even before World War 1. We believe soldiers were at the cave probably as intelligence troops.
However, we need more experts to come down and have a look, especially the Japanese embassy," he said.
He said the cave is located within the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat.
"However, we will be writing to the embassy, and we will get experts to tell us what the writing is
about," he added.
The Taisho period in Japanese history dates from 1912 to 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Emperor Taisho."

7 April 2019

Bomb-making equipment inside Krabi cave, & birds nests

Birds' nest caves in SE Asia are generally owned by local people and are carefully guarded to protect the valuable nests.

In March 2019 there was a mine explosion in a birds'  nest cave in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. On March 20 The Thaiger reported "Investigation into mine explosion on a Phang Nga Bay bird’s-nest concession island". There was an explosion at a bird’s-nest concession area in Phang Nga bay, where two men were killed. The island is Koh Lao Dua, 6 km north of Koh Yao Noi. The mine had been planted in the beach, in a concession area that was out of bounds. The Nation Mar 19 "Investigation under way after lethal blast  in Phang-nga bird’s-nest concession area".

And in another incident also in Krabi area a week later -

The World News 28 March, "Bomb making equipment discovered in Krabi cave" -

Krabi officers have discovered bomb-making equipment inside a cave in Krabi.

Officers raided the cave on Koh Talu in Ao Lueak, Krabi after they found that the cave is part of an area of a company who received a concession to produce and farm bird nets.

Two men died from their injuries after stepping on mines along the shores of a nearby island last week that was also being used for the farming of bird nests.

Officers found 44 year old Chocknapat Khunkam and an 18 year old teenager in the cave. They told police that they had been hired to guard and protect the bird nets inside the cave.

Police also found bomb-making equipment inside the cave. The two men told police they didn’t know anything about that equipment. They have now been taken to Ao Lueak Police Station where they were charged with illegal possession of bombs and ammunition. Police are continuing their investigation.

At this stage police believe that items seized might be linked to the mine explosions at a bird’s-nest concession island in Phang Nga bay last week.

6 April 2019

Tin dredge in Selangor, 2019

I have posted a few times in the past about the tin dredge in Selangor, close to KLIA.

I was interested to see this article, "Anyone interested in buying Selangor’s tin dredge?" in Free Malaysia Today, published on 23 March 2019. My blog is mentioned in the article.

And the FMT article first appeared in The Thrifty Traveller's blog, "Selangor Tin Dredge", posted in 2017.

It seems that over the years, nothing has been done towards selling or preserving the dredge.

5 April 2019

Gua Air Mata Dayang, Merapoh, video

We found Gua Air Mata Dayang in Merapoh, Pahang, Malaysia, in Nov 2012. It is a water cave and now used for tube "rafting".

This is a video of exploring the cave, on youtube.

27 January 2019

Hand stencils, rock art, Anthony Gormley BBC2

An interesting documentary on BBC2 by British sculptor Anthony Gormley. Gormley is probably best known for his "Angel of the North" statue. In the documentary, he was investigating the age of art, having originally thought that Europe had the oldest art - from the cave paintings in France and Spain.

This is taken from the BBC2 webpage -
"Why do humans make art? When did we begin to make our mark on the world? And where? In this film, Britain's most celebrated sculptor Antony Gormley is setting out on a journey to see for himself the very beginnings of art.

Once we believed that art began with the cave paintings of Ice Age Europe, tens of thousands of years ago. But now, extraordinary new discoveries around the world are overturning that idea. Antony is going to travel across the globe, and thousands of years back in time, to piece together a new story of how art began. He discovers beautiful, haunting and surprising works of art, deep inside caves across France, Spain and Indonesia, and in Australian rock shelters. He finds images created by hunter-gatherers that surprise him with their tenderness, and affinity with the natural world. He discovers the secrets behind the techniques used by our ancestors to create these paintings. And he meets experts making discoveries that are turning the clock back on when art first began.

Finally Antony asks what these images from millennia ago can tell us - about who we are. As he says, 'If we can look closely at the art of our ancestors, perhaps we will be able to reconnect with something vital that we have lost."

I was particularly interested in the hand stencils, these are found on 3 continents. Firstly Gormley showed those in  Pech Merle Cave in France. Photos taken from the Pech Merle webpage -

Gormley spoke to French archaeologist Michel Lorblanchet, who has suggested that the application of the paint for some of the paintings was probably by means of a delicate spitting technique. He says the 200 black spots had the charcoal (?) applied this way, as well as the 6 hand stencils. Lorblanchet then demonstrated making his own hand stencil on a rock outside, by chewing charcoal and gently spitting onto the rock. It took about 45 minutes. The paintings are actually deep in the cave, the ancient artists would have used light from fire, and then used charcoal from the fire for their paintings.

Gormley talks about how Neanderthals are usually considered to have inferior mind and didn't produce cave art. He went to El Castillo Cave in Spain, and talked to Professor Alistair Pike, who has worked on dating techniques. There are 40 hand stencils in this cave. Some of these red stencils are now covered with calcite, dated at 37,000 years. 40,800 for the red dots. The calcite arrived after the stencils were made. These are some of the oldest of European paintings and most have been done by Neanderthals. Pike also worked at Maltraviso Cave in west Spain, where there are many hand stencils, and found calcite deposits on the stencils dating to older than 66,000 years old. This is 25,000 years before humans arrived in Spain, so must have been done by Neanderthals.

This shows art was done earlier than first thought. And was done by Neanderthals, not humans.

Gormley then went to Sulawesi, in Indonesia. Cave art has been found here, and was done at the same time as the paintings in Europe, but the people presumably had no contact. He met Maxine Aubert and sees more hand stencils. Unfortunately many of the paintings have disappeared over the last 30 years as parts of the rock surface have fallen off, probably due to pollution.

I saw some of these paintings in 1994. My blog, Cave of Hands. The babi rusa was probably painted with a brush.

They go on to Leang Timpuseng, with a babi rusa painting, dated at minimum 35k years old, as well as a hand stencil dated at 40 k, minimum . The babi rusa would be the world's oldest figurative art. There is now an archaeological dig in the cave.

So the Indonesian and Europe art is about the same age, done on opposite sides of the world. Is there similar art to be found in say Africa, India etc?

Next, Gormley went to the Kimberley in Australia. This has a huge variety of rock art, animals, plants and humans, but hasn't been properly dated yet. There are no paintings of humans in Europe, but there are in the Kimberley, showing humans "celebrating, and alive". There are also hand stencils.

As Gormley says, these separated communities of modern man left signs of being, a human need to express something. Whereas the practice of painting in Europe ended about 10 k years ago, in the Kimberley rock art is still a part of spiritual life. There is still a living connection.


BBC2 Antony Gormley: How Art Began,  2019, 73 minutes, official website.