Sunday, 1 April 2012

1856 Map of Malacca's Territory

This map is an attachment to the 1856 issue of the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia (JIAEA). At that time, the Indian Archipelago refers to what is today the islands of Indonesia, as well as the Malay Peninsula and Borneo. This map was 'submitted' for publication by one Thomas Braddell. We today, of course, know of Braddell by the local places named after him, Braddell Heights, Braddell MRT station...e.t.c... Braddell was the first Attorney General of the Straits Settlements in 1867. Having spent the bulk of his career in the Straits Settlements, as employee of a sugar estate in Penang, then an official with the East India Company, he was intensely interested in the Malay region, and contributed a lot of articles to the JIAEA. Braddell  is a self made man along the line of Stamford Raffles. From humble origin, he became successful through drive and talent. 

According to the article that accompanied this map, the map here was made for Braddell by Mr. Valborg, a surveyor in Malacca. The map shows the extent of Malacca's territory, with boundaries with the surrounding Malay staes, as interpreted by the map maker. It shows well known features like Mt. Ophir,   Muar river...etc...  Apparently, this was the most accurate map of Malacca at that time, and it predates any British government maps of Malacca (At that time, Malacca was part of the straits settlements, that was administered by the  East India Company, based in Calcutta).

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Straits Settlements Annual Reports

Recently, I acquired copies of the "Straits Settlements Report for 1904" up to 1906 and the "Annual Report on the Social and Economic Progress of the People of the Straits Settlements 1933" up to 1938. I had purchased them online from some antiquarian bookstores based in UK and France. 
The Straits Settlements was established in 1826, and was made up of Singapore, Penang and Malacca. Later on, Dindings (1874), Cocos (Keeling) islands and Christmas island (1886) and Labuan (1906) were added to the Straits Settlements. This entity lasted till 1942 when the Japanese took over the Malay peninsula bringing an end to the Straits Settlements.
These series are the predecessor of the Colony of Singapore Annual Reports which was published after the war, when Singapore was made a crown colony by itself, while the rest of the Straits Settlement joined the Malayan Union.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Some mountain hikes in South South Korea

Godangbong, Geumjeongsan. Busan, South Korea 

Date: 12th Feb. 2012
Summit: 801.5m
Trailhead altitude: ~85m
Distance, one way: ~6.7km

From my conference hotel at Haeumdae, I took the metro to Beomeosa station. It was Sunday, and despite the winter cold, the city folks were out in full force with trekking poles, and full hiker’s order. From Beomeosa station, I headed uphill towards the temple, by a mixture of roads and trails. After the temple sightseeing, I discovered that at the temple's back exit, a trail leads up to Geumjeongsan’s tallest peak, Godangbong, at 801.5m. The trail was pretty crowded. The trail is easy and leads up to the North gate of GeumJeongsan fortress. There, hundreds of hikers basked in the winter sun, having their sunday hike-out picnic. The picnics were not simple sandwich and cheese kind, as some hikers had their cooking and barbecue equipment out. From here, it was 20min more before the summit was reached. 

The peak was very crowded was a menagerie of pple, fighting to get a shot with the summit marker.The weather was great, and it as a great day out, despite the tiredness from a red-eye flight into Busan. I went down fast, took a bus from the temple, and before long was having a satisfying meal of hot broth with oyster and rice, by the bus terminal, near the Beomeosa metro stop.

Chibulbong & Sangwangbong, Gayasan, Sobaek Mountain Range. Gayasan N.P., South Korea 

Date: 17th Feb. 2012
Summit: 1433m & 1430m
Trailhead altitude: ~630m
Distance, up and back: ~8.8km

After Breakfast at the Haeinsa temple at 6:10am, I started hiking 6:50am.  It was snowing ever so gently on the way up.  The trail was was not too steep and with constant gradient up till the ridge where the rocky summit portion begins. By now, although the snow has stopped, the trail was snow covered. The snow was slippery at the higher reaches, and I have to plan my line of approach carefully. A crampon would have been useful at some parts.  Finally reached the summit of Gayasan, Chilbulbong (1433m) at about 910am. Then descended and went up the nearby, more trodden summit Sangwangbong (1430m). The sky was clear, and the wind chilling to the bone. The cold, ice and snow made the summit feels much higher than the 1433 meters altitude. The temperature must be about minus 10C, as water in my bottle that was placed in my bag started to freeze. I started down 930am. The descend was not easy, as what was snow has become wet and revealed the ice that was underneath. It was a slippery descend and I fell numerous times. The trail was deserted, and despite the cold, the lonesome serenity was magical. Perhaps the night spent in Haeinsa had calmed the soul somewhat.  It was not until I am down from the summit block, and almost on the downward way on the wooded ridge that I met some other souls, a pair of monks. All in all I met about eight people. I reached back to the temple at 1110am for a hearty vegetarian lunch. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Singapore Year Books @ National Archives

Finally I made my first visit to the National Archives at Fort Canning Rise. There is a comfortable reading area, and on one of the shelves in the room is the collection of Singapore Year books from 1955 to 2007 (The last year that hardcopy Yearbooks were published). Quite a few of the books are in pretty poor condition, especially the older ones. 
The year books were not always called year books.   
From 1947 till 1958, they were known as 'Colony of Singapore Annual Report 19XX' and were published by the authority of the Government Printing Office, Singapore.
From the year when self-government was granted 1959 till 1963, the books were known as 'State of Singapore Annual Report 19XX'. In 1964 however, it became simply 'Singapore Year Book 19XX'. This was further shortened to just "Singapore XXXX" from 1969 till 2003. From 2004 till 2007, it became known as 'Singapore Year Book 200X' again.  

Singapore Year Book 1965

Monday, 23 January 2012

Singapore City Map, 1900

This map is a page from a German Encyclopedia: Brockhaus Konversations Lexikon 14. Auflage (Brockhaus Encyclopedia 14th Edition). The map dates back to 1900 (See bottom left of map) and offers a wealth of details of the extent and roads of Singapore town at the end of the 19th century. This map is rather common. I got this map from ebay, and i must have seen at least three of these maps being sold in the past half a year on ebay. I also saw one on sale at one of the antique shops in the Chinatown area.  

Here are some points points that I find interesting:
  • People's park is really a park. See "Volkspark" north of New Bridge Road
  • The hills of Mt. Wallich and Mt. Palmer no longer exist
  • Within the present day Istana grounds, near the Colonial Secretariat (Present day PM office) lies a malay cemetery
  • Where the neo-classical Supreme Court stands, Hotel d'Europe used to stand.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Land between Two ........

The Land Between Two Expressways

Date: 8th Jan. 2012
Distance: 7.6km

A hike from Boon Lay to Bukit Batok via Hong Kah. The third in a series of hikes in the Hong Kah area that i organized.

We took a bus from Boon Lay interchange to our start point outside Jurong Junior College. According to a 1978 topographical map of Singapore, the hill across the road from Jurong Junior College. Taking a trail leaving the abandoned Jurong road, we skirted about the hill and reached a canal. The canal lead to PIE. Like a previous trip, we crossed underneath the expressway using the drain. On the other side of PIE lies Hong Kah, and we continue for a while along the canal. Trees and shrubs lined the banks of the canal, as we slowly left behind the rumble of the mighty PIE. We turned onto what i believe to be Kian Hong Rd. This road is marked (though not named) on the 2010 topo map. The idea is to walk down this road till th end and make our way east towards Track 22. However, years of neglect has led the vegetation to reclaim this road. We follwed whats left of the road as far as we can go, and then crashed into pretty vegetation in search for an exit to Track 22. The going was tough, although its barely half a km. The trying part was a muddy stream that we spent quite a while fording, and many people got healthy doses of mud. After that, the rest of the hike was straightforward.

The Land Between Two Reservoirs

Date: 15th Jan. 2012
Distance: 10.6km

A hike from Upper Seletar Reservoir to the western edge of Upper Pierce Reservoir. The third in a series of hikes that i organize with variations on the theme of the Woodcutter's trail.


Most of us met up at Ang Mo Kio and took bus No. 138 to Upper Seletar Reservoir. Picking up a few more where we alight, eventually, a group of 26 proceeded into the trail. We took the trail that hugs the lakeshore, the trail is pleasant and offers fine vista of the lake (somehow calling it a reservoir diminishes its elegance). The lake shore trail proceeds into one of the 'fingers' of the lake. The opposite shore across the 'finger' overflowed with green, cast a peaceful reflection on the lake waters, and must be one of the prettiest sight on the island that morning.
The 'finger' narrows to it's tip, and we had to cross a muddy stream that lets into the lake. From there, it was pretty thick vegetation for a few hundred metres with no discernible trail before we finally made our way to the Woodcutter's trail proper. We didn't stay on the trail for long. Soon we branched into a trail that i suspect is actually the original Woodcutter's trail or some route that was once a proper route, as it is marked by well cut stone markers. In any case, the trail heading west eventually peters out and we were left to bushwhack through the vegetation. We crossed a small delightful stream, and eventually linked up with a open patch of ground, which functions as a emergency helipad.  The regular trail thence leads to the serenely beautiful western edges of Upper Pierce Reservoir. Sitting below the levee that made the reservoir is a huge waterworks. I had intended to find a route of the far side of the waterworks that will lead us onto Chestnut Ave. That approach turned out to have to be too difficult, and in the process I had my pants seriously shredded beyond repair. I finally decided to turn back and headed out via the regular trail.
Overall, it is a very satisfying hike, and most people in the group seem to enjoy it.