Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Danebury Iron Age fort - Brunei Times

Published on The Brunei Times

 Danebury story of the Iron Age

Telling tales: Many locals go to Danebury Fort just to enjoy the countryside. Picture: Liz Price

Liz Price

Sunday, December 16, 2007

DANEBURY Iron Age hill fort is 2,500 years old. It is located in southwest England, not too far from the famous stone circle of Stonehenge.

The hill fort was excavated by Professor Barry Cunliffe from Oxford University between 1969 and 1988 and is one of the best studied sites of the British Iron Age, the period between the end of the Bronze Age and the start of the Roman period, 700BC - 43AC.

As you walk up to the fort from the car park, there is little to see except for large Beech trees around the perimeter of the earth works. But as soon as you enter the modern gates into the hill fort you can see the "ring" of ramparts and the once hidden gateway.

Danebury was a well-defended site. Originally the fort had two entrances, but the west gate was filled in during the period of occupation and the east entrance became the main gate to the fort. Approaching the main entrance, attackers would be forced to zig-zag towards the inner gate and would have been an easier target for defenders.

The main weapon of this period was the sling and a stockpile of 11,000 river pebbles was found in a pit next to the gate. Men, women and children may all have had to fight off invaders by hurling sling stones. Fire would have been another effective weapon while spears and chariots were also used.

The Iron Age people were farmers and kept sheep and wove woollen cloth, kept cattle and made leather goods. As Danebury had few natural resources it relied on trade with other areas to obtain iron, tin, copper, salt, shale and stone. It is thought that a community of 300 to 400 people lived here for more than 400 years.

The earth works around the entrance will give you a feel for the success of the Danebury defences. The ground slopes to a high spot in the centre of the ring. This area was a focal point for religious gatherings and important meetings. There were shrines and temples as religion was important to the people who lived at Danebury. Their pagan belief was that the gods lived in rivers, trees or other natural features. They made offerings to the gods and sometimes sacrifices.

When the Romans arrived, hill forts fell out of use, with Romano-British people preferring to live in villas surrounded by their own farming estate.

The nearby town of Stockbridge developed during the mediaeval period and at this time Danebury was used only by shepherds and their flocks. During the 16th century Henry VII granted a charter allowing a fair to be held on St Margaret's Day (July 20) and this annual event may have taken place at Danebury.

The archaeological excavations showed that within the fort there was evidence of 73 roundhouses for human habitation and 500 rectangular buildings to store grain.

Other archaeological finds included more than 180,000 pieces of pottery, 240,000 bits of animal bone, stone objects such as querns (hand mills), bone objects used in the weaving process and many iron and bronze artifacts.

Some of the finds can be seen in the Museum of the Iron Age in Andover. The museum uses real objects from Danebury alongside lifesize models, reconstructions and dioramas to bring the Iron Age to life.

The site has been listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Apart from the historical interest, many locals go there just to enjoy the countryside and walk their dogs. But as you walk around, try and imagine what life would have been like for the people who lived there 2,500 years ago.

The Brunei Times


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Peaceful Taiping, Perak's former capital -Brunei Times

Published on  The Brunei Times
Peaceful Taiping, Perak's former capital

A feel for history: An avenue of sprawling trees (Top) gives Taiping an air of a town forgotten by time. A central landmark in Perak's former capital is the Clock Tower (Bottom), which was built in the 1880s and once used as a police station and a fire house. Pictures: Liz Price

Liz Price

Sunday, December 9, 2007

AS ALL the tourist literature will tell you, the word Taiping means "everlasting peace". And it certainly is peaceful compared to other towns in Malaysia, having retained its small town feel.

It was the capital of Perak until 1937 when this status was given to Ipoh. You can get a feel for Taiping's history as you stroll along the wide, well spaced streets.

Some of the side streets still have a row of large sprawling trees, which is a rare sight in towns nowadays. Unlike other towns which have been modernised, Taiping has retained many old buildings that are being preserved and restored.

A central landmark is the old Clock Tower, built in the 1880s and once used as a police station and fire house. It has been restored over the years and today it houses the visitor information centre.

Taiping's museum is the oldest in Peninsular Malaysia and was completed in 1886. In those early days, pioneers of museum work specialised in flora and fauna, and in later years began to document Malaysia's cultural heritage. Consequently the museum has a good mix of items on display, covering anthropology, zoology and local history.

The Taiping area developed quickly in the mid 19th century when tin was discovered. Perak was once the largest producer of tin ore in the country. The mines attracted large numbers of foreign settlers, particularly from China. Coming from different clans, there was a lot of unrest, and in the early 1870s, the British took control of the town and named it Taiping.

The town's mining industry continued to thrive and the country's first railway was built to transport tin from Taiping to Port Weld on the coast. The first train ran in 1885 and slowly replaced the elephants which used to carry the tin ore along the jungle paths. The station was moved a few years later when the railway line was extended.

King Edward VII School is located at Station Road. Opened in 1883, it was the first English school in the state, and is one of the most scenic schools in the state, thanks to the 100-year-old Flame of the Forest trees on the grounds.

During the Japanese Occupation, the classrooms were used as torture chambers while the school field was converted into a farm to grow food. Another first for Taiping is that the first English newspaper, the Perak Pioneer, was published there on July 4, 1894.

Taiping's claim to fame is that it is the wettest town in Peninsular Malaysia. Its average annual rainfall is about 4,000mm, whereas the peninsula's average is 2,000 to 2,500mm.

Its high rainfall has also blessed its Lake Gardens with a splendid collection of flora. The lakes in the gardens are a result of the tin mines. The gardens sprawl over 62 hectares at the foot of the hill resort of Bukit Larut (formerly known as Maxwell Hill).

The main attraction in the gardens is the long avenue of century-old rain trees. These majestic trees border the road and in some places drooping branches seem to defy gravity as they almost touch the passing cars. The picture-postcard gardens present a calm and panoramic landscape with the ancient trees, colourful flowers, a profusion of greenery and lakes. Within the gardens is the Taiping Zoo & Night Safari.

Just outside the gardens is the notorious Taiping Gaol, built in 1885. During World War II, Taiping was overrun with Japanese soldiers. It is said that they stuck the heads of executed prisoners on poles throughout the town to remind people not to commit any wrongdoings.

The Commonwealth War Cemetery lies on either side of the road leading to Maxwell Hill. There are almost 850 graves and many are marked 1941 the final resting place of a company of soldiers who fought the Japanese when they invaded Taiping. The cemetery has two entrances, and there are different religious sections the Christian graves are on the south-eastern side of the road while the Muslim and Gurkha soldiers who fell in battle are on the opposite side. More than 500 of the graves at the cemetery are unidentifiable.

Back in the town it is worth just walking around, looking at the old shop houses with the chick blinds, shutters and old signs. The government offices are from the Victorian era. There are buildings belonging to various Chinese associations, as well as Indian, Punjabi and Ceylon societies, among others.

Perak's oldest brick mosque is in Taiping. Built in 1897, the old Kota Mosque was a Hanafi sect mosque that was used by the Indian Muslim community.

Its architecture is unique as it has a six-sided facade.

The mosque was later passed to the Malay community and thereafter became known as Masjid Melayu (Malay Mosque). The Old Saint's Church, built in 1886 along the Main Road in Taiping, was the first Anglican Church in the Malay states.

Taiping is definitely worthy of a visit. It's like visiting a town of yesteryear. And it certainly deserves its peaceful name.

The Brunei Times


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Hoover Dam / The Brunei Times


A US landmark: The Hoover Dam
Liz Price


Sunday, November 25, 2007

HOOVER DAM straddles the Black Canyon of the Colorado River in the United States. During its construction, the Hoover Dam, also known as Boulder Dam, was considered to be a monolithic project built in the midst of adverse conditions. It was built during the Depression. The "Great Depression" was a decade of unemployment, low profits, low prices, high poverty and stagnant trade that affected the entire world in the 1930s.

Our spirits were definitely not depressed as we drove there. Leaving glitzy Las Vegas it was a pleasure to see breathtaking views of Lake Mead and the Colorado River. It was quite a dramatic drive as we went through Boulder City and came over a rise, and Lake Mead suddenly appeared spread out in front of us. It was a beautiful sight.

Lake Mead is the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the United States. It is located on the Colorado River about 48km southeast of Las Vegas, in the states of Nevada and Arizona. Formed by water impounded by Hoover Dam, it extends 180km behind the dam.

Over the decades thousands of men and their families came to tame the Colorado River. It took less than five years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. Now, years later, Hoover Dam still stands as a world-renowned structure. But the history of the river exploration goes back much further.

In 1540 Alarcon discovered the Colorado River and explored its lower reaches. It was only in 1776 that the upper Colorado and its tributaries were explored. Then in 1857 Lt J C Ives navigated the Colorado River and in his steamboat The Explorer, reached the end of Black Canyon.

The dam is named after President Herbert Hoover, who played an instrumental role in its construction. Construction began in 1932 and was completed in 1935, more than two years ahead of schedule. By 1935 the dam started impounding water in Lake Mead. The first generator began operation in 1936 and others followed over the next few years. With Lake Mead full of water, by 1939 the Hoover power plant was the largest hydroelectric facility in the world. A year later the Colorado River Aqueduct was tested. This conveyed water away from the river to places where it was needed.

It's hard to imagine that Lake Mead is 580 feet deep and 75km long. It supplies most of the water for the city of Las Vegas. Lake Mead is named after Elwood Mead, who oversaw the construction of the dam. There are even several small islands in the lake, depending on the water level. Today it is a popular recreation area, especially for boating, as well as fishing, water skiing and swimming. And of course you can go rafting down the Colorado River.

The river is 2,330km long. There are several dams on its lower course. However, before it reaches the Hoover Dam, it flows through the Grand Canyon which itself if 446km long.

Highway US Route 93 crosses Hoover Dam. When we arrived at the dam we found a massive 5 storey parking structure. Having parked our rental car, we took the lift to the walkway leading to the new visitor center.

We ate ice cream sitting on the wall of the dam, absorbing the fact that this concrete structure was holding back a mighty river. We debated whether to go on a tour of the dam, but decided against it. Having read that it is visited by 2,000 to 3,000 people daily, we were unsure whether we wanted to be herded around in a tour group. However, it does provide a chance to get up close and personal with the dam.

On the tour you can view the power plant generators. The power installation at Hoover Dam was complete by 1961. Large elevators take you 500 feet down into the wall of Black Canyon, then you walk through a 250 feet long tunnel drilled out of rock, and view the 650 feet long Nevada wing of the power plant and its eight huge generators.

The Dam is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. Even without doing the tour we were still very impressed by the sheer scale of the dam, knowing how difficult it must have been to construct 75 years ago. It really is an achievement to be proud of.The Brunei Times


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Rajasthan camel safari

These are old photos I've scanned, but they bring back memories......... camels with bad breath and belching, spitting and farting the whole time ...... amazing nights of cloudless skies packed full with stars.... the starkness of the desert with friendly villagers.......
Camel at the petrol station -

 Jaisalmer -


 Udaipur -

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Toilets !

During my travels, I've come across some good, bad and downright awful toilets in SE Asia. Here are a few of them.

I add photos to this site as I get new interesting ones.

Smart German made toilets in Ankor Wat, Cambodia -

China natural toilet
nice entrance to this petrol station toilet
 Jinghong petrol station
Very upmarket, the Golden Phoenix Hotel at Simao -

Petrol station -


MORE 4WD camp site

Maliau Basin Loba Camp
Papan -

mirrors in the ladies in Planet Hollwood, KL
Pavilion Bukit Bintang
These sinks in the ladies at The Gardens, Mid Valley, look like urinals!
 Sabah restaurant -
 near the mosque at Jalan Bellamy in KL -

Sam Poh Tong
Unusual choice of words, petrol station at Tambun

Jingang Jing She cave temple

Miaw Yuan temple

Pureland Amitabha temple -
Cute signs Permai resort
How to use the toilet at LCCT -

rent a loo at MAHA
Homemade sign at Sam Poh temple, Cameron Highlands -
 Sentral LRT, I don't know what the metal frame. It looks like a 'handle' so you can stand on the seat - which of course is ridiculous. It can't be a rack for bags.

Lenggong Museum -

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission