Sunday, November 29, 2009


Anyone for a meal of stir-fried grass hoppers with basil leaves
... my friend bought a packet and said it was quite crunchy and tasty
This must be the elixir of life in Laos - wine with cobra

For an even stronger dose - wine with cobra biting another snake
For a triple dose - wine with cobra biting a scorpion and another snake coiled in the bottle
This is nothing after seeing those wine bottles - just boiled chicken and spare parts (also known as entrails in the West) knotted together
There is a vast variety of roots, bark and dried plant parts to "cure" any ailments
All sorts of horns, tusks and bones for good health
Laos offers an incredible source of natural products to "cure" ailments. I am sure they work as the markets are filled with bones, bark, roots and dried fruits. Just name your ailment and you will be sold a concoction of herbs to boil for drinking or to apply to the body. Traditional therapy is a way of life the people accept. I am sure it works, just not scientifically proven as yet.

Friday, November 20, 2009


We were in Laos during the first week of November for a short educational trip. Laos is surrounded by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand and China. Compared to its neighbours, Laos only recently opened up to tourists in 1988, thus it has maintained its "old" look and remains one of the few Asian countries unspoilt by rapid development and tourist influences. The capital Vientiane can be covered on foot and it was fun to detour into the little quiet roads and observe the people.
We took a ride to Buddha Park, about 40 minutes from Vientiane, a sprawling area with over 200 statues towering us, a place to walk and enjoy the fresh air. The Mekong River meanders at the peripheral and Thailand is just across. One structure towers 3 storeys high in the park and one starts in Hell, climb narrrow steps to Earth before seeing daylight in Heaven. It is not for people afraid of heights and only 4 of us in the group of 9 dared to brave Hell to reach Heaven.
We were in the jaws of Death - HELL
The path to Heaven is littered with challenges and how true as we climed narow steep cement steps higher and higher in darkness
Light at the end of the tunnel and we enter Heaven.
The 40 metre high reclinning Buddha as seen from Heaven
The statue of Buddha with many arms
After having seen Heaven, we still had to come down to Hell and continue with life as before. SIGH, there is really no short cuts to Heaven for us mortals
If in Vientiane, this is a worthy visit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Four fat caterpillars on my Desert Rose (Adenium obsesun). I have three pots of the plant and the caterpillars had invaded all, muching on the leaves. Rather then killing them, we decided to rear them as we have done twice before. Altogether, MartianGirl collected 10 Kathy Kims. We put them into plastic containers away from the plants as they were eating far too much and the plants were getting bald. They were running out of food. We tried giving other types of leaves but they would not eat. Instead, we asked for food donations from the neighbours as the Desert rose is a beautiful plant common in many homes.
Ali Baba doing the "cat" (erpillar) walk.
MartianGirl fed them as much as possible and cleaned their homes before school and in the evenings. She gave every one a name and took very good care of them.
Smokey BBQ is her favourite and must be the prettiest with lovely blue spots. They have a pair of eye spots in the front which makes them look quite scarry and prevents predators from eating them.
As they go through metamorphosis, they all changed from the lovely green with blue and white spots to brown with white spots. Here you have 2 Katy Kims at different stages - young green caterpillar and brown matured caterpillar before it forms a pupa. On the far right, there is a leave with eggs on the underside.
This beautiful creature just before the pupa stage is Hello Yellow
They "poo" a really, really lot and it's all in the form of dried pellets. Thank goodness as it makes house keeping so much easier.
When they turn brown, they stop eating. They stop their "cat" walks and a new hardier layer forms around them.

Momok Jin in the pupa stage. The pupa looks like a bullet with eyes. They are inert from the outside but there is a lot of action going on inside. We left them in a safe corner to continue their life cycle. Every now and then, the pupa will do a bounce or shake a little on its own. Little Boo in the pupa stage. It has been almost 2 weeks and they are still in the pupa stage. We also have Plump Daisy and Bloated Submarine in the pupa stages.

We left the plastic covers opened so they can morp into moths and fly away without damaging their wings. Butterflies form chrysalis so I think ours will be moths. One morning, only some remaining pupa bits were left behind, they had morph some time when we we sleeping. Our garden seems to attract many butterflies and now moths to breed so I guess it won't be too long before we another brood of Kathy Kims again.

Monday, November 9, 2009


It is now the rainy season in Malaysia and the East Coast region is flooded with people being moved to 3 evacuation centres. This happens every November and December when the North East monsoon sweeps into the East Coast and unburdens its load. Vegetable prices have increased 100 %. We are grumbling and moaning, but there is one smart lady who will not have to worry about this.
Madam Loo in her vegetable plot protected with fencing from "friendly" dogs who need to squirt frequently. Ceylon spinach with purple stalks climbing on the fence . This vegetable goes into making a soup flavoured with salted duck eggs. Banana trees fruiting
Hairy gourd - a herbaceous climber and salad vegetables.
Simple technology and the vegetables are growing so well.
Just when I had got over the envious feeling of the the hugh winter melons on my neighbour's fence, I uncovered Madam Green Fingers during my morning walk. Madam Loo is 84 years old, lives with her daughter's family and has 3 grandchildren. Her exercise is potting in her vegetable plot every morning after the family has left for work or school. She must have seen me "oggling" as she came out the back door. She's very friendly and spoke only Cantonese, a Chinese dialet I am not very fluent with. But, we crossed the language barrier and had a good half hour conversation with some sign language.

The large purple banana flower can be stir fried or cooked in coconut milk.
A large variety of vegetables, fruits, gourds and aloe vera in pots
All planted on government land at the back of her house
Hairy gourd covered with short silky white hairs for soup. The best ones I have seen are only a quarter of this size. This can feed 20 persons.

All these are planted in her back yard. She uses natural fertilisers (vegetables and fruit peelings and rice water). Do you know that water from washing rice before cooking is pretty nutritious for plants. I did explain to her how I wiped out my vegetable plot with too much fertiliser, how the insects were enjoying the vegetables more than me and how punny my egg plants and gourds grew.

She is a gardening encyclopedia and lectured me on how to water the plants (not using the garden hose and drowning them), plant seeds into pots first and how to mix soil. She gave me 3 hairy gourd seeds which I preciously wrapped in my sweaty hanky. I asked her permission to photograph her vegetables, she asked me to take some photos of the gourds once the plant bore fruit. I don't think I will get the gourds as large, something half the size will make me happy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bougainvillea - Paper flowers

"Bunga kertas" - Paper Flower Unusual mixture of orange and pink colours in my garden. Each flower has 3 petals joined in the centre.
Bougainvillea was discovered by the French botanist Philibert Commerson in 1760. The plant was named after his close friend Captain Louis A. De Bougainville who commanded the French ship Bordeuse that sailed around the world between 1766 - 1769. The plant is native to Brazil. It is very common in tropical regions.
The fashion now is different colours grafted into one tree
These master pieces are expensive- over RM 1,000 (US$ 270).
Bougainvillea is called "Bunga Kertas" or Paper Flower in Malaysia. The flowers do look and feel like thin sheets of paper. It is a very popular plant here becos' of its versatility. It can be grown in pots, as large trees for shade, hedges along the roads and kerbs and as especially as decorative shrubs along garden walls and on balconies. Another added value of "Bunga kertas" is, it is a hardy plant and needs little looking after. It is grown from cuttings and all one has to do is to cut an "older" part of the plant and stick it into the ground.

Bouugainvillea is frequently planted in gardens to brighten up walls.
It's so hot here, the bougainvillea is a great plan to grow as you do not have to water daily. I don't know if you can find it in temperate areas with the 4 seasons, if it can survive the winters. Over here, it just flowers throughout the year. The Bougainvillea is like "Gardening for Dummies" like me - a winner always. Add Video