Monday, November 28, 2011

Limnophila species (native aquatic plant)


Found lots of Limnophila growing in this small drain flowing through a paddy field some weeks ago. This aquatic plant is native to Borneo (and SEA) and is often found growing in rice fields. It’s actually quite an attractive plant and would make a great background plant in a planted tank. The leaves that emerge above water are broader and slightly thicker while the submerged leaves are fine and feathery.

The fine leaves underwater were unfortunately covered with a layer of mud, otherwise they would look really nice even when photographed on a dull day (with polarizer of course).

Saw lots of fish in the water; was hoping to spot a gourami or two but spotted only common rasboras.

It was a rainy day so the photos are a rather dull and dark. Though I was using a different camera than my usual outdoor cam, I was still able to get some decent shots with a circular polarizer meant for my Olympus by holding the CPL in front of the lens. It wouldn’t fit the Sony lens because of the different filter thread size.

Friend snapping some underwater shots with an Olympus Tough TG-810. :)

Photographed with CPL

Left: wtihout CPL; Right: with CPL. The polarizer didn’t fit (different thread size) as it’s for my other cam but I held it in front of the lens, better than nothing. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Variegated tapioca

Variegated tapioca2
Beautiful foliage…

While hiking through the countryside last week, came across this small tapioca plant with variegated leaves (Manihot esculenta?). I’ve never seen one like it before… it was found growing by the side of an overgrown footpath leading to an abandoned vegetable patch.

Variegated tapioca

Read this:

So it’s native to South America, hmm… I wonder if the tubers are also eaten; we do eat tapioca tubers here but this is the first I’ve ever come across this variety.

Tapiocas are easy to propagate via stem cuttings so I kind of wish I had taken a stem cutting or two because it’s quite an attractive plant.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It’s an Indian Cuckoo! (myth of the “durian bird” finally cracked!)

See also: It’s durian season!

Back in 2009, I posted this entry entitled “It’s durian season!” and wrote a bit about the elusive “durian bird” which I had been trying to photograph since forever and a half.

Well, yesterday as I was writing on my laptop at home, I heard the bird’s unmistakeable loud calls “kang kang kang koook - kang kang kang kook” and quickly grabbed the Nikon + 70-300mm and went outside to look for it.


At first, I couldn’t locate it but I knew it was perched high up our tallest durian tree. As it called out again, I spotted it, partially hidden by leaves and branches. I’d been trying for so long to get a photo of this bird so imagine my excitement! Upon spotting it with the zoom lens, I knew immediately it was some kind of cuckoo.

Actually, I’ve been asking my birding friends forever about this bird but none of them knew what it was (which was really surprising and a bit frustrating too since they seem like hardcore birders, and this bird is often heard calling through the jungles, orchards and even some gardens). So I was really pleased with myself for having identified it finally after so many years! It’s the Indian cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus).


Now, some of you may regard this a fairly common bird; perhaps you’ve spotted it several times yourself but I'll tell you why I was so excited to finally photograph/identify it in a bit...

Anyway, afraid that it would suddenly fly off, I didn’t try to get a better view before snapping a series of shots. Then I shifted to a better spot, changed some settings on camera and snapped about a hundred photos of this bird! LOL I was hoping to get some useable shots since our tree is really tall and the bird was so high up it was beyond “sharp and clear” reach of the 70-300mm (these photos are all highly cropped photos).

This is a really LOUD bird, its calls can go on and on throughout the evening, sometimes well into the night. This bird I photographed was cleaning and preening its feathers in the light rain, stopping to call out every now and then.

Refer my 2009 posting “It’s durian season!”  where I mentioned a local myth about this bird. It’s sometimes called the “durian bird” or “liulian chiao” in Hokkien because some people believe it has the power to make durian trees flower and fruit! Each time a bird lands in a tall durian tree and starts to call, that particular tree is bound to bear lots of fruits come fruiting season. This believe came about from local observation over several generations. In fact, my father told me of a Bidayuh poem that was inspired by this very bird! It goes something like this:

Kang-kang-kang kuk,
Nimang bua’ tibaga,
Pe’on mu bojang dunuk,
Masih mu karik kaya

And here’s the rough translation:
Kang-kang-kang kuk,(call of the Indian cuckoo)
Nimang bua’ tibaga,Singing (a song of praise) to the copper fruit (“copper fruit” could be referring to durian?)Pe’on mu bojang dunuk,Though you’re limping on one footMasih mu karik kayaStill you search for wealth (food)

I had long suspected the myth came about from the fact that the bird just likes tall trees and happen to visit durian trees because they’re the commonest of tall (cultivated) trees in the Kuching countryside! And because the bird’s breeding season happens to coincide with the durian flowering season (usually end of year or start of rainy season), people thought that it had the “magical powers” to cause durian trees to flower and fruit! Hence, durian bird! :))


Like other cuckoos, the Indian cuckoo is a parasitic nester. You’ve probably watched how cuckoos lay their eggs in another bird’s nest on TV, right? It’s usually just a single egg which hatches sooner than the host bird’s own eggs. The young chick then pushes out the other eggs and takes over the entire nest. The host bird continues to feed the chick like its own even as the young cuckoo grows to a size much bigger than the host parent.

This is a bird I’d always known as the “durian bird” since I was a little kid. So having finally identified it, I must admit, it has lost much of its mysteriousness. It’s not as exciting anymore when we hear it calling haha. However, I will end with this funny but true tale… believe what you will…

About a week ago, we first heard this bird calling (this season) briefly but loudly on our tallest durian tree. The next morning, we looked up the tree and found this:


TWO durian fruits on one of the lower branches!!! We had been keeping an eye out for fruits on this particular tree for quite sometime but never found any but after the bird visited our tree, we found two the very next morning! It was as if the fruits “magically” appeared!

We’ll be having some yummy durians a few weeks from now. :)))

Friday, November 25, 2011

Samsung EX1 night shots (Kuching Waterfront at night)

See also: Samsung EX1 Advanced Compact


These photos were taken last year but am only now posting them to blog. Hope it’s not too late for anyone considering this camera. There’s no replacement yet from Samsung and the EX1 is the company’s only advanced compact model at the moment.

Click on the thumbnails for larger size. All EXIF data has been retained; unfortunately, due to my blazingly fast third world “narrowband”, I am unable to upload any full sized photos.

So what do I think about this camera after using it for a few times?

- Good low light performance.
- Good build quality (nice heft and feel)
- Good photo quality especially in good light
- External manual controls and dials
- Very “fast” and versatile lens that starts at 24mm (35mm equivalent)
- Even at its longest end, lens is still considered fast (wide aperture of f/2.4)
- Excellent AMOLED articulating display
- Good macro performance (flash throttles down nicely, power can also be manually adjusted)
- Effective Smart Range mode (increases dynamic range)
- Highly customizable

- Questionable quality control (mode dial problems on this unit, read about it elsewhere on the internet so looks like it’s not an isolated problem - modes switch by themselves especially when set at P-mode on the dial)
- AMOLED screen is beautiful but gives you the impression that your photos are sharper and more saturated than they really are. Will not appear same once downloaded to your computer.
- Tethered lens cap is nice but will often get tangled up especially when you have the screen flipped out
- Low light images quite noisy starting at ISO400. Dark areas are particularly ugly.
- Image stabilization not really that effective, I find 1/20s to the be slowest ideal speed, slower than that and I get lots of blurry or soft photos (I guess I’m so used to shooting at speeds as slow as 1/6s and getting nice usable images on DSLRs).
- Video mode very basic and no HD video
- No in-camera panorama mode

I like it overall and wouldn’t hesitate to use it as my only camera when traveling light IF it didn’t have that first problem mentioned above (modes jumping about or mode selection screens/windows randomly popping up). If you can get a problem-free EX1 (aka TL500) at bargain bin prices, why not?


Sarawak Tourism Complex (Old Court House) + Magna Carta Restaurant

Sarawak Tourism Complex (Old Court House)

Sarawak Tourism Complex (Old Court House) + Clock

Charles Brooke Memorial

Square Tower + Sarawak DUN in the background

Decent lowlight performance (hand held, slow shutter speed)

DUN and Square Tower reflected in still water (fountains turned off)

Square Tower

Square Tower

Viewing tower + Astana in background

Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building, better known as the DUN (Dewan Undangan Negeri) building.

Kuching city skyline + Sarawak River

Roof of the DUN building. Shaped like a terendak (hat). This was shot at about 1/20s and I find that speed to be the ideal hand held speed for this camera, produces decently sharp results. I find that the image stabilizer on the camera isn’t really that effective.

Souvenir shop on the righ

Sarawak Tourism complex + Charles Brooke Memorial

See also: Samsung EX1 Advanced Compact


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #4


“Cruise” the Sarawak River in a tambang


Visitors to the Kuching Waterfront, did you know that you can hire a sampan (aka tambang) and have the boatman take you on a leisurely ride along the Sarawak River? Walk along the banks and you’ll surely see a sampan or two waiting for passengers, just yell out to the boatman and tell him you’d like to hire him and his boat.

Be sure to ask about the fare per person and finish all your negotiating before you get into the boat. Normally, the boatmen charge RM10 for an hour long ride and RM5 for a half hour ride.

You’ll then be taken up and down the Sarawak River but always close to the city. You’ll have the opportunity to observe life along the river – there are several kampungs on the northern bank as well as view the city skyline from a different perspective. If you go during the late evenings, you might even get to see a spectacular sunset!

You’ll be taken on a short (or long, depending on your own preference) ride along the Sarawak River, giving you the chance to observe life along the banks (there are a few Malay villages on the northern bank).

There’s a few places where one can board a sampan to go across the river, just walk along the waterfront and if you see an idle boat with a boatman waiting inside, just yell out to him and tell him you’d like to hire his boat.

That building across the river is the new Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building (opened in 2009), better known simply as the “DUN” building.

Monday, November 21, 2011



Hmm… have I written about my 2009 trip to Mulu?? I’ve lost track of what I’ve written about! Will have to search my entries via blogger dashboard. Anyway, I was in Mulu again this year, this time we climbed Mount Mulu which was one of the longest and toughest treks I’ve ever done so far. It was a lot of fun though, for me at least, I enjoyed the trek especially from camp 3 to the summit. Walking through the mossy forest close to the summit was such an amazing and relaxing experience. We had such good weather the 5 days we did the climb too!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Corymborkis species (in situ)

I was so pleased to come across this flowering Corymborkis while exploring the jungle a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure which species it is, could be Corymborkis veratrifolia.


The flowers give off a nice, pleasant fragrance. The plant I came across was quite tall, taller than I. I had to hold my camera above my head to get a better shot of the flowers. Fortunately, my camera had a flip-out LCD so it made shooting above head a bit easier.


There were other plants (smaller) too, but only this one was flowering. The plants were found growing under heavy shade (lots of big, tall and shady trees). I’ve only come across specimens with withered or old flowers in the past so I was really happy to find this one with freshly opened flowers!


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any real close-ups with the camera I had with me at the time (Sony A350).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear Sony, send your staff some product brochures please!

Case 1, Singapore
Me: I’d like to take a look at the A33 or A55.
Sony staff (young man): A33 and A55? You mean A330 and A550?
Me: No, A33 and A55.
Sony staff: There are no such cameras.
Me: Isn’t this the Sony store, or did I walk into the wrong store?
Sony staff: (snickers) heh, where did you read or see, this A33?
Me: (I stare at him with disbelief) Sony website lists it! You’re supposed to know!
Sony staff: well does the Sony Singapore website list it? if not, we don’t have it here.
Me: (speechless)

Case 2, Sony Style, Kuching
Me: hmm, this A55, the EVF, when you pan quickly the image doesn’t refresh fast enough…
Sony staff (young guy): you have to predict where you want to point the camera because it is panorama.
Me: (???? what???) No, I mean… (oh, forget it). Do you have the A580?
Sony staff: What? No such thing.
Me: (oh bother, here we go again) A580 is the lastest Sony DSLR
Sony staff: no it isn’t, the A77 is the newest.
Me: The A77 is an SLT with an EVF. I’m interested in the A580, a DSLR with an OVF, not the A77.
Sony staff: A580? Must be a discontinued model (it’s not, not at time of writing anyway!). No, we don’t have A77 now.
Me: (oh forget it, just walk away).

Really, Sony, your Sony Style sales staff don’t even know what products you have! Send them a few free brochures please!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dinner at a vegetarian restaurant

A friend treated us to a vegetarian dinner at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant not too long ago. I’d never eaten in one before and I think for many in the group that night (only one true vegetarian was in the group), it was a first too. We didn’t know the names of the dishes served, neither did our host as he said the names (in Chinese) were rather elaborate and he had no idea what they meant haha :)

Yummy: this variety platter arrived in a small wooden boat. The tasty morsels disappeared pretty quickly!

However, because many of the dishes were served much like in a non-vegetarian Chinese restaurant, it wasn’t too hard to guess what they were supposed to be. Mock meats and vegetable dishes were served one after another and were really quite tasty, much to delight of all present. Was quite funny when everyone tried to guess what had just arrived on the table. If I’m not mistaken, the name of the restaurant’s Popular Vegetarian (Kuching).

This we guessed to be mock-pork served like a stew but it was steamed wrapped in plastic and foil. Some really tasty dried mushrooms in it.

Soups (either clear or starchy) are essential to any complete Chinese dinner. This one is a starchy soup resembling hai-siam (sea cucumber) soup.

This was a tricky one. But I think we eventually settled on “mock-fish”

Fried mushrooms (nice!) and a mock meat dish which we guessed to be mock-ham.

Cabbage rolls: whole cabbage leaves rolled up and stuffed with a mixture of corn, peas, mushroom etc.

Mixed vegetables
A tasty and “crunchy” slice of lotus fruit/seed pod sits among the other veges on the mixed-vegetable platter.

That’s one big slice of cake! - Also celebrated another friend’s birthday that evening and “forced” him to finish this big slice of cake. :)

Like in many Chinese dinners, the feast ended with the arrival of the tong-sui as dessert (we were served longans and some other fruit in syrup but it was too sweet for me).

Actually, come to think of it, the end of a feast in many Chinese restaurants is usually marked with the arrival of the scented moist paper napkins! :)) But it doesn’t mean everyone will get up and say their goodbyes, no, the evening’s only over when the bill’s paid and everyone’s done burping haha. :P

Photos were all taken with a Sony-Ericsson X10 Mini Pro.

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