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The sky was bright blue and it was a lovely day to explore Ipoh – historic capital city of Perak in the Northern state of Malaysia. My friends and I decided on doing a 2hrs Heritage Walk around Ipoh town arming ourselves with a map in our hands. The easy to read map was a big help guiding us around the historic buildings of the city!
Ipoh is easily accesible from Kuala Lumpur via North South Expressway on a 2hours smooth journey and breathtaking limestone hills cathces your view along the way. We did a quick stop at Kellie’s Castle in Batu Gajah town (exit: Gopeng from NSE) before Ipoh. There are clear singage indicating direction to the castle along the state road.
The castle was a dream project of Mr. Kellie – a prominent plantation and mining entrepreneur in the year 1900. Mr. Kellie a Scotsman came to Malaya to explore and make money in this promising land and indeed he did…lots of them! The rich Mr. Kellie stayed in Kella’s house – located behind the Castle – and dreamt of building himself a huge residence. The castle left incomplete after Mr. Kellie passed away in Portugal while purchasing a lift system for his house (first lift shaft in Malaysia can be found here).
Frankly this place is quiet eerie…as it’s an abandoned house but furnished with lots of information for visitors by the tourism board. Long coridors with arches, spiral straiways and walk to the open rooftop was exiting. Series of secret passages throught the house is a mystery. For a small sum, you are allowed to visit the majestically planned and built castle with dozens of windows – Malaysian weather is hot and humid.
There are many stories of Mr. Kellie’s spirit is still lingering the house!
Mr. Kellie was a kind man. He was very fond of his plantation workers – mostly Indians and built a temple for them just a stone thrown away from the castle. The temple itself already 110 years old – built around early 20th century. According to temple priest, Mr. Kellie wanted a son after his first child and he prayed at the temple for good luck. After a year he had a beatiful baby boy as he wished!
Now, the there are only 5 Hindu families living in the area as most families left for bigger towns. Temple is surviving only on donations from worshipers and visitors.
We left for Ipoh and the stories will follow…..
After lunch we headed to the Buddhist Maha Vihara, located along Jalan Berhala in Brickfields or fondly known as Little India – for the large Indian community residing the area and many authentic Indian restaurants and Saree shops.
The Wesak Day festival atmosphere here was much more vibrant than what we had experienced earlier in the morning. As Jeremy and I walked towards the temple, road shoulders were occupied by peddlers selling traditional cakes, cold beverages, traditional Indian ornaments and clothes, balloons, audio CDs, etc. Music filled the air accompanied by accasional loud honks from vehicles avoiding pedestrians to and from the Buddhist temple along the long narrow road.
We reached the gates of the temple which was built during the British occupation in early 20th century. The old sturdy gates – more than 100 years old and originated from Liverpool – graciously welcomed us in to the view of a lotus pond at the entrance.
The crowd here was massive and the best part was it consists of people from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural background. There were locals; Chinese and Indian community, European tourists, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Nepalese, Indian who are working in Malaysia. The temple ground was packed with crowd patiently lining up to get blessings from the monks or waiting to get into the main shrine for prayers.
We took shade from the hot mid-day sun under the Bodhi Tree. The scene of Buddha attaining enlightenment was recreated with a huge marble statue of Buddha in his meditating posture under the tree. It is said one of the trees were brought from Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India. The rest was its sampling. Nearby, there’s a Buddha Gallery where statues of Buddha which was donated from the world over kept for display. One should not miss to step into the gallery as its collection of various form of Buddha is very interesting. Shoes are not allowed inside.
Fans which sprout out chilled water were placed at strategic places to give break to the devotees from hot spell – which I enjoyed for a short moment as I walked pass it. Smoke from incense was intense and flower offering to the monks was smooth amidst the huge crowd. Many volunteers spend their time and energy to make the sacred event a success – kudos to them!
As such, my friend Ee Lin was one of them. She is a devotee at Maha Vihara and she had spent her time volunteering on the eve and on Wesak Day – preparing food for visitors and devotees. I planned to join her but I could not make it this time. I shall volunteer in upcoming years if opportunity arises. Following are some pix from Ee Lin on beautiful floats paraded around Brickfields later that night.
Each year in the month of May a very special day marks the calendar of Malaysia and this day is observed as a public holiday…No, it’s not Labour Day but Wesak Day. Over the years I having been enjoying Wesak Day purely as a holiday and shame to say never made any effort to visit temples and take part in the festival – the most important day for the Buddhist community.
Wesak Day marks the Birth, Enlightenment and Death of Buddha. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month. Devotees throng the temples throughout the country to pay homage to the Enlightened One.
Yes, I’ve been to Buddhist temples – Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple where the sleeping Buddha resides and the remarkable Kek Lok Si Temple with Pagoda in Penang but never on a Wesak Day.
So, this year my friend Jeremy and I visited two of the popular Buddhist Temples around Kuala Lumpur on Wesak Day – Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya and the Buddhist Maha Vihara located in Little India Brickfields.
Our first stop was the Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya. Its location is just a short distance away from Taman Jaya LRT (Light Rail Transit) Station along Jalan Pantai, Off Jalan Gasing – appx. 10min on foot. I arrived at the station from Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station earlier than Jeremy who drove there from home. As I was waiting, I spotted Malaysia’s first Drive-In Fast Food Restaurant – I remember as a kind I had spent some time there drinking the best root beer in town with my dad.
Jeremy arrived and we walked to the temple which was located amidst residential houses. The sight was to behold as the temple decorated with gold paint was so beautiful. Intricately designed in Thailand Buddhist architecture style, this huge temple amazingly stands out of its surrounding. Now by 9am, temple ground was filled with devotees paying their alms to Buddha. The scene was relatively quiet but progressing with many rites by the devotees.
The place is divided into the main temple, a smaller one just opposite the main and at the corner is a small Wat for safekeeping donations (in the form of smaller Buddha statues) from devotees. An eye-catching moment for us was the placing of alms by devotees in small pots lined up in a semi-circle. Notes changed into bags of coins at a readily available counter and believers place one coin in each pot and strike a bell as they progress along the line. This is repeated until the final pot where all the balance coins emptied in it. It is believed this act brings good luck.
The respect to the place by the devotees was amazing. I truly enjoyed the peace and calm ambiance amongst the people in the temple ground 🙂 We walked to the back of the temple before heading to the main shrine which required us to climb up a fleet of stairs. At the back is the dining area where morning breakfast was generously served – all vegetarian food. Some of the food was donated and some were sold. They were fresh and tasty looking but we opt not to have our breakfast there as the queue was long. Further back was the kitchen and I spotted volunteers cooking rice to be served for lunch and some ladies preparing dishes.
One interesting fact of this place as I clearly noticed at the kitchen (the ladies working were all Thais) is the temple was built for the small Thai community in the area. It is said King of Thailand even donated a sum for the construction of the temple. Interesting!
The main shrine was full of activities. Bathing of Buddha was one of the main ceremonies of the day – it reminds Buddhists of the need to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practice morality and kindness. Statues of Buddha accepting donations in a straight line was a favourite subject of the many photographers thronged that morning – including photo seekers like myself and Jeremy.
Then inside main building, devotees were deep in prayer and paid offering to the temple monks. Many offering were present such as flowers, joss-sticks and for the monks the holy robes and food while accepting blessings. Buddhism highlights that just as flowers wither and die and joss sticks burns away, so too life – temporary. Shoes not allowed inside the main shrine.
There were also many oil lamps which will be lighted with a little donation. It signifies Buddha’s enlightenment. At the gate exiting the temple, we noted there we peddlers with caged birds to be released for a sum to symbolize giving freedom and release from past sins.
As we exited the beautiful place, we were hungry and headed for a drink at A&W nearby after tirelessly capturing 45minutes of religious scenes. We headed to Brickfields after lunch to the Buddhist Maha Vihara which I’ll cover in my next posting. Cheers!
Last weekend, I was wondering about “Little India” enclave in Klang – a busy town located just 45minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur – admiring Rangoli themed Sarees and tasting the best Teh Tarik (Pull Tea) that I can find. As I was criss-crossing the 5foot pavement of the pre-war shop houses along Tengku Kelana Rd., I came upon a fortune teller, sited on the floor by the pavement offering his masterful service for only RM5.
I am a non-believer for fortune insights but I gave it a try anyway as I thought it would be fun. The master – was actually a young chap – armed with a fortune guide book and ever faithfull green parrot by his side. What a beautiful bird, jade green and nice little red nose, I admired his pet. I opted not to go for palm reading as it’s a common fortune telling method but asked for the bird to see my fortune.
The master gave a queue and the little creature patiently climbed down from it’s cage and picked up a single “Red Packet” from a stack and handed it over to it’s master. As the packet opened up, I was blessed with a GOD’s image and he started explaining about my past and future, when best time for me to get married, etc. I was actually did not capture most of it as I was busy snapping pictures of the pretty little parrot. Standard question I asked was; what is your star and are your currently single or married?
According to the master, my future is bright and I can see good days ahead and I survived a life threatering misforture in 2011…which was correct!
Anyway, I had a good glimpse of this dying fortune telling practice in this country (almost all similar fortune tellers in Malaysia are from India and they make a living here). This shows the beauty and diverse nature of Malaysia with multi-etnic and multi-cultural society. Closer to Kuala Lumpur, one can also head to Lebuh Ampang Little India to find out your fortune 🙂
Hi peeps, glad to be back to this platform. Lately, I had to juggle most of my time with classes and work so hardly had any time to write on my new travel experiences. Here, I’m sharing my experience at this year’s Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves temple in Kuala Lumpur. I know, it’s already a month since the festival was held on 27th January.
Thaipusam is an annual Hindu religious event held at Batu Caves, Malaysia’s most prominent temple located about 15 Km from Kuala Lumpur City Center. On this day – celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Thai (1st month in Indian Calendar), a massive crowd of pilgrims from all corners of the country and tourists fetching up to a million in number congregate through the gates of Batumalai Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam, to show penance to Lord Muruga (one of Lord Shiva’s son, the other is Ganapathi – Elephant God) for fulfilling their vow in many different ways. Batu Caves is a limestone hill with Lord Murugan temple build inside a cave at the top. Pilgrims and visitors required to climb 272 steps to reach the shrine.
Although its a religious event, here in Batu Caves the ambiance is more like a carnival with many hawker stalls selling food, drinks, audio Cds and even a Carvinal Game Arcade at its compound. This year, a close friend of mine happened to have setup a drink stall. So, I used the opportunity not just to pay my religious deeds to Lord Murugan but helped my friend with his stall while learning some soft skills.
This year was much easier to commute to the temple compared to previous years as the government took the initiative to provide non-stop 24hours Commuter train service by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) direct to the temple grounds. It had saved me a load of time and hassle of driving and getting stuck in traffic standstill and paying hefty parking fees as I visited Batu Caves for 3 days. What a relieve!
Between my breaks from the stall, I walked about wading through crowd of locals and foreigners while enjoying the religious and carnival atmosphere. As I walked through the stalls and carnival area, the smell of food was on the air mixed with loud ear deafening music beats from loudspeakers. Some boys stood out from the crowd with their massively glorified pink, green fake hairs on their head and ‘vuvuzela’ looking trumpets on their hand blowing loud noise on people’s ears as they joyfully walked through the crowd.
As I approached closer to the temple shrines, the atmosphere were more religious like, quiet and more obedient. Here loud musics not allowed as pilgrims in yellow clothing walked pass with milk pots, Kavadi carried on their head and shoulders. It was a beautifully scene. There was a group of music performances who sang Lord Murugan’s bravery, beauty and kindness accompanied with a collective of traditional drum play which had really kept me captivated. The Kavadi bearers swayed gracefully with the music as they prepared themselves to go up the 272 steps with massive weight on their shoulders.
Thaipusam signifies the day Mother Parvathi handed Lord Murugan his Vel (a spear with tremendous power) to defeat evil beings. Religion text also says Lord Murugan’s Vel flew on its own cut a demon into half. Each half of the demon transformed into a vehicle to service Lord Murugan. One half turned into a beautiful peacock and the other into a rooster. So, to this day Hindus regard Murugan’s vehicle, peacock a significant religion icon. Its beautiful feathers used to decorated Kavadis on Thaipusam day.
As night falls and temperature drops from all the heat of the day, more Kavadi bearers and people carrying milk pots thronged the area and crow swelled. Now, it was much harder to walk between the sea of people. But, I did managed to get some snap of the beautifully decorated kavadis in bright LED lights and peacock feathers.
I climbed up to the top and payed my prayers to Him. Here, the milk pots bearers handed their milk pots to priests to shower Lord Murugan and Kavadi carrying pilgrims brought down the weight from the shoulders marking the completion of their penance.
The spectacular celebration of Thaipusam can only be spectated Malaysia outside India annually in the month of January or February. My 3days there were very informational and part of religious obligation albeit at times were crazy and tired with all the crowd.
Do you know that Malaysia has indigenous community who first arrived to this land 8000 years ago?
I bet you don’t, as I myself only found out recently when I visited Orang Asli (Indigenous People in Malay) Museum. Its location tucked away along KL-Gombak trunk road towards Bentong, Pahang (appx 9Km from exit to Karak Highway from Kuala Lumpur). Do not let the simple design and small size of this museum deceive you as this place stores plenty of information and displays about the tribal community which will impress. Some of the details of the people I will share with you below plus plenty of pictures 🙂
There are 3 main tribes of indigenous people of Malaysia, the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. The Negrito tribe is the first to arrive in the peninsula 8000 years ago with 2 different theory of how they came about. One theory suggest they traveled from Indo-China (now somewhere Cambodia/Myanmar) and the other theory says they started their journey in South Africa and ended up here. True to their African origin, Negrito ethnic have frizzy hair, dark skin and broad nose. Senoi, the largest group, came later about 500 years ago from Indo-China and they inhabit some parts of Titiwangsa Range (mostly can be spotted in and around Cameron and Genting Highlands). Proto-Malay who resembles modern Malay with taller, fairer and straight hair physical attributes was said to have originated from Yunan, China. Most of them migrated from neighboring Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Riau-Lingga and made Southern part of Peninsular mainly state of Johor and Singapore as their home (there’s a place in Singapore named after indigenous tribe ‘Seletar’)
The indigenous tribe live as hunters and gatherers but nowadays more and more are into farming activities. An interesting practice of Orang Asli people is that they do not eat animals that they rare themselves. These animals such as goats, chicken and pigs are purely for financial resources (buy and sell) or exchange with other animals from outsider.
Main mode of transportation is the prahu (small dug out canoe) and rakit (raft made out of a collection of bamboo bound together using rattan). This enable the community to visit each other and transport goods. The Proto-Malay who lived along the coastal used prahu for fishing in the sea.
As most of other tribe people around the world, the ethnic Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay adorned themselves with colored sap from forest tress. They also pierce their ears (also during wedding for the bride and groom) and place colorful flowers and leaves on the hair for the womenfolk.
The home for each ethnic tribe is depended on their taboo beliefs, type of daily activities and safety concerns. As such, Negrito lived in the simplest form of house made out of a collection of leaves and bamboo poles placed together in a form of shelter. The Senoi is more organized with homes made higher above the ground to avoid wild animal disturbances, woven leaves for the wall and sometimes live in long houses (rumah panjang) with communal area for social activities. The Proto-Malay lived in houses similar to Malay houses (still can be found in areas far from Klang Valley)
There are many more important details can be found about Malaysia’s first occupants like their beliefs (taboos), healing rituals, wedding customs, death and Arts and crafts which are very interesting and intriguing. Now I am more aware of the beginning of my country and appreciates that these community still exist till to this very day.
4 Gothic Churches, the National Mosque, Malaysia’s earliest Hindu and Chinese temple is what I’ve discovered during my walk in Kuala Lumpur city yesterday. I’ve had this idea of finding heritage sites from the early days of Malaysia and embrace it’s beauty closeup for some time. Conjunction with the long weekend from Haj Celebrations, I’ve decided on my own version of Heritage Walk started from KL Sentral Railway Station.
A little walk from KL Sentral on Jalan Tun Sambathan, my first stop was at the Church of Holy Rosary. I was delighted as I admired the Gothic built of this church from the year 1903, especially it’s beautifully crafted stained windows depicting episodes from the holy bible. A mass was in the midway as I sat quietly and captured some of the interesting architecture of the hall. Outside, this place of worship still majestically stands on it’s ground as it’s being squeezed by high-rise buildings on it’s both sides.
As I was leaving Church of Holy Rosary, it was 10:15am and the heat is rising as I was sweating heat to toe. I quickly walked towards Jalan Sultan Hisamuddin to my next attraction, maybe for a shade to cool off. It was a huge shady stop as I arrived at the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Still a functioning railway station to this day, Kuala Lumpur Station and it’s Administration Building on it’s opposite was built in 1911. Following Moghul Architectural design, the building complete with domes to show Islamic influence. I’m particularly attracted to it’s white color as if indicating “purity”.
Walking the length of the Railway Station towards the end of Jalan Sultan Hisamuddin means you are at the entrance of Masjid Negara or The National Mosque. Built in the year 1963, it’s the pride of Islamic Religion of Malaysia. As I was there, I could see pockets of tourist drop by for a snap. Largely, this place of worship overcrowded by local to fulfill their Friday Prayers. The road between Kuala Lumpur Station Administrative Building and The National Mosque, leads you to the National Planetarium which was my next stopover.
I spent an hour at the National Planetarium, enjoying various science displays and trying my hands on knowledge games. I had the opportunity to refresh my memory on our solar system and at the same gathered detailed information of planets’ density, orbit, temperature and distance of other planets from earth. Oh boy! I truly loved the Anti-Gravity room. There were also displays on 1st Malaysian into space, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.
Following a visit to Planetarium, I crossed over Kuala Lumpur Station thru Pasar Seni LRT Station and came down to Jalan Sultan nearby Chinatown. My first visit was to Sri Maha Mariamman Temple along Jalan Tun HS Lee. The 19th century temple was built by a wealthy Indian Merchant in that part of the town, K. Thamboosamy Pillai, in year 1873. Over the years, the temple structure was shifted from it’s original location to it’s current place and renovated many times. Last renovation in 1973 with the built of 5-tier Gopuram. The temple Gopuram was an instant beautiful sight which will pull you into the temple ground. Outside, there’s facility to store your shoes before you head in. As I was there, the was on-going prayer with classical music filled the air.
As it’s almost noon, under the sweltering heat I did a brisk walk with short stops at Petaling Street (Chinatown), Gospel Hall, Wesley Methodist Church and OCBC Bank before arriving at Jamek Mosque.
The Jamek Mosque is one of the most prominent icon of Kuala Lumpur. It was built in 1909 following Moghul architecture and located along Jalan Tun Perak. The interesting notion of the building is that it’s located at the juncture where two rivers merge (Gombak and Klang River) and still have coconut trees in it’s compound, which maintain it’s bygones era in the modern 21st century city.
Extension of the Jamek Mosque is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building which was constructed in 1894. One can have a wonderful view of the building with it’s majestic 40m Clock Tower from the Merdeka Square. Merdeka Square is a historical landmark of the country as the Country’s Independence was announced here and Brtish Union Jack was replaced with Malaysian Flag. A stone throw away from the Merdeka Square is the 19th century Cathedral of Saint Mary along Jalan Raja.
After a late lunch at Indian Street, Leboh Ampang, I’ve completed my walk at the Sze Ya Temple. An interesting history of this temple, was built in 1864 by Yap Ah Loy (one of the founder of Kuala Lumpur) and dedicated to Sin Sze Ya Si Sze Ya deities, believed to have helped Yap Ah Loy defeat his enemies. At this last stop where I had the best moment of history. The temple has passed 145years old but it still retains it’s beauty of the yesteryear. Built from solid teak wood, beautifully painted and carved with Chinese inscriptions and ornaments. This small temple is still a popular place of worship, as I noticed when I entered. Followers burned incense and praying papers to wade off bad and bring in good luck. In astonishment, I clicked more pictures as I left the place thinking of returning with friends the next time.
It was a family trip to the Island of Langkawi, located on the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Kedah, just 1hr 30mins drive from Penang. Our ferry ride started from the mainland town of Kuala Kedah to Kuah Jetty in Langkawi. The Adult ticket cost RM23 and the ride last 1 1/2 hour. We did not tire of all the bumpy and splash of sea water as we took an early morning ride, the weather was pleasant and fresh.
My family and I traveled around the island on our own in a rented van (rental cars easily available at the jetty). A day’s rent is RM350, self drive. Later we found this was a much more comfortable way to venture around as we managed to find directions to all main attractions and could stop for picnic when and where ever we found suitable.
For sightseeing, we did not do any historical places this time around as we found it was more like history lesson in school. We went up on a cable car ride to the peak of Mount Machinchang at height about 700m above sea level. The view towards the ocean was pretty awesome and cool air rejuvenates one from all the heat down below.
Later on we stopped over at a beach for lunch and in the evening visited Dataran Lang, Lang or Helang (Eagle in Bahasa Malaysia) is the land’s iconic settler.
The next day we drove to a local jetty (entrance road beside Galeria Perdana), where we could like organized island hooping and eagle feeding tour. This was my best part of the vacation, first up we headed to a Bat Cave where we found thousands of bats in it’s natural posture above our heads on the cave ceilings. Then, off we went to some private fishing ponds. Here, it was all fun as I had the chance to held poisonous sea urchin in my palm, pet a couple of stingray and played with spitting fish also called “sharpshooter” which never misses any food place high above water. It was brief stop but I felt it was worth 🙂
Next up, was the most waited for all of us on the boat…Eagle Feeding! Menacing and ever alert air dominant bird swirls in the sky looking for food down below. At once, our boatsman throws some chicken skin onto the water, about 10-15 eagles, pretty big in size zooms down and gently picks up the food. The view was breathtaking, as you were surrounded by this powerful sky predator makes it’s presence felt . We said goodbye to the birds and went to some surrounding beautiful smaller islands. According to our boatsman, there’s are over 99 islands near Langkawi.
We ended our tour on a disappointing note at the Langkawi Underwater World. This was because two of it’s attraction were not in it’s playful mode when we visited them. I’m talking about the resident Sea Lions and Penguins of the center. The sea lions were clearly sleepy and I’m not sure what then Penguins were doing as it was more like static with little movements. After some photo opportunity with the place’s other residents, we left with long face. The next day on Monday morning, we left the island back to the fast paced life of Kuala Lumpur.
Until next post, please keep in touch 😀
I did a drive along coastal road in Terengganu head up to Kelantan (northern most state on the east of Peninsular Malaysia). Believe me, it was one of the best road journey I ever had with long stretch of pristine beaches on your right along the drive – you can stop in any of the beach to catch some break, snap picture at fishing villages, grab some local delights during tea time – fried bananas called “goreng pisang” and deep fried fish chips know as “keropok lekor”.
Then a jetty to the famous holiday gateway – Pulau Perhentian and Turtle Santuary Rantau Abang. You will discovered the popular Hai Peng Kopitiam (local coffee shop) in the small town of Kemaman and will not miss the huge Petronas oil refinery plant in Paka. Do not miss to taste the stuffed crab (crab flesh stuffed inside the shell and deep fried) in Kemaman for dinner – was something new for my taste bud.
All in all a wonderful experience before a totally new one in Kota Bharu (cultural difference at each of the three eastern peninsular states are distinct) 😀
just want to share a view from Kuantan Fishing Village… 🙂