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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.

Lord Murugan and 272 steps to His Shrine

Lord Murugan and 272 steps to His 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.

Me at the stall busy luring customers for drinks

Me at the stall busy luring customers for drinks

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.

Food stall selling Indian Sweets

Food stall selling Indian Sweets

Colorful Candies

Colorful Candies

Flower Garland Stall

Flower Garland Stall

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.

Young Kavadi bearer

Young Kavadi bearer

Beautiful Rhythm by this group captivates the spectators and pilgrims

Beautiful Rhythm by this group captivates the spectators and pilgrims

massive crowd to and from the main shrine

massive crowd to and from the main shrine

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.

Tallest Lord Murugan Statue with Vel in his right hand

World Tallest Lord Murugan Statue with Vel in his right hand

Lord Muruga Chariot

Lord Muruga Chariot

Massive Crowd..pushing and showing

Massive Crowd..pushing and showing

Peacock Kavadi

Peacock Kavadi

Nicely decorated

Nicely decorated

Kavadi going up the steps

Kavadi going up the steps

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.

Murugan Statue at the entrance of main shrine

Murugan Statue at the entrance of main shrine

Patience and determination brought this kids to fulfill their vow

Patience and determination brought this kids to fulfill their vow

Atmosphere in the main temple

Atmosphere in the main temple

Kavadis lined up

Kavadis lined up

limes and flowers left behind by pilgrims

limes and flowers left behind by pilgrims

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.

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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)  😀

a coastal scene from Kuantan town..

Read the rest of this entry »

just want to share a view from Kuantan Fishing Village… 🙂

fishing boats at rest after a days catch…

Oops…just realized I’ve yet to conclude my road trip to Kuantan tale and jumped to my recent trip to Singapore 😛

Here is the rest of the story……

On early Sunday morning (last day of our trip), we hesitantly picked ourselves up from the cozy hotel bed and headed to Sungai Lembing (a small sleepy town near Lembing River – 45min drive from Kuantan town) for a hike to Panorama Hill. This small hill is local favorite for exercise and bird’s eye view of the town below. Best is to climb in the morning as the temperature is much cooler and the misty view provides best photo opportunity and you might spot some pretty birds, as I did 🙂  At the end of your hike, the town’s market offer some of the best noodle soups and Nasi Lemak for breakfast.

Little info on Lembing town, this town got its name from a Malay word “Lembing” which means spear or “Spear Town”. This little town (a road divides two rows of old wooden shoplots, a wet market, museum and some administrative houses), is a well know location in the history of Pahang State for it’s  Gold Mining activities during pre-independence days. Now, what remains is the same row of shops and a laid back ambiance which folks from the big cities come here to enjoy

Headed towards Sg. Lembing town..was an easy drive with no traffic

Effect of morning drive…

Nice to sleep eh while on the move…

Sg. Lembing Town…Welcomes Us

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Finally, I was on my long waited train journey.  Boarded “Senandung Sutera” from KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur  to Woodlands, Singapore on Friday night. I gave my brother, who is on job in the lion city, a visit. It was a night trip and after few stops at designated train stations (some stations still retains the pre-independence wood build) along the way, my coach finally reached Woodlands Immigration Gate at 8am.

Lengthy stop at one the small stations in Johor

Old Station..pre-independence structure

at 7am…still on Malaysia track

catching some wind…

I was delighted to be relived from 7hours of back-breaking posture on my seat, trying to sleep along the way. I learned a lesson of not wanting to get a berth for the night. How some of the other passengers can give loud snore along the way, I wondered. I checked through the immigration and the exit route directed me to a taxi stand which relatively different from most part of Malaysia. Here, passengers need to queue in a long line before can hop into an incoming  taxi.

With a container packed with Durian from home, instructed by my parents to deliver it to my brother, I was a bit nervous if I would be asked to hop off the taxi I was in due to its pungent smell (for me it’s strong sweet smell which makes my taste buds go bonkers!).  My luck was good, the Taxi driver was crazy about Durians too! He could even say how the durian would taste from its smell…wah that was a shocker. He was overloading me with his durian experiences until my stop arrives at Changi City Point Mall, my brother working somewhere nearby the area.
After quick lunch and shower at my brother’s rented apartment, we started our excursion to Marina Bay. There were some Independence Day Rehearsal on-going, which was an unexpected surprise and blown us away by the the city’s preparedness .

famous landmark..Capitol Building

church

beautiful fountain

another tourist find…

fly by…

mock training by the Navy…

Singapore Skyline

after dark….

wonderful atmosphere..

After got ourselves drenched by all the fireworks display, my brother and me took off to a meal at nearby food fest before continuing  to Marina Bay Sands. We walked through the wonderful building to The Garden by the Bay. It was another brilliant addition to the famous tourist spots Singapore has been proud of.

huge “trees” greet tourists at The Garden by the Bay

Hey, I am back after two weeks of hectic training schedule…Feels good  😀

So, last time on Weekend Watch we stopped at Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Center, had some fun watching my favorite animal – elephants.

From Elephant Sanctuary, we headed to Kuantan town en-route to Cherating Beach. The world famous Club-Med is located in Cherating. The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kuatan takes 3hours and best is to take Gambang Exit (nearer to town) from highway rather Kuantan Exit.

Note: Eastern part of Malaysia treasures plenty of beautiful beaches to relax and enjoy

Happy scene at Cherating

Relax…

Tintin at Cherating

smaller beach near Kuantan

Neighboring the beach is the Turtle Conservation Center, a place where turtle eggs are safe kept until being hatched before released into the sea. This is one of the government’s action to prevent turtle eggs lost to thief and sold in markets for consumption.  It’s free entrance and if you are lucky you might get to participate in hatchlings release to sea. I am proud to say I got the chance to held “baby” turtles in my palm and set them free 🙂

What a beautiful creature!

Cherating Turtle Conservation Center

cute..

Hatchlings Tub

before release time

well protected nest

a pose before saying goodbye to the little ones

It was a wonderful experience to cherish forever

Next Up: Hiking and Cave Exploring near Kuantan.. so stay tuned!

 

I was cruising at 90km/h on highway for a weekend gateway from the big city. It was scorching afternoon in the month of November as I was on a road trip to Kuantan, East Coast town of Malaysian Peninsular. I helmed the steering wheel accompanied by 3 lovely friends, who chatted all the way, occasionally sang songs and cracked jokes. Their main duty was to keep me awake on a 3hr journey from Kuala Lumpur onto the dangerously winding road of Karak Highway (enroute to Genting Higlands) to almost deserted East Coast Highway.

It all started when one of my friend suggested of me becoming their tour guide on an outing to Kuantan Town. Surprisingly they had some level of confidence of me knowing local attractions. Coincidentally I was on a job posting in Kuantan at that time and happily agreed. Before we know it we were heading east enjoying the greenery and fresh air along the way.

Our first stop of the day was at Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Center. It’s a care center for the abandoned and injured jumbos and one of it’s kind in the country. The huge facility designed to resemble a park with elephant anatomy and awareness messages all over to educate those who visit. Large playing field with tall wooden structures provide opportunity for visitors to hop n ride on their favorite animal  and see them in action in the nearby river on designated hours. Our 30minutes were well spent enjoying the cute little calves and its mommy and snapping memorable pictures of ourselves before leaving

Large playing field..

Jumbo Salute!

Dance..Dance

he was playing…not struggling wt the rope

Museum tour before we took our leave..

More from this trip in upcoming posts….so stay tuned!

My trip to Phuket, Thailand in 2009 with my buddies Ken and Shankar, can easily be our best holiday till date.

The setting was perfect:

– 3 friends eagerly looking for a beautiful beach holiday, fantastic food and vibrant nightlife

–  White sandy beaches and plenty of sea activities

–  Unexpected discovery of a Bike Show and Songkran Festival (Water Festival to mark thai new year) in town

Time has lapsed by 3 years, but the experience is still fresh is our minds. It often becomes our topic of conversation each time we meet. Benchmarking the level of excitement, fun and discovery we had in Phuket for our future holiday plans 🙂

Kayaking…I am *one eyed* holding a handy-cam, other two are my buddies Ken and Shankar – guide at the back

tourist town of Patong

Vivid Blue Waters of Maya Bay

Crowded White Sandy Beach of Maya Bay

Cave used for bird’s nest collection

Monkey Island…Get ready with your banana!!

Spectacular View from out boat…cruising towards James Bond Island

Spotted a Sail Boat…Wahweeee!

Explorer thinking of his next move…James Bond Island

Scenery made famous by Hollywood’s most famous Spy

Our Ride…James Bond Island

Unexpectedly found a Bike Show in town…which took us away

Share your experience of best beach holidays you had  in and around Thailand…

Do you know that I got myself lost in Ta Prohm?

Ta Phrom is one of the famous temples of Angkor Thom. This is due to its postcard view among the overgrown trees and hugely popularized by Hollywood production such as “Tomb Raider”. Tourist throng here all season to get their pictures taken by the pillars and corridors of the temple, drapped with huge trees holding itself steadily by overflowing roots from temple roof to the ground.

As any other excited tourist I started off by taking snaps of myself and family members along the walls, trees and fallen sand stones of the temple. Then I decided to do things differently, with my cool handycam I pretended to be “an explorer in the newly found ancient site during the early 19th century”, when Ta Prohm was first found. As I went in and out of smaller temples in the compound, I got carried away and lost track of my tour group. Then I realized I am on my own…

I know what you are thinking….and it’s nothing like that. It was not dramatic, I’ve never got myself trapped in a series of chambers and dead ends but I just wandered around aimlessly among the ruins and thinking how long it’s gonna take before I can eventually find my way back to the group in time without spoiling the intenirary.

It’s a 13minute video….my view of Ta Prohm

Finally, I had my chance to visit one of the world’s most fascinating Ancient Cities: Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

These ancient sites were built as a place of worship to God by the rulers of Khmer between 12 to 13th century. King Suryavarman II, a Hindu, built the Great Angkor Wat to worship Lord Shiva and Vishu. King Jayavarman VII dedicated Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and other temples to Buddha.

Angkor Wat and Thom were at its prime with abundance of wealth and food, with it’s amazingly brilliant engineering marvel in plantation and water irrigation system, until it was attacked and defeated by the Siamese Army from today Thailand. The defeated King together with his subjects left their beloved temples behind and then most of its glory eaten by the jungles of Cambodia, until its rediscovery by French explorers in the 19th century.

From then on, massive restoration works being carried out on these ruins by countries like France, Japan, Germany, India and South Korea. Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temples declared as “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO in 1992 and this opened up to large tourist flow annually regardless whether it’s dry or wet season (Cambodia has two main season, each 6 months apart).  It is truly a wonderful site to behold and glad that rebuilding efforts are being taken. To me, all of this looks like “The World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle”.

I got into a one day guided tour around Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat with an entrance fee of $20. As time is limited during arranged tours, my family and I were taken to visit the main attractions: Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Elephant Terrace (ancient stadium), Ta Prohm and Bankheng Hill (cancelled due to rain).  Please enjoy the pictures I have lined up freshly for you from Siem Reap.

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