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Archive for the ‘Snapshot’ Category

 

I had just finished swimming some laps in the pool at our apartment complex when I looked over the balcony to the beach and noticed the light.

Gorgeously soft, “golden hour” photography light…

Immediately I was seized with a compulsion to grab my camera and run down to the beach to take some photos…if only my camera wasn’t up on the 14th floor…

By the time I went back up to the apartment, got the camera and made sure I was suitably attired that “golden light” had faded somewhat, but the photography potential was still ripe for the picking (or snapping, if you will.)

We have this secluded little beach at the base of our apartment building which I don’t frequent anywhere near enough. I often stare at the beach from my balcony and imagine walking along the sand at sunset, yet my imagination rarely manifests as action.

It was lovely to slip down to the beach tonight and walk along the sand in the fading daylight, listening to the steady rhythm of waves lapping at the shore. There were all sorts of characters down there who captured my interest; fishermen on the rocks, lovers cuddling together underneath the trees, teenagers playing volleyball, women collecting fishing bait in the shallows…

I must admit, it’s not the cleanest of beaches. I wouldn’t dare stick my toes in the water; I’ve seen the garbage and debris floating in the ocean from my balcony. There’s the ever-present concern of ringworm from walking barefoot on the sand. As I walked along I saw garbage washed up on the shore, a mangled rat carcass by the rocks, plastic bags filled with who knows what. Nevertheless, there’s something inexplicably therapeutic about being on a beach at sunset. I enjoyed every moment of it…

Plus I took some really nice photos. I love silhouettes and I took some shots I’m really happy with, and it will be fun to play with these pictures in Photoshop (once I learn how to play). So, here’s a little taste of “our” beach on a Sunday evening:

 

I definitely need to visit this little beach more often. Especially if the light is good…

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Today I joined a friend on a photographic excursion to Air Hitam, one of the “suburbs” (for want of a better word) south of Georgetown. My friend is in her last year of living in Penang and, as a keen photographer, she has plans to head out once a week to capture this island through the lens of her camera. I hope to join her as much as I can – she comes up with some fantastic ideas for places to explore. Plus I just love any excuse to get out and take photos of this colourful, vibrant part of the world we live in. Penang just oozes with character.

Air Hitam is best known as the home of Kek Lok Si, the momumental Buddhist temple I mentioned in a previous post. But while I’ve driven through the streets of Air Hitam many times on my way to other places, I’ve never stopped to have a look and wander the streets. Well, today was the day, and we had a pleasant morning of walking, shopping (for some) and of course, photo taking. We discovered some great little shops; a merchant shop filled with all sorts of sewing notions, and a cute clothing store. I plan to go back with a few more ringgits next time…

I love these sorts of photos; photos which capture the small, regular moments of life, beautiful in its simplicity. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the streets we walked along; they were just small shops, roadside stalls, cafes and produce markets. But they were streets which hummed with the strong heartbeat of life here in Penang. I hope I’ve been able to capture a little of that heartbeat in these pics.

Without further adieu, here’s a few pics of what I saw today:

  

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I’ve been pretty busy this week playing tour guide for my parents and two of my brothers. Pretty busy may be an understatement – it’s been impressive how much we’ve been able to cram into a week.

Let me just say how thankful I am for my family choosing to visit me in my second year in Penang, rather than the first, because it means I can show them all the places which have become my favourites. It also means I’m a hell of a lot more confident driving them around the streets (I don’t know how many times I ended up lost in Georgetown last year!)

Luckily for my family, visiting this time of year meant they were able to see Kek Lok Si aglow with lanterns, as well as a few lingering decorations from Chinese New Year throughout town.

This is what we’ve been able to see (so far) in somewhat arty photo form…and they’re in town for another week!

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Kek Lok Si, one of Penang’s best known Buddhist temples, becomes a sea of twinkling lights as part of its annual Chinese New Year celebrations.

For the first 33 days of the new year, Kek Lok Si (Penang Hokkien for “Temple of Supreme Bliss”) is lit up with 10,000 lanterns and around 230,000 light bulbs to symbolize peace, luck and prosperity. The splendour of the 120-year-old temple lit up at night can be seen from several kilometres away.

I recently visited Kek Lok Si during the CNY celebrations with my husband and a couple of friends. We had a fantastic time taking photos and climbing to the top of the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas to enjoy amazing views over Penang.

(It was also good to tick another item off my bucket list, woo hoo!)

Here’s some of my favourite shots from our visit:

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A walk through Thaipusam

 

Yesterday I took part in a walking tour of Thaipusam, an annual three-day Hindu festival. I went last year for the first time and although I found the experience interesting (albeit hot, sweaty and incredibly crowded), I didn’t understand a lot of what I was seeing.

The walking tour, conducted by a local Indian woman, Teresa Capol, was an excellent way to get an insight into this festival and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do it.

The name “Thaipusam” refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival, and it celebrates two things – the birthday of Muruga, youngest son of Hindu god Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion where Muruga received a spear to vanquish an evil demon called Soorapadman.

The main theme of the festival is for Hindu devotees to carry out acts of penance to fulfil vows made to Muruga. Some devotees have requested favours of Muruga; others have had their requests for favour granted, while others take part as penance for the sins of the past.

Devotees spend weeks preparing for the festival by devoting themselves to prayer, fasting and celibacy, in order to cleanse themselves. When Thaipusam arrives, they undertake a pilgrimage to the temple carrying various ‘burdens’ known as kavadi. Some people endure piercings in their face, back and chest as part of their penance. Somehow the pierced skin doesn’t bleed and the devotees are able to endure the pain as they’re in a trance-like state. The kavadi the devotees carry on their bodies can include pots of cow’s milk (a sacred animal in the Hindu religion), coconuts, and even limes.

In Penang it’s mostly Indians who take part in Thaipusam, though some Chinese and a few foreigners participate as well. Devotees usually vow to carry the kavadi for a successive number of years (up to seven) as part of their penance.

It’s mostly men who undergo the body piercings, though you do see women carrying pots of milk or coconuts. Men, women and children (including babies) also take part in ceremonial head shavings as part of Thaipusam celebrations.

As part of the tour, our group went down to the site where the devotees have their bodies pierced, then followed their path along the long road to the temple. I saw a lot of things I may not have seen if I’d gone on my own, and it made for a fascinating tour.  I hope to do it again next year.

Here’s some of my favourite photos I took on the tour; Thaipusam certainly makes for some excellent photo opportunities:

This was a whole community coming together to take part in Thaipusam.

This skewer is pierced right through this young man’s cheeks. Whenever I saw him, he was twirling the skewer around with his fingers; I can’t imagine how strange that would feel. 

The man in the striped shirt is putting hooks into this young man’s back. Watching him do it, it was almost as if he was pinching the skin and poking the hook into a pore; either way, there was no blood and the devotee didn’t flinch (though another man did slap him around the head a few times!)

Let’s take a quick detour from body piercings to Indian sweets – yum!

The white powder on this man’s face is cow dung ash; the red spot is tumeric mixed with lime juice.

This little baby has had his head shaved and covered with sandalwood powder.

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Hello? You still with me?

Time to blow the dust off this little blog of mine and finally post something for the first time in…ages. Apologies for the inactivity of late, life has been nothing but a whirlwind of activity of late with no time to stop and write (though I so desperately wanted to).

Last time I posted, I had just returned from seeing friends in Kuala Lumpur and was about to head to Chennai, India on a girls weekend away. Boy, I’ve packed in a lot of other countries since then:

But first, let’s go back to Chennai. Visiting India was an incredible experience. It’s a noisy, colourful, crazy part of the world, but the country is beautiful and the people are so genuine and friendly. We visited some fascinating places, ate a lot of delicious Indian food (including chutneys from the best condiment bar I have ever seen) and did lots and lots of shopping. Prices were fantastic, as was the quality of the merchandise and we all came home with multiple purchases. A big thanks especially to Amudha, our friend and “local source” who made sure we were well looked after and saw all the sights to see in her home town (as well as the best shops!).

After India I had just over a week at home, and instead of using that time to optimal advantage for writing and other activities, I took a trip to hospital. Yep, that’s right, hospital. I came down with the worst “virus” I’ve had here yet, and was hospitalised due to a high fever and concerns it could be more than just a bug. This illness completely sucked the life out of me and left me wrecked for days. We even had to delay our trip to Koh Samui, Thailand, because I couldn’t get out of hospital and packed in time to take our flight.

We eventually made it though:

Don’t ask me to tell you what Koh Samui is like. I didn’t really see much of it. Since I was still recovering from my virus, it’s all a bit of a blur. I pretty much just divided my time between sleeping, getting Thai massages and trying to eat (but mostly leaving the plates untouched due to bad nausea). I can tell you those Thai massages were worth every baht though, especially since I was suffering from chronic back pain at the time from sleeping in rock hard hospital beds. I definitely hope to go back to Koh Samui, and Thailand, sometime soon so I can properly enjoy this country (and fabulous cuisine).

From Koh Samui, to Penang, and from Penang, to Vietnam:

This photo was taken in northern Vietnam at Halong Bay, home to one of the most incredible natural wonders I’ve seen in my travels. Our trip to Vietnam was excellent, due in part to the fantastic itinerary designed by our fellow travelling companions. We started in Ho Chi Mihn City in the south, working our way up to Hanoi in the north by plane, bus, taxi and motorbike. I would go back to Vietnam for a holiday in a heartbeat; sure, it has its turbulent history, but the country remains largely untouched by western influences such as McDonalds and malls, and is all the better for it. You get excellent value for money in Vietnam, the food is fresh and flavourful, the people are friendly and there’s so many fascinating places to visit, whether it’s the (mostly) turquoise waters of beachside Nha Trang, the historical “old world” town of  Hoi An, or the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Mihn. We’re definitely planning return trips.

From Vietnam we flew into Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the incredible temples of Angkor:

Before we left on our holiday, we spoke to quite a few people who had previously visited Cambodia and the general consensus seemed to be you can “do” Cambodia in a few days. What a load of rubbish. This was a place I could have easily stayed in for a week or two and not be bored. There’s so many temples to explore at Angkor besides the well-known Angkor Wat, and there’s plenty more to do in Siem Reap besides temple trekking. There’s an excellent landmines museum, the floating villages, as well as just riding around the countryside in a tuk-tuk taking in the sights. Cambodia has a lovely relaxed feel to it and again, I’d love to go back in a heartbeat. We were only there for a few days and it definitely wasn’t enough.

Now we’re back home after returning from our travels a few days ago. I feel like I’ve been out of my routine for months now and am looking forward to a quiet Christmas in Penang with Mr B. But I promise I’ll be back soon…after all, I have many travel stories to share, as well as a backlog of recipes and crafty projects I want to post up!

I look forward to keeping your blog feeds busy in the near future…

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Whenever we have visitors come to stay with us, I get a renewed appreciation for Penang. I’ve spent the last few days showing my in-laws around the island (and today, my husband finally was able to join us!) and their enthusiasm for this city is infectious.
Seeing the in-laws get excited about sights and experiences that are part of our everyday routine reminds me of how blessed and lucky I am to have the opportunity to live in Malaysia. I love living in Penang, and I’m going to try and enjoy every moment I live here as much as I can (well, except for when I’m driving. There’s no enjoyment in irritating stupidity.)
Having visitors means I get to visit the touristy places I can’t convince my husband to visit don’t normally get to see in day-to-day life. It also means my Olympus gets a good workout; I love taking photos (though my skills could do with some sharpening). I’ve taken so many shots these last few days which I can’t wait to play around with.
I love photos in silhouette, taken inside a darkened room so you have a frame of black for a window into the world outside. I especially love the look when there’s wrought iron detail around the window frames. Here’s a few shots I’ve taken in the last few days of sightseeing around Georgetown. Can those local to Penang guess where I’ve taken these shots?:

I also love photos that aren’t necessarily taken in silhouette, but feature subject matter like this:

Petit fours from the high tea at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel. Delicate china, delicious morsels. And I must add I didn’t eat the entire contents of the plate (Mr B ate the other half, I swear!)

I wish I could make high tea a daily ritual. My mother-in-law thinks this would be a wonderful idea . My purse and pants zipper, however, don’t think this would be a wonderful idea.

I’ve done lots of eating in the last few days, but not so much exercising. Oh dear. On Wednesday, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one chained to the exercise bike at the gym trying to pedal my way back to a decent pants size. What I wouldn’t give for my knee and ankle to be healed so I could just hike it off.

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