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Postcards: late Irish autumn (IE)

A few weeks ago, I was back in Ireland to meet my god-daughter for the very first time and to see those who are near and dear to me. In between, I had a little time to visit one of my alma maters (Trinity College Dublin), the centrally located St Stephen’s Green, and the luscious Wicklow mountains. Everywhere I went, the autumnal golden hues were unmissable. Everywhere I went, I saw unrivalled beauty.

Late Irish autumn

Late Irish autumn

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Postcards: Versailles and Trianon (FR)

Just about every non-French visitors chez nous had requested a visit to Versailles in their Paris to-do list. Some got the required information on how to get there for a day-trip, some were personally accompanied by yours truly.

On average, I’ve gone out there at least once a year. Each time I came back swearing I’d never subject myself to the cattle-herding system of visiting the palace again, until sufficient time had lapsed and I found myself agreeing to another visit request. I am not learning my lesson very well, am I?

Versailles

Versailles

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Project 365 – Week 47

I guess it’s the season. Christmas decorations are starting to crop up all over the city, and shop windows are also being changed for a twist of seasonal cheers and a few touches of festive glitters. I’m starting to look into my list of Christmas gifts to get, and in the next days orders shall be made online. This way, gifts can be delivered directly to my in-laws’ (where I’ll be spending Christmas this year) and I would not have a million and one thing to carry in the train. Win-win.

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Door grill

18 Nov: Doors of Paris can be impressively ornated. Solid timber doors with its various knockers, glass doors framed by stylised lines, metal grills with classic motifs like this one above. While cherubs are adorable and make fine adornment, my favourite is to see two side of the grills with couple looking at each other, the man at the centre of one side of the grill, and the woman at the centre of the other side. Come to think of it, I should photograph such pair one of these days, so I can share it here.

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Postcards: Kuala Lumpur (MY)

Unlike many of my friends, I have never lived in Kuala Lumpur, neither to study nor to work. Instead, it becomes a pitstop each time I travel back to Malaysia, mostly because my flights arrive and depart from KLIA, and usually I’d organise to see my friends in the couple of days leading to my departure.

Trying to show F around was therefore not a particularly easy task, since my knowledge of the city is rather limited. Armed with a good map, we managed to get around the historical centre of KL, taking in a few classic sites and walked the streets whenever it wasn’t raining. Oh yeah, they seemed to be heavy downpour for 2-3 hours each of the few days we were there, which curtailed some of our planned sightseeing.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

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The temples of Batu Caves

F and I visited quite a number of Hindu temples while in Bali, so it was rather interesting to contrast those with the Hindu temples that we typically see in Malaysia. Not only are they architecturally dissimilar, the customs and practices of the devotees also bear differences. Since we saw the Mother Temple of Besakih in Bali, it was apt that we picked Batu Caves as its counter comparison.

Batu Caves is famed for the annual celebration of Thaipusam, taking place early in the year (January/February) to mark the gifting of a vel (spear) by Parvati, the wife of Shiva, to her son Murugan, created by Shiva from the flame of his eye of wisdom. It was this vel that was ultimately used by Murugan to emerge as victor against Soorapadam, an asura who was terrorising the devas. On Thaipusam, devotees from all over Malaysia, following a strict period of cleansing, fasting and preparation, begin a pilgrimage of kavadi bearing. A kavadi is a burden bore by the devotees to be offered to the deity in exchange for good tiding and/or aversion of serious trial and tribulation. It is an absolutely fascinating festival to observe.

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

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Project 365 – Week 46

I have a couple more posts on Malaysia to come, then we’ll be back to talking more about Paris and other random things. In a way I’m rather pleased that I’ve managed to write up about the various trips before I forget more of the details, even if they are already a little later than usual. You don’t mind it too much, do you? ;)

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Window decoration

11 Nov: This has got to win some sort of window-dressing award! It’s like someone has gone to a bric-a-brac and came back with a random selection of things – Kennedy-like bust, miniature pig to go above its head, a selection of transportation methods and plushies as company… I’m still not completely sure how to interpret the pig over one’s head thing though. Do you have any theory?

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A daytrip to Pangkor

If you talk to F about my hometown, he’ll tell you right away that there is not much there. And he’s right. Here, you either work, eat, shop or sembang (chit chat); there is a distinct lack of interesting attractions and activities when you’re used to the kind of variety found in many European towns of similar size. Still, for me, it’s home, and I’ll happily stay for a spell without having much to do except searching for the next best eat. For a small town, it kinda rocks that way – outsiders come here for delicious snacks and meals.

Perhaps the most “exciting” thing one can do is to visit the nearby Pangkor Island, an island inhabited primarily by a thriving fishing community but in parts have been developed for tourism. It is a short ferry ride over from Marina Island or Lumut (this takes a wee bit longer) and once arrived, there is no shortage of shocking pink taxi-vans in waiting to take you on a 2-hour island tour.

Pangkor Island

Pangkor Island

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Postcards: The legacy of Georgetown (MY)

A single blog post is hardly going to be sufficient to tell the rich history and the many tangible heritage sides of Georgetown, and I would not even dare to try to write a succinct summary in fear of getting it wrong or short-changed it in any way.

Instead, I’ll let the photos take you through a simplied journey, of appreciating the kind of childhood that is familiar to my generation (and those that came before, for we played barefoot outside and wouldn’t think of sliding an icon on a touchscreen gadget), on looking at freeze frames harking back to the colonial time, or seeing how much we stand to lose if we do not preserve part of our roots.

Georgetown

Georgetown

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Project 365 – Week 45

It has been a smashing week, one which I get to spend with old friends that I have not seen for a while, once which I accidentally ran into an university friend quite by chance, one which I played peek-a-boo and sing-a-long with my niece, and one which I met my goddaughter for the very first time. I had such lightness in my heart when I think of just how fortunate I am to be surrounded with so much love.

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Calla lily

4 Nov: I don’t see calla lily all that often around the city, so it’s always a pleasure when I happen to spot one randomly while I’m out for a walk. It is one of my favourite flowers, afterall, but perhaps I am biased, given its name and mine share some similarity thus creating a sort of affinity between us. What truly draws me is its elegant form, just like the way tulips make their way into my heart.

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Postcards: Kek Lok Si (MY)

The Temple of Supreme Bliss, or Kek Lok Si as it is known based on Fujian dialect (the most prominent dialect in Penang) pronounciation, is the most celebrated and largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Sitting atop the hill and overlooking Ayer Itam, it is said to be auspiciously located and feng shui-approved to protect the well-being of the temple and its devotees.

Constructed in 1893 under the direction of a well-supported head monk of the Kuan Yin Temple i.e. Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, from local consuls to the Chinese Emperor Guangxu, Kek Lok Si incorporates motifs of Buddhism from Burma, Thailand and China – a nod to both major branches of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada. (Note: ask most Chinese Buddhist and they’ll have a hard time telling you which branch of Buddhism they are followers of, in part due to the integration of Taoism to muddle up the mix further.)

Kek Lok Si

Kek Lok Si

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A Perhentian stopover

My trip home last year was short – a mere ten days – and for a number of practical reasons, F stayed put in Paris. It therefore makes this trip his first to Malaysia, and with a couple of big family events to attend, he was in for the tough task of meeting absolutely everyone. If there’s anything you ought to know about Chinese family events, it’s that just about anyone related in anyway gets an invitation and the extended branches could get a little too crazy.

In order not to overwhelm him with the amount of time we spent with too many people at the same time, and to also introduce him to parts of Malaysia, I planned a couple of stops in Penang and Perhentian Besar during the weekdays flanked by family event weekends, and just before flying back, we had a quick visit of Kuala Lumpur and its environs.

Perhentian Island

Perhentian Island

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Project 365 – Week 44

It feels like we’ve suddenly plunged into winter this week. It started wet, then windy, followed by arctic chill for a couple of days, and back into wet and windy weekend. Not too much fun for my friend who was playing tourist in the city. And as if wet and windy in Paris was not bad enough, F and I headed up northwest to Brest to visit our friends at the weekend. Oh, gosh, it has been a long time since I was that soaked!

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Road sign

28 Oct: Here’s a fun fact: in Paris, while there are “no entry” sign aplenty, there is none of “stop”. Another fun fact: many of the “no entry” sign has been used as canvases for street art. I’ve started coming across “Kiss Kiss” (that’s my nickname for it) on a rather regular basis since my return from southeast Asia, so I wonder if this is the current batch of no-entry-art. Previous batches have been “The Handyman” (man carrying a bar), and “Witch Hunt” (man in the stocks).

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