We’ve jumped hoops, performed tricks and cartwheels. And then we were PACSed ;)
It has been a stressful few weeks, in no small part due to paperwork concerns. It’s not just about run-of-the-mill effort in gathering the necessary documents, it’s the little things that we did not know we needed and only told within limited time frame, related to me, the foreigner! Documentation to be sent from abroad is bound to take time. How’s that for additional anxiety? In a way, this is our first tough exercise in proving that we are committed and want what we want. (Poor F had to do a lot of running around on my behalf. Luckily, he was on holidays before starting his new job.)
I thought I’d write this little info-post which hopefully would be helpful to someone intending to get PACSed. Particularly for Malaysian-French couple. Mind, this is based on our experience and what we’ve been asked to provide. The information is currently up-to-date but I won’t know when changes would be made in future. Could perhaps keep an eye out on the Service Public page on PACS?
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Over the years, I have visited a lot of Buddhist temples, perhaps even more churches/cathedrals, a handful few Hindu temples, and peeked into a synagogue once (not properly visited though). I’m only really missing out on visiting a mosque now, no? The one photographed here is only a small one. Regardless, given I am non-muslim, mosque visit is pretty much out of bound.
I should have probably gone to one in Dubai or Abu Dhabi when I was in the UAE last year. Not in Sharjah though (one even was clearly marked at the doors – non-Muslims forbidden to enter). There are a couple of rare ones that are open to everyone that I know of. However, Abu Dhabi was too far from Sharjah where I was based, whereas Dubai has a fixed guided visit time at 10am that simply wouldn’t work when taken into consideration the morning office traffic flow from Sharjah that could see me stuck for 2-3 hours even at 7am departure. One word – eeek!
Ok, I’ve been on temple overload this month and it seems you’re on the receiving end too. Between Sri Lanka and Malaysia, I have seen enough statues of Buddha to last me for a while, and taken enough photos too that while sorting through them, I’m getting confused of which is which! Additionally, in Sri Lanka, a shrine can be found easily even along any main road that one takes, so I couldn’t even tell you where I have seen which. Ooops.
This will be the last among the temple-related photos for now though. I’m heading back to Paris tomorrow, but before that, a visit to our local temple is a must, for a prayer of safe journey for myself and good health for my family. The tiger god is a guardian spirit of the temple and from where I stand, it looks calm yet alert and stern, ready to confer its protection. I feel strangely serene here.
Ipoh is a former tin mining town, surrounded by caves within limestone hills, a number of which are pilgrimage sites for Buddhist devotees and for visiting tourists to the area. Among the most famous are Perak Cave, Sam Po Tong and Kek Lok Tong, each with impressive temple settings as well as scenic views atop the hills.
In the distant, from Kinta City, one of them can clearly be seen, except with my poor orientation and carelessness in not noting exactly where I was looking, I can’t tell you which it is. I can only deduce that since we were in the south of Ipoh, it would be either Sam Po Tong or Kek Lok Tong? Who wants to play guess the cave temple? ;)
Deity worship usually includes praying to idols that are culturally relatable to the community. Afterall, pilgrims need an image they could believe in. For example, for the Chinese community, there’s a perception of the kind of clothes these deities would wear. You certainly won’t find Christ’s style loin-clothes on an idol around here. (Or at least none that I am aware of.)
There are exceptions of course. This particular deity (Zhang Gong Fa Zhu) has its root in Fujian Taoism, and is particularly interesting, because not only it can be found in black, it is also found in depictions of red or green, pending on its intended purposes. This black idol symbolises its role as a saviour and a protector.
One of my favourite dishes from Malaysia is satay, where chicken or beef (although nowadays some places have even more meat options) have been marinated and then grilled/BBQ-ed over charcoal, giving this succulent skewers of meat that’s best served with chunky peanut sauce that’s spicy and slight sweet at the same time. I don’t even want big chunks of meat, but just small pieces of lean meat cooked to perfection.
No matter where I go in the world though, anytime that I have tried satay when it’s featured in the menu, they have always been rather disappointing. For one, some places thought it’s fine to deep fried the skewers of meat (no, it’s not). Other places make funny sauces and an unfortunate order once had me “enjoying” peanut butter in curry sauce disguise as the satay sauce. That is wrong at sooooo many levels.
A temple near home recently underwent some serious renovation and they certainly up the ante at the scale level, particularly with the erection of various statues of a pantheon of deities normally worshipped by those practicing Taoism/Confucianism. Some of them are about the height of 2-3 storeys building!
They also added some traditional decorative elements, such as this guardian temple lion, at the gate to the square of deities. The lions always come in pair, usually one with mouth open and one with mouth shut. They are signs of courage and strength, and protection against bad luck and evil. I am simply drawn to the playful nature depicted by this lion, that life is free of worry and there are bundles of good in the world.
I’m torn. When it comes to food, say, eating out at a restaurant, I prefer one which has limited menu but serve great tasting dishes on offer. Do only a few things, keep it simple, but do it really well, and change according to season. A very sound principle in my opinion.
But when it comes to Malaysia and hawker dining, then I want lots and lots of options. Afterall, the stall owners should have satisfy the principle mentioned-above. Each stall serves a limited few items that are their specialties (at least that’s the concept). And now, I should be spoilt for choice of a wide variety of food without worrying if one single chef is being overextended in terms of his/her culinary repertoir. Win-win, right?
As a child, I was told, that whenever I burn some joss sticks, the smoke of the incense would carry my wishes to heaven. Invariably, the wishes run along the lines of good health for everyone in my family and success for many endeavours that we undertake. To pray specifically for wealth is not something I would include in my silent chant.
I guess that’s part of the difference between the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and in Malaysia that I have observed. In Sri Lanka, the offerings are typically of flowers, food and oil, whereas in Malaysia, incense burning is a lot more prominent. Buddhism in Malaysia is also less pragmatic and perhaps more inclusive, shaped by a mélange of various fractions of Buddhism as well as Taoism and Confucianism, each not thought to be mutually exclusive. Fascinating things, culture and religion are. If only I have more free time, I wouldn’t mind getting to know more in details.
After over a week of holiday in Sri Lanka, I arrived in Malaysia this morning, having just missed the Malaysia Day which was celebrated yesterday. Officially, this year, it also incorporates the Independence Day celebration, which normally falls on 31 August but due to the dates that Eid-ul-Fitr fell this year, it got shifted by a couple of weeks.
All along the route that I’ve travelled thus far, national flags can be seen prominently displayed, be it outside commercial buildings or domestic residences. Some have kept it low-key with a single flag flying above a pole while some have decided to go the other way by showing off strung small flags running along the length and/or the periphery of the buildings, with/without one (or more) large flag.
Happy (belated) Malaysia Day!
The Amazing Race took off to Penang, Malaysia in its latest instalment, challenging the racers a) in the Detours to either carry a dozen of giant joss sticks (“Buddhist Tradition”) to the top of a temple or balancing chingay flags across a certain distance (“Chinese Custom”), and b) in the Roadblock to prepare a Hindu offering.
Here’s a video if you’ve missed the airing on Sunday night.
The pitstop of the race is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a beautiful heritage mansion that houses antiques and collectibles associated with the culture and custom of the Peranakans.
In a couple of months time, I’ll be heading to Penang where one of my brothers lives. I must make this one of the places to see. Afterall, our greatgrandmother was originally from Penang and she was a Peranakan too. It’s high time for me to take a deeper look into part of my heritage, which I should have learned while she was alive. However, being young and naive then, I didn’t appreciate just how much I would have missed out by failing to take an interest in it.
It is definitely time to catch up.