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Malaysia Dance Festival

Malaysia Dance Festival

Enjoy a variety of dances at the Malaysian Dance Festival. Known for its multicultural background, Malaysia has a grand array of dances that reflect the wealth and heritage of every state. The show will also incorporate interactive features to draw the interest of tourists and the public.

http://www.jkkn.gov.my/ms

Date: 4th – 6th June 2015

Venue: Auditorium DBKL

Organizer: Bahagian Pengembangan Seni, JKKN

Phone: 603-2614 8200 / 8283 / 8203

Fax: 603-2697 0786

E-mail: noraliza@jkkn.gov.my / fauziah@jkkn.gov.my

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Putrajaya Flower and Garden Festival (FLORIA)

Putrajaya Flower and Garden Festival (FLORIA)

FLORIA Putrajaya is an annual floral event where a wide variety of flower species from different regions displayed within beautiful gardens. Some of the countries taking part include Brunei, China, Denmark, Italy, Kenya, Korea, Netherlands, Philiphines, USA, Russia, Kenya, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

30th May – 7th June 2015

Venue: Tapak Floria, Presint 4, Putrajaya

Organizer: Putrajaya Floria Sdn. Bhd Perbadanan Putrajaya

Phone: 03-8000 8000

Email: enquiry@floriaputrajaya.com.my

www.floriaputrajaya.com.my

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Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015

Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015

Sponsored by the state government of Terengganu, Terengganu Squid Jigging Fest 2015 intends to promote squid jigging, which is popular among the locals. The squids come to the waters of Terengganu to lay eggs during this period. It is believed that during this season, Terengganu is known to yield a good catch. This year’s event will also witness 250 foreign participation from 25 countries.

 

https://www.facebook.com/SquidJiggingTGG/timeline

Date: 2nd – 7th June 2015

Venue: Redang Island, Kuala Terengganu, Setiu Kenyir

Organizer: Tourism Terengganu

Phone: 09-623 1957

Email: tourismterengganu2014@gmail.gov.my

 

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Karnival Sukan Pantai (KSP) Port Dickson 2015

Karnival Sukan Pantai (KSP) Port Dickson 2015

http://www.ksp.com.my/

Malaysia’s biggest beach sports’ competition that cater the sports junkie with sports such as triathlon, beach soccer and volleyball. With various entertainments, such as cultural shows, a meet and greet celebrities’ session, fireworks and waterpark for an adventurous and fun. A chance to meet your favorite artist performing during the carnival.

 

Date: 29th Mei – 1 Jun 2015

Venue: Pantai Batu 1, Port Dickson

Organizer: Nisa Event

Phone: +603 5524 2210

Email: sales.nisaevents@gmail.com

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Cendol & Rojak Bukit Tinggi @ Bukit Tinggi, Klang


After our windows shopping at AEON Bukit Tinggi, we having a try for the Cendol and Rojak at Bukit Tinggi. The Cendol just located at the road side of busy Bukit Tinggi Business Centre. Due to limited seats available as they operate with a Van and most people over here will choose to take away instead of dine in.
cendol-rojak-bukit-tinggi-1

Here is the Cendol of “Cendol Rojak Bukit Tinggi”, you can taste the rich and sweetness of Gula Melaka and the thickness of the coconut milk, of course, the self made Pandan flavour Green Jelly! I feel taste delicious and the Green Jelly is like instant melted at your mouth, recommended!
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While, the rojak of Cendol Rojak Bukit Tinggi might ordinary, but if you choose to dine on the spot, you might will taste the crunchy of the kuih, while the shrimp is taste average.
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Cendol Rojak Bandar Bukit Tinggi
Address : Lorong Batu Nilam 5, 41200 Klang, Selangor Darul Ehsan
Business Time : 11am – 6pm (Monday – Sunday)
GPS Coordinates : N03.00827 E101.437161

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Hinz Kitchen @ Cyberjaya


Cyberjaya now is not more can describe again as ‘Ghost Town’, now you can obtained many choices of foods, from Malay cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Mamak cuisine to Arabian cuisine easily. While, the most I used to pay my visit is the Hinz Kitchen where located opposite to IBM, HSBC and Shell.
hinz-kitchen-cyberjaya-1

Since there are many MNC nearby, so there will little packed during lunch hours, however the serving time is quite fast even there are many customers.

Our first serving is the Chinese Herb Chicken Drumstick, basically the serving is quite plain for the ingredients where is missing Chinese Herbs such Gou Zi, Hong Zao where normally we can found in the other place when we take for Chinese Herb Chicken Drumstick, overall the taste is quite tasty.
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Next will be the Yam Ring served with Squid Gong Pou, the Yam Ring is quite crispy, however the Gong Pou is little sweet, will more tasty if more spicy for the Gong Pou.
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Finally is the Yam Ring served with sweet and sour pork, same as the above, the Yam Ring is crispy, but they do little better with sweet and sour pork, taste average.
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Hinz Kitchen
Address : Jalan Teknokrat 3, Cyber 4, 63000, Cyberjaya, Malaysia
Business Hours : Monday – Friday (10:00am – 10:00pm)
GPS Coordinates : N2.924334, E101.655885

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KL in 24 Hours

Whether it’s a stopover en route to another part of the world, or a long weekend getaway, Kuala Lumpur has a lot in store for you. There’s plenty to see and do, even if you’re here for only a day or two.

Here’s our guide to making the most of your time in KL.

Morning

Breakfast at a Kopitiam
Skip the hotel breakfast and start off your day with some hearty, local favourites at a kopitiam. Kopitiams are traditional coffee shops that serve Chinese hawker food. There are many kopitiams around town, each with their own specialties such as beef noodles, wan tan mee, Hainanese pork chop and kaya toast. Some kopitiam chains are also halal-certified, such as Old Town and Pappa Rich.

(Image source: www.timeout.com)

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

(Image source: www.tourism.gov.my)

Get to know more about the Indian culture at Batu Caves, the site of a Hindu temple and shrine, and also home of the second tallest statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity. Take a climb up 272 steps to get a stunning view of the city centre – it’s tiring, but certainly worth the climb! If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s also a great place for rock climbing enthusiasts.

Petronas Twin Towers KLCC

Petronas Twin Towers

(Image source: www.tourism.gov.my)

Want an easier way to catch the city skyline? Get a majestic view from the skybridge and observation deck of the Petronas Twin Towers. Tickets can be purchased in advance from their website, or you can get the tickets from the ticketing counter on the day of your visit. At the base of the towers is the shopping haven, the Suria KLCC shopping mall. If you have kids (or the young at heart), there’s also the Petrosains Science Discovery Centre and Aquaria KLCC located in KLCC to keep them entertained.

 

Afternoon

Little India, Brickfields

Little India, Brickfields

(Image source: www.tourism.gov.my)

Head over to Little India for a satisfying lunch of banana leaf rice. (Take a look at our guide to banana leaf rice if you don’t know what it is!) There are many restaurants there for you to take your pick from, and with KL Sentral nearby, it’s easily accessible too. Besides that, the KLIA Express train stops at KL Sentral, so you can even have your fix just before you leave the city! You can also shop for traditional Indian goods such as saris, flower garlands, spices and jewellery in Little India.

Islamic Arts Museum

Get to know more about Islam and its culture at the Islamic Arts Museum. It houses more than seven thousand artifacts as well as an exceptional library of Islamic art books. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The National Mosque, located just beside the museum is also worth a visit.

Dataran Merdeka

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

(Image source: www.tourism.gov.my)

It was here in Dataran Merdeka (or Independence Square), the Malayan flag was hoisted for the first time and independence was declared on 31st August 1957. Just opposite the square are the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building and other colonial buildings that make perfect backdrops for photos.

 

Bukit Bintang

Pavillion KL

(Image Source: www.tourism.gov.my)

Shop till you drop in Bukit Bintang. It’s a shopper’s paradise with more than five malls in a stretch. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the huge selection of local and international brands. If you’re feeling peckish, the Lot 10 Hutong food court is a great place to refuel your energy. The stalls are a collection of some of the best hawkers around the country, so you won’t have to travel far to savour the best of Malaysian food!

Chinatown, Petaling Street

Petaling Street

(Image source: www.tourism.gov.my)

If you’re up for some bargain hunting, head over to Petaling Street. Here, you can shop for anything from gems and incense to toys and t-shirts. It’s best to come in the evening, as the street vendors open shop at 3pm. Besides shopping, Petaling Street is also famous for its food where you can savour the taste that has withstood the test of time. Most restaurants and stalls here have been passed down for generations, each with its own specialty. From hokkien mee to chicken rice and even traditional mua chee, there’s plenty for you to try.

 

 KL Tower

KL Tower

(Image Source: www.klia2.info)

Standing at 421 meters and 94 meters above sea level, you’ll be able to enjoy a panaromic view of the city at the KL Tower. Check it out at night to see the city lighted up. You can even enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant while you enjoy the sights.

Pasar Malam

Pasar Malam

(Image source: ccc-ukm.blogspot.com)

Visit a pasar malam (night market) for a unique, cultural experience. It’s a great way to observe and take part in the lifestyle of the local community by sampling different street foods and snacks and shopping at the various stalls.

Late Night

Jalan Alor

jalanalor

(Image Source: asianstreetfood.wordpress.com)

Located in the heart of KL, Jalan Alor is one of Malaysia’s most popular food destinations. During the day, only a few eateries are open, but when the sun sets, the whole street is filled with stalls on the left and right. The stalls are open till late, so it’s great for a late night food hunt. Don’t forget to bring your appetite!

Clubbing

(Image Source: www.edmdroid.com)

For those looking for a night of partying, KL won’t disappoint. From swanky rooftop bars to chic nightclubs, there is no shortage of nightlife in KL. For a start, head over to Changkat Bukit Bintang and let yourself loose at one of the city’s most happening boulevards.

Mamak

mamak

(Image Source: business.malaysia.my)

Feeling hungry in the middle of the night? Head on over to a mamak stall. Mamak stalls are affordable eateries opened by Indian Muslims, and with some mamak stalls open 24 hours a day, it’s perfect for filling yourself up after a night of partying or for a late night snack. Feast on different types of rotis, nasi lemak and curries; or just savour a cup of delicious teh tarik for a satisfying end to your day.

Get to know more about Malaysia at www.tourism.gov.my

Need souvenir ideas? Here are some unconventional gifts to bring back from Malaysia!


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Thaipusam: Carrying A Common Burden

“I am a chain smoker,” says the Kavadi maker. “Every day one packet.”

I am standing amidst piles of plywood and steel fittings, power tools on the floor and sawdust in the air, under the front porch awning of a simple terrace house on the outskirts of Banting, 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur. Outside, in the hot afternoon sun, half completed Kavadis stand on the asphalt, some mere skeletons of steel rods and plywood, unrecognisable. This is where Kavadis—a physical burden carried by Hindus as an act of penance during the festival of Thaipusam—are made. I survey the scene before me. I had expected it to be somewhat less industrial, more mystical – perhaps an ascetic hand-crafting his creations, amid swirls of camphor smoke. But cigarette smoking is the conversation at hand. “I’m a chain smoker, but since the month of Thai began, not a single stick.”

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Bala working on a Kavadi

Bala, the Kavadi maker, is referring to the Hindu month of Thai, from which the Hindu festival Thaipusam derives its name. On the day I meet him, he has not had a smoke for three weeks. Along with other Hindu devotees, Bala undergoes fasting for 48 days (the duration of a month in the Hindu calendar), abstaining from entertainment and luxury before the day-long procession that is the face of Thaipusam. Bala proudly shows me an album of newspaper clippings, where every photo or mention of his Kavadis in the press has been lovingly laminated and bound. It is a labour of love. “It’s not really about the money,” he says in a thick Tamil accent, “I help people to do their pilgrimage.”

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Putting the finishing touches on a Kavadi and testing it out

A pilgrimage with different paths

I meet one of Bala’s customers during the course of my visit. K. Anuharan has come to check on the progress of his Kavadi. Wearing a thick, silver-speckled beard and a malar (sort of a Hindu rosary) around his neck, he surprises me by speaking perfect English. His Kavadi is relatively modest by current standards, but still measures over five feet in height and width, and weighs around 30 kg. Balance is the hallmark of a well-crafted Kavadi, and Anuharan is here to make sure that the Kavadi’s heft is evenly distributed across his shoulders. “As far back as I can remember, I have been joining the Thaipusam procession at Batu Caves every year.” At my disbelief, he strains to recall if he has ever missed one. “No,” he finally says. “Even now that I am staying in Australia, I will fly back every Thaipusam.”

Selva is another Hindu devotee who will carry the Kavadi this year. An engineer at an airline company based in KL and an avid marathon runner, he too has joined the procession every year since childhood. Even when he was working in Singapore during his younger days, he joined the procession in Singapore.

The Kavadi that Selva will carry is completely different from Anuharan’s. He shows me a photo of it on his phone. It is a simple wood pole, modestly embellished, which will be balanced across his shoulders. At both ends of the pole, he will hang a jar of milk, which devotees bring to the temple as an offering. While the larger Kavadis and the spectacular Vel Kavadis (which are attached to bearers partly through steel spikes pierced into the bearers’ skin) are the ones that grab the attention of photographers and the public, it is Selva’s understated Kavadi that is closer to the traditional form. “The traditional Kavadi is merely a pole with an arch over it, that rests on the bearer’s shoulder,” explains Kandasamy Velayuthan, Deputy President of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam, the body that oversees Thaipusam celebrations in Malaysia. “It should only be decorated with palm branches, peacock feathers and fruits that are used for prayers.” Over the years, Kavadis grew bigger and more elaborate. Kandasamy admits that this could be partly fuelled by one-upmanship among devotees, but is also due to the different vows made by different devotees. Perhaps each man has his own burden to carry.

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Anuharan offering prayers before the big day

Diverging beliefs

Both Anuharan and Selva agree to me following them during the Thaipusam procession. Knowing that I have no prior experience, they describe to me a typical Thaipusam procession.

The procession itself is a raucous epic. Over a million devotees take the two-kilometre procession to Batu Caves, many carrying Kavadis of all sizes, the air rattling with the frantic drumbeats of traditional music troupes. Though the rituals practised might differ, the itinerary is largely similar: The procession starts on the banks of the Batu River, where devotees wash themselves as a symbolic form of cleansing, Hindu priests offer prayers, and the devotees take up their Kavadis. At this point, all the abstinence and fasting and meditation of the previous 48 days come to a head. Many Kavadi bearers will enter into a trance. Anuharan describes the experience: “The energy of a deity is channeled into you, and it’s as if you lose control of your body. You are aware of your surroundings, but it’s as if another energy is controlling your body, giving you the endurance and focus to finish the procession. Sometimes you even lose consciousness completely, so you have no recollection of events during the trance. You enter into a trance at the river bank, and wake up at Batu Caves!”

The intensity of the trance depends very much on the devotee’s preparations ahead of the big day. “Sometimes you get a good trance, sometimes you get a weak trance,” says Anuharan. “If you didn’t prepare with the right spirit – fast properly or spend time meditating – you will get a weak trance, and this means you might not have the strength to complete the procession. It is said that the piercings would hurt too,” he continues, referring to the common practice of piercing one’s self with metal skewers or hooks, as an accompanying act of penance.

Piercings have become a point of contention. Some, like Anuharan, disagree with the practice. “Hinduism never asks me to hurt myself,” he says. “It is a form of penance for some, they make a vow to do it, and so they must fulfill that vow. But for me, I don’t do it.” Selva, though, has had piercings before, and offers his counterpoint. “I have heard that when a skewer is pierced through the tip of the tongue, it touches a nerve on the tongue that helps the brain to focus and keep it in a meditative state during the procession.”

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A priest tying a Kappu on Anuharan’s hand and blessing him and his family

The home stretch

Three days before Thaipusam, devotees who plan to participate in the procession visit a temple to offer special prayers. Anuharan, whose pilgrimage began in Australia, offers his prayers at the Ayappan temple near Batu Caves. A priest affixes a piece of turmeric on a string, sprinkles it with red Kunkum powder, and ties it to Anuharan’s hand. It is called a Kappu. It is a sign that its bearer has made a vow, and is currently serving out his penance. For the next three days, Anuharan will stay at the temple, sleeping on the floor at night, meditating and avoiding worldly distractions.

Selva, no stranger to tests of endurance, is hitting the home stretch too. His vows of abstinence will grow more severe, and he too will meditate more. Bala, the Kavadi maker, has much more to do. He has set up a tent near the Batu River, which will serve as his base of operations. Last-minute requests from customers leave him busy. At the same time, he too needs to observe all his vows. By day he scrambles to complete Kavadis, by night he and his wife sleep at nearby temples. On Thaipusam day, Bala will perform the procession over and over again. He or members of his team need to walk with the devotees who rent his Kavadi all the way to the Batu Caves temple, and retrieve the Kavadi in time for the next rental. Anuharan, Selva, and Bala are just three of an estimated 1.5 million people who will throng Batu Caves this year. Each will approach Batu Caves with different vows, bearing different burdens, having walked different paths. This is the final buildup of spirituality, for all of them.

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Anuharan trying out the Kavadi

A common burden

Why do you do it? I ask. Though Anuharan and Selva differ in their practice of Thaipusam, they both offer the same answers – thanksgiving and tradition. “I carry a big Kavadi because I once made a request, and it was answered miraculously. In return, I vowed to carry a big Kavadi every year, so this is a fulfillment of that vow,” explains Anuharan. Selva has never made a specific vow, but he, too, sees the Thaipusam procession as an act of thanksgiving.

“It is a way of expressing my gratitude for the blessings in my life, and at the same time, to request for the blessings to continue.” Selva adds, “It is part of my identity as a Hindu. My family has always participated in the Thaipusam procession, and when the time comes I will pass this on to my children.” Anuharan concurs. “Every year, ever since I can remember, my family has taken this pilgrimage. It is a tradition worth keeping.”

——–

Journey with us, as we go on a pilgrimage to Batu Caves in the second part of this series: A Walk Among Gods

Want to know more about Thaipusam and other festivals and events in Malaysia? Visit www.tourism.gov.my for more information.


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Thaipusam: A Walk Among Gods

Selva, a devotee, in a trance as Lord Kali, the fierce Hindu goddess

Indians the world over have a gesture that, as far as I know, is unique to them. It is a sideways lift of the chin, usually performed in unison with a play of the eyes – a long, benign blink – and an almost imperceptible sway of the shoulders. Depending on context, it can be a yes, it can be a no, it can signal deference, it can signal a decision made. But regardless of context, the receiver always understands the message.

It is with this very gesture that Selva snapped out of his trance as Lord Kali, the fierce Hindu goddess. We are on the banks of the Batu River, which flows within eyesight of the famous Batu Caves, and it is the day before Thaipusam. During Thaipusam, Hindu devotees will undertake a pilgrimage from the Batu River to Batu Caves, while performing acts of penance such as carrying a physical burden (called a “Kavadi”), or piercing themselves with hooks or skewers. Devotees often enter into trances to perform these feats of endurance, calling upon one of Hinduism’s 33 million deities to possess them through intricate rituals passed down through the generations.

Ash is sprinkled over Selva’s head, as he enters into a trance

Initiating a trance

I am watching Selva perform one such ritual. First he cleanses himself. Traditionally, devotees take a dip in the river, but technology has now allowed for a public shower system to be installed on the riverbank. Then, an elaborate ceremony, conducted with the help of his entourage, follows, involving incense, fruits, Kumkum powder and holy ash.

Try as I may, I cannot keep up with or understand the maze of rites. Small braziers are lit, and some of the items held over the smoke. Milk is poured into two silver jars and secured to Selva’s Kavadi. Next to me, one of the women breaks into trance with a shriek. Another woman soon follows suit. Amidst all this, Selva bows and touches the feet of his mother, the ultimate gesture of respect in Hinduism.

One of the members of Selva’s entourage seems to perform the role of a priest, giving directions to the group. It is he who calls a trance on Selva. Selva stands before him, palms pressed together, as he chants quietly. Ash is sprinkled over Selva’s head, and his body begins to tense into a bow. I watch his eyes turn wild. With a scream, Selva drops to his knees, tongue out-stuck. He is Kali.

Next, the piercing. Selva’s penance this year involves piercing his tongue. As Selva – or Lord Kali – stands, arms akimbo, staring at the crowd that has formed around him, an exhausting amount of rites is performed over the long silver skewer that will be used. Meanwhile, he asks for a lime and chews on it. When the skewer is ready, he offers his tongue, which the priest dabs with Kumkum powder and ash, before slowly, laboriously, passing the skewer through it. He doesn’t flinch. With the skewer secured, the priest holds Selva’s head in his hands, chants some prayers, and suddenly, as if roused from deep thought, Selva’s body relaxes. Without even looking up, he lifts his chin sideways, and everyone in the group understands that the trance is over.

Now for the small matter of carrying the Kavadi all the way to the temple in Batu Caves. Like many other devotees, Selva will perform his pilgrimage today – a day earlier – to avoid the massive crowds on the day proper. “It’s OK to do it the evening before,” explains Selva when I spoke to him earlier. “It is still within the auspicious period of time, when the Pusam star is at its highest point and it emanates positive energy.”

Selva begins his journey towards the cave with the burden of his Kavadi on his shoulders

Positive energy

Energy would be the word to describe Batu Caves that afternoon. The caves are a familiar sight in Kuala Lumpur, its bone-white limestone cliffs topped with verdant green jungle often intruding into the city’s concrete skyline. When it does, it usually provides visual relief, an oasis of calm amid urban bustle. But today, Batu Caves is buzzing with energy. Inside the park area around the caves, stalls line every walkway, selling religious trinkets, clothes, cold drinks, vegetarian food, traditional Indian sweets and even furniture. The air is thick with the scent of spices and cooking oil, and vibrates with music blared from loudspeakers that have long since burst their diaphragms. Indians love their music driving, pulsating, full-blooded. People are everywhere, jostling with you, calling out to you, smiling at your camera, and when you thank them, lifting their chin sideways in return. Everyone and everything is conspiring to beat back the energy-sapping Malaysian afternoon heat.

As you walk closer to the caves, the tarpaulin tents of stalls part to reveal the famous 150 foot-tall golden statue of Lord Murugan. And next to it, the 272 red-and-white steps that takes visitors from ground level up to the mouth of the main cave complex, within which resides the most visited Hindu temple in the country. Closer to the foot of the caves, various organisations and associations have erected tents to serve free vegetarian food to the anticipated 1.5 million visitors. At the back of the tents, huge vats are cooking batch after batch of rice, which when piled into mounds on a table covered in banana leaves, resembles a miniature of the Swiss Alps.

The scene at Batu Caves during the day

In this festive atmosphere, Selva carries his Kavadi towards the cave. Kavadis range in size and form, sometimes reaching up to seven feet above the bearer’s shoulders. But Selva has chosen a modest version resembling a carrying pole, decorated with Hindu motifs, and bearing a jar of milk at each end. He has walked some two kilometres to arrive at the foot of the 272-step stairs that leads to the caves. All through the journey, through the music and the smell of food and the heat and the crowds, Selva maintained stoic focus. Many devotees would enter into a trance for the entire duration of the procession, but Selva is aware and clear-minded throughout. “That’s the way I prefer it,” he would explain later. “I want to feel the burden on my shoulders.”

Joining the crowd on their way to the temple

Resonating with the masses

An hour and a half after the start of his pilgrimage, at the top of the stairs, inside the temple, Selva completes his penance. His piercing is removed. He passes the two jars of milk to a priest, who pours it over a spear, before the shrine of Lord Murugan. I venture to ask him how he feels. “I feel fine, no tiredness,” he says casually. “Usually if there is tiredness it will set in after a day or two, but now I feel fine. Energised.”

The view from the cave

As we leave the temple, at the mouth of the cave, the view opens up. I see that the crowd had swollen significantly. Suddenly, I am aware of the magnitude of the event. Below us, beyond the stairs streaming with people, the shape-shifting multitude of devotees gravitates towards us, watched over by the golden Lord Murugan. Behind us, the gaping mouth of Batu Caves soars overhead. Surrounding it all was the dusk sky, slowly turning the colour of saffron.

At night, it’s a sea of of people, as the weather cools and more people begin their pilgrimage

Thaipusam at night

At night, Thaipusam morphs into a different animal. The crowd, taking advantage of cooler weather, easily triples. The music continues unabated, but the sun is replaced by lights of all colours, casting shifting shadows in every direction. It is the busiest time of Thaipusam. I am with K. Anuharan, a devotee who flies back from Australia every year for the procession. He is preparing to carry a 30 kg Kavadi to Batu Caves, but we are stuck, literally, in a Kavadi jam.

Anuharan carries his Kavadi, goes into a trance and emerges as the Hindu deity Lord Hanuman

Stuck in Kavadi rush hour

Kavadis tower over me from every direction. Large Kavadis, each accompanied by an entourage of family and friends, and often by a traditional drum troupe as well. It is a crush of human bodies, with not a moment’s silence, as the drum troupes take turns belting out rattling beats and devotees break out in chants of “Vel Vel Muruga”. We need to make it to the Batu River, where Anuharan can offer his prayers, carry his Kavadi, and initiate a trance. It is no more than a hundred metres away, but we simply cannot get there. Anuharan is already two hours late. He had planned to beat the nighttime peak period, but now finds himself smack in the middle of it. In a moment of calm, between organising his entourage, trying to navigate his Kavadi through the throng, and placating his young daughter (who was uncomfortable because she was barefoot), he catches my eye. “Tension”, he says with a smile. Why? “Already two hours late, and I had to make you wait.” I demur, he smiles. I am grateful enough that he has allowed me to join his entourage.

It is decided that it would be impossible to reach the riverbank. Anuharan will offer his prayers on the asphalt where we stand. Items are brought out and placed on sheets of newspaper, braziers lit with camphor tablets. Amidst the noise, the jostling, the semi-darkness, I can barely follow the ritual that takes place. Ash is smeared on his body and his forehead. He prostrates himself before his elders. The milk jar is filled with milk, and fastened to the centre of the Kavadi. Somewhere, someone flips a switch, and Anuharan’s Kavadi flashes with multicoloured lights. On the centrepiece of the Kavadi, a styrofoam peacock shimmers in the lights. Anuharan finds time to pick up his daughter, and shows her the centrepiece. “See, all this I did for you.” Anuharan had persuaded the Kavadi maker to add lights and a peacock to his Kavadi at the very last minute, even going to the extent of purchasing the lights on his own, at the request of his daughter. His daughter is placated.

It is time to carry his Kavadi. Bala, the Kavadi maker, helps mount the Kavadi on his shoulders, adjusting the metal fittings to make sure that the weight is evenly distributed across the shoulders. With the Kavadi strapped on, there is one final ritual before the procession begins – initiating the trance. The crowd around senses something is happening, and turn to watch. Anuharan’s elders step forward to bless him. Anuharan asks for the drum troupe to play louder. His entourage starts chanting. His mother breaks into a trance and starts dancing before him. The chanting turns urgent. Anuharan takes it all in, palms pressed together. His body goes taut. He throws his head back, and with a great cry, he emerges as the Hindu deity Lord Hanuman, and immediately starts dancing.

Presenting himself before the shrine of Lord Murugan

A long journey

Four hours later, Anuharan’s entourage is still yet to arrive at the steps of Batu Caves. A straight walk of the procession trail would take an hour at most, but it’s Kavadi rush hour. Moreover, Anuharan, possessed by the playful Lord Hanuman, insists on dancing his way there. Anuharan would later tell me that he cannot dance to save his life.

As we near the caves, the crush of bodies becomes almost suffocating. Ahead, the giant statue of Lord Murugan rises into view. With most of the Kavadis at this hour lit up like Christmas trees, I imagine the view from his vantage point would be quite surreal – dancing boats of lights floating on a sea of human bodies.

By the time we finally reach the summit, it is an hour past midnight. Below, the crowd, though still huge, has begun to thin. Inside the temple, the Kavadi is dismounted, and Anuharan, as Lord Hanuman, presents himself before the shrine of Lord Murugan. It seemed like the two deities shared a moment. Then, Anuharan takes a pinch of holy ash, presses it to his forehead, and, suddenly only human, he collapses.

His family helps him to the shrine, where his offering of milk is poured out before the deity. As he lingers for a moment longer, palms pressed together against his forehead in prayer, his face contorts with emotion. His journey is over. Even watching him from a distance, I felt the release. This is the culmination not of a five-hour Kavadi pilgrimage, but of a 48-day journey that started, with the commencement of his vows, in Australia. “Everything I’ve done is out of devotion to Lord Murugan,” he would explain later. “It’s not just the milk that I offered, I want to be the best that I can throughout the past 48 days. Hopefully that becomes a habit for the rest of the year, until the next Thaipusam.”

Anuharan and his daughter, after completing his pilgrimage

All are welcome

As I leave the temple, I notice a group of Chinese Buddhists who had also just offered milk at the shrine. One of them even had a skewer through his cheeks and piercings on his back. It led me to recall a conversation with Selva previously: “Hinduism holds nothing against other religions,” he said. “We believe God is one, and there are many ways for us to realise God.” Anuharan agrees. “Everyone has their own journey to walk. I am brought up a Hindu, so I walk in the Hindu path to realise God, just as a Christian would walk in the Christian path, and as a Buddhist would walk in the Buddhist path.” In retrospect, this inclusiveness is suddenly evident to me. Both Selva and Anuharan allowed me, a stranger, to share the most sacred part of their lives, without prying into my personal religious beliefs. And after everything, they thanked me, even before I could thank them. Their welcome bordered on veneration: “This person must be sent to us by Lord Murugan!” exclaimed a member of Selva’s entourage after the procession, taking my hand. I thank him in return, and he lifts his chin sideways, a gesture that says it all.

 

Missed the first part of this series? We go behind the scenes of Kavadi making to find out what it means to carry the burden.

Discover more things to do, see and experience in Malaysia at www.tourism.gov.my


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Penang Food Trail

Ask any Malaysian about Penang, and they’ll definitely talk about the food. From char kuey teow to nasi kandar, cendol to rojak and more; there’s just so much to taste and try at the food capital of Malaysia. So where do you begin, you ask? Fret not, we’ve gone on the hunt for all the must-try goodies and compiled them for you here.

First stop: Jalan Burma

Must try:

Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng

Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng
Seng Lee Cafe
270, Jalan Burma, Georgetown
Opening hours: 8am – 6pm (Closed on Monday)

One of the most famous mee goreng (fried noodles) stall in Penang, the Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng is a great way to start your gastronomic adventure. The stall has been operating for generations at the corner of Bangkok Lane and Burma Road. Flavourful noodles fried to perfection with potatoes and spicy sotong (cuttlefish), topped with a squeeze of lime.

Also in the area:

Assam Laksa Lemak Laksa
Kedai Kop Sin Hwa
329, Jalan Burma, Georgetown
Opening hours: 10.30am – 4.30pm (Closed on Thursday)

Apom Manis
Stall at Lorong Kuching, next to Kedai Kopi New Cathay
425, Jalan Burma, Georgetown
Opening hours: 7am – 1pm (Closed on Sunday)

Next stop: Jalan Rangoon/Lorong Selamat

Must try:

02_01HotBowlCurryMee

White Curry Mee

White Curry Mee (Non-Halal)
Hot Spicy Bowl Nyonya Delights
58, Jalan Rangoon, Georgetown
Opening hours: 8am to 3pm (Closed on Monday)

Don’t be surprised when your bowl of curry noodles is served white. There’s a container of chilli paste on each table for you to add into your noodles – you can put as much as you want! Topped with fresh cockles, cuttlefish, tofu and bean sprouts, the flavour of the curry mee here is truly authentic.

Lorong Selamat Char Kuey Teow

Lorong Selamat Char Kuey Teow (Non-Halal)
Kafe Heng Huat
108, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown
Opening hours: 11:30am – 6pm (Closed on Tuesday)

No trip to Penang is complete without a plate of char kuey teow (fried noodles). The Lorong Selamat version of the char kuey teow may be one of the most expensive in Penang, but it’s hands down one of the best in town. Flat rice noodles, fried to perfection with large, juicy prawns – you may wipe the drool off your chin now

Third stop: Jalan Penang

Must try:

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul

Teochew Chendul
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
475, Jalan Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours: 10:30am – 7pm (Monday to Friday) 10am – 7:30pm (Saturday to Sunday)

There’s nothing better than an ice cold dessert on a hot, sunny day. Chendul (also spelt cendol) is a popular dessert made with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, kidney beans and green jelly, topped with shaved ice. This roadside stall has been in operation since 1963! You can queue up for the chendul and have it standing around the stall, or enjoy it in the coffee shop next to it for a slight surcharge.

Assam Laksa

Assam Laksa

Assam Laksa
Joo Hooi Cafe
475, Jalan Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours: 11:30am – 5pm

Ranked 7th in the world’s 50 best foods by CNN, the assam laksa is another Penang favourite. The thick, sourish soup is made with fish and tamarind, and topped over thick rice noodles. The Joo Hooi Cafe version is really addictive, with just the right amount of sourness.

Nasi Kandar

Nasi Kandar
Nasi Kandar Line Clear
Corner of Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours: 24 hours

Located in an alley at the corner of Lebuh Chulia Jalan Penang, Nasi Kandar Line Clear might not be the prettiest sight in town. But one whiff of the curries, and you’ll forget about the surroundings. You’ll be given a choice of plain steamed rice or briyani rice, and a selection of meat, curries and vegetables.

Also in the area:

Popiah
Kek Seng Coffeeshop
382, Jalan Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours: 11am – 4:30pm

Lorbak (Non-halal)
Kafe Kheng Pin
80, Jalan Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours:  7am – 3pm (Closed on Monday)

Fourth Stop: Lebuh Union Lebuh Chulia

Must try:

Pasembor

Pasembor
Kareem Pasembor Rojak
Lebuh Union, Georgetown
Opening hours: 11am – 7pm (Closed on Sunday)

Pasembor is a kind of salad consisting of shredded cucumber, potatoes, fried beancurd, prawn fritters and egg topped with a special sweet and spicy nut sauce. You can choose to mix and match the ingredients, or order one with everything. The texture of the prawn fritters are just right, not too soft or chewy. And with a generous helping of the sauce, Kareem’s pasembor doesn’t disappoint.

Chicken Tandoori

Tandoori
Restoran Kapitan
93, Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown
Opening hours: 24 hours

The chicken tandoori here is very tender and flavourful. Served with a fluffy naan, it’s a pretty filling meal. If you’re looking for a heavier meal, the claypot briyani at Restoran Kapitan is also recommended.

Also in the area:

Hot Puthu
Jelutong Hot Puthu
Lebuh Penang, Georgetown
Opening hours: from 5pm

Mee Goreng Hameed Coconut Shake
Kota Selera Padang Kota Lama
Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, Georgetown
Opening hours: 11:30am – 8pm (Closed on Sunday)

Last stop: Lebuh Kimberley Jalan Siam

Duck Kway Chap

Duck Kway Chap (Non-halal)
Restoran Kimberly
Lebuh Kimberley, Georgetown
Opening hours: 6:30pm – 11:30pm (Closed on Thursday)

Kway Chap is a special handmade rice noodle, served in a slightly herbal broth. This stall here has been serving duck kway chap for over three decades. Each bowl comes with a generous portion of braised duck, innards, egg and a choice of kway chap, rice or porridge. The flavoursome soup is really delicious, you’ll be slurping till the very last drop!

05_02SiamCKT

Jalan Siam Char Kuey Teow

Char Kuey Teow (Non-halal)
Siam Road Char Kuey Teow
Jalan Siam, Georgetown
Opening hours: 3pm to 11pm (Closed on Monday)

Ask any Penangite where the best char kuey teow is, and they’ll most likely lead you to Jalan Siam. A 5 minute drive away from Lebuh Kimberley, this char kuey teow stall has been here for decades. An elderly man fries the noodles, while his son brings them over to the coffeeshop opposite where you can sit and have your meal. A word of advice, don’t come here on an empty stomach as the wait can be up to an hour! It’s worth the wait though, if you have the time.

 

Also try …

Here are some other yummy goodies you should try, if you are in the area.

Hokkien Mee

Hokkien Mee (Non-Halal)
Cecil Street Market
40-48, Lebuh Cecil, Georgetown
Opening hours: 7am until late

Curry Mee (Non-Halal)
Lorong Seratus Tahun Curry Mee
Lorong Seratus Tahun, Georgetown
Opening hours: 7:30am – 2pm (Closed on Thursday)

Apom Chooi

Apom Manis
Apom Chooi
Jalan Burma (Near Union Primary School), Georgetown
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm (Closed on Sunday)

Hawker Food (Non-halal)
New Lane Hawker Centre
Lorong Baru, Georgetown
Opening hours: 6pm till late

 

Here’s a map to help you on your food hunt:

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Hope we’ve got your stomach growling with this guide! Book your trip to Penang now, or find out more at www.tourism.gov.my

 

Disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent Tourism Malaysia and is not endorsed by Tourism Malaysia.


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