a new year's morning


the Chinese New Year's celebration lasts for fifteen days. today marks the 8th day of the Goat Year. we spent the first few days at Ken's family home and it was a wonderful stay, as always. 

'Fu' (福) is a lucky word for the Chinese, and it means happiness. during the new year, it is often made into paper cuttings, and displayed on doors or windows, upside-down. this is believed to 'invoke' the arrival of blessings. i particularly love the art of red paper-cutting and the fact that it is still practiced to this very day.

this plant intrigued me the moment we step into the house when we first arrived. it's huge, with it's contorted branches and dark stems. it started to sprout new, tiny leaves after a few days and it looks almost magical. it's called the 'flying dragon' plant. Ken's mum mentioned that it's also called 'the dragon moustache' --she decorated it with cute little gold ornaments, like this maneki neko and there were some red little ribbons on the branches too. it's the first time i've ever seen this plant, and i love it.

some mornings we walked around the neighborhood and i love the fresh air, how clean it felt. we made some simple little ornaments for the plants out at the yard, and he hanged some red decorations - making the place look livelier that it usually is. it is such a happy time of the year, it reminds me of Christmas. family came together to enjoy a meal at dinnertime. we'll eat all day, lots of cookies and dried barbecued pork slices, sweet mandarin oranges. hopeful thoughts that the coming days are filled with immense joy and prosperity -- and wishing everyone a good, fruitful year. the celebration is still ongoing, i hear fireworks every night, firecrackers every now and then. i love this time of the year.

happy lunar new year - wisteria spell @ the gardens


it's the year of the goat/sheep. bright, happy colors everywhere, i.e pink, gold, red, red, more red. this festive season is also known as the spring festival - it brings so much joy, new hopes and aspirations. amongst many of its festive plants, wisterias blossoms that eloquently fall in tapered clusters are visual indications of bowing or kneeling down in honor and respect in Chinese Feng Shui, truly befitting for this season of family reunion.

a week before Chinese New Year, Sherina and i walked into the mall adjacent to our office building. needless to say - in awe with pink blooms everywhere we go. so here's what happened next..snapping away almost shamelessly because, you can't drag a girl with a camera out of pretty places, willingly. talk about happy encounter - this time, under the Wisteria spell. 

i mean, look at that smug.

miniature 'lion dance' costumes, which i find too adorable not to take pictures of. lion dances are performed during the new year, a group of experienced traditional dancers imitating lion movements and actions, accompanied by music of beating drums and gongs. it is believed that lions bring good luck. i saw a lion dance performance on Thursday, which was the first day of the new year, and i couldn't walk away until it was over. way too exciting :)

can i bring these home, anyone? hello?

Sherina, and a cart of beautiful Chinese hand fans. some traditional umbrellas too, if only we could take some (and awkwardly use one on hot sunny days - but i think we can pull it off, shh).

this is how it is in Malaysia this time of the year. inspiring decorations everywhere we go, plus series of 'loud' performances - believed to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck to all. in fact, i am excited to light some firecrackers tomorrow morning. spending the week at Ken's family home, i have been spoilt with good food and red packets ($$!). happy vibes all around (and food coma all day long too). perhaps i'll post more about that soon.

i wish everyone, whether you're celebrating or not - a happy Chinese new year, one of good fortune and excellent health with tons of happy, blessed moments! x

location: The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur

Temple of the reclining Buddha, Georgetown


here's another highlight from our Penang trip, the last of my ongoing temple 'mini series'. just across the street from the temple of the standing Buddhas, is this beautiful Thai temple, Wat Chaya Mangkalaram, famous for its 33 meter-long reclining Buddha statue - one of the largest in the world. built in 1845, i was amazed of how incredibly well it has been taken care of. as we approached the entrance, we were greeted by this gorgeous arch, authentic down to the bits of gold paint and colorfully painted carvings. all that glitters...

guarding the entrance of the main hall, is a pair of Thai warrior statues, one with a green face and one red. crawling at their feet, are statues of mythical dragon-headed serpents.

 gigantic feet of the guardian, and more intriguing statues spread across the compound.

here's the entrance to the main hall, where there is a sign saying 'beware of shoe thieves'. foot-wears are to be taken off before entering the hall, and it may be safer to carry them in your hands (wrapped in a small bag/plastic) just in case someone stole them while you were inside, admiring things. Ken chose to wait outside for a bit while i went in and explore :)

this impressive gold-plated statue is huge, i couldn't get it to fit in one picture frame. it's a calming sight to behold.

 the beautiful floor, decorated with lotus-patterned tiles. the walls are so pretty too.

apart from the main hall, a few pagodas spread around the area, filled with more intriguing statues. 

while i'm not a Buddhist myself, the explorer in me was jumping in joy knowing the fact that the temples in this area are open to tourists, and photography is allowed. it's the place to be, for anyone who'd love to admire the differences in culture and architecture. admission is free but donation is welcomed. the one thing to remember is to leave your footwear at the doorsteps when you enter, just like any Buddhist temple halls, as a sign of respect and it's also a cultural convention of etiquette. here's more good advise i found that may be of help :)

the two temples on Burma Road in Georgetown, Penang, is unique on its own, down to the very last detail. it's a beautiful comparison between the Burmese and Thai Buddhist temple's striking architectures. personally, i find the temple of the standing Buddhas a more peaceful and serene complex, where i felt more calm and grounded, in a way. walking across the street to this Thai Temple, it gets a little busy, which is not total a surprise as it's one of the main tourists attraction in Penang.

we left the area feeling pretty overwhelmed, because, that's a lot of beauty to 'consume' in two hours..

Temple of the standing Buddhas, Georgetown


a holiday in Penang is not complete without a visit to the 'Lorong Burma' or Burma Road, where a few majestic temples stood. i'm thrilled that we visited this one - founded and built in 1803, the Dhamikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple is the oldest temple in the area, and it's open to travelers and locals during the day. this is where the famous standing Buddha statue is, and the intricate details of wooden carvings, gold-ornamented pagodas and paintings surrounding this compound are gorgeous, and i doubt my photos does it any justice, but here goes :) 

one of the marble 'chi ling', guarding the main hall. they looked like hybrids of celestial dragon, horse and lion.
the entrance is a beauty. it is guarded by a pair of stone elephants, flanking the front gates. some locals set up their tents and sell handicrafts along the street.
further to the back, there's this beautifully carven wooden hall filled with statues of Buddhas from different countries of Asia. a serene area, if not intriguing.
shown above, is a part of the main hall (Sima Shrine Hall) where the gigantic gold Buddha statue stood, 25ft in height, made of carved marble stones. it was an eye-opening, fascinating sight to remember.
i wish Ken and i spent more time here but we were a little tired from a full day of walking under the blazing sun. we walked around the compound for a few minutes, drenched in sweats but so relieved that we finally made it to the area. after a few attempts of asking for directions from some locals, an old man kindly offered to show us the way as he was taking the same bus that we were getting on. we got down at the nearest bus-stop, walked a little and finally saw the entrance. it was such a fresh sight and i got real snap-happy. a 200 years old temple that's been well taken care of, everything we saw was beautiful. there were also murals along the corridors, depicting stories from Prince Siddhartha's life.

i've never seen a Burmese temple before, and i am beyond happy that we made it to this place. it is a historical evidence of Burmese settlement in Penang. 

fascinating, don't you think?

coming up next - temple of the reclining Buddha ;)

Penang oldtown, noon adventures


hello, i hope you're not bored yet with my back-to-back Penang posts, because it seems i still have some in store :) though i am planning to post them all up by the end of this week, fingers crossed, no dilly-dally. when we got back from the island, i looked at all these photos we took and thought, there is no way i will be able to post all this or summarize our trip in one single post. i wanted to write them all down, so i will not forget the tiniest details that made this trip amazing. so here goes another - a photo diary of what we did in the afternoon after our morning spent at the pier.

i love the fact that Ken didn't drive and that we just wandered. we saw so much, ate lots of nice food and just enjoyed being somewhere new, just the two of us. it felt like we were in another era where offices don't exist - instead, people make rattan furnitures and handicrafts, sell fresh flowers, or shaved ice desserts, all by the roadside. p.s those fried spring rolls are to die for.