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Friday, August 28, 2009

Burmese Temple Penang

The Dhammikarama Burmese temple in Penang is one of the oldest temples in Penang. It was founded in 1803 and today it's the largest Theravada Buddhist Temple in Malaysia. Today it is one of the highlights in visiting Gurney Drive, some say: the heartbeat of Penang.

This place of worship was purchased from George Layton for 390 Spanish dollars. The complex contains a historical pagoda, a temple well and a Sima hall (prayer hall).

The temple is presently managed by the Seventh Chief Monk tp facilitate and complement the practice of Buddhism. The temple has a main shrine hall, Sima Hall, dining hall, monk quarters, preceptees lodge, Sunday school classrooms, a library and a lecture hall.
The temple has a beautiful garden around the temple well. Inside the temple you find some awesome woodcarving (priceless teak wood) on the ceilings and along the pillars and behind the 16 standing images of the Buddha.

The central standing Buddha is 8.2 meters high. At the moment the standing Buddha receives a new layer of paper gold leaves. The process is almost finished as one monk explained me.

The gold on the Buddha is a mix of copper and 30% gold.

Behind the standing Buddha are, as said, 16 standing Buddha's. These statues are donations from 16 different Buddhist countries including Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan.

Some of the 16 statues behind the main Standing Buddha

The hall which is dominated by the Standing Buddha is surprisingly cool and has almost all over gorgeous teak wood carving (this alone is worth a visit).

On the right right of the hall is a small Buddha statue, now taken to the front of its home. The Buddha statue is more then 200 years. Inside the shrine the original resting place is now so soaked that the statue may fall and break. The good thing is that visitors can have a much better view of the old statue.

burmese temple penang

Behind the temple is the temple well and a small beautiful park with a pond. In the middle of the pond you will find a small shrine with a Buddha statue.

The scenery radiates peace and tranquility and it is not for nothing this place is well visited.

The temple hall in the back is maybe less impressive in architecture, the main Buddha statue is strangely beautiful. I believe it's a female and if its not, then it's close enough. Again the peacefulness is only disturbed by a bell once in a while and the whispering of people.

burmese temple penang

burmese temple penang

The Burmese Temple in Penang is worth a visit, even if you have seen your share of temples in Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) or Malaysia. Although the name suggest different, the temple is a mixture of Burmese, Thai and Chinese elements. Not for nothing this old (though not the oldest) temple is one the Penang heritage list and although the temple is a major tourist attraction, it is also still in functional use. Highly recommended.

See the map of Penang for location details

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Malaysian Music

As in dance, music in modern Malaysia is divided into traditional and western types. Traditional music is usually associated with the traditional theatre forms such as Mak Yong, Wayang Kulit, Joget Gamelan, Hadrah, Dabus, Kuda Kepang, Gendang Kling, Mek Mulung, and a host of other minor entertainment activities. This type of music is based on either the pentatonic 5-tone or heptatonic 7-tone scales; and is performed mainly by percussion-dominated ensembles which include combinations of three types of instruments, namely the:

  • Aerophone (wind instruments), such as the serunai, pinai, seruling and selumprit flutes.

  • Membranophone (drum-sounds produced by membrane-covered musical instruments) such as the gendang, geduk, gedombak, rebana, kompang, tar and jidor drums.

  • Idiophone (percussion instruments of fixed immovable surface), such as gong, kesi, canag, saron, kenong, gambang kayu, bonang, etc; and

  • Chordophone (string instruments), such as the rebab.

Traditional music reached its zenith during the Melaka Sultanate (1411-1511) when it was an integral part of the ritualistic and secular entertainment of both court and folk life. Thenceforth, the various royal courts in Peninsular Malaysia maintained their own dance and music troupes. The common people, too, developed their respective forms of folk music.

When the British gained complete political, administrative and economic control of the country (1905-1957), they established their own educational system through which western music - namely Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, was introduced first to the Malay aristocracy, and later filtered down to the masses.

In post-Independence Malaysia, the movies, especially Broadway musicals, also had a hand in popularising western music. Malay movies followed suit with songs of Malay flavour based on western tempered scale and arrangement. The songs of the late Malay movie legend P. Ramlee bear testimony to this fact.

A great majority of the present-day local recording artistes, such as Fauziah Latiff, Ella, Search and Wings, while singing Malay lyrics actually imitate their western counterparts as far as melodic structure and arrangement are concerned. Some, like Zainal Abidin, M. Nasir and Sheqal, try to blend eastern and western music, and do come up with an interesting new sound.

However, despite the onslaught of this foreign influence and inroads by television and video entertainment, traditional music in Malaysia still survive and flourish in a wide variety of forms. It is performed during ceremonial occasions, and as an accompaniment to dance and drama for entertainment. Dance and drama themselves are of course closely related to music.

The instruments are all laid out ... Bring in the musicians.

The basic element in traditional music is the drum (gendang), of which there are at least 14 types, four of which are beaten without the accompaniment of any other musical instrument. These are the rebana besar, rebana ubi, kompang and tar.

The nobat is a special royal orchestra consisting of usually four or five members, using the flute, trumpet, gong and drums; and only performed during state ceremonies. There are four such orchestras in the Peninsular at present, the oldest in Kedah, and the others in Terengganu, Perak and Johor. The number of musical instruments in the nobat varies from one group to another. However, there are five basic instruments which include the:

  • Nafiri - the royal trumpet
  • Serunai - the flute
  • Gendang nobat besar - the main drum
  • Gendang nobat kecil - the double-sided drum
  • Gendang negara - the one-sided drum

There are certain traditional steps or requirements observed when the nobat is to be performed. It can only be performed for the Sultan, the Crown Prince, the Bendahara and the Temenggong. The most important use of the nobat is during the coronation of the Sultan, where it is believed that he will not be accepted as the ruler unless the nobat is played.

The rebab is a type of three-stringed violin played in the Mak Yong dance-drama. Other musical instruments played during the Mak Yong performance are the gendang and gong. There is also singing involved in the Mak Yong, both solo and in a group. There are more than 30 types of Mak Yong songs, among them the Pakyung Muda, Kijang Mas, Sedayung and Sedayung Mak Yong.

The Wayang Kulit music is another type of music popular in the Malay community. Music is very important in the performance of the wayang kulit because it enhances the story by making it more interesting and entertaining. The wayang kulit orchestra usually consists of 12 instruments, the most important being the flute (serunai).

There is also music that accompanies traditional dances such as Tarian Asyik and other Malay folk dances. Gamelan music is a form of traditional music widely performed in Malaysia during ceremonial occasions. The instruments used include gongs, xylophones and a cylindrical drum.

There are also various forms of traditional music in Sabah and Sarawak. The Kadazans and Dayaks also like to play the gong. There are four types of gongs mainly the Tawag-tawag, cenang, gong agung and tenukol. There are also many types of flutes made from bamboo. The Kadazans play a two-stringed guitar called sundalang; and the sumputon, a trumpet-like instrument made from pumpkin and bamboo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome To Ipoh

Interested to find out the most fascinating Perak attractions? Ready to be amazed by the natural beauty of Perak? If so, then let me have the pleasure to be your humble travel guide to Perak, or often referred to as "The Land of Grace" for its laid back, timeless beauty.

Perak, also known by its Arabic honorific, Darul Ridzuan is situated on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia between Kedah in the North and Selangor to the South. The state is divided into 9 districts with Ipoh as its state capital and business and administration centre.

Perak, which means Silver in Malay, derived its name from the silvery tin ore. This state is renowned for its rich tin deposits, scenic places, and historical and cultural heritage.

Before introducing you to some of the most fascinating Perak attractions, let me give you a brief introduction to the history of Perak.

The Perak Sultanate, is actually an extension of the Melaka Sultanate. After Melaka fell into the hands of the Portuguese, Sultan Muzaffar Shah the eldest son of the last Sultan of Melaka established his own dynasty in the state of Perak.

Due to its rich tin deposit, Perak has always been under threat by outside forces. In 1641, the Dutch attempted to establish a monopoly of the tin trade in Perak by building forts on Pangkor Island and at the estuary of the Perak River. These attempts, however, failed.

In the 18th century, Perak faced threats from the Bugis and the Siamese (Thais). With the help of the British, Perak was saved from Siam domination in the 1820s.

The discovery of tin by Long Jaaffar resulted in an influx of Chinese immigrants who came to work in the tin mines here in Perak and in 1896, Perak became one of the four states that formed the Federated Malay States under the British.

There are many amazingly beautiful and unique places to visit in Perak. So, sit back, relax and let's explore some of the Perak attractions together.

Sam Poh Tong TemplePerak is famous for its cave temples. One of the most famous cave temple found here is the Sam Poh Tong temple situated in Gunung Rapat (Mount Rapat), about 5km south of the Ipoh. It is said to be the biggest cave temple in the country.

This temple is really an impressive work of art with various statues of Buddha interspersed among the stalactites and stalagmites.

The walls of this cave are filled with paintings of Chinese gods, deities and the Buddha. Stepping into the cave creates a sense of awe and admiration for the amazing works of art that are found here.

According to legend, this cave was discovered in 1890 by a monk from China. He happened to pass by Ipoh and when he saw the beautiful caves around the area, he decided to make this cave his home and a place for meditation. He remained here for 20 years until his death. Today, nuns and monks who dedicate their lives to studying Buddhism occupy the Sam Poh Tong.

Ipoh Railway StationBesides the cave temples, one of the Perak attractions worth mentioning here is the Ipoh Railway Station. It is located at Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang.

This railway station is famous for its Moorish and Victorian architecture. In fact, its splendour has earned it the title "The Taj Mahal of Ipoh".

The railway station is surrounded by a beautiful floral garden which is simply charming and beautiful. The charm of the railway station and its beautiful surroundings was what earned it its chance to be one of the shooting locations of the Hollywood remake of Anna and the King, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yuen Fatt.

Kellie's CastleOne of the most interesting Perak attractions is Kellie's Castle which is located about 40 km away from Ipoh, on the outskirts of a small town called Batu Gajah.

This castle was meant to be a home away from home for Scottish Planter, William Kellie Smith in the 20th century.

Some say he built this castle because, being far from home, he desired his new residence to be reminiscent of his home back in Scotland and some even say this castle was built as a castle of love for his wife Agnes, whom he brought to Perak somewhere around 1903.

Work on the castle started in 1915, but was unfortunately halted a few years later with Kellie's sudden death due to pneumonia and because of that, this castle was never completed. The castle, with hidden rooms and a secret tunnel, is a building filled with mysteries and stories of romance.

Teluk Intan Leaning Tower

Another tourist attraction here in Perak is the Teluk Intan Leaning Tower. This leaning tower is situated in Teluk Intan, which is a transit town for those who travel from Kuala Lumpur to Pangkor Island using the coastal route.

The leaning tower was constructed in 1885 and stands at 25.2 metres high. It started to tilt four years after its completion due to an underground stream. On top of this tower is a clock, which, up till today still rings every 15 minutes.

This pagoda like 8-storey building was originally used as a water storage tower to supply water to the town area.

Today, the leaning tower no longer stores water and has become a prominent landmark and a major tourist attraction in Teluk Intan.

Bukit Merah Laketown ResortSome of you may be wondering, is there all there is to see in Perak? Old buildings, Castles, Cave Temples...Of course not!

Perak is home to the only water theme park in the North of Peninsular Malaysia, the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. This water theme park is located near the Bukit Merah Interchange along the North-South Expressway.

Within the resort, there is an excellent hotel, entertainment facilities, restaurants, shops, boat facilities, a water theme park and an eco-park. What's more interesting about this theme park is that there is an island within the lake where orang utans can be seen.

The travel destinations stated above are just some of the many many tourist attractions found here in Perak. Since it would be impossible to share with you all the amazing perak attractions on this single page, I will start (and constantly update) a new section on this page specially dedicated to the most amazing and interesting Perak attractions. So, do check back often!

I hope you enjoyed reading about the tourist attractions in Perak as much as I have enjoyed writing it. And by the way, if you are planning a trip to Perak, or have already decided to visit Perak, it would be helpful to have a Perak Map (requires pdf reader) to make your traveling easier. An Ipoh map (requires pdf reader) would also come in handy if you plan to visit Ipoh, the capital of Perak.

Welcome To Kelantan

Kelantan Darul Naim
The Cradle of Malay Culture

Kelantan Darul Naim, or simply known as Kelantan, is one of the most interesting states in Malaysia. The Arabic honorific, "Darul Naim" meaning "The Beautiful Abode" in English, perfectly describes Kelantan, as this state is indeed beautiful and rich in cultural heritage.

I remember when I was young, during the festive seasons, my dad would bring the whole family back to his hometown in Kota Bharu, Kelantan (Kota Bharu is the capital of Kelantan) to visit my grandma and my relatives.

Being brought up as a city kid, and being used to the fast-paced, interesting, exciting city life, I really disliked going back. The slow pace, the old wooden houses that my grandma used to live in, the culture, the language (Kelantanese have their own slang when they speak the Malay Language, it's hardly discernible for people who only speak the normal Malay Language)... in short, I disliked almost everything (except the food of course) in Kelantan. What choice did I have...but to follow my parents back every year?

It was not until many many years later, when my business required me to travel back to Kelantan almost twice every month that I started to grow fond of this place. I began to appreciate the beauty, culture and uniqueness of this intriguing state.

Now, I'm not saying that I absolutely LOVE this place. All I'm saying is that if someone were to ask me for my recommendation of the places to visit in Malaysia, Kelantan would definitely be among the top 3 places that I would recommend.

With a mixture of influence from various places (due to the fact that Kelantan shares borders with Thailand in the north, Perak in the West, Terengganu in the South-east and Pahang in the South), it is not surprising to find strong Thai influence here in the local cuisine and architecture. And with all these influences, I would say that Kelantan Darul Naim is the richest state in Malaysia where culture and tradition is concerned.

There are so many interesting places to visit and so many interesting things to see in Kelantan Darul Naim. With its kite (Wau) flying competitions, top (Gasing) spinning activities and puppet shadow plays (Wayang Kulit), a visit to Kelantan Darul Naim will definitely leave you intrigued.

Now, allow me to share with you some interesting places to visit in Kelantan. I will not go into the minute details of these places that I'm about to share with you. I'll leave that for another section on this page. This new section that I'll be adding in will be constantly updated with the latest and most interesting places to Visit in Kelantan.

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing about it!

One of the most interesting places to travel to in Kelantan is the Siti Khadijah Market. This market is named after Prophet Muhammad's entrepreneurial wife.

I personally think that a good way to get to know a Malaysian town is to visit its markets. That's where you'll see all the bustling activities of bargaining, the sounds of laughter and the occasional sounds of shouting by the vendors to promote their goods.

When you're here, it's interesting to note that the majority of traders here are women and they are very entrepreneurial.

This market has something for everyone. Vegetables, local delicacies, traditional pastries (kuih-muih), fresh tropical fruits, dried food items such as fish crackers, salted fish, meat floss and a selection of local crafts can be found at this bustling market.

Another interesting place to visit when you're in Kelantan is the Cultural Centre. Known locally as the "Gelanggang Seni", The Cultural Centre is a veritable showcase of the state's rich cultural heritage.

Visitors who visit the centre will be treated to activities such as kite (Wau) flying, top (Gasing) spinning competitions, puppet shadow plays (Wayang Kulit), and traditional Malay dance and band performances.

A visit to the Cultural Centre is definitely the best and easiest way to see many of the arts that are dying out elsewhere in Malaysia.

Although Kelantan Darul Naim is predominantly made up of Malays and is considered the most Islamic state in Malaysia, it is surprising to know that Kelantan is home to quite a number of Buddhist temples (I don't know about you, but being a Malaysian, I was very very surprised to find out there were so many temples here). In fact some of the most beautiful temples in Malaysia are located here.

One of the most amazing temples in Kelantan is situated in Cabang Empat. Known as the "Wat Photivihan" Buddhist Temple, it houses a 40m long statue of a Reclining Buddha (also known as the Sleeping Buddha among the locals). It is believed to be the second longest reclining Buddha in the world and the longest in Southeast Asia.

Other ornate Buddhist temples are "Wat Machimmaram", boasting one of Southeast Asia's largest statue of the Sitting Buddha and "Wat Mai Suvankhiri", featuring a huge Dragon Boat.

Kelantan is also home to the many beautiful beaches of Malaysia. One of the most famous beaches in Kelantan is the "Pantai Cahaya Bulan" (Moonlight beach). This beach used to be known as "Pantai Cinta Berahi", when translated would mean the Beach of Passionate Love. They changed the name of the beach a few years back. (I don't know why...perhaps it's not appropriate to be too passionately in love when you're on the beach?)

he route to this beach is dotted with vibrant and colourful cottage industries that produce Batik, Songket, Giant Kites known as Wau and other local crafts.

One of the things you can't miss when you're in Kelantan is the food here. The local delicacies here are unique and special to this State.

Foods such as Nasi Dagang, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Tumpang, Nasi Berlauk, Kau-Jam and Laksa Kelantan (pronounced "lakso") are "MUST-TRYs!" And if you like Thai food, you could always go to the border town of Tumpat for some unbelievably sour and spicy Tom Yam (thinking about it makes me salivate).

Looking back, I'd have to admit that I really did not know how to appreciate the beauty, culture and serenity of this slow-paced but relaxing place.

I have barely touched the surface of the places to visit in this amazing, intriguing state. But as I have mentioned earlier, I will start (and constantly update) a section on this page specially dedicated to the best places to visit and the unique foods to savor in Kelantan Darul Naim.

If you have already decided to travel to Kelantan Darul Naim, I would suggest that you download the Kelantan Darul Naim Map and the Kelantan - Kota Bharu Map (requires pdf reader) to make your traveling easier.

Welcome To Penang

The Most Fascinating
Penang Travel Spots & Tourist Attractions

Want to find out the most fascinating Penang travel spots and tourist attractions? Sure! Always a pleasure to share with you. Let me be your travel guide to Penang for the next few minutes (hopefully this will extend to a few hours in the future as I work to continuously update this page with the latest happenings covering everything about Penang!). But before that, let me just share with you some background information about this beautiful state called Penang.

Penang (also known as Pulau Pinang in the Malay language) is a state located on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Situated in the Straits of Malacca, it is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis. The capital of Penang, George Town, is the third largest city in Malaysia and has a population exceeding 1.47 million people. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.

Penang is also known as "The Pearl of the Orient" and is famous for its traditions and customs that have been passed down through many many generations. From traditional villas to the simple yet elegant shop-houses of the yesteryears, the state is rich with its architectural heritage.

The following are some of the most fascinating Penang travel spots and tourist attractions I will be sharing with you. I will give you a brief introduction to these travel spots but will not go into the details of it.

The reason is because there are simply too many fascinating travel spots in Penang to cover in detail on this one page. However, I will start (and continuously update) a section specially dedicated to these fascinating tourist attractions. That's where I'll provide you with all the details of those beautiful places.

So, hope you can sit back, relax and enjoy reading this short introduction to some beautiful Penang Travel Spots.

The most prominent landmark in Penang is the Penang Bridge. It is the fourth longest bridge in the world, stretching over 13.5km.

This impressive structure which stands magnificently across the glittering, blue sea links the Penang Island with the peninsular.

When you look at it from a distance, you can't help but feel a sense of awe for this magnificent structure. The beauty and splendor of this bridge is simply Amazing. I have only 2 words to describe this bridge...Truly Fascinating!

Penang is home to some of Malaysia's most beautiful temples. Among them are the Kek Lok Si Temple, the Reclining Buddha (Wat Chaiyamangkalaran Temple, the Dharmikarama Burmese Temple and the Tua Pek Kong Temple.

Of all the temples mentioned, the one that I personally like most is the Kek Lok Si Temple. This temple is Malaysia's largest Chinese Buddhist Temple. It is also one of the largest and the grandest Buddhist Temple in South East Asia. The thing that truly captivated me was the 7-storey, 30 meter tall pagoda found here. Inside the pagoda are 10,000 Buddha images and because of that, this temple is also known as the "Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas".

The climb up to the top of the pagoda can be quite tiring, but it 's definitely worth it as you would be able to capture the splendid panoramic view of Penang.

Another tourist attraction in Penang worth seeing is the Fort Cornwallis. This was the place where Francis Light first set foot on when he arrived at Penang Island in the year 1786. An interesting artifact of the fort is an old Dutch cannon, called the Seri Rambai.

Made in 1603, locals believe it possesses magical powers. It is said that by placing flowers in the barrel of the cannon and by offering special prayers, infertile women would be able conceive. How true this is, I do not know. But it's definitely worth giving it a try if you're trying to conceive!

Besides being a popular tourist destination, Penang is also a food haven! You can find a great variety of food in Penang. It is often said that Penangites don't eat to live, but live to eat! Hawker stalls, of which Penang is famous for, can be found almost anywhere on the island.

Locals delicacies such as the Penang Char Kueh Teow, Penang Asam Laksa, Rojak and Lok-lok are definitely "Must-Trys" when you're in Penang.

There are just too many amazing Penang Travel spots to cover, it's almost impossible to cover all of them in detail on this one page. But as I promised you earlier, I will start and continuously update a special section dedicated to the best Penang travel destinations very soon.

Hope you check back often!

If you have already decided to visit Penang, you would definitely need a map to make your traveling easier. Please Click Here for the "Penang Travel" map and Click here for the "Penang-Georgetown Travel" map (requires pdf reader).

If you don't want to go through the hassles of painstakingly planning your visit to Penang, you could actually join the Penang City Tour. This would definitely save you the trouble of planning your trip. All you need to do is join the tour, sit back, relax and enjoy your hassle-free sight-seeing experience.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Where the Arts Come Alive !

Kuala Lumpur Festival was initially conceived with the objective of branding Kuala Lumpur as a City of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

First launched on the 30th June 2006, the Kuala Lumpur Festival has since united Malaysians of all generations and races through the spirit of creativity and solidarity. A joint effort between the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Federal Territories (DBKL), the collaboration provides Malaysia’s arts, culture and heritage a platform for international exposure.

Now in its fourth year, Kuala Lumpur celebrates Malaysia’s rich arts, culture and heritage by hosting a unique and unforgettable experience for both locals and tourists alike.

Watch as the KL Fest 2009 unveils the festivity throughout Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley in this month long celebration. Catch the variety of performances and activities held at various landmark such as the Istana Budaya, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Central Market, Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower.

This July, witness how the arts and culture unite the older and younger generation in preserving the national heritage and development of the local creative industry.

Malaysia Festa

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Malaysia Festa

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