Thursday, August 26, 2010

pearl of the orient p4

this little light of mine, i'm gonna let it shine

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

pearl of the orient p3

Since we didn't manage to catch the World Cup finals, we had a really good sleep. The hotel's power shower and sturdy beds, not to mention a long day out, helped!

While some of the gang decided to chill out in the room, the rest of us went to explore the famous Le Maison Bleue. Striking in indigo blue, the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion is a testament to the wealth of its owner, who established his reputation all over the world through sheer hard work and perseverance.

This is another fine example of how influences from various culture come together to create a masterpiece of sorts. While the floorplan is essentially Chinese, the overall effect is electic and typical of 19th Century Straits Settlement architecture. Gothic louvered windows, Chiense cut-&-paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Tent floor tiles, Scottish cast iron works and Art Nouveau stained glass are among the features to be found in this inspired work of art.*

To us, however, the highlight of the tour was not the fusion of architecture, but more so the tour guide whom we suspect is a former history teacher. Walking with an air of authority, she made sure we paid attention to her stories of how feng shui elements were incorporated into the house, ensuring continuous flow of wealth for Cheong Fatt Tze and his household.

Though she encouraged participation from her visitors, she was quick to reprimand an eager young lad who wanted to show that he knew what certain numbers meant to the Chinese. Needless to say, not many dared to raise a question after that.

As for me, I was only more curious to explore the exterior of the house since we were forbidden to take photographs of the inner courts. I got myself stained as a result - now I'm wondering what cheap paint did they use?! Certainly this is not befitting their status as winner of "Most Excellent Project" UNESCO Heritage Conservation Award 2000!

Lunch with the rest of the gang was at Hot Wok, also another recommended restaurant. I'm beginning to feel more touristy than ever, having tasted all these foods for the first time in my life!

Joining us for the scrumptious lunch was Michelle whom we have not met since graduation! At first we thought we had overestimated our ability to eat, but the walks help built an appetite for the Nyonya food. Go visit for a rather authentic feel of a traditional home with many antiques within its nooks and crannies.

Since it has been pretty hot & humid, the next item on the itinerary sounded like what we needed - Penang Hill. We took the 4WD up as the funicular trains were not in service anymore :/

I'm not really been a fan of heights, but there's just something about being up there looking down and enjoying the cool air away from the city. Even though we didn't attempt to hike up, we were pleasantly delighted to find a lovely garden after a short stroll at David Brown's Restaurant, whose concept is similar to The Smokehouse in Cameron.

Beautiful weather, so everyone who came opted to sit outside in the tents. We saw lots of Middle Eastern families who seemed to be enjoying the outdoors too. There were so many non-tropical flowers around that I went trigger-happy, leaving the rest to indulge in good ol' English scones served with butter, strawberry jam and fresh cream.

Alas, but all good things have to come to an end. Just as we were finishing up the bread pudding and Alaska bomb, we had to force ourselves off the seats so that we could get downhill to catch our flight. Too little time to indulge in Colonial hospitality.

As if our dessert was not enough, we stopped by a famous porridge place just before the airport for a serving of Teochew congee so that we wouldn't starve on the plane! Plus a plate of salted chicken for good measure.

No one can accuse of Sook Ping of being a bad host-cum-tour guide, having stuffed us silly with all sorts of delicious Penang food and bringing us around to see the other aspects of the island. She can be contacted for personalised tours ;)

* excerpt from brochure

Monday, August 23, 2010

pearl of the orient p2

I did mention that I was going for a grrlie trip with the 7D4 babes to the Pearl of the Orient last month, and finally with the day off's I've downloaded the pics from the memory card, resized them for storage, uploaded to Facebook and as motivation to eat dinner, I might as well finish up the job by sharing some stories!

Told you, I was hesitant in even getting a DSLR because there's just too much work after the pictures are taken >.< And I have yet to put them up on an online site, can't choose between Flickr and Picasa.

First off, what's Penang stories without tales of food? Too bad I was recovering from my cough and cold then, which meant I had to refrain from almost everything that Penang had to offer - prawn mee, char kuey teow, assam laksa, cendol, Nyonya food. You can imagine how torturous that was for me!

We booked into G Hotel, which has recently been nominated for the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2010, having won the Best Hotel Construction & Design Malaysia. I've only stepped into it last year but didn't know how classy it would be until we stayed there.

Their simplistic zen ambience had me thinking that budget hotel could be achieved using a minimalistic concept, but seeing Aigner toiletries in the room got me thinking they're on to something brilliantly marketable here - uncluttered hipness focused on luxurious comfort.

We decided to be tourists by visiting historical sites like the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. In my 1 year of living there, obviously I was oblivious to these kinda places, but since they recently achieved heritage status, we should do the patriotic thing by learning more about our history. (Admission Fee : RM10, free for children below 6)

Depicting the typical home of a rich Baba of more than a century ago, this stately mansion of electic design and architecture incorporates Chinese carved-wood panels with English floor tiles and Scottish iron-works. Built at the end of 19th century by one of local history's famous personalities, the "Hai Kee Chan" or Sea Remembrance Store had once served as the residence and office of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee.*

Next stop was the Khoo Kongsi, one of the more famous clanhouses which is still carefully preserved till today. No doubt our friend Geng Ying was delighted to find her clansmen had done well by building a association building, traditional theatre and rowhouses, leaving a legacy behind.

Unfortunately, amongst the row of name plaques that were hung in the clanhouse immortalising Khoo's with the names of their degrees and universities from where they've graduated from, her name was not included.

Our dinner that evening was at the hip Bagan Bar & Restaurant, a former colonial bungalow turned into an intimate venue for dining and partying. I've always loved the fact that Penang has always retained its identity by preserving architectural gems like these, and how instead of chopping down trees they build roads and buildings around centuries-old raintrees, making it really shady and idyllic.

After so many months, we were finally celebrating the birthdays of Sze Ying, Lai Ying and myself. The fairylights above us and candlelights on the table gave it a magical setting, just perfect for toasting to friendships and catching up without being rushed.

We ended the night at G Spot, the hotel's jazz bar and lounge. I must say the inhouse band fared pretty well, even to the point of "celebrating" our birthdays in a most memorable manner ever! ;p

*excerpt from brochure

Sunday, August 22, 2010

crayon shin chan

On my last day in Tokyo, at the Narita airport, I had decided to withdraw all the $ left in my Suica card. We had some time to kill before going into the departure hall, so I thought I should get myself a last minute souvenir.

So with the few hundred yen in cash, I decided to visit the nearest convenience store and checked out what I could buy. It was then that I realised in all my years in Japan, I had not bought myself a manga before!

I had earlier stopped by my fav Japanese store Uniqlo and spent on some cute knickers, so the remainder was exactly enough for a bumper issue of Crayon Shin Chan.

Just one month after that, I found out that the author had passed away after having gone for a hiking trip. That made this copy of Crayon even more precious than ever!

Since it was my first and only manga, I decided to take my time reading it. And boy, did I refrained myself from finishing it at one go, coz it took me 1 year to finally reach the last comic strip! >.<

Saturday, August 21, 2010

fallen flowers

With leaves to clear but still on a project, I had to stagger my holidays, taking Mondays and Fridays last week and the next. While cleaning the room, I remembered that I was supposed to bring my new toy out because I saw some fallen flowers the weekend before.

There used to be these pink and white flowers all along the trees lining the main road. For some reason, only a few of them bloomed this time around. It didn't help that the weather has been going bonkers lately.

After a long period of raining, some of them were blown away and rested on the cars parked opposite the houses. It looked quite dramatic then, though not as much as it would have been had there been more flowers, but imagine having a wedding car like that. 

Reminded me of spring last year when we experienced the hanafubuki. This is prolly the closest I'll get to seeing those dancing petals.

Since the car hadn't moved for days, it had accumulated quite a bit of those flowers and I had a bit of fun trying out my new toy. Even caught one stuck midway on the side of this black sedan. 

Monday, August 16, 2010


Almost bought Kari Jobe's latest CD. My usual preference has been not to get a CD featuring only a solo singer, in case there aren't a variety of styles and I didn't want to get jelak listening to just a particular genre throughout that 1 hour!

Here before Your alter
I am letting go of all I've held
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that's of myself

And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful
Oh, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful
Oh Lord You're beautiful to me

Here in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
I would be poured out till nothing's left

And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful
Oh, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful
Oh Lord You're beautiful to me

You're beautiful, oh You're beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful

Holy, holy, holy You are, You are
Holy, holy, holy You are, You are
Holy, holy, holy You are, You are
Holy, holy, holy You are, You are

Beautiful, beautiful
Oh, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful
Oh Lord You're beautiful to me

You're beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful

Sunday, August 15, 2010

1yr+10d after that one-way ticket home

This would have been an anniversary post if not for the fact that the transition period has taken a lot of my time, and for some reason some very interesting turn of events have left me with almost no time of my own.

I had wanted to pen in a reflective post about how my 1 year back home has been. For some reason, whenever I try to think about 1 year anniversaries, not just this time but for other significant happenings, they lead me to things unexpected.

Like how after 1 year in Tokyo I wanted to run away from that foreign land, reward myself with a holiday Down Under and even attempted to return home, abandoning my possessions in the metropolitan. My trip left me so refreshed I was tempted to burn my passport so that I had no choice but to stay back!

I returned to Japan missing Australia, but very soon after that started falling in love with Japan. So much so that it became very hard to let go when it was time to.

It was quite similar this time around. I had difficulties adapting back. It wasn't like I was trying, I just didn't want to fight it. Since I've heard of many other IUJ friends who's had reverse cultural shock, I expected that of myself too.

So the past 1 year was me struggling to make sense of a country which has gone backwards, which disappointed me with its politics and progress. I was returning to a worse place than before.

After awhile, I tried not to think too much about it. Work helped a lot; in fact it was ironically work that saved me. For the first time I actually had a job which I enjoyed doing, with colleagues who were fun to work with, and in a client office which was pretty convenient.

I knew that was also where the danger lay; if I were to depend solely on work to satisfy me and make me happy. God knew I was still seeking, still asking if this was all the reason to come back.

I had begun serving again in church, mainly in the music ministry and helping out a little in the children's and cell. My life was beginning to take the shape of what it was before I left for Japan, but tipped the opposite way with more time spent at work.

Just at the verge of my 1 year anniversary on the 5th, so many things began to take place. It's as if there's always some sort of tornado growing as if telling of impending changes that were just looming on the horizon.

There was a wake for a cell member's dad, I hosted dinner for a couple of Bangladeshi friends who were here for their honeymoon, had a bit of insight into a pastor's kid (PK), played badminton twice this week resulting in overdose of adrenaline rush, spent time with my team mates, celebrated my dad's birthday at a fine dining restaurant at the Le Meridien.

For all the busyness that my life has suddenly taken, it had been a really good week. Plus, I've found a colleague whom I'm carpooling with, which helps to keep my sanity intact; and a good weekly review with the client with no complaints for the first time. And yes, it had to sound like work was so important but I can't help it when it takes up most of my awake time!

Still, I'm not complaining. :) I think I'm slowly coming back; and getting my mojo back. Can't believe it's been 1 year already, but the journey was necessary.

Monday, August 02, 2010

no sweeter name

No sweeter name than the Name of Jesus,
No sweeter name have I ever known
No sweeter name than the name of Jesus.

You are the Life to my heart and my soul
You are the Light to the darkness around me
You are the Hope to the hopeless and broken
You are the only Truth and the Way