February 2012. Georgetown, Malaysia.
Just a few photos of the lovely and super friendly people I met during my trip to Malaysia earlier this year.
After the first day of Thaipusam, which was full of smiley faces, dancing and smashed coconuts, the second day seemed a bit depressing. A group of men gathered near a small Hindu temple to have their bodies (mostly back, cheeks and tongues) pierced. They do it every year on the second day of Thaipusam celebrations to show their devotion to Murugan, Hindu god. Once their bodies are pierced, they undertake the pilgrimage along the route that takes them to another Hindu temple, where they can present their offering to the god. The whole thing is both creepy and magical, scary and fascinating, repulsive and amazing.
During my recent trip to Malaysia I had a chance to witness an amazing Hindu festival called Thaipusam. It is originally celebrated in the southern states of India, but since most Hindu people in Malaysia come from there, Thaipusam is a big deal in Malaysia as well.
The festival lasts two days, with the first being devoted to the Hindu god called Murugan. Devotees gather in the morning to witness the statue of Murugan being placed in the silver chariot. Then the chariot, pulled by two bulls, travels to the Hindu temple located 10km further. On the way the chariot stops many times to allow devotees to presetn their offerings (mostly fruit) to Murugan.
The procession is led by the group of man carring kavadi, a heavy wooden structure, which is carried as a sacrifice. The man stop every time the chariot stops, and perform traditional dance.
Another interesting part of the celebration is coconut smashing. They are smashed in thousands, and the purpose is to get to the white flesh, symbolising the purity of the soul.
The procession takes over 12h to travel the 10km journey and ends at Nattukottai Chettiar temple. But it is not the end of Thaipusam. The second day is even more incredible. Stay tuned for more!
I was itching at home, not having any travels planned for the next months. I really, really wanted to go somewhere. So I did. It was a quick trip – just 8 days – but sometimes a few days is all you need to recharge your batteries.
Penang was my destination of choice. I’ve been there before (in fact I spent 10 months working there back in 2003), but I have a thing for that place, so it seemed like an obvious choice. The plan was simple – eat lots of food and take lots of photos. I think I did well on both counts.
The thing I love about Penang, and especially the old part of Georgetown (the main city on the island), is the diversity. Here the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians live next to each other, celebrating their religions, their traditions, all in peace and harmony. It is not unusual to see a Chinese man coming for a blessing to Hindu temple, or a Hindu woman visiting Buddhist temple to light a candle. Not something you get too see often.
And of course there is the food. It is insanely good, the variety is huge and everything tastes great. I had two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners on most days, simply because I could never decide which dish I should have.
I will write more about Penang people and Penang food in the upcoming weeks, but for now I will leave you with a few photos from my favorite place in Asia.
July 2007. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
They no longer are the world’s tallest building, but I think it’s still the most amazing skyscraper on earth. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur about seven times, but I still can’t get enough of this Asian beauty.
It’s best after dark when the building it lighted up and shines as if it was made of freshly polished silver. I can look at it for hours.