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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Untitled

The results of my finals were announced yesterday. Thankfully, I managed to obtain a much better result than what I got in the 1st semester, albeit by a small margin.

What shocked me the most was the number of students getting excellent results for the finals. Those who scored quite average in their 1st semester seemed to have improved by leaps and bounds in achieving a result that was much, much better than mine! To be frank, I was flabbergasted upon learning that.

After having much thought, I should indeed be grateful that I was still able to obtain such a satisfying result albeit I only started doing my revision last-minute as usual ~ just 1 night before my finals.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vesak @ Wat Nikrodharam






On Monday, Alor Star's devoted Buddhists thronged to Wat Nikrodharam 尼可罗塔南佛寺, the city's most imposing Buddhist temple complex, to pay homage to Lord Buddha in conjunction of Vesak, an annual holiday which Buddhists from all traditions celebrate the birth, Enlightenment, and passing of the great founder of Buddhism.




A stunning piece of architectural gem, this majestic Buddhist temple complex is a living testament to the region's Siamese influence in the past. The flamboyant temple gate and façades are typical features of the Thai Buddhist temple (wat) architecture.

Being the primary Buddhist house of worship in Kedah's state capital, this wat naturally played host to the city's most happening Vesak celebration.




Due to the temple's prime location at the city centre just beside a major roundabout, visitors can easily get a clear view of Alor Star's tallest man-made structure, the Menara Alor Star (Alor Star Tower), as shown in the last picture above.

As with most of Malaysia's northern states, the Chinese form the majority of the Buddhist community in Alor Star, while small pockets of local Thais and Indians make up the remainder of the bulk. Hence why Chinese architectural influence also played a rather significant role in the design of this temple complex.


Sincere devotees offering prayers at the main temple

Though Thai Buddhist temples are usually associated with the Theravada 小乘/南传 tradition (the main Buddhist school of thought adhered to by the Kingdom of Thailand), the Mahayana 大乘/北传 tradition followed by most Chinese Buddhists is also cherished here.

As for me, I consider myself a non-denominational Buddhist, thus I'm absolutely fine with whatever Buddhist tradition or school of thought. But I seem to be attracted to Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism lately. Haha...


This columbarium houses the cremated remains of my maternal grandpa who passed away 16 years ago in 1992

Besides the huge crowd of people, hawker stalls also packed the place to cater to those hungry devotees. I think I was the only one busy taking pictures around the temple complex, causing a lady from one of the stalls to mistake me for a journalist. How funny!


This old hawker has been selling mochi in Alor Star since my primary school days!

And last but not least, the beautiful self-purifying practice of...


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Monday, May 19, 2008

A Buddhist's self-reflection

2 years. Not quite. But it makes no difference. And yes, I'm still a Buddhist. Thriving and proud. :)

But I'm not a good one. Never been an observant one either. Being a Buddhist is more like a cultural identity to me than an abstract spiritual thing which I try hard to fathom. What irony!

The scriptures? I can only name 1 or 2.

The contents? Let's see...

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Oops... Wrong book. *rolls eyes*

I've to say I dislike those rituals which have been heavily syncretized with Taoism and the traditional Chinese beliefs. I prefer meditation as a path towards nirvana and Enlightenment though I know nuts about it. Heck, I seem to adore Catholic rituals more!

I'm always amazed at the way the Tibetan Buddhists pray. They would lay down with their whole body touching the floor with every 3 steps they take. How pious! Imagine you were to do that repeatedly at a distance spanning up to some kilometres. Seriously, I can't.

My ultimate aim for now is to gear myself towards fulfilling the 5 Precepts 五戒. Seems impossible, but at least I've managed to accomplish 2 or 3. Quite proud of myself, really.

And 1 thing I'm extremely proud of being a Buddhist is the compassionate, tolerant, and peaceful nature of this religion. As far as I know, its followers have never waged wars in the name of religion or Lord Buddha since its existence in this world 2-and-a-half millennia ago. Even when the monumental Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan were destroyed by the zealous Taliban fundamentalists in 2001, not a single Muslim nor mosque was blown up by the so-called Buddhist-made bombs. I mean, do these bombs even exist?

Albert Einstein once quoted, "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both natural and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism." Well, the definition of this is up to you to interpret. ;)

And according to Wikipedia, world-renowned Western personalities like Steve Jobs, Richard Gere, Angelina Jolie, Tina Turner, Orlando Bloom, Keanu Reeves, Alanis Morissette, Sharon Stone, Tiger Woods, and lots more have claimed to be Buddhists themselves. Interesting.

Oh wait, I never realize this is gonna be such a long entry! I'm tired, really. And I'll be going to Wat Nikrodharam in the morning to commemorate Lord Buddha's 2571st birthday. That's like I only have a few hours left for me to travel to dreamland. Hey, I just learn that His birthday is celebrated on different days in different countries! Can't believe I call myself a Buddhist. Haha!

And to all my Buddhist friends,


HAPPY VESAK DAY
卫塞节快乐



P/S: I can sense quite a number of you getting puzzled while reading the 1st paragraph. Read it more here. And a word of caution: don't preach to me. Please. I've never liked it. :)

Addendum @ 12:15PM: Alas, we didn't make it to the temple. :( By the way, I'm having lasagna for brunch, made by mum! :D

Addendum @ 5:09PM: So we did make it there. Don't blame me, it was a last-minute decision. Throngs of devotees from all over the city came to pay homage to Lord Buddha. More on this in my next entry. Meanwhile, I've returned to my university campus. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Francis Light's footsteps: Penang's colonial legacy






PENANG HERITAGE TRAIL: PART I

Walking the Penang Heritage Trail is something that I've always wanted to do. So when the opportunity came knocking on my door, how could I not be thrilled? :D

Actually, we (the committee members of the Bureau of Programme for June's week-long MAB architecture event) were on a task to George Town in order to observe and identify the cultural sites along this historic trail. For the uninitiated, we're currently planning for an activity that will involve these places during that week.

Anyway, here's a brief history of this tropical island:

The Malaysian island-state of Penang, as with Singapore, was founded by a British colonial official of the British East India Company which was instrumental in assisting the British Empire in establishing profitable trades and securing vast territories in the far-flung regions of the Orient. Originally a part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, the island was given to the powerful British trading company by the Sultan of Kedah in exchange for military protection from the invading Siamese and Burmese armies.




Instead of Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore 3 decades later, it was Captain Francis Light who founded Penang on August 11th, 1786 and gave the island its 1st taste of international exposure. The nascent settlement was renamed Prince of Wales Island by him in honour of the heir to the British throne.


Beach Street, an old street lined up with banks of old-world colonial architecture

Thanks to its prominent location on the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, the then Prince of Wales Island thrived as a free port (a status that has ceased to exist in 1969) and guarded fervently on the lucrative trade route between India and China. Captain Light's son, Colonel William Light, was born in the same year in Kuala Kedah (a sleepy fishing port in the adjacent state of Kedah) and later went on to found the cosmopolitan city of Adelaide, Australia.


Fort Cornwallis, a star-shaped fort occupying the north-eastern coast of Penang, was built by Captain Light after he acquired the island from the Sultan of Kedah

Cute ponies grazing outside the fort walls

Penang (both the island and Province Wellesley on the Malay Peninsula), Malacca, Labuan, Dinding (now known as Manjung), and Singapore would later come under the collective administration as a British crown colony known as the Straits Settlements. Since then, Penang's population boomed.

Even up to this day, the traces of the former British masters could be seen everywhere in Penang's prosperous state capital, George Town. There's a sizeable English-speaking population and a relatively high number of expatriates and foreign tourists in Penang as compared to other states in the country.


Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, erected by a local Chinese millionaire beside the British fort to commemorate Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 1897

One of the most notable colonial legacies in George Town is the street names of this city. Unlike most other cities in Malaysia, George Town has retained most of its colonial street names, albeit now officially known in their Malay translations. Fine examples like Buckingham Street (Lebuh Buckingham), Gurney Drive (Persiaran Gurney), King Edward Place (Pesara King Edward), Victoria Green Road (Jalan Padang Victoria), and Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Things are pretty much the same in Singapore, sans the Malay translations. Interesting huh?

Before I board a ferry to Butterworth on Saturday afternoon, I took a quick stroll along Weld Quay and snapped these photographs depicting the rich colonial flavours of George Town, Penang. Enjoy 'em! ;)


Church Street Pier, established in 1897

Tanjong City Marina, a redevelopment project of the Church Street Pier



to be continued...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mama, I ♥ U...






Now turn on your speakers and listen to this song...




Don't you think it's such an apt song to welcome this day? A song dedicated to all mothers in the world. So have you wished your mama yet? ;)

Each year, the sons and daughters of the paternal side of my family will hold a celebration for the mothers. We had it at my newly-refurbished home (more on this later) last night. And as usual, food!


A cake for Mama's Day;
Vegetarian: Thai tom yum, claypot tofu (sans claypot), petai;
Non-vegetarian: satay, loh bak, sar hor fun, KFC

All tapao-ed food! Haha... If you think these were enough, nope! Later that night, my mum went on to make a pizza using her long-abandoned oven. Finally she was cooking something with that super-expensive appliance again! Tell you what... We bought this oven for 5 years but the number of times we actually use it is less than 10! And worse off, it was converted into some sort of pantry to store dried food stuff ever since we both turned vegetarians. =.="


Before...

After!

So what do you think? Not bad for a 1st-timer huh. The delicious aroma of the pizza instantly permeated the air once it was taken out from the hot oven. And I must say it tasted real good! Certainly can beat those pizza chains any day! Here's one more tease...


Ooh... Cheesy mozzarella!

Don't drool! :P And oh... What more do we have here? Let's see...


Cookies & Cream ice-cream cake from Häagen-Dazs

Who wants a piece of this? Raise your hand!

Nono... Put your hands down! That's for may may, because tomorrow is her birthday! Whee... 生日快乐! :D

As you can see, we all had a fabulous Mother's Day dinner. Nothing beats a warm reunion dinner at home. All the joys and laughters. Lotsa photo-taking sessions. And not forgetting Der Der that naughty doggie who was with us to celebrate the night!


Thursday, May 08, 2008

A walk down Penang Heritage Trail






I've always loved Penang. My passion for this bustling island-state burns even more vigorously after having taken a stroll down the world-renowned heritage trail of its capital, George Town. A city steeped in history, 3 friends and I arrived in George Town on yesterday morning to begin our journey into the island's past.

Although we didn't get to visit all the cultural sites, I still managed to snap over 300 pictures till I ran out of battery on my camera phone. And it was my 1st time walking down the streets and alleyways of George Town on foot!

There's something magical about this city. Everytime you turn around, something unexpected is ready to greet you. Sleepy back lanes and vibrant marketplaces make a magnificent contrast. And most remarkably, an abundance of ethnic enclaves and colonial monuments dot the city which thereafter help to shape and define George Town's one-of-its-kind cityscape.


We had our lunch at this vegetarian restaurant on China Street

My bowl of Thai tom yum noodles

I won't be telling much about the trip until my next blog entry. Please bear in mind that my travel tales will be splitted into several parts for easy viewing.




Stay tuned! ;)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Huggable May






Surprise! In case you're still wondering, I'm blogging from my home sweet home. :D Reached here on Saturday afternoon, and I'm gonna return to my campus sooner today. It's been a hellish week there, with meetings on every morning, noon, and night! Imagine I were to repeat the same old routine for the remaining 30-plus days. *faint* What's worse is that we're forced to walk to-and-fro between our dorms and faculty 2 to 3 times a day (no transport ma...)! *sigh*

And oh, not forgetting those countless mosquito bites on my skin! The poor me have to endure this torture every night when I sleep. It's time to get a mosquito repellent, I think.




Another suay bus-related incident that I encountered. I was going back home on this express bus, which suddenly gave out plumes of smoke that instantly filled the whole interior on the way to Alor Star. What a shock! All passengers had to alight it and wait for another bus beside the expressway. Luckily a more spacious and comfy bus came to the rescue within minutes. Else I would go berserk under the scorching sun!

I can't help but to chide these bus drivers. They should've checked the coolant level and always make sure that the engine is in tip-top condition prior to each journey. How could they be so irresponsible as in putting the passengers' lives at risk? Malaysians!

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A brand new month means a brand new way to announce the T H E H U G H U G C L U B™ results!




Or do you guys prefer the traditional method more?

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Check out these brilliant works of my seniors! So awesome, can? I don't even think that I'm 10% of their levels!


A scale model of the Kuala Lumpur cityscape

Perspective drawings of a marina