Lim Jetty - a welcome drink, anyone? ;-)

In Pictures: Clan Jetties of Penang

Before coming to Georgetown, I did not know anything about the Clan Jetties in Penang. It was only on my first day of visit that I began to understand a little bit more about this settlement. I walked straight down the Lebuh Chulia road in Georgetown’s UNESCO heritage area until the end at Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay) where these early 20th century-old Chinese settlements are situated.

The settlements are actually houses on stilts by the waterfront, and they are homes to various Chinese clans. The community is divided into several clusters or jetty areas, and each community consists of families of the same clan surname. For example, those staying at Chew Jetty will all have the surname ‘Chew”. Likewise, families staying at Lim Jetty will all have the surname “Lim”. The family surnames of the Clan Jetties are “Chew”, “Lee”, “Lim”, “Tan” and “Yeoh”.

Traditionally, the people had lived there because they could not afford to buy land to build homes as they were port labourers and coolies. The squatters grew into clan jetty settlements, and today there are only 7 major clan jetties remaining along this waterfront. Majority of the descendants have moved out from settlements for better job prospects and opportunities. Apparently, families of young and old gather at their ancestral jetty homes during festivals to celebrate together.

And by the way, the residents of Clan Jetties do not pay tax for their homes since they do not live on land :-)

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Lim Jetty - a welcome drink, anyone? ;-)

Lim Jetty – a welcome drink, anyone? ;-)

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Some families set up drinks and souvenir stalls for tourists at Chew Jetty.

Some families set up drinks and souvenir stalls for tourists at Chew Jetty

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Interesting form of stilts!

Interesting form of stilts to support the house!

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A panoramic view of the port

A panoramic view of the port

Lake Palace on Lake Pichola

Weekly Photo Challenge: Afloat on Lake Pichola, Udaipur

This week, show us what afloat means to you…

A good introduction to the City of Lakes aka Udaipur in Rajasthan, India is to go on a boat ride on Lake Pichola. The boat ride on the picturesque Lake Pichola provides beautiful views of the City Palace, havelis and ghats. There are two island palaces on the Lake – Lake Palace Hotel (the hotel was a central feature in the James Bond film Octopussy) and Jag Mandir Palace.

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Lake Palace on Lake Pichola

Lake Palace on Lake Pichola

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The lake was also beautiful at sunset – the dusk light of orange shone on the ghats and the Palace. As I sat back and relaxed at Ambrai Restaurant with a bottle of beer and snacks, the scenery took me afloat as if time stood still.

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City Palace at dusk

City Palace at dusk

Now they are fully dressed in costumes!

Hokkien New Year Celebration: Night Festivities at Clan Jetties

Feeling happy that I was lucky to come across a procession in the late afternoon to mark the start of the Hokkien New Year celebrations in Penang, I was elated to see more fascinating festivities at night at the Clan Jetties area.

As mentioned in last week’s post, the Hokkien New Year or Jade Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the Lunar New Year. According to traditional beliefs, the Hokkiens in China were oppressed by evil forces and didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate the new year for a long time until one year, on the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, the Jade Emperor of Heaven came at midnight and liberated them. In Taoist religion, the Jade Emperor is regarded as the supreme deity.

To commemorate the liberation, the Hokkien-Chinese in Malaysia perform rituals known as “Pai Thee Kong” which means “worshipping the Jade Emperor” as thanksgiving for being able to celebrate the new year. To thank the deity, food is served to him and that ritual is symbolised by laying food on a table draped in red tablecloth. Some of the popular food items are sweet cakes, prosperity cakes, tortoise-shaped buns, pink rice flour buns, fruits and roasted suckling pigs.

The celebrations at Clan Jetties started from 7pm till midnight, and boy, it was grand. Rows of tables were lined up on one side of the road for devotees to place their offerings of food. There were performances to entertain the public – Chinese classical music, Chinese New Year songs, lion dances and chingay acrobatic stunts – all at the same time!

Here are some of the photos I took of the celebrations:

Taoist temple in Chew Jetty beautifully lit with Chinese lanterns

Taoist temple at Chew Jetty beautifully lit with Chinese lanterns

The faithful offer their prayers to the Jade Emperor deity inside the temple

Performers getting ready to be dressed like the deities

Performers getting ready to be dressed like the deities

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Now they are fully dressed in costumes!

 

Food items offered to the deity as thanksgiving

Food items offered to the deity as thanksgiving

Roasted suckling pig

Roasted suckling pig

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The deity is brought out from the temple

The deity is brought out from the temple

And here’s a short video of chingay acrobatic stunts..Chingay is street art where the performer balances a giant flag (on the forehead and sometimes on the mouth), and is mainly performed in celebration with the birthdays of Chinese deities as part of Chinese New Year festivities.  Today, Chingay is not only performed by the Chinese in Malaysia & Singapore but by other ethnic groups too, thus becoming a unique multi-racial performance.

To end the celebrations with a big bang, fireworks and firecrackers  were lit at midnight to welcome the New Year!

If you’re interested to see the festivities of Hokkien New Year in Penang, then time your visit by 15 February 2016 :-)

If you have missed the previous posts of Penang travel series, please click Warm Hugs and Procession

Traffic Jam

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Blur of Traffic Jams

A throwaway shot, or purposefully unfocused? This week, find beauty in a blur.

I live in Kuala Lumpur (KL) city which is on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Typically in Nov & early Dec, we receive heavy rains but it’s not the monsoon. In fact, it’s an “inter monsoon”, a shorter period of rains. The actual monsoon on the west coast happens in late May till Sept.

Regardless of inter-monsoon or the southwest monsoon , there’s heavy rains…and in a cosmopolitan city like KL, this means heavy traffic.

This is the photo I took of the gridlock while traffic was at a standstill – a journey which would take only 45 minutes from the city centre to home – but during this downpour, the journey was 1.5 hours!

Traffic jams are the bane of city life :-(

Traffic Jam

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Outdoors in Taman Negara

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Outdoors)
I searched through my archives and found these sets of photos I took on a weekend trip in 2009 to Taman Negara, our national park in Pahang, Malaysia. Taman Negara is the biggest national park in Malaysia and is the oldest primary rainforest in the world. The national park actually spreads across 3 states on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia: Pahang, Kelantan and Trengganu.
It’s a 3-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur to Tembeling, and then a 1.5 hours boat ride through Sungai Tembeling (Tembeling River) to the national park. The activities that one can do in Taman Negara are hiking, rapid shooting, fishing and night jungle walks. 
We went on a boat ride on Sungai Tahan – an amazing cruise to see the flora and fauna – and then we dipped into the cold but refreshing cascades of Lata Berkoh.
It was fantastic for city slickers like us to appreciate nature and being outdoors!
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Statue of Jade Emperor deity carried in a dragon boat

Hokkien New Year Celebrations: Procession on Foot

On my first day in Georgetown, Penang, I had no specific plans in the afternoon except that I wanted to see the Hokkien New Year celebrations at Clan Jetty area at night. Penang is renowned for their unique and boisterous Hokkien New Year celebrations which is typically held on the eighth day of Chinese New Year.

The Hokkien are the largest Chinese dialect group in Malaysia, and historically, majority came from the southern Fujian province in China and settled in Malaya in the 18th & 19th centuries (Malaysia was called ‘Malaya’ before independence from the British). These groups form the bulk of the Chinese population mainly in Penang and Melaka.

The Hokkien New Year or Jade Emperor’s Birthday is a significant celebration among the Hokkien-Chinese in Penang. According to traditional beliefs, the Hokkiens in China were oppressed by evil forces and didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate the new year for a long time until one year, on the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, the Jade Emperor of Heaven came at midnight and liberated them. In Taoist religion, the Jade Emperor is regarded as the supreme deity. Hence, to commemorate their liberation, the Hokkiens perform rituals known as “Pai Thee Kong” which means “worshipping the Jade Emperor” as thanksgiving for being able to celebrate the new year.

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On that first day, I reckon the gods were smiling down on me. Since my arrival, everything I saw and felt exceeded my expectations. I loved the location of my homestay, the ambience of my room and the warm reception from my host. I loved the city’s UNESCO heritage area that are dotted with several places of worship (mosque, church, temple), restored pre-war buildings, street art, cafes, galleries, etc.

To make the day extra special, I was fortunate to chance upon a procession in the heritage area where devotees carried the statue of the Jade Emperor and other deities to mark the start of the new year celebrations. I had only found out a week later that the procession was usually held at sea on boats, but this time, they organized the procession on foot instead.

The 3km procession was held around 5pm. I was taking photos of street art and suddenly I heard drums of the lion dance. I turned around and saw a number of people ran towards the main road. I followed suit to see what was going on and this is what I saw (photos below) – the procession. For the next one hour so, I joined the devotees on their walk from clan houses to temples, and finally Chew Jetty Temple which was the central place for the major celebrations later at night.

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Participants dressed as deities

Statue of Jade Emperor deity carried in a dragon boat

Statue of Jade Emperor deity carried in a dragon boat

One side of the road was closed for the procession but traffic on the other side operated as usual. Bus passengers were curious to see the colourful procession.

One side of the road was closed for the procession but traffic on the other side operated as usual. Bus passengers were curious to see the colourful procession.

Procession halted at the entrance of Goddess of Mercy Temple. Firecrackers were lit to drive away evil spirits, and then devotees carried the deity in a run-and-halt manner as if the deity is paying homage to the Goddess of Mercy.

Procession halted at the entrance of Goddess of Mercy Temple. Firecrackers were lit to drive away evil spirits, and then devotees carried the deity in a run-and-halt manner as if the deity was paying homage to the Goddess of Mercy.

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Note the guy in black & yellow stripe pants - he stops the group as they charge forward - so that the movements show the deity is paying homage to the goddess.

Note the guy in black & yellow stripe pants – he stops the group as they charge forward – so that the movements show the deity is paying homage to the goddess.

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Happy to be part of the procession...

Happy to be part of the procession…

Junior must be feeling proud to be part of this significant event...

Junior must be feeling proud to be part of this significant event…

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At the final destination – Chew Jetty temple – deafening firecrackers were lit.

Taoist temple at Chew Jetty.

Taoist temple at Chew Jetty.

For more photos of the Hokkien New Year celebrations, look out for next week’s post!

If you had missed the previous post of the Penang series, please click Warm Hugs

"Oh tell me your prayers, and I shall offer them to the Lord"...

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral

When I saw the theme for this week’s photo challenge Ephemeral, the first word that came to my mind was “What?!” Hahaha, sorry folks, I hardly come across the word Ephemeral, so please excuse my ignorance :-)

WordPress’s Krista writes that “One thing I love about taking photos is that it forces me to be present — to consider and appreciate now, before now evaporates and becomes then.” OK, perhaps now I understand what Ephemeral means…

Then I reckon this photo would be suitable for the theme…I took this photo on an early Saturday morning last year with my friend Ram in Brickfields area of Kuala Lumpur city. We wanted to do street photography that morning, and we felt that Hanuman Temple was the perfect place to capture Hindus join the throng of devotees to this tiny temple to offer prayers…

"Oh tell me your prayers, and I shall offer them to the Lord"...

“Oh tell me your prayers, and I shall offer them to the Lord”…