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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Reclining Buddha From Every Angle

This week, photograph a stationary subject from three different angles…

Made of solid gold and 160 feet in length, the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho temple in Bangkok is a perfect fit for the theme. It provides opportunity for visitors to take photos of this massive Buddha at different angles…only if you’re patient enough to wait for your turn to have your pictures taken with the Buddha behind you, or to wait for the perfect angle or when no one is blocking your view!

Well, I took my time…. :-)

Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok. It is also the birthplace of Thai traditional massage.  Conveniently located only 10 minutes walk from the Grand Palace, most visitors would visit Wat Pho as well, and is mainly to admire the Reclining Buddha.

Gotta have murals in Penang!

Review: Camera Museum in Georgetown, Penang

When I first read about The Camera Museum as a tourist attraction in Penang, I didn’t give much thought. This was because I know Malaysia tends to set up museums for the sake of attracting tourists and the displays and exhibitions are typically sub-standard. But when I was researching on places to explore in Georgetown earlier this year, I checked out The Camera Museum website and was surprised to learn that the museum was ranked no. 1 attraction in Penang on Tripadvisor in April 2014 and they had garnered 10,000 Likes on their Facebook page in June 2014. So I was thinking, hmm, not bad…and added the museum to my list of places to visit for my Penang trip back in Feb 2015.

The Camera Museum is located in a refurbished pre-war building, right in the heart of Georgetown’s UNESCO heritage area at Lebuh Muntri. It’s the first of its kind in South East Asia, showcasing the history and evolution of cameras from 18th century to the present, and displaying over 1,000 vintage cameras.

Gotta have murals in Penang!

Gotta have murals in Penang!

The museum has interesting exhibitions as well such as the first selfie in the 1920s, the James Bond spy camera, and a Japanese machine gun camera used as a training tool for gunners and pilots in Second World War. Visitors also get the chance to experience being in the dark room and a pinhole room.

The first selfie in 1920s

The first selfie in 1920s

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Japanese machine gun camera used in Second World War

I reckon The Camera Museum is a great place to while your time for an hour or so especially in the afternoon when the tropical heat can get unbearable for some. You can cool down in this air-conditioned museum, and once you’re done, you can always go to an eclectic café next door to have a refreshing iced drink and chill out (the museum cafe ain’t that great) :-)

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Useful information:

Opens daily from 9:30am – 6:30pm. Guided tour is available from 10am – 6pm.

Ticket cost: Adult RM20; Children (7-12yrs old) RM5

Note: This isn’t a sponsored post; all views and comments are of my own.

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For related posts on Penang:

Warm Hugs

Procession on Foot

Night Festivities at Clan Jetties

Clan Jetties

Blue Mansion

Kickass Weekend

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It Wasn’t Just A Good Day, It Was A Kickass Weekend!

For this week’s photo challenge, select and share a series of photographs. You can piece together what you consider an ideal day, recount a memorable day, tell a (visual) story or show us some of your favourite things…

Some of you already know how much I love colours and sunsets, thus whenever I come across such elements in my travels, it usually marks a good day for me. Since you have seen many of those photos, I shan’t repeat them. Instead, I’m going to share with you a few photos of, not only just a good day, but a kickass weekend! :-)

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My sister and I were in Penang over the recent weekend. Penang isn’t too far from Kuala Lumpur (KL) – only 3 to 4 hours’ drive – and our purpose was to catch a play performed by an Iranian experimental theatre group. The play was part of a line-up of arts and culture festivities for the month-long Georgetown Festival.

The play was called “Slow Sound of Snow” and it explores the tension and dilemma of a woman going into labour during a midnight snowstorm but she has to keep quiet or else risk an avalanche.

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I won’t go into details about the play here (I might write my thoughts about it in a separate post) but suffice to say it was superb that we went into a post-play analysis and discussion, and derived conclusions about the story. We are not really theatre buffs but we appreciate talented acting and an engaging story :-)

There were a couple of activities which we did over that weekend. Prior to the play, we spent time in the afternoon taking pictures of street art in Georgetown’s UNESCO Heritage Site. The street art painting was commissioned to a Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic who painted murals depicting characters and scenes in the inner city of Georgetown.

After a hearty breakfast of dim sum the next morning, we went to the “Made in Penang” a 3D interactive museum. There are about 30 interactive trick art paintings which let visitors to explore Penang in a whole new dimension and to have fun posing with these 3D murals.

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Now, wasn’t that a kickass weekend? :-)

This post is also linked to #MondayEscapes.

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Farewell to the Land of Persia!

Yes, this is my last post on Iran, a travel series that I had written for the past 3 months, capturing the places that I had visited and experiences that I had went through during that 8-day trip. It seems quite a lot for an 8-day trip but rest assured, we had quite a lot of free time as well to experience Iran at a more leisurely pace.

We left Esfahan on a Friday – it was a start to their weekend and the city was quiet. There were not many cars on the roads. Shops were closed and not a soul could be found in the streets. However, we managed to find an Armenian café opened in New Jolfa, the Armenian quarter in Esfahan. Fully satisfied with a lovely cup of Armenian coffee and some cake, we left Esfahan for Tehran in the afternoon to catch our flight back to Kuala Lumpur at night.

Our guide, Maryam and her husband drove us to Tehran. Maryam mentioned that she and her family had plans to spend their weekend in Tehran, so when she was informed of our itinerary by the travel agency, she offered to drive us there since they were heading to the capital city anyway. That was the first time we ever come across such an arrangement, so we were surprised and appreciated the offer. We were also delighted to meet her cute 18-month old son, Khoroush.

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The time taken to drive from Esfahan to Tehran is 4 hours. En route to Tehran, we stopped in Kashan for an hour. It was part of our itinerary that we visit a few places of interest in Kashan.

We visited the Tabatabaei House, a historical house built in the 1880s and owned by a rich man in that region. The house features typical classical Persian design and architecture of stained glass windows and a courtyard of gardens and a pool. The Tabatabaei House was designed by Ustad Ali Maryam who also helped to build the Boroujerdi-ha House which was for the rich man’s newly married daughter.

Just before we left Kashan, we stopped by at the Hammam e-Sultan Amir Ahmad, a traditional public bathhouse originally built in the 16th century during the Safavid era but was damaged in an earthquake in the 1770s and later renovated during the Qajar period. It was really nice and cool inside the hammam, a respite from the heat outside.

We climbed up to the roof top of the bathhouse and here are interesting roof domes which look like outer space.

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Thank you so much for reading and following my travel narratives on Iran, and truly appreciate your questions and comments about my trip :-) There is so much to see in this beautiful land of Persia, and I hope you get the opportunity to do so…someday.

In the meantime, let me leave you with photos of the amazingly generous and hospitable Iranians, and Youtube links to delicious Persian food.

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If you have missed previous posts on Iran:

Palaces & Museums: Part 1 , 

Palaces & Museums: Part 2 , 

But…Why Iran? ,

Vivid Colours of Flowers

Colours & Poetry

Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine

Ancient City of Persepolis and Tombs of Necropolis

Arrived in Esfahan

Ali Qapu Palace and Grand Bazaar

Frescoes and Sunset

Churches and Coffee

Note: My trip to Iran was done with Homafaran Agency via Iran Traveling Center . It was not a sponsored trip and all views, posts and comments shared are my own.

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Churches and Coffee in New Jolfa, Armenian Quarter in Esfahan

Iranians are mainly tea drinkers and I’m not a tea drinker but am partial towards masala chai :-) So, we kept hearing about good coffee in Esfahan and immediately we were intrigued. The only coffee we had drunk in Iran was from the hotel at breakfast time, and that meant instant coffee which isn’t bad really, especially when you’re on the go (yours truly is guilty of 3-in-1 instant coffee in Malaysia!) but after a while, we longed for good, strong, brew coffee.

Our guide in Esfahan, Maryam, mentioned to us that Esfahan has a coffee-drinking culture due to influence from the Armenian community, and the best place to have good coffee is in New Jolfa.

New Jolfa is the Armenian quarter of Esfahan established in 1606 by Shah Abbas I during the Safavid era. The Armenians were fleeing the Ottoman Empire’s persecution and because Iran and Armenia had a long history of close relations, Shah Abbas relocated 500,000 Armenians to Persia. New Jolfa quarter became their new home and over time, the Armenians became active in the cultural and economic development of Persia.

Shah Abbas treated the Armenian population well, as such, the Armenians were able to assimilate with the Persians while keeping their Christian faith and Armenian traditions. In the 20th century particularly during the times of Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah until the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Armenians were quite influential in the arts and sciences, economy and services sector. However, due to the Revolution, about 20,000-25,000 Armenians left Iran for Soviet Union or Soviet Armenia.

The current population of Armenians in Iran is approximately 300,000 residing mainly in Tehran, Tabriz and Esfahan. Their community and culture are still flourishing amidst Iran’s Shiíte Islam rule. There are Armenian churches, schools, cultural centres, sports clubs, associations, libraries, newspapers, books, journals, etc. They are also represented in Parliament.

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The main attraction in New Jolfa is the Vank Cathedral, the first church built in this quarter during the 1600s. It is also called Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea – based on what I saw inside the church – however, Wikipedia says the cathedral is also known as Holy Saviour Cathedral or Church of the Saintly Sisters – hmm, oh well.

The exterior of Vank Cathedral looks modest but awe-inspiring inside the cathedral. The interior is covered with frescoes from the central dome to the walls. The frescoes on the central dome depict the biblical story of the creation of the world and Man’s expulsion from Eden while the frescoes and murals on the walls depict events from the life of Jesus and tortures inflicted upon Armenian martyrs by the Ottoman persecutors. EF-54

We also visited the library which contains over 700 books, artifacts, resources related to Armenian history (including the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey), languages, the community in Esfahan, etc. EF-4

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We returned to New Jolfa the next day (without the guide) to explore more of this quarter, and hoped to have some of that Armenian coffee. It was a Friday and the weekend had started, thus majority of shops are closed. Here’s an interesting observation: shops are open during the weekend in Malaysia and there are many people shopping, dining and up and about enjoying the weekend. But here in Iran, shops are closed during weekends and the streets are empty. Hence, we were not sure if the cafes in New Jolfa would be open on a Friday but we thought we ventured out there regardless to walk around in the quarter.

When we arrived in New Jolfa by taxi, the shops were indeed closed. We searched the internet the night before for a cafe which happened to have very good reviews (I can’t remember the name of the cafe now), but we just could not locate the shop. We walked and walked, probably went round in circles in the quarter, and found instead another church – Church of Holy Bethlehem. EF-56

EF-59 And we found a wedding car…I thought it was rather interesting to note that the bridal decoration on the car was rather simple. EF-22 And a South Park establishment next to a Hermes cafe. I don’t know what the South Park shop sells (hope it’s PG rated) but the Hermes cafe is not the brand Hermes but a fine dining restaurant. Apparently the breakfast and coffee are really good but we preferred to go to another cafe which was less formal. EF-11 After some time, we didn’t want to go on searching for that elusive cafe, thus we chose to patronise Feroze Cafe instead, and what a gem! I love the interior decoration of the cafe – it was cosy and warm, and the coffee was gooood!

We wished we had stayed a little longer in Feroze Cafe but it was time for us to leave Esfahan to head back to Tehran (a 5-hour car journey) for our flight back to Malaysia. But this is not the end of my travel series on Iran: there is one more stop en route to Tehran and that will have to wait in the next post :-)

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If you have missed previous posts on Iran, click Palaces & Museums: Part 1 , Palaces & Museums: Part 2 , But…Why Iran? ,Vivid Colours of FlowersColours & PoetryShah-e-Cheragh ShrineAncient City of Persepolis and Tombs of NecropolisArrived in EsfahanAli Qapu Palace and Grand BazaarFrescoes and Sunset

Note: My trip to Iran was done with Homafaran Agency via Iran Traveling Center

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath My Feet in Penang

This week, look down and capture the ground beneath your feet…

Penang has one of the largest collections of pre-war buildings in South-East Asia. The architecture of these buildings typically reflect over 170 years of British presence and incorporating cultural elements of Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. So much so, along with Melaka (my hometown, yay!), the pre-way buildings have become an architectural treasure in Malaysia and in the region.

One of the designs typically found in these pre-war buildings is the English floor tiles.

Below is the picture I took of the Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles inside the Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) which have been maintained and preserved since the late 19th century.

Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles

Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles

More English-influenced floor tiles of the five-foot way of another pre-war building on Logan Street.

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And I couldn’t resist to take a picture of the motorbike as well :-)

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Related post:

Tour of the Blue Mansion

Warm Hugs in Penang

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More Discoveries in Esfahan: Frescoes and Sunset

Our time in Esfahan got better each day. Not that the previous trips to Tehran and Shiraz weren’t great, they were just different. Each city has a special theme: palaces and museums in Tehran; gardens, poetry, Islamic shrine and Persian ancient cities in Shiraz; and mosaics and frescoes in Esfahan. And the frescoes in Esfahan are so well preserved like they were recently painted in the 21st century.

Just a stone throw away from Naqsh-e-Jahan Square is a pavilion called Chehel Sotoun, a palace situated amongst beautiful landscape of gardens and a long pool. The pavilion was built by Shah Abbas II specifically for receiving and greeting noble visitors, dignitaries and foreign ambassadors.

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Chehel Sotoun means “Forty Columns”, 20 wooden columns supporting the entrance of the pavilion plus reflection of the 20 columns in the waters of the pool, therefore 40 columns.

As we walked across the gardens approaching the pavilion, I thought the facade looked rather fragile. The columns were not made of solid marble but delicate, slender-looking wood. It didn’t seem adequately strong to support a roof which looked as if it was going to collapse any moment. However, never judge a book by its cover though it didn’t look impressive on the outside, Chehel Sotoun was incredible on the inside.

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We walked inside the Reception Hall of Chehel Sotoun which contains frescoes, and oh my, the frescoes were impressive – illustrations of historical scenes such as reception assemblies with rulers of Turkistan and Humayun from India, and battles against the Uzbek and Indian armies. The frescoes went through some restoration which I can’t remember when, though not in recent decades, and yet the paintings looked remarkably fresh and well preserved.

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I love the frescoes because it was a refreshing change from the other places of interest which we had visited thus far in Iran. We saw many palaces and mosques with Persian-Islamic architecture comprising colourful mosaics and glittering cut glass and mirror work but I didn’t expect to see frescoes which reminded me a lot of those in Europe.

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Just before our guide, Maryam, left us for the day, she brought us to the Bridge of 33 Arches which is situated right in the centre of Esfahan. The Bridge of 33 Arches, also known as the Khaju Bridge, is the longest bridge of over 970 feet long on the Zayandeh River. Built during the late 16th century during Shah Abbas I, the bridge was considered to be one of the famous examples of Safavid bridge design. It’s called 33 Arches (or Sio-se-pol in Farsi) because the bridge consists of two rows of 33 arches on either side of the structure.

When Maryam brought us to the bridge, it was a cloudy afternoon. The weather forecasted rain that day. And yet, Iranians happily flocked to the bridge to enjoy the flowing waters of Zayandeh River. For many years, due to shortage of water and river drought, the local authorities cautiously released water from the dam to control the storage and distribution of water. In normal circumstances, there should be water underneath the bridge but for many years, it had been dry. At one point, the concrete was completely dry and youngsters came out to play football on it! However, we were very lucky that day. In view of the rainy weather forecast, the local authorities decided to release the water, thus we saw the river flowing underneath the bridge. As such, many Iranians, mostly youths, came out to sit close by the water and to enjoy the day.

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Imagine youngsters playing football on this concrete when there was no water flowing under the bridge!

By evening, the rain stopped. We decided to return to the bridge again (only 15 minutes’ walk from our hotel) to take a stroll on the bridge and hope to catch a beautiful sunset. I remember it was a Thursday evening and Iranians were geared up for the weekend (their weekend is Friday and Saturday). School children, university students, office workers and the elderly came out to walk along the bridge and the river bank. There were lots of laughter, giggles and photo-taking on the bridge. Young Iranians, once again, approached us, wanting to “practise their English” with us. We spoke briefly to a Literature student from Shiraz who was visiting her boyfriend in Esfahan – she was a little disappointed that we preferred Esfahan to Shiraz while her boyfriend whooped with delight and said to her in fairly good English “you see, I told you, Esfahan is more beautiful than your city”. Cute :-)

When the sun began to set and the sky turned dark, the bridge was lit. It was beautiful. More flashes of camera lights could be seen. Iranians love to take photos especially with their phones, and they love to pose on the bridge, knowing fully well that the lights on the bridge give a special glow to their pictures :-)

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As we stood there to admire the sunset and the glowing lights, we could not help but marvel at the light and casual atmosphere on the bridge. This country is often misunderstood, and understandably so from global politics perspective, but we were frequently surprised by the freedom to live, love and laugh as evidently shown at the Bridge of 33 Arches…

Zayandeh River, Esfahan.

Zayandeh River, Esfahan.

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If you have missed previous posts on Iran, click Palaces & Museums: Part 1 , Palaces & Museums: Part 2 , But…Why Iran? ,Vivid Colours of FlowersColours & PoetryShah-e-Cheragh ShrineAncient City of Persepolis and Tombs of NecropolisArrived in EsfahanAli Qapu Palace and Grand Bazaar

Note: My trip to Iran was done with Homafaran Agency via Iran Traveling Center