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Hungry Ghost festival are meant to feed hungry souls. Souls who have no one to offer them food during this auspicious month when they are let out to wander Earth.

Traditionally we offer prayers to ancestors spirits first that is first to 15th of the month. Chinese opera shows are arranged to allow the ancestors spirits to have some celebration. Usually for the ancestors, it is nothing elaborate. You can read how we offer to Ancestors here:

What is seen more important are the prayers to the lost souls. To the business people, these lost souls need to be appease for two reasons.

One, since they are lost souls and no one cares to feed them so it is very charitable to do so. It is a common sight near wet market in Penang and Butterworth. From the fifteen to the end of the month, food sellers and local businesses took turn nightly to offer the grandest they could afford.

Some arrange for Chinese operas, puppet shows or even had Karaoke or Ko Tai for the King of Hades. I caught this in Prai Megamall this weekend where auctions for the living are held.

Second reason, better feed this hungry ghost or spirit or they create havoc for your business.

But sometimes I wonder what next they will perform.

Beside having big feast daily for 1 month or 2 weeks, puppets shows, Chinese opera performances or young girls singing in the heat of the night clad in tiny clothings barely covering their bodies, now there is Auctions.

Auction Item

Auction Item

So called black gold, gold stuffs or precious artifacts are donated or sponsored for bidding. On a particular night towards the end of the month, the locals and committees member of this community will bid for the blessed items. The highest bidder will claim the item. These items are suppose to be lucky charm and have been blessed by the spirit mediums. The lucky winner can expect some kind of prosperity during the year.

In turn the following year, he will then pay back to sum or amount he had bid. How about this?

The Nine Emperor Gods Festivals, so far is for me an amazing, and out of this world’s experience. You have to be in Penang or Butterworth to witness the ever devout devotees keeping the nine days vegetarian diet. The daily rites and rituals performed by the mediums are unimaginable.

Believe you me, it is REAL! But I am glad it isn’t that extreme then the ones performed in Phuket.

At any time of the day or night, the Nine Human Sovereigns (Tai Chu), will leapt into trance like behavior and accordingly the caretakers of the Tai Chu will clothed them. By the behavior and action of the trance, the caretakers were able to identify the arrival of Tianying, Tianren, Tianzhu, Tianxin, Tianqin, Tianfu, Tianchong, Tianrui and Tianpeng.

Besides that we get to see other so called friends of the Nine Emperors God, Na Cha or Chek Kong came and went. Some are healers so paper talisman will be given to those in deed of help.

Butterworth 9 Emperor Gods Festivals

Many of the rituals and performances does not require an understanding of legends and myth. Many devotees carry out the rituals and rites without knowing that it is related closely to the legends, myths and symbols.

Faith in the beliefs of their ancestors is more important, so as long as they have faith the myths is of little concern. Faith in the power of the Nine Emperor Gods to cure sickness and confer luck, wealth, and long life is sufficient o induce devotees to participate in the rituals. The fact that their ancestors believed and participated in the rituals is evidence enough of its authenticity and efficacy. Myth, therefore, is taken as a matter of faith rather than as a matter of fact.

I had the opportunity to follow the Raja Uda Nine Emperor Gods Temple Festivals closely and was able to understand some of the events that were performed yearly. It was great to hear the explanation in English as the presiding trustee(Lor Chu) was Girlie Chuah, the first English speaking lady. I felt truly blessed. Most times, in my quest to learn more about our cultures and tradition, not many were able to give a clear explanation as they could only explained about it in Mandarin.

During the nine days of the festivals, I saw some feats and performances which quite difficult to explain or comprehend.

Welcoming Ritual

Before the commencement of the 9 days events, there was the welcoming ritual. But first the five generals, their 30,000 to 90,000 armies need to be invited.

Installing the Five Generals

Then Lor Chu Girlie will be led holding the urn under a silken umbrella through a street procession. You wont get to see her holding the urn as she is inside or under the umbrella and 2 flags of the eight trigam by 2 disciples. It was indeed a sacred rituals as, when she moved out form the temple to the special float, all bowed in reverence. Gongs, cymbals and drums are sounded. Listening to it, one can feel the grandeur and style of the occasion.

Once reaching the seaside of Pantai Bersih, it was another night one cannot forget. 3 temple seniors went down to the sea to receive the Nine Emperor Gods. It was evident a moment all bowed down again as the Great One approached.

Welcoming rites at Pantai Bersih

Purification Rituals

Some of the purification rituals of these Taoist festival includes playing with hot oil. The “Tai Chus” in their trance like hour, lights up the fire by first drinking the oil in their mouth and blowing onto the fire. These was performed for a good vigorous hour. i was quite a distance away as the heat was so intense. At first I thought the oil was not hot or boiling. I moved to have a closer look and could not go closer. The heat is real intense. As the oil flows down their body, I see no scars neither on their hands nor body. I wont make any joke of it but seeing those young men earlier not in trance and now in trance completely amazed me. Eyes closed, hands keeps inserting in hot oil to scoop into their mouth, spitting the hot oil from the mouth like dragon spewing fire. An unbelievable hour but it did happen.

Playing with Hot Oil

Herbs and spices were later added to brew for a few hours. Once it cools down, devotees each purchased a bottle for use. It can be use to rub on your tired body or any other body problems. This is how strong the belief the devotees has. Remind me of the days my dad would use these so called oil on us when we were young.

Mediums in hook and spear rod in Nine Emperor Gods Festivals in Butterworth

The next event is even scarier then Thaipusam. If you think Thaipusam is scary, you cannot imagine this! Nine mediums waiting turns to skewered their mouth with a 9 feet spear rod. One even had both done on him, the 9 feet spear rod and 36 hooks on his back. It was really too much for me, I was so scared but am impressed. I remember years ago I did not want to witness this rituals as I was too scared.

Firewalking and crossing the fort is next. Anyway, all these rituals and ceremonies preformed during the Nine Emperor Gods are a kind of purification rituals. They involve the belief the devotees had in the spirit meduims, the Taoist priest and the deities too.

It is in this tableau of eligious ceremonialism that the Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods is
most vividly seen as a community rite of cosmic renewal or rebirth. The ritual leads the community from the state of yin to the state of yang, or as the temple authorities put it, to “birth beyond death.”

As a devotee, observing the vegetarian rituals is not difficult. If one does not cook at home, the temple serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper all free. One temple impresses me greatly as they served a 10 dishes lunch or dinner meal to their vegetarian devotees.

Some even said that they now felt reborn having witnessed the many rituals Nine Emperors and his sub gods have rid them off. Read some live event and explanation, here. As I wondered at the many blessings I too received. I felt truly blessed and revived.

Gosh, It has been a month exactly I have not touch my web site or blogs. My apologies to my diary.

Preparation for Uva’s wedding had been going along fine until 15th August, a day I can easily forget but wont. Chandra coolly told me, he feels he needs to go to the hospital.

All right, I say, if you feel you need some comforting and rest, go for it. Little did we know he suffered a massive heart attack.

How I survive two weeks of hospitalization is more like it? It is not easy for us to say this. But if you feel you have a heart problem, one hospital never to go is, the Kepala Batas hospital.

It has no heart facilities to treat you, only to keep you stable. Doctors are very junior, haven’t seen or experience much critical cases.

I find it strange the doctors preferred to discuss the cases with the patient and not the spouse. I was there twice a day and nothing was told to me how serious he was. This probe me to feel insecure that he could be well taken care of.

Chandra was there over the weekend when I realise he doesn’t seem to be getting well. I have to demand that I want him to be transfered to the Penang Hospital Heart Unit where they have the best facilities.

After much hesitation, fuzz, no ambulance, no stretcher, we managed to speed over to the Penang Hospital. It was a wise move as by then he was what the lay man would say, “drowning”. (Water in the lungs)

For 10 days, Chandra was in the heart unit (CRW) as he had pneumonia and water in the lungs. The next 3 days were the most critical days of his life. We were all so concerned that this silent killer called heart attack came into our life so quietly.

Heart attack is indeed a silent killer and according to the medical doctor, only 20% made it to the hospital.

There are two common types of heart problems – heart attack and stroke.

Heart Attack will lead to further complication like failure of the kidney and water in the lungs. Many of us do not know that when a person suffers from heart attack, try not to make them drink too much water cos that will flood his lungs. The rationale we must understand is this.

Once a person has a heart attack, be it mild or serious. it is advisable to drink as little water as possible. The heart goes to hibernation, oxygen is hardly transfered to their arteries, so when you drink alot of water, it goes into your lung.

It took Chandra many days to overcame this water in the lungs. During this time, angiogram cannot be perform to see how serious is his blockages.

Not many people survive this to tell you this. Taking care of Chandra two weeks makes me realise how important to relate this to others.

Also we have this habit to feed them with food. Always try to ask them whether are they able to swallow? If they cant swallow, never make them eat as there is no saliva to help them digest the food.

Saliva, the wonder of God’s creation. Saliva helps us to digest our food. Dont be a smart alec like me to give food juices, as if he is a diabetic, it will further complicate matters.

I have learn my lesson looking after Chandra. And i feel the Penang Hospital does indeed lives up to its reputation. All monitoring andmedication for patients at night ends at 11pm.

The patient and carer was able to rest for 7 solid hours before they come to monitor you again at 6am in the morning.

Unless you are critical, you need not worry. the monitoring is done at their table.

chandra-in-crw-penang-general-hospital.jpg

So now Chandra is home recuperating from his heart attack. Angiogram showed he had 3 blockages. 3 blockages equal to a by pass surgery. So 6 to 8 weeks of “staying put” before the doctors to see him again.

So we wish Chandra a speedy recovery and prepared for his by pass.

Read how we prepared for Uva Indian Wedding here.

Revive the tramways, maybe even the trolleys buses!

Won’t that be a great idea? Is that the reason for all the digging in Penang Road. Or any spanish galleon, platinum found was discovered? Most motorist passing simply have no idea what this is about.

Digging in Penang Road

Several days now as I drove passed Penang Road, the massive traffic jams caused me to investigate what is up in Penang this time.

Someone did comment what is going to happen to the tramways along the route they were digging. Or could be plans to revive the tramways?

So many questions, opinions are on our mind. Then I read about the talk to revive the Tramways that was built back in the 1880’s. The author Ric Francis or Lion Reg, an Australian was here at the invitation of Penang Heritage Trust.

In his power point presentation, he shared some aspects on reviving the tramways .

Routes for tramways

The tramways has to be built in stages and 4 stages were proposed. The first stage could use the 50 m of old tram lines unearthed recently in 2004.

The Presentation

Firstly, I enjoyed some slides on other progressing countries like Paris and Toronto introducing trams or trains back in this modern age. China made trains were shown to us which could be use as we are on friendly terms with China.

Environment Friendly

Lion Reg pointed out how we could actually conserve our fuel and helps to reduce pollution. It seems one tram could keep 55 cars off the road, he says.

the grout and rail lines of electrical trams

Some positive advantages were shared like how it would complement the new public bus service, RapidPenang. And in the next few years how with the introduction of monorail, Penang would really offer its locals and tourist various ways to travel.

The New Trams
The power of the trams is centrally generated and conveyed to the vehicles via overhead wires and the metal rails. The electricity used is DC-which gives smooth operations.

Then I remembered if trams have to run, the wires hanging above us would be so unsightly as our age old colonial and straits buildings need to be conserved too. It was pointed out the the wiring system and pipes used to run the rail will not block or caused more hindrance to our present views.Maintenance and operation is extremely low as the designs showed they are light weight. It is thus profitable for the operators, so we hope the fares are affordable for the older groups of people.

With new technology, the tram are people friendly especially the physically challenged will have opportunities to use these facilities. From the designs I saw and imagined, it can passed through small and narrow streets.

And the trishaws will still have business to do, ferrying the visitors to heritage sites.

mmm, I thought to myself I have to be patient as allow all this facilities to start building, bear with the inconveniences for the next few years and hoo ray…a modern Penang.

Ric Francis

Moreover, trams that blend with the old-world architecture of George Town will surely enhance the heritage value of the inner city, which has the largest collection of pre-war shophouses in South-East Asia.

Some history facts
1880 A light railway operated from Georgetown to the Botanic Gardens.

1925 Trolley buses first operated a tramway in Penang.

1959 Last trolley bus service in Penang

Lion Reg, also an Australian tram engineer, was commissioned by the state government to conduct a study on the proposal.

Of course, Ric will go back to Oz to prepare his report based on three quotations on cost, materials and hopefully he will submit it by 2 weeks.

Penang’s first recorded tram system was run on steam between the jetty at Weld Quay and Air Itam with a branch to the Penang Botanic Gardens in the 1880s.

Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways

Lion Reg’s book is available at RM50.00 each.

Penang Heritage Trust at 26, Church Street.

Call the Penang Heritage Trust 04-2642631.

Recently, life has been so busy for Chandra and I. Zooming all over Malaysia and Singapore, distributing cards for our daughter’s marriage in September.

Mums exchanging ceremonial rites

As we were distributing the wedding cards, it suddenly occurs to us, people are getting more advance and modern.

Older relatives seemed to think delivering cards by coming in person is a norm. They enjoyed our visits, had time to catch up. Enquiries of other siblings seemed warm and sincere, which makes us very pleased. The old ways of “stay for lunch or dinner” still exist with them. Our very old aunt who is over 80, immediately goes to the kitchen to hook something light for us even though we said we have already had our food.

But not the ones in their 30’s. Most felt that sending a card through email, a snail mail or a phone call is acceptable. These are the ones that makes our day long.

It is definitely a long day traveling in overnight buses, not sleeping well, no proper bath and not drinking enough water. Me… I am so particular about drinking water but for trips, I couldn’t drink more because of the funny stops the buses made. The pit stops they made, is not desirable for the bums and also our taste buds.

So customs and traditions is very much alive as the excited aunts and uncles keep asking what are their roles in the wedding, what must they do and all. Seems interesting to me to hear the 30’s not wanting cards hand delivered but happy to be told what is expected of them.

So my conclusions for handling wedding cards is still very traditional. Do it and your results will be : 80% attendance from those you delivered the cards by hand and 60% for those you delivered through others means.

Engagement Card of Uva and Jivan

Beside that we just went through the engagement ceremony in our home recently. Read how Indian engagement prior to marriage is performed in Malaysia. The roles the bride and groom and parents played in this ceremony is fun.

Though I must say this, our kids would not go through this traditional ceremony had it not been the parents advising them how important it is. They would opt for a honeymoon in Paris, which they still do, anyway.

But being good kids, it is gratifying to know they are respectful and filial towards us “old foggies”

Blessing from Grandma Kamachi

If you respect customs and tradition and not sure how to go about it for Indian Wedding performed by our Southern Indian Malaysian standard, keep coming back to my blogs or site.

The Cave of Darkness, called Gua Kelam in Bahasa Malaysia lies at the foothills of Perlis in a town called Kaki Bukit. Read more from here.

 

Cave of Darkness

 

When you visit this tranquil yet intriguing place, be sure to wear proper shoes. Ladies are reminded that high heels is a no no. You won’t want to be stuck by your heels and create more adventures, but it would be a nice story to share though!

 

 

Some green lovers like me just simply enjoy the peace, lush and serenity. This is my Garden of Eden, my paradise.

 

But for some enthusiastic climbers, they have establish some climbing routes so you can see over 30 bolted routes in 6 climbing locations.

 

Gua Kelam

 

The walk through the cave is accompanied by the sound of flowing water, smell of bat guano and the impressive sights of stalactites, stalagmites, rim stone pools and other limestone formations.

 

Indeed Perlis have many lovely interesting places to visit. I will share more as time permits. Do share your thoughts on this if you have been to Gua Kelam.


Last week, having come back from Taiping, we took our friend Faith to Kuala Muda, Kedah where the whispering fish auction was held.

Every day for a numbers of years now, the fisherman in Kuala Muda has their seafood auction off in a very different manner. Yea..very different, as the auctioneer whispers with the wholesaler, fish monger or restaurant owners.

The so called auctioneer, a few of them actually dresses up like pirates, with mask and hand gloves whispering silently and hands pointing to the higgest bidder. Bang and down the sea product of Sungai Kuala Muda goes to the highest bidder.

Read more of them from here.

Hello all!

This is the first post for MyPenang blog. Let’s start with looking at what I will offer you in the coming up period! More info, stories and fun about Penang and surrounding areas. And for starters, read some about Penang here!

Pearl

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