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Another year is here, so may I wish you a Happy Awesome and fanstatic New Year 2008!!!

January is an exciting month for us Penang people as the Thaipusam festival is here again. Last year was my first year as I went around four full days with Chandra, my Indian hubby. We met lots of people and foreigners and every one wanted to know what is going on. So our days were spent meeting new friends, having them together with us as they were so awe inspired and fascinated by this festival

Read our experience last year.

This year we are organising a tour to help those interested. From early morning before the real Thaipusam day till the second day evening. The pictures both taken day and night adds to your memory. It is defitenely as kick ass lifetime experience for many who were with us last year.

Some said it is amazing what people do to fulfill their wishes. As for me, I only know taking pictures without really watching cos I was scared and cannot bear seeing the big hooks. In some instance, our new found friends were in tears seeing them in spears, hooks hanging on their faces and back. Join our tour this year. And learn form Chandra an insider propsective of Thaipusam.

A week after the Nine Emperor Gods festival, we were invited to attend a dinner celebration for the devotees of Tow Boo Kong Taoist Temple in Butterworth.

Chandra and I thought, it must a kind of thanksgiving dinner for the devotees, the committee members and the organizing members of the Nine Emperor Gods celebration. Since it was a saturday night and our legs were itching to get out off the house, we went.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Tow Boo Kong Temple

And off we went, dressed up for a dinner party in the Tow Boo Kong temple ground. We arrive to see a different scenario.

Nine Emperor Gods Deputies Birthday in Tow Boo Kong

9 Emperor God Deputies Birthday Celebration

Curious, we walked to the temple ground after parking the car which I have made a dent when reversing. I was not in a happy mood after denting the car but still made myself presentable. Anyway, it looked like another big celebration going on. We saw devotees bringing food stuffs, sweets for children, birthday cakes and big bottles of sweets in a PACIFER bottles!

Goodies for the Deputies in Butterworth

Goodies for the Baby Gods or Deputies of Nine Emperor Gods

Was I going to laugh or keep quiet. Being inquisitive, I asked around and was told. It was a double celebration. The dinner together with offering thanksgiving prayers for the deputies who worked so hard during the Nine Emperor Gods festivals. The deputies or Siam Tai Chu or baby gods entertained us with their mights in sword play, throwing of the spikey ball, firewalking, playing with oil and spear skewering.

Outside the temple, cooks were getting the course dinner ready for the diners.

Guest for Birthday Dinner in Butterworth

Devotees at the Birthday celebration of Siam Tai Chu Tow Boo Kong Temple

In the compound, where we saw fire-walking, fort crossing, hot oil being played, now in place were tables lined with red cloth. No longer yellow cloth, no more vegetarian food in sight. On the ground now, were temporary shed for the Siam Tai Chu (Nine Emperor Gods Deputies) tables of food offering.

Puppet Show in Tow Boo Kong Temple Butterworth

Puppets show for the Birthday celebration of Nine Emperor Gods Deputies, The Siam Tai Chus’

Puppets show was shown to the delights of the crowd. Gosh how long ago was this? Puppet show or “Char Kar Lay” after the Chinese opera all in one month. It really makes me miss my childhood. We used to bring our own stools to the market place during these types of festivals, like Hungry Ghost or Nine Emperor Gods. It was real fun, no worries and escape dad strict watch out. Girls cannot stay out till late at night, but for these kind of festivals, he relaxes his rules.

Girlie came and we got to the table. This lady LOR CHU was very popular after having performed all the roles and responsibility without any hinges. The devotees smiled and shook her hands. Standing beside her, Chandra and I felt very happy for her.

Her two assistant Lor Chu were supportive, her 36 managers crowded around the table where we sat. Fun, chats and jokes were cracked happily. Chandra and I were formerly introduced to the group but we have seen them during the Nine Emperor Gods festival.

Girlie Karaoke to the delight of the crowd

The main temple committee Chairman and some important community leaders made speeches. For entertainment, karaoke was the common event to have during Chinese dinner. So who do you think was called to sing? Your guess is as good as mine. By popular request, the Presiding LOR CHU sang three numbers, an english old song and two mandarin oldies.

Bidding for the biggest Yellow sack

Girlie and her managers auctioning for the biggest yellow sack

Then there was an auction of the yellow Sack which were money or donation collected during the various events of the Nine Emperor Gods festivals. There were more then five auctions done that night.This yellow sack of price money are considered pure money from the devotees. And having being blessed by the Gods, every bussiness man wants to have this precious gift.

Winners of the highest auction

The highest bid was Rm12888 and equally shared by five people. The bid started off by one person but when it got higher, more friends joined in to contribute to make the bid higher. You should see the fun they had, shouting to raise the bid, some backing off. When it reaches over RM10,000, five people decided to make one last attempt to close it at RM11,999 but was toppled. And they bid again so they could get the highest. The highest finally went to Girlie and her managers at RM12888. Easily that night, they collected over RM60,000.

Yam Seng, Chinese ways of good times

David, Girly’s brother (3rd from left) joined by his mates cheered after Girly won the auction. Any chance for drinking, they will drink, dance and merry making. While they challenged each other to drink, I cant helped but be amused by ladies challenging man to DRINK!

The Nine Emperor God Deputies

The drinking and merry making would not have stopped if the gongs and cymbals for the arrival of the Nine Emperor Gods is not sounded. No one would run to the other part of the temple.

I went over to witness, as one by one of the deputies getting into trance like state. Ooh aren’t they happy when they arrived. Pacifiers in their mouth, hair tied up in hill like style. Seeing all the food and goodies on the table, they started to get excited. Instead of eating, the devotees tease them to give the goodies to them.

The Deputies giving away goodies in Tow Boo Kong Temple Butterworth

Right in front of my eyes, they climbed up the table and started to distribute to the shouts of the crowds. It was so funny seeing the deputies teasing the devotees back. Some devotees were lucky to receive big packets of goodies, some just got a sweet. Within half an hour, all the food, fruit, cakes and sweets were thrown and distributed by the deputies.

On the same night, the following year teams of managers were drawn through lucky draw were chosen. About 200 over names were placed and volunteered by devotees or surrounding communities people. Those chosen will be next year deputies “manager”, the human guardian for the deputies.

Approving the Yellow Sack winning in Butterworth

Before midnight, all the yellow sack must be blessed by the Siam Tai Chu before taking home. So I followed them to the altar and observed the whole process of signing and blessing the yellow sack.

Contrary to what people think, this Tow Boo Kong is not a rich man’s temple. It is the ordinary community people or traders temple. Why, because to built this temple, the ordinary people donated freely towards the funds and present day maintenance. Each time, there is a festival, earnings through collection were auction off.

That is one method they collected the donation. The other obvious method is donation through buying joss stick or oil. The bigger method would be offering to build pillars or foundations in parts for the temple. In that, one has to approached the few man sitting outside the temple whenever you visit the temple.

Well, if you want to be remembered for your kind deeds, your chinese name will be engraved if you offer a certain amount, I can’t remember how much.

Cheers

 

 

Nestled on the Paya Terubong Hills, in some quiet little spot sits a very old 130 Taoist temple called Cheng Kon Sze.

Peaceful Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

Junnie reaching the 1002 Steps Temple

A simple untapped temple worshiped by the silent or quiet few Taoist devout devotees. During the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, Catherine rang me to inquire whether I would be interested to go up to 1002 Steps Temple or locals called it, Cheng Ji Chan.

1002 Steps Temple Penang

Peter (half body) and Junnie (half face) and Chandra looking down,wishing he gets permission to walk more as he waited for us. Sorry guys!

What do you think, I jumped with joy as I have not yet gone up to Cheng Jee Chan or Cheng Kon Sze in my life.With Peter (pulau-pangkor.com) as our guest as he wanted to learn more about Chinese custom and traditions, he gladly tagged along.

Central Penang view from 1002 Steps

Beautiful Penang, view from 1002 Steps Temple (look how far Komtar seems to be)

For Chandra’s sake as he is recuperating from a recent heart attack, all of us took the super cool van up the temple. So Catherine, Catherine’s mum, Steffi, Chandra,Ben Khaw ( not in any pictures as he wanders off to take his own), my sister Junnie and me, the ever happy to go anywhere person and not forgetting the crazy white man from Holland ( the web master of pulau-pangkor.com) got up to Cheng Kon Sze. Just joking, he is actually funny guy!

Hilltop in Cheng Kon Sze Temple

Hill top view at the greenery and natural vegetation of Cheng Kon Sze Temple

How pleased and thrilled we were when the van driver stopped to let us take this awesome shot of Penang. It was a good drive up the Cheng Kon Sze Temple, horning loudly all the way up as if we were some important VIP. But more because the hikers were making their way up on foot.

Apple Custard or Nona in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

Have you seen this fruit, apple custard or locals called them Nona?

On the way up by foot to 1002 steps temple, my dad used to tell us, never to complain. Never utter the word, “why so far” or “why still have not reached the temple”.

Multi colors cactus plant in Cheng Kon Sze Penang

We see yellow, purple, red and green flower all over this cactus plan t in Cheng Kon Sze Temple, how awesome!

 

But two ladies have no one to tell them and as they complained, they got tired and waved our van driver for help.Seeing how tired and broken these two old ladies were, all of us squeezed tighter into the van to allow both of them in. Despite having a seat, both never stop talking about how far or how tired they were. No wonder..I thought.

Baba pukul Nyonya Plant in Cheng Kon Sze

Baba pukul Nyonya Plant in Cheng Kon Sze Temple

Baba pukul Nyonya plant is a delightful plant, did you know that? It blooms in the early morning in white. By mid afternoon, it turns pink. And in the evening, it is almost purplish. Such a refreshing plant, almost magical.

Taking a breath of fresh air

The Happy Trio taking a breath of FRESH AIR! Sitting on the granite slab, such bliss!

The natural vegetation, the multiple shades of green is a feast for our sore eyes. The fruits tree, flower plants, those I see when I was young makes me feel at home and child like. Huge galangal plant are everywhere. Galangal is still around in my neighborhood but I hardly see Baba pukul Nyonya Plant anymore.

Huge Yellow Candles in Cheng Kon Sze

Catherine praying in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

Reaching the temple vicinity, we were surprised to see a fair amount of devotees praying, shaking the fortune stick for health or wealth.

Huge Joos Stick in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

Huge Joss Stick, a common sight in Taoist culture in Penang, Malaysia and Asia

Nice, and I look at the monk sitting on the tiger reminds me of my childhood. This priest or abbot must be Thai Siong Lok Kun, the healer or caretaker of many healer temples. There is even a road along Air Itam market place named after him.

130 year old Bronze urn in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

The Bronze Urn and Huge Lantern are as old as the temple.

This is the town I grew up. My sister and me used to walk to the market from our home. I remember when we were young, we hated walking for 20 to 30 mins to the market. I do understand why there is a need for modern facilities. I only wish there will be some heritage buildings left to see. But it is going away too fast. This is the very reason I have now over 10,000 pictures. Amateur I may be, still they are my own hard work.Some locals having gone to China now understand that our own hometown Penang is far richer in heritage then China. Every street or town has a story to tell. And I have lots of story to tell as my dad and uncles told us lots when we were young.

God of Education in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

Observed the statue just behind the joss stick, that is the God of Education, bowed down my humble devotees, says he

As we prayed and watched others, everyone seems so solemn and quietly talking to Nine Emperor God, Dao Mo the mother of Nine Emperor Gods . MMm..there is even the God of Education, so if you want your kids to be intellectuality inclined, come and offer prayer to this God. There are boxes of pencils. What they do is this. Take two pencils, make a prayer then next year come back to return 2 pencils too. But I saw devotees returning more, two boxes or placing cash or kind if they know they wont be returning.

One ticket of fortune Please, in Cheng Kon Sze Temple Penang

What is my fate or fortune, Uncle?

After prayers, most will seek some spiritual guidance. Tai Siong Lok Kun, according to my late father, is revered for answering or granting wishes. This one thousand and two hundred steps, supposedly should be one thousand and two steps. Not two hundred but somehow along the way, pronunciation or translation got lost.Seeking spiritual guidanceOn the table near the ticket giver, one can find a round container with fortune or fate stick. No idea what it is called, ( I dont claim I know everything, ok?) Anyway, taking that round container with stick, the devotee will bowed in front of the gods and virtually mutter for guidance. Then shaking the stick and till it jumps out, that is your answer. Take the fortune stick that jumped out to the counter.

Translation of the fortune sheet in Cheng Kon Sze Penang

The all knowing one,Translation of the fortune sheet

Take it to the corner of the temple, claim your fate sheet and look for someone who knows how to read to you. It is written in mythological mandarin so one must understand some chinese legends or myth. With that, the all knowing one will share with you in story form what is in store for you. up to you to translate the result, how about that?

Por Oon Shrine

Por Oon Shrine,(Prays for better luck or fortune from this shrine), funny though i though, letter 5 in chinese character is missing). (But as was advised, it was done purposely long time ago), FENG SHUI I suppose

But sometimes, if they felt it is not a good fate, you will be guided to pray for better fate or luck.

Blessed Meal in Cheng Kon Sze

Great fried Vermiceli, porridge and dessert. A real treat!

What a bliss, it is a small temple. We should be able to come down by half hour, right. But no we were there for a few hours, why. So much to see and while feasting our eyes of the greenery, we had a blessed meal then washed our own plates, chopstick and cups. Again Coffee is BEST!And Cheng Kon Sze Temple, we will come back and soon before someone decide to vacate you too!Remember besides Thaipusam in January or February, in October Nine Emperor Gods festival is celebrated vastly in Penang Butterworth, all of Malaysia and world wide. cheers

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.

With the preparation for the upcoming BIG Event in Malaysia, to celebrate our Independence Day, one cannot forget our forefathers, the Chinese Coolies.

Nothing to be a shame of really. And if you really learn your family Chinese ancestry and their humble beginning, you will find out that you either belong to the Hai San or Ghee Hin secret society.

The end of Qing Dynasty, the start of Taiping Rebellion and Opium War triggered the real rush of Chinese immigration by the mid 18th century. And the real big rush came in the 19th century lured by the lucrative tin mining concessions granted by the Malays rulers. This time around, the big in flux of Chinese coolies were from Guangdong and Fujian. And the Chinese coolies were running away from China due to the fighting of the Opium War in 1840. The western power used advanced warships and artillery to force open China’s doors.

In 1853, my great great great grand father Kee Lai Huat at 19, together with his younger brother who was much younger travelled in a tongkang over to Malaya and worked as coolies in a sugar plantation.

Recently my aunt told me stories of Chor Chor Kee Lai Huat. It was amusing yet sad. When he first arrived here, and with no one to care for them, they were very sickly and weak. Chor Chor Kee Lai Huat’s brother didn’t survived the hard living and died at the age of 19, a year after he arrived in Bukit Tambun.

But Chor Chor as you know, was damn hardworking and frugal. He worked hard until he gained the trust of the Bukit Tambun sugar tycoon and even married his only daughter Khaw Bee Gek.

One particular story, aunt told me was that one day when Chor Chor was resting by the riverside, some coolies called out that the Towkay was on the way to the river.

Chor Chor felt he was caught sleeping and was going to be scolded for sleeping on his job. In his fright, he stepped over and ran across the rivers full of crocodiles. Such was his fright for the towkay. He forgot about the crocodiles in the river.

The other times was when he was sermon by the towkay (boss). He did not know why he was sermoned and was so scared that he ran away to Parit Buntar and hid himself. The people had a hard time finding him and got him back to the boss. The reason for finding him was to ask him to marry the tycoon’s daughter.

Such was the respect they have for their bosses. It amazed me how we have changed.

Khaw Bee Gek was another story to tell. It seemed the she was engaged to her first suitor who died before they could get married. So it was believed that she was (the Chinese would say), “Tua Sieow” (a person with great potentials). And she would need a match or else suitor after suitor would have bad things happening to them.

And after their marriage, the sugar tycoon gave them a gift, that is a zinc house in Sungai Bakap. It was said that every month, the sugar tycoon would send a tin of spanish coins for the daughter to use. (If you can remember the cream crackers square tins). The sugar tycoon Khaw lau Hup of Batu Kawan, was none other then the father of Ghee Hin Leader Khaw Boo Aun.

Read about the Malaysian Chinese coolies humble beginning here.

Malaysian Chinese Coolies
Our Chinese Forefathers

Read more about the roles played by the Taochiews in the 14 years Larut Wars and how actually Khaw Boo Aun was involved in blocking water to Penang resulting in the third Larut War.

The Human Horse

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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