Monday, January 28, 2013

Thaipusam Hindu Festival

WARNING: This post is quite graphic and not for the squeamish or children's eyes!  Seriously...

On Sunday, the Tamil Hindu congregations celebrated the festival of Thaipusam, a day dedicated to the god Murugan.  The devotees prepare for 48 days by fasting and devotions, then perform a ritual that involves carrying a burden (kavadi). Those who participate are imploring help from Murugan and offering thanks.  This festival is actually outlawed in some other parts of southeast Asia, but it is a big deal in Singapore.  The participants had prepared for the required amount of time, then gathered at the temple in Little India for overnight rites and then picked up their burdens and walked 2 miles to another temple for the closing rituals.

The kavadi could be as simple as a jug of milk (many women do this, carrying it on their heads) but many take up an elaborate metal cage-type structure that is attached to their bodies with spears and hooks.  The skin is pierces in many places; amazingly, there is no blood.

Let's start with a short video so you can experience the sights and sounds.  Imagine the air is filled with clouds of incense:

Each devotee makes a small altar with offerings of flowers, fruit, spices, etc. and does homage to it before and during the preparations.

The parts of the kavadi are prepared: 
Most of the kavadi are adorned with peacock feathers

This older man had quite an elaborate kavadi and also had images attached to his arms:

Family members stand by during the rituals and then will walk with them:

This group of young men prepare for their ordeal by meditating on their offerings (sorry for the bad focus),  In a few minutes they will each have their foreheads, cheeks and tongues pierced by the official "piercing team," then they will pick up their milk jugs and proceed on the journey.


(I have a video of the actual piercing of this man's tongue, but it is so hard to watch, I did not including it.  Let me know if you want to see it...)

and a boy getting ready 

We watched this man as he prepared to don nail shoes and carry milk and fruit hung from his body with hooks:

And the last of the procession that we glimpsed through the crowd (almost as many tourists like me with their cameras as there were devotees):


Throughout the morning, I couldn't help but contemplate the meaning of sacrifice.  I feel so overwhelmed by my Christianity that promises Jesus already did the sacrifice for us.  Perhaps my biggest lesson of the day was to not take my faith for granted.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Walking on the Southern Ridges Part Two

Our second trip to the Southern Ridges trails brought us to Hort (short for horticulture) Park.  Along with a canopy walk, stunning views and jungle, this one offers manicured gardens of all varieties.  We met our Australian friends, Peter and Pam for a morning of walking and photographing.

I took some shots of the gardens:  a kitchen one with tomato pots, corn and green beans

but the fun ones were the Peranaken (term for people of Chinese origin who settled this area in the 1800s) one and the recycled car boot:

A view from the "ridge"

and of a pond that has hosts a lot of Monitor Lizards (we saw one but it was so camoflauged, the photo wouldn't come out)
I'm including a shot of a lizard from a different walk, in case you don't know what they look like... and this is a small one...

Everywhere we turned, we saw another beautiful bush or tree.  I don't know this one's name, but isn't it nice?

Lots of amazing types of Heliconia 

And of course, my favorites, Banana Trees ( the ones on the right are about 1/2 inch!)

We returned to the Garden Center where we had lunch at a Wine Bar (!)
This is the wall of the information center, an appropriate mosaic of trees, flowers and butterflies:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Day Trip to Malaysia

I love dishes... I have 4 or 5 sets, plus lots of extras.  I do mosaics with broken china, so I even love pieces of dishes...  So when friends told me that there are china manufacturers just up the road in Malaysia, I was looking forward to a road trip and finally got it last week. 

The journey started with a border crossing, including passports and customs, but they won't let you take photos there, so you just have to take my word for it.  We drove off of the island of Singapore, over a causeway bridge, then entered the city of Jahore Bahru, Malaysia.  (JB in local lingo.)  Then we drove north on a really nice highway with really crazy drivers for an hour and a half and reach our destination:

Doesn't really look like much, and it isn't for the dainty shopper...everything is outdoors under an awning.  But for someone who loves dishes, it is a treasure trove:

We got started
and were rewarded with several tables of recognizable selections (if you don't recognize the brand, you just don't understand ...)

It seems that this business manufactures lots of famous brands and we shoppers get to pick through the seconds that don't get to those big department stores...

As we left we saw the employee/commuter parking lot:

We had a beautiful drive back through the palm plantations (I think they grow palm oil here...) and came upon another bargain Shoppers' Paradise:
Yes, that is the same "Premium Outlets" logo as you see in the States...and many of the same stores... we didn't do too much damage here, since we weren't really prepared for these kinds of shops, but we did take note of the outlet closest to the entrance:

And one of the premium choices for lunch:

We had to show you the fun stuff we found at the Adidas Store (no, I am not getting any product endorsement for this).  Look closely! the one on the left seems to be a bikini top, and the black dress with buttons is made from wetsuit material. ??? 

I have already made some mosaics from my new dishes - I'll share them with you soon!