"The sharp knife of a short life

I've had just enough time..."

- "If I Die Young" The Band Perry

I see Beauty in many things. And like the ghosts that only speak to you if you notice them, they tell me wondrous tales. With my camera and my thoughts, I captured these as faithfully as I can to share with you. And by doing so, they gave me the reasons. And though the thousand reasons may not all be sweet and some indeed bitter; they are still reasons to live. Come to think about it, that is Life, isn't it?

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Moon Cakes & the Legend of the Mid-Autumn Festivals

I've had just enough time to...   enjoy my moon cake and look at the moon

Taken in the Shanghai Bakery Exhibition

There are several distinctly different types of moon cakes but the most recognized is the Guang style with its thin smooth pastry-like skin and rich lotus bean paste. A yolk or two of the duck egg is usually added. This cake is only served once a year and available during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Thus, it becomes a very popular tradition to give a box of moon cakes to relatives and business clients during this period. It is a multi-billion dollars business in China and many bakeries made their entire year’s profit during this single month.

The humble moon cake has been associated with the overthrow of the Mongol of the Yuan Dynasty. To spread the words of a unified revolt, a secret message was put into the moon cakes that were distributed to the oppressed Han people. It said “Drive out the Mongols on the 15th of 8th lunar month!”. On that day, the populace answered the call and overthrow the Mongols and established the Ming Dynasty in 1368.

Another famous legend associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival is the story of the Ten Suns and the Lady of the Moon. You can listen to one version of the story in the You-Tube below. For me, the Mid-Autumn festival will always be about carrying lanterns and walking through the dark street together with friends when we were boys. We were too poor to buy the colourful paper lanterns so we made our own with milk cans that has cut-out patterns, stringed together with wires attached to a bamboo stick. We burned a candle inside the can and viola!, we have our tin can lantern. They are crude but indestructible! We will then create a ruckus by banging upon anything creating an unbearable din to drive away the dog that was trying to consume the moon. Sadly, this boisterous tradition is no longer practised by today’s kids. Not many even know about it. I think I will reach for my cup of Chinese tea and the slice of moon cake now…

The Legend of the Lady in the Moon - Chang Er

Friday, 28 September 2012

I Saw A Blue Dinosaur One Day

I've had just enough time to...   hear what a blue dinosaur has to say

Taken of the blue dinosaur I met in Gunung Lang in Ipoh

I saw a blue dinosaur one day
And it told me change is overrated
Constancy is the key to survival
With a stomp that shook the earth
It said plant your feet firmly
If you don’t fly, you don’t crash
Before I could put my words in
They were blown away by its smelly breath
Who are you humans
With your short miserable lives
To tell us who lived million of years
That we are dinosaurs that lived and died!

I made a big bow and quickly retreat
For my key of survival
Is not to argue with someone
That much bigger

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Python That Swallowed An Elephant (蛇吞象)

I've had just enough time to...   see a snake trying to swallow an elephant

Taken of the fisherman being swallowed by the crocodile in Kuching River

The python swallowed a cat
I know why it swallowed a cat
It was not well fed

The python swallowed a goat
No surprise it swallowed a goat
It is now filled up to the throat

But the python should not have swallowed the elephant
No, it should not have swallowed the elephant
But it was greedier than its judgement

Now the elephant has a snake skin boot on one leg
And looking for another three hungry snakes


There was an old woman who swallowed a fly,
I don't know why she swallowed a fly,
Perhaps she'll die.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Monkeys Becomes Man, Men to be Blamed

I've had just enough time to...  see monkey becomes man

Taken of the mischievous monkey in The Monkey Forest, Bali

Monkeys see, Monkeys do
Monkeys learn
Monkeys eat
Monkeys drink
Monkeys rummage
Monkeys beg
Monkeys snarl
Monkeys steal
Monkeys run
Monkeys bully
Monkeys snatch
Monkeys scramble
Monkeys mob
Monkey becomes man

Men to be blamed

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Beginning of A New Day.

I've had just enough time to...  see a new day begins

Taken one early morning from my hotel in Jakarta

The same morning sun shines equally
On the gleaming tower of steel
The thatched roof in the slum
And the homeless in the street

And they all wake, look up and say
“What a glorious morning!”
Then they look down and think
“There is money to be made”
“There is work to be done”
“There is Life to be lived”

And the old man with his best years behind him thinks
“Will I find happiness today?”
And the young children going to school
Wave to their parents and rush in

And the morning sun climbs higher into the sky.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Bathing Ritual in The Temple of Sacred Water (Thirtha Empul)

I've had just enough time to...   be cleansed by holy water

Taken of the bathing pool in the Temple of Sacred Water

Water, the elixir of Life
Cleanse me
Purify me
Refresh me
I am born again
Without my sins
Without my worries
Without my pains
I am renewed
By sacred water,
The elixir of Life

Devotees in prayer during purifying ceremony

This temple is regarded as one of the six most important temples in Bali. It got its name “Thirtha Empul” meaning “Bubbling Spring” from a legend. When the evil King Mayadenawa poisoned Lord Indra’s troop by creating a pool of poisoned water, Lord Indra saved them by stabbing his flag pole into the ground creating a bubbling spring of sacred water which has curative power. A temple was built at this site in 926 AD. For more than a thousand years, Balinese have come to this sacred site to heal and purify themselves.

Friday, 14 September 2012

A Family In Prayer

I've had just enough time to...   see a family in prayer

Taken of a family in prayer in the Thirtha Empul Temple compound in Bali

A family in prayer
Is the closest as a unit
Unified by belief
Bound by faith
Harmonised by love


Staying together; Praying together
Any storm we can weather
Trusting in God's Word
We need each other
Fathers and mothers
Sisters and brothers
In harmony and love

Family Prayer Song

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The strategy of Risks & Rewards – Live Near A Volcano

I've had just enough time to...   look at life around an active volcano

The volcanic soils are the richest – we all know that
The volcanic eruptions are deadliest – we all know that
So would you live near a volcano?
Where lands are cheap and rich?

 When will a volcano erupt – we don’t know that
When will we lose it all – we don’t know that
So would you risk everything?
For good living of duration you have no idea of?

 Would you?

The picture above is of Mount Batur which is an active volcano in north-eastern Bali. Mount Batur is actually inside a caldera (volcanic feature formed by a collapse of land following a volcanic eruption) measuring 7.5 kilometer wide 20,000+ years ago. You can see from the picture that it is still active with the blackened area the path of recent lava flows amid the vibrant green vegetation of the area. There are still many villages living around the rim of the caldera and also in the foothills where they take their chances that a big eruption will not occur during their live time.

The collapsed caldera was filled by water and formed the serene Lake Batur and there are several fishing villagers at its edge. On the right hand side is Mount Abang that is usually cloud covered. You can go to Kintamani where there are many restaurants built on the rim of the caldera and where you can have a good view of Mount Batur and the lake while having a leisurely lunch. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Part 2 – The Man From Syria

I've had just enough time to...   meet the man from Syria.

The strong arms of the bakery proprietress that invited me in

In the last post, I mentioned stopping by a bakery on my long walk on my last day in Beirut. The proprietress noticed me lingering outside and warmly waved me in to take pictures in her bakery. We cannot understand a single word the other was saying but signs and smiles can go a long way.

The friendly workers of the bakery staring at me, the stranger :)

The bakery is producing a Lebanese flat bread called Manakeesh. A fermented dough that was divided, rounded and then flattened to a large round shape. A herb mixture (usually thyme and other herbs) called Zaatar are then spread on top with olive oil, and with or without cheese. Minced meat can also be used as toppings. It is an inexpensive and very delicious bread especially piping hot from the oven.

The delicious Manakeesh bread that I took a bite of and those not folded on the table.

 I was encouraged to shoot whatever I wanted. Then they offered me a choice of cold Pepsi or thick, concentrated, black Lebanese coffee strong enough to wake up the dead. I took the coffee and understand why it is served in “demitasse” or small cup. I think it felt like I received a direct injection of caffeine. But it went along very nicely with the hot Manakeesh folded in half. The aromatic cheese and thyme added an interesting and flavorful taste profile to the hot bread.

What would you choose? Cold Pepsi or Hot Lebanese Coffee?

I sat inside the small kitchen of the bakery looking at the baker doing his stuff. Whenever he finished a batch, he would come over and sat opposite me and we tried conversing. But it was useless. We tried all the languages under our disposal. I can speak three and I’m quite sure he spoke more than one but none fit so we looked at each other and smiled and tried to communicate with our hearts. Making eye contacts with a stranger of your same sex can be a little awkward but we form a rapport or at least a bond by just sharing the same space and time. I wanted to ask him about the tattoo of the snake on his arm and I really wished I could understand his reply. The only intelligible word I could make out was “Syria” when he pointed to himself.  I gave him an apple from the hotel and a banknote from my country to remember me by. 

The man from Syria!

The proprietress would not accept any payment from me and I too gave her a Malaysian banknote as a souvenir. I have so many words of thanks that I wanted to express but my words could not convey the meanings to them. So I hoped that my expressions, my smiles and my limbs were able to do what my words could not. It is unlikely I will ever go back to Beirut. It is unlikely I will ever meet them again. But I will never forget their kindness to a stranger and made it a day for him to remember.

The snake tattoo on his arm. Wish I know its significance to him.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Part 1 – The Friendliest City In The World – War Torn Beirut?

I've had just enough time to...   take a walk down busy Beirut.

The broken down bench in Beirut where I ate my lunch.

If I were to ask you, your personal experience of the friendliest city in the world; each of you may give me a different reply. Some answers may seem obvious as top contenders. Some you may be mildly surprised at, others you may disagree as you may have a bad experience there. But would you have expected someone to say present day Beirut? Of all the cities I have visited from US to Europe to Asia, in my personal experience Beirut top the list. It is all based on a single day, alone with nothing to do; to pre-empt you from arguing against my choice. :D

The delicious Hawa chicken and pickled vegetable that was my lunch.

It was a Friday. I had a late afternoon flight and I’m not going to sit in my room reading a book or to watch TV until it is time to go. Immediately after breakfast, I put on the day’s essentials in my backpack and went for a long walk. Nowhere in particular, just to walk the street as far as I could go and back in time for my flight. Along the way, to my delight I came across a small nondescript Lebanese bakery.

I stood outside and snapped a few shots when the matronly proprietress with a smile as wide as her arms agitatedly waved me inside to do my shooting. That is in “Part 2 – The Man From Syria”. Would not blame you if you think my impression of Beirut’s hospitality is from that pleasant feeling as warm as the oven’s fire. But that was not all. After the coffee as thick and black as night, and succulent oven fresh bread with the aroma of cheese and thyme, I continued my walk as far as I could go before I think I should double back.

The warm receptions from the drivers on the road.

I bought a box of their local fast food – Hawa Fried Chicken that is served together with thick potato slices, cheese dips and pickled vegetable with sign language and walked back to the hotel on the other side of the road. I came across a broken metal bench under the shade of a giant tree and thought that would be a good place to rest my weary feet and eat my chicken. There I was, a Chinese gentleman sitting cross-legs on a broken bench without support, happily biting into the drumstick looking at the snared traffic, taking in the novelty of the situation. 

They were joking with me in a language I could not understand.

But I did not expect the reactions. A car honk jolted me; the driver shouted in a strange language I could not understand. But I understood the smile and the wave and I waved back. I thought that must be an isolated incident. But then at almost regular intervals, drivers noticed me and some of them greeted me loudly with smiles or waves or thumb ups. Some took the trouble to wind down the window. A father and son in a truck offered me a lift. Some was joking with me though they know I could not understand a single word they said and played hide and seek with my camera.  In nowhere in the world had I ever triggered anything as remotely close as this type of reaction. I did not do much that morning in Beirut but it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

And offered to take me along with them...

When I returned to the hotel, I looked at all those things I’ve bought or brought along with me which I did not want to bring back home. When the cleaning lady came, I gave them all to her. I hate throwing things away and was happy to have less to carry. There was a ring on the door. The cleaning lady came and gave me something of her own. I protested but she tried to tell me it is nothing and I will make her happy to accept it. And she gave me a hug. And we took a photo off the reflection from the mirror. I don’t know about your experiences, but for me, no other city even come close to Beirut as the friendliest city I ever encountered.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Have You Ever Heard Of A Snail Having A Heart Attack?

I've had just enough time to...   have a slow conversation with a snail

Early morning shooting of a snail in action in Ampang, Malaysia

To understand a snail, go slow
Speed is not the way to do it
You may use it on the rabbit
Or the road runner
But it did the fox no good
So slow may be the answer
For speed too.

If you do not have the patience
Don’t count the stars
Just try to follow the comet
And see where that gets you
Einstein may have ridden its tail
But he did it slowly, slowing down
Time to travel the speed of light

 The virtue of a snail is its lack of speed

The only reason to do it fast
Is to get out of danger
But we have already  
Been wired for that

And the white coats tells you
Slowing down your heart
Lengthens your life
And the swami tells you
Slowing down your pace
Preserve your balance
And your mum tells you
Eating slowly
Improves your digestion
And mums are never wrong
We won’t argue with that.

And have you ever heard
Of a snail having a heart attack?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...