Monday, August 31, 2009

Merdeka celebration in Penang

2009 marks the 52nd anniversary of the birth of my country, Malaysia. Back then in 1957, it was known as the Federation of Malay States, together with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore withdrew from the Federation in 1963, and the current Malaysia was formed.

In Penang, the spirit of Merdeka is hardly seen, as far as I am concerned. Is it only a Malay thing? As I could see a few odd Malay cars draped in the National Flag, and some Milan buses too, uncharacteristically sported the flags all over their windows. Some Malay houses did have the flags as well.

However, I know a lot of Malaysians in Penang, whatever their races, celebrate Merdeka in their own ways. At Queensbay, there was a galore of cheap sales and to cap it, there was a nice firework that could be seen from my window last night. People also took the opportunity to travel in this three-day weekend which also marked the last of the school holidays.

A group of cyclists rode their bicycles around the city center to promote healthy living and a closer step towards a greener Penang. It may seem like a small effort and hardly make an impact but still... it was done in Merdeka Spirit.

At Little Penang Street Market yesterday, despite the threat of the rain, a big crowd gathered to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and be entertained by performers. Some of them did sing some songs dedicated to Malaysia.

At Fort Cornwallis, there is an old flag pole overlooking the sea opposite the Esplanade. A navy sailor and his mate, 52 years ago, brought down the Union Jack from this flag pole when we achieved our independence. A big celebration was held at the Esplanade. People from all walks of life thronged there to see the event. Have you seen this photo before? Maybe not. So, here it is, for your viewing pleasure.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan yang ke 52. Happy Birthday My Malaysia!

Little Penang Street Market
Last year's report on National Day Parade in Penang

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spice Walk with members of PHT

Every first Sunday of the month, Penang Heritage Trust organizes a site visit to its members. This time, we did not have to go far at all, just following a trail in Little India and finishing off at China Street which also makes up the squarish part of George Town that makes up Little India.

Our guide was Teresa Capol, who is also a restauranteur (she and her husband own Eidelweiss, which serves German food). The theme was Spice Walk. In this part of Penang, the tour would not be complete without a lecture about Chinese temples or clan houses. We stopped at several prominent ones at Penang Street and also dropped by at the Mahamariamman temple at Queen Street.

The highlight of the walk was to a newly restored home which will be turned into an exclusive bed and breakfast at China Street. The owners graciously served tea to everyone of us and let us meander around in this fabulous property.

After the visit, a few of us drove to Kampung Buah Pala, to see the situation there. The people of the village actually were having a festival at that time. I have been reading/listening about this controversial piece of land for many months now and finally managed to set foot on it and listen first hand to the plight of the people there.

So basically, this tour was a very fruitful one. Walking tour coupled to a visit to a successfully restored building, capped with with a supposedly a living heritage site being threatened by development.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Penang 1st anniversary as a UNESCO heritage site.

The whole month of July was full of events to celebrate the first anniversary.

I was busy with my pet project: cooking traditional food class at the Tropical Spice Garden. Hence no post for the last seven weeks!

Anyway, I walked the whole streets of the heritage enclave to collect all twelve stamps to fill up my heritage passport. That was for the night of 25th July 09, when the whole city was alive with street performance at the Street of Harmony. We also got to see a variety of local food being offered.

What a night!

Cooking traditional food class
Tropical Spice Garden
Heritage Passport