Christmas in Luang Prabang – Laos

I spent Christmas in Luang Prabang Laos, a peaceful holiday away from the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia.

Luang Prabang’s climate is different from Kuala Lumpur’s, it is much cooler in the mornings and evenings.

From my research for the holiday I was aware of this, but unfortunately my packing lent on the side of summer ensembles. Due to low cloud hanging in the valley the sun often didn’t appear until about 11 am and its enveloping warmth feels like a visit from a dear friend. My packing choices meant I wore the same jeans, puffer jacket and long sleeve shirt twice daily for ten days. Once home, I swore never to wear these items of clothing again, and stored them deep in the recesses of my wardrobe.

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Weekend Relaxing Exploring Ipoh

Ipoh was on my list of must visits while living in Kuala Lumpur. Ipoh is the capital of Malaysia’s Perak state and travel by electric train from KL Sentral is approximately 90 minutes. Ideally, we wanted to stay somewhere within walking distance of the Old Town with an agenda to escape the city buzz and relax walking around the Old Town, experience great food, and visit the cave temples.

The boutique hotel Sarang Paloh, only  a short walk of 600 metres from the train station sounded perfect. Sarang Paloh is a heritage stay in the Oversea Building and the Yick Woh building. The art deco façade is beautifully restored along with the interior which is decorated with antiques and preloved old furniture. The restoration is of a high standard and materials as close to the original have been used. The staff are knowledgeable about Ipoh and very helpful. I loved my stay in at Sarang Paloh.

Sarang Paloh - courtyard
Sarang Paloh heritage hotel in Ipoh – Malaysia

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Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Abhishekam Ritual

During a tour of the streets of Pasar Seni on a street photography mission by chance, rather than good planning I arrived at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. One of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular temples.

As the temple is a  holy place, I removed my footwear and asked permission to take photographs inside the Temple, which was granted.

I sat for a moment in the prayer hall to clear my mind, and take in my surroundings.

I was pleased to have arrived in time for the Abhishekam – a Hindu ritual of bathing the deity. According to my google search an Abhishekam of milk removes all sins, and coconut water increases the overall wellness of the family.

The primary deity of the Temple is Sri Mariamman or the Divine Mother – she provides protection for her worshippers from evil spirits.

Sri Mahamanriamman Temple - Chinatown - Kuala Lumpur
Sri Mahamariamman deity

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Ampang Park Street Gang – “APSG”

I’d noticed a regular gathering of skaterboarders at the Ampang Park LRT Station Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia and often had my arms filled and no camera.

This evening I made a special trip with my camera in the hope that the skateboarders would be out and about. I chose the 24-70mm lens for speed and flexibility, and decided to use only the available natural light. As luck would have it, three skateboarders rolled out from the LRT Station, and the late afternoon light was nice and bright.

I introduced myself to the skaterboarders and asked if I could hangout and take photos of them. They agreed, these are the photos I took of the ‘Ampang Park Street Gang – APSG’.

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Muay Thai – The Art of Eight Limbs

My first Muay Thai event at the Bangla Boxing Stadium in Patong, Phuket – Thailand was an experience. Attending martial art events is not something I’d normally do but after hearing all day long from a van decorated as a boxing rink driving around the streets of Phuket and announcing from a megaphone “Tonight – Tonight – Big fight, BIG FIGHT” I thought I’d go and see a match.

Muay Thai is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand and I had high expectations. The stadium was filled with cigarette smoke and Sarama the traditional music of Muay Thai playing through the sound system adding to the atmosphere in the stadium. Small groups of gamblers scattered throughout the stadium betting on each fight added to the tension of the evening.

I enjoyed watching the wai kru ram muay  – the pre-fight ritual dance being performed to pay respect to the fighters, trainers and coaches.

It was fascinating to see ringside spectators facial expressions circulating through a range of emotions as the fights intensified.

Beside us a bench of tourists getting into the spirit of the event and chanting ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi.’

Please see a collection of photographs taken of the ‘nak muay’ and ‘nak muay – farang’  fighters at the Muay Thai event in November 2010.

in focus
Thai fighters “nak muay” preparing for the fight.

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Vegetarian Festival, Phuket, Thailand

According to popular legend, in 1825 a traveling Chinese opera company, ngiu in Thai orpua-hee in Hokkien dialect, came to perform in Naithu Village, Kathu. After a time, many of the performers became terribly sick, and they decided that the cure was to eat only vegetables as they had done in China, in an act of contrition or expurgation for the sins incurred by the killing and consumption of animals. The ill members of the group were miraculously healed, and so the Chinese immigrants arranged for a festival to be held again the next year, and every year since. Thus, many believe holding it helps prevent illness, death and the loss of innocent lives in the community by promoting physical and spiritual recovery through ritual practices that cleanse the body and mind while strengthening the faith.

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A.A. Mangkling’s Ngaben, Bali

The Hindu-Balinese believe the body is impure, a temporary shell, having no significance at all, except as a container of the soul and its anchor to the earth. All thoughts at the time of death are concentrated upon the spirit and its passage to heaven. The body is just there to be disposed of, and, instead of grieving, the Balinese prefer to throw a great celebration, in the process hastening their dead friend’s soul to oneness with god.

Community working together for Mr A.A.Mangkling's ngaben in Bali
Community members working together to make the bamboo stretcher.

The village community members banjar work together to make the bamboo stretcher for the first ritual, nyiramin layon the bathing of the corpse.

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