Monday, February 22, 2010

A pocket of paradise in Taiping - the Lake Garden

Whichever way they twist, 'sentries' in a row, they seek the waters

Mirror my lovely branches

Lightly treading the waters

The plaque that says ' The Oldest Lake Garden in Malaysia

Pink fluffy flowers

In the shady embrace of the branches of the raintree

Looking through the eyes of Nature

Many a date/romance on this bridge

A little pocket of paradise on Earth sits in Taiping. So much of the fame of Taiping is owed to it. And whenever a conversation crops up about my hometown in Perak, in another breath, the Taiping Lake Garden inevitably surfaces.

KL is now my home but when the odd 'balik kampung' (back to one's village) visits take place, never would I miss a drive/stroll round the Taiping Lake Garden, still in awe of the natural beauty. The air always was ( still is!) fresher in the Lake Garden. We roamed the roads round the lakes and cycled aimlessly, taken many pictures in many favourite spots, and picnicked with classmates. My friend, Yen Peng, taught me how to ride a bike where the main children's playground stands. How we slid down those grassy slopes and shrieked with glee!

Those hide-and -seek days are gone but still loving you!

Love me forever!

Taiping in the Larut district, Perak was a town built on tin and wars were fought among the Chinese secret socieities for the lucrative mines in the 1870s. And to think its name in Chinese means 'everlasting peace'! The towkays earned their riches, the labour from China are now stories we hear of the enterprising migrants who left China to seek their fortunes and make a new home here and the dredges that pumped ore from the mining ponds are all long gone.

Fortune smiled on Taiping in 1880 when Colonel E S F Walker decided to turn the old mining ponds into the Lake Garden. Many little islands and lakes were created and a public garden - all of 62 hectacres of land at the foot of Bukit Larut (formerly known as Maxwell Hill) make up the Lake Garden.

I love the Lake Garden, a haven for everyone to enjoy. Luckily over the years, being the proud owners of this priceless green gem which no other town or city in the country can boast of, the people have not marred its beauty. In the mornings and evenings, the call of the natural beauty sees the townfolks enjoying the big parkland - walking , jogging, biking. The serenity is broken by the calls of the animals in the Zoo which is sited there. Newly -weds also love the setting for the photos to remember their wonderful day.

The clear lakes with the hills in the backdrop are picturesque. But I just love the raintrees ( Samanea saman). That, I would say, is the icing on the cake! Majestic trunks, green umbrella -shaped canopies, long branches extending tentacle -like, arching over heads and telegraph wires , dipping ever so gracefully to kiss the sweet waters of the lakes on the other side of the road. And in the bosom of their curvy, sturdier branches, the bird's nests sit prettily and grow unperturbed and really make it their home. In bloom, the tiny pink flowers look like powder puff. These trees stand in a nice row as if they have been appointed sentries to guard the beauty of the Lake Garden for posterity. If only they could speak! What tales will they tell? Well over 100 years and more, they continue to mesmerize .

Taiping is very much a historical town. It is blessed with many 'firsts' in Malaysia - for example, first prison, first British Resident's house, first hill resort (all in , more than 30 in the list!) . If there's an itch to check this town out, do not delay. Go 'cuti-cuti ( holiday) in Taiping! The Lake Garden will just take your breath away!

Natural beauty for all to enjoy

The morning sun casting its glow

Spready branches skimming the water surface

How low can you go?

Island in the sun

Old, huge and sturdy

Come , live here and make your home

Paddleboat pleasures

The zig -zag bridge still stands and what fun we had.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chinese Folk Arts

GONG XI FA CAI! to all my Chinese friends who are celebrating the year of the Tiger.

This Chinese New Year the shopping malls are abuzz with all things Chinese, all very colourful and rich in culture. There is no mistaking, RED is the colour. It spells PROSPERITY and GOOD LUCK and we can never have enough of them.

Amidst all the feverish shopping for goodies, gifts and paraphernalia to usher in the new year, I took time to browse the Chinese folk arts stalls which are making a huge presence in some of the big malls.

Though the setting is modern, the artisans at the Chinese folk arts stalls hark back to ancient China. Everyone of them is so steeped in history. I guess going traditional serves a gentle reminder of the importance of retaining the arts and tradition in our cyber world. I couldn't help marvelling at the artistic dexterity of the different craftsmen. Do join me for a sampling of some of the popular folk arts.

It was the Chinese who invented paper. Here, pause and marvel at the intricate paper cuttings , a unique art form, created in the Tang Dynasty.

Red is a very popular colour. Chinese zodiac animals is one of the favourite motif. Scissors/knives are used to create this delicate artwork. These cuttings decorate windows, mirrors, walls, doors etc. to bring good luck.

Colourful cloth tigers, a popular folk handicraft, with the Mandarin character 'Wang' - meaning 'king' - on their foreheads. The cloth tiger is deemed to be a symbol of peace and luck. It is also highly regarded as the 'protector of fortunes'.

Chinese dough figurines is a popular folk art in urban and rural China. The artisan moulds figures and animals from wheat flour, glutinous rice flour, glycerin, bee honey with the help of tools like toothpicks, sharp pointed metal objects. The dough figurine master is seen here sculpting a face. Within minutes, a figurine is all yours if you care to own one.

Some dough figurines

The Chinese have flown kites for at least 2,500 years. They were probably the first people to make kites. Kite -flying was/is an activity for the young and old. Popular designs are flowers, birds, animals which are framed by the bamboos and then pasted with paper or silk.

The dragon kite is a winner.

Any subject on the whole gamut of traditional Chinese painting inside a snuff bottle! Amazingly intricate with great attention to details.

A tiny brush ( angled) to do the painstaking painting within a limited space.

A tiger very much 'alive' inside a glass globe!

Chinese knotting, a decorative handicraft began in the Tang and Sung Dynasty ( 960 -1279 AD). The knots are hand -tied and evolved from the knots used in daily life through thousands of years.

Each knot has a different meaning.

Good luck strokes in Chinese Stroke of Luck calligraphy. Cheerfully adorned by animals etc - all in rainbow colours.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kids Wanna Have FUN!

All legs and high above my head

The children laughed when I put the giraffe hat on my head. I think they thought I looked out of place to sport what I called my party hat. But I played along with them. Soon, they knew I 'owned' the hat and was happy wearing one. But honestly, when I'm with kids, there's no counting the minutes especially when we are enjoying ourselves.

The poster at TIMES, Pavilion, was up again - I'm on the loose -watch out!!

We had much fun at our craft session after I told the story about The Lonely Giraffe by Peter Blight and illustrated by Michael Terry. The bright, bold illustrations make for such a lovely telling. The giraffe's plight is also well told to draw empathy from the audience. The animals in the jungle have friends but giraffe is always left out . His long neck means that he's just too far away from the action . Things change when the river bursts its banks and the animals climb on to his neck and are safe. No more lonely, the giraffe is happy - the animals grow to know him and not be afraid of his big head nor his long legs.

When the craft session was over, one by one , the kids came to me to have it adjusted for their heads. And they went away sporting a giraffe hat. Heads in the air! Suddenly, they seemed taller than the giraffe!!

My favourite among other traditional stories from China is about the Chinese Zodiac calendar, titled ' How The Years Were Named'. This Chinese New Year, the Tiger roars in to take its turn among the 12 animals. Over the years, whenever this story is told, it always elicits interest as the race of the animals to Wizard Mountain unfolds. Of course, the children couldn't help but shout out ' The rat is first!' when I swept him in with the words ,'... the ox said,' Moo! I'm first!' But the rat who was hanging from the ox's tail, swung himself forward right in front of the ox. Hitching a good ride made him the winner !

Roaring in to wish you 'GONG XI FA CAI!'

So the year of the Ox has gone by to usher in the year of the Tiger who came in third in the race. We had a song about the tiger. The children enjoyed the catchy tune to it and sang along. We also played a game of the 12 animals. The children picked a card each . The fun started when an animal was picked. They were encouraged to make the sounds of each animal, move like them for their friends to guess.

The tiger stripes were torn from pieces of black paper. Tearing it into longish strips needed some attention from the kids. That session I had a very good turnout - 24 kids at the MBPJ library. The kids were playful with the tiger craft . Not any time you can be up close with the big cat and have a roaring time!

Now, which animal year were you born? Wait for this - ROAR - this is my year! I hasten to add, I'm also a LION ( Zodiac Leo). Gosh, I'm 2 big cats in one! A friendly one, I assure you. Please stay and listen to my stories :)

GONG XI FA CAI! Have a splendid year everyone!

Making the dragon dance

In good company. Let the tiger roar in !

Up close with the tiger - in his own comfort zone

We certainly love our big cat! Love him always, I say!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

1 Federal Territories Day - Together with pride and joy

Happy Birthday Federal Territories ! - Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. The Federal Territory and Urban Well-Being Minister, Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin announced it would be a month long celebration, with events to bring people together - to celebrate our togetherness. This year's celebratory theme is '1 Wilayah Perseketuan, Maju dan Sejahtera' ( 1 Federal Territory, Progress and Prosperity)

I really couldn't let this opportunity slip by to find out the buzz at Dataran Merdeka. After all, I've ' breathed' FT in my being, in my posts for the past 3 months of the Blog For FT competition. I am a KL girl! Here's my big chance to wish KL ' Happy 36th Birthday!'

1 February morning was one dedicated for the young and old to shine, embracing the able- bodied and the disadvantaged groups. An excellent mix, I would say as all could mingle and show their prowess in their capabilities. I missed the flag off of the cycling event where veterans took part too.

I was glad to see the uniformed groups in action - doing smart, well- rehearsed turnouts before the judges. In the scorching heat, they marched and impressed the audience with their footwork and strict timing to deliver precise formations under the judges' keen scrutiny. If it is anything that our youths should join, let it be a uniformed organisation like the Scouts, Cadets, Red Cross etc. Many facets of discipline and values are learned and we have our youths ready to face the future - for themselves and the nation. Kudos to FT for bringing them on!

I wandered round and immersed myself in the activities. One of the volunteers casually asked, ' Miss, nak try ?' Not one to pass off an invitation, I had my share of fun too - a wheelchair race from my challengers!! Really, through fun, we can begin to empathize with wheelchair users who have to get used to wheelchairs for most part of their lives. Putting oneself in their shoes is always humbling.

There was aslo a game of soft tennis and football for the blind and the wheelchair users. It was all in the spirit of a game to enjoy, a helping hand and company to keep too.

The much younger children also had their day with parents and families to cheer them on. Honestly, in any performance, don't the little ones steal our hearts away with their naturalness?

As we cherish our successes, the celebrations will continue. Like all KLites, our hopes, our dreams are with you KL. May we progress and prosper. May this place we call HOME be our dream home. In the Muhibbah spirit of 1 Malaysia , let's also celebrate our huge diversity of folks.

The cadets were smartly -attired and performing a good turnout at the rhythmic march parade competition. The sun was beating down but not a step amiss. They gave a commendable performance and the crowd rewarded them with an appreciative applause.

All eyes on the march parade. The ceremonial pomp is always a draw and who can resist the footwork and precise formation ?

The Bomba group, vying among the other uniformed groups - Bulan Sabit (Red Cross), St John Ambulance, Scouts, etc.

When it's hot and you've done your bit, you deserve to have some fun and camaraderie with your friends. I guess they must have risen with the cock crow to be there for the important day.

Watching intently, learning too - the Bulan Sabit (Red Cross) members were part of the audience.

Feeling the heat but still engrossed by the admirable performances of the uniformed boys and girls.

If there's one free, fun ride, this upih pinang race is for you! Never mind the load - it's mind over matter! As I watched several rounds of the race, the upih performed admirably - none broke.

Wouldn't Datuk Lat, our beloved cartoonist love to see this in action? In his book, Kampung Boy Yesterday and Today, he recalls the traditional games of kampung life. Take a upih from the pinang tree and what do you know - a Malaysian sleigh ?? Tons of enjoyment from simple pleasures !

Children had their share of fun and prizes too - a game of blowing away flour on a plate to reveal some sweets hidden. No hands, ma! But I would caution inhaling flour in the excitement! Luckily, no untoward accidents. When the game was over, the white faces just didn't matter - the prizes were waiting for them.

I thought they would melt in the heat but these little ones proved me wrong! They looked as cool as cucumbers as they waited for their turns to appear on a big stage to perform. With Chinese New Year round the corner, they were looking their best - in cheong sam and sam foo.

Elegant little Miss! So poised and natural! I think she'll be our Miss Malaysia!

Just bounce your troubles away! Have fun 'coz there's always time for play.

Liew, one of the basketball players who represents Malaysia was seen having a swell time with his friends. His girlfriend brought him there to enjoy the muhibbah spirit of the day. I was watching him for a while. He really had the stamina to keep going! He works in an internet business.

Could I have resisted the invitation to have a race? The boys did not put me off! I was the 'wayward' one - a wee slope in the pavement took me off the straight for the race!! The boys were volunteers from UiTM ( University Teknologi Mara)and they were there to lend a helping hand in organising events etc.

Achit, one of our paralympic Malaysian basketball players was thoroughly enjoying himself - from the wheelchair and up from it, refereeing a game.

Achit, obligingly posed for me and we had a friendly conversation. He has been playing basketball for 5 years and he's proud to represent Malaysia. Training is in Balakong with MSSM (Malaysian School Sports Council) and when he's not training, he works in a cyber cafe.

The eyes have it but in this football game, you have to be sure of yourself. I saw the blind and sighted, both being blindfolded to kick away. Gosh, wonder what the goal keeper was thinking of - what's coming his way??

Gear yourself for a game of paint ball and there were many eager takers. Pump up the adrenaline and be ready for the shootout!

Hasan Basri ( left),84, taking part in the KL Ride in conjunction with Federal Territories Day at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur - NST picture by Abdullah Yusof (from the NST report on Tuesday, 2 February,2010)

As mentioned, I missed this event. But seeing En Hasan Basri , all of 84 - all smiles and fit as fiddle on his bike, it sure lifts my spirit. Here's wishing him many more birthdays to come. Way to go, grandpa !

Last of all, Happy Birthday Federal Territories!