The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch’s Photogroup is participating in the Earth Month at Publika, Kuala Lumpur by holding an exhibition from Friday, 23 March to Friday, 6 April 2018. The exhibition features 72 curated images by 16 photographers that highlight the beauty of nature, as well as the problems that plague our environment today. The organising committee curated 6 of my photos for the exhibition.
The exhibition is located next to Paparich in Circle, Level A3, Block A. It is right at the entrance where cars drop people off to walk in.
A little card placed next to my photos
Do come to visit the photo exhibition if you are coming to Publika. There will be other activities held in conjunction with Earth Month here as well.
I have heard of the Mah Meri indigenous people a few years ago, but never had the opportunity to visit them. So when my travel blogger friend Kathleen Poon of Kat Pergi Mana asked me to join her on an outing to visit the Mah Meri on the day they celebrate Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day), I said yes.
The indigenous peoples, known locally as Orang Asli or Orang Asal, are divided into three main groups in Malaysia, according to their language, lifestyle, dwellings, facial features and skin colour. These three main groups, namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto Malay, are further divided into 18 tribes, each group consisting of six tribes (as shown in the following figure).
The indigenous peoples of Malaysia are well-known for their handicrafts, and among them, the Mah Meri and Jah Hut are famous for their figure and mask wood carvings.
About the Mah Meri
‘Mah Meri’ means ‘forest people’ or ‘people who live in the forest’. ‘Mah’ refers to ‘people’, while ‘Meri’ refers to ‘forest’. Similar to most of the other tribes, the Mah Meri originally lived in the forest.
According to their elders, the Mah Meri originated from Johor Lama, also known as Kota Linggi. However, researchers are of the opinion that the Mah Meri are not originally from Malaysia. They belong to the Senoi, who are believed to come from Cambodia and Vietnam. Genetic research has so far classified the Mah Meri community as descendants of the Mongoloid people.
In terms of religion, the Mah Meri are animists. The Mah Meri depend on the forest and the sea for their livelihood, and their spiritual life closely revolves around them. This is expressed in their figurines, which are intimately connected to their ancestors and the natural environment. The Mah Meri believe that there are two forms, the good and the bad. Therefore, various ceremonies are conducted as a sign of respect and to appease the spirits or unseen beings, believed to be responsible for structuring as well as meting out punishment on their lives.
Two of the most important ceremonies of the Mah Meri are the Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) and Puja Pantai (Beach Ceremony). We are very fortunate that the Mah Meri has allowed visitors to see and participate in these two ceremonies.
Directly translated as Ancestors’ Day, Hari Moyang is one of the most important and biggest festivals celebrated by the Mah Meri community living in Carey Island, Klang. The Mah Meri explained that this festival is celebrated 30 days after Chinese New Year, because they also observe the lunar calendar.
Hari Moyang is celebrated in three locations, which are the house of Moyang Gadeng (who looks after the central part of the village), Moyang Amai (who looks after the areas on the fringes of the village), and Moyang Keteng (who looks after the areas at the northernmost parameters of the village). For the Mah Meri who live near the coast, this ceremony will be conducted on the beach and called Puja Pantai.
Moyang in the context of the Mah Meri refer to their ancestors and also their natural environment. The ancestors who are supposed to be present at Hari Moyang are Moyang Getah, Moyang Melur, Moyang Tok Naning, Moyang Bojos, and Moyang Tok Pekong Cina.
These ancestors are believed to protect the community’s happiness and are also capable of punishment. Thus, the Mah Meri believe in revering and appeasing them. The Mah Meri’s famous statuettes, carved in the form of figurines and masks, are closely connected to their ancestors and environment, and the statuettes’ names are derived from the more famous ancestors.
Here are photos from the Hari Moyang Festival in the form of a slide show:
I followed the Mah Meri’s customs and received blessings at the Rumah Moyang, and left a Bunga Moyang on the giant cone in front of the building to pay my respects to the ancestors.
Photo by Kathleen Poon
Photo by Kathleen Poon
The Mah Meri’s mask carvings are inspired by their spiritual beliefs and the natural environment, and display their artistic and abstract imagination. The carvings are based mainly on myths and legends.
Here are some of the interesting and enigmatic large masks hanging outside the walls of the Mah Meri Museum in the Mah Meri Cultural Village, Carey Island:
The masks are used in ritual dancing when worshiping their ancestors’ spirits. The masks are worn to represent the ancestors, who are believed to have extraordinary powers, and also believed to have been outstanding public figures during their lifetimes. The following are photos of some of the prominent masks inside the museum.
Here are some of my favourite figurines from the Mah Meri Museum.
The story of Moyang Puting Beliong revolves around a family with seven children. The youngest daughter became the spirit of a cyclone (puting beliong).
The story of Moyang Buaya was about a grieving man who vowed to become a crocodile when his brother disappeared in the river.
The origin of Moyang Pelandok was quite sinister and rooted in meting out punishment. A man was cursed into become Moyang Pelandok because he was always lying.
The legend of Moyang Sempuar revolved around a story of doom and gloom – a man drowned in the sea because he was taken by Moyang Sempuar.
The legend of Moyang Galak is somewhat similar to the story line of some of today’s horror movies. It was about the story of a child disturbed by Moyang Galak.
Meanwhile, on a positive note, Moyang Sauh is the guardian of fishermen who ensures that their anchor will never get stuck.
I have collated photos of the more interesting and captivating carvings from the Mah Meri Museum and Mah Meri Cultural Village in the form of a slide show:
Special 3D Origami
I was really touched that the Mah Meri let us view and participate in their festival, and I truly enjoyed the cultural experience. I found their masks, attire and intricate 3D origami particularly interesting.
Their origami is environmentally friendly and 100% biodegrable because they are made from Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) leaves.
After the Hari Moyang ceremony, we were given the opportunity to learn how to make some of the basic origami.
Here are some of the 3D origami that I liked the most, which reminded me of hanging mobiles:
All in all, I had a lovely time with the Mah Meri community at their Hari Moyang Festival. Before we left, the villagers provided us with a hearty lunch as well, after which our group went back to Kuala Lumpur in the LokaLocal van.
I would love to come back again the following year, and will be looking forward to experiencing next year’s Puja Pantai.
In June 2017, I participated in my first ever nature photography exhibition, with 23 other photographers from the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Photogroup. It was a very exciting time for us, and we were very happy with the quality of our printed photos and the classy venue at Whitebox, Publika.
My article about this inaugural Photogroup exhibition was published in the Malaysian Naturalist Vol 71-1 (Sept-Nov 2017), on pages 43 to 45. You can see the scanned pages here:
There is talk of making this exhibition a biennial event, and I look forward to participating in the next one. ❤ ❤ ❤
I have been publishing articles in bodymindsoul magazine in the last few issues. In Vol.13, an article on my most memorable adventure to date in Shangri-La county, Yunnan, China was published. You can find it from page 38 to 42 in the magazine.
Shangri-La county in autumn time is cold and beautiful, especially in the Mount Meili National Park. We hiked 24km uphill in one day to reach our lodging for the night. After 2 days, we hiked 20km back out. It was the hardest physical challenge for me, which made it all the more memorable.
Once in a while, I feel like I want to go travelling alone. The first time I did it was a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in April 2016. Mesilau Highlands in Kundasang was awesome, and I loved the view of Mount Kinabalu (but not enough to want to climb it. LOL). Poring Hot Springs and Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park were also wonderful.
So, what’s next? It has been over a year. I decided to take a bus ride to Cameron Highlands, Pahang. I go to Cameron Highlands every year with my parents and brother, but this would be the first time I would be going alone.
Where do I stay? Since I am going to be walking around, it has to be a location accessible on foot, and not too far from town and the bus station. I went to check out places to stay in Tripadvisor and Booking.com.
Since I had a great time with my first homestay/B&B experience in Taiwan in 2015, I thought it would be nice to stay in a B&B again. Finally, I found Do Chic In at Tanah Rata, next to Heritage Hotel. It is ranked the #1 B&B in Tanah Rata by Tripadvisor. In fact, it was awarded Traveller’s Choice for five years in a row (2013 – 2017) by Tripadvisor too. It has a superb rating of 9.0 in Booking.com. Best of all, it had a discounted rate for single travellers.
My room had 2 single beds. It was a corner room, so it had windows on two sides. Both had views of greenery. The theme was purple, one of my favourite colours. The mattresses and pillows were firm and clean.
The apartment was like a semi-D apartment. It consisted of two units side by side, with the dividing wall removed. Everything was neat and tidy. The whole apartment was very clean, and a lot of thought had been put into the arrangements and decorations. Nothing was out of place. There was not a speck of dust to be found.
The hosts, Jaycee and Jezzica, prepare breakfast every morning between 7am and 10am for the guests. Every day, we will get something different, and it will be a delightful surprise.
On Saturday morning, we were served French toast with fresh slices of mango and dragonfruit.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed cheesy omelette on toast, and banana and peanut butter toast, with mango and dragonfruit. The breakfast every morning was made with much care, love and attention to detail. I felt it was this care, love and dedication that made Jaycee and Jezzica’s B&B such a wonderful success year after year.
Located on a hill on the fringe of Tanah Rata town, it is far enough to be away from the noise and the traffic congestion of the main road, but near enough to the shops and restaurants.
It is an excellent place to stay – quiet, clean and comfortable. The tranquil atmosphere and nice scenery will be a relaxing treat for city folks needing an escape from work stress. 😉
The hosts are really nice people. They helped me to buy my return bus ticket to KL, and also helped me to book a half-day tour to visit the mossy forest and Sungai Palas tea plantation. The tour was conducted by Eco Cameron, which had trained and certified guides.
They also recommended places to eat, and I particularly liked Singh Chapati Urban Restaurant, at Brij Court.
Do Chic In has many international travellers frequenting it, and while I was there, there was a couple from Spain, another from the Czech Republic, and another from Switzerland. It felt like a mini United Nations, or rather European Union. It was nice to have such a varied group, and I would usually see them at breakfast time. 🙂
All in all, I had a memorable time, and I would recommend Do Chic In to anybody wanting to stay in a nice B&B in a quiet place with friendly and helpful hosts.
And yes, I would gladly come back to stay again here. 😀
In December 2016, I went to Kuala Sepetang with my dad, mum and brother. I did not select the fishing village photos till a few weeks ago for uploading. For this series, I chose to have the village and boat photos in black and white.
My dad loves to draw watercolour paintings of fishing villages, which is why we visit various fishing villages throughout Malaysia quite often, and you can see some of his paintings at his blog, Colours of Heritage.
Kuala Sepetang is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. It was formerly known as Port Weld, named after a former governor, Frederick Weld. It is located approximately 72 km to the north-west of Ipoh city, the capital of Perak state.
Part of the Larut, Matang and Selama Districts, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving fishing village, and the place where you can board a boat to Pulau Sangga, and visit the fish cage culture sites, which float on the river. There is a thriving Chinese fishing community at the river mouth which specializes in fish farming in cages.
Historically, Kuala Sepetang was well-known because it was part of the first railway line of Malaya. The railway line was 12.8km long and was mainly used to carry tin from mines from Taiping to Kuala Sepetang, so that they could be transported overseas through the port.
The old Taiping railway station was built at the location where the King Edward VII Primary School is presently located, while the Kuala Sepetang railway station was constructed in Port Weld. The railway was launched in 1885 and served for 70 years before being terminated and dismantled by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). To read more about the history and legends of the railway, click here.
The Port Weld railway station was located at the centre of town. Now, only the ticketing booth and the Port Weld railway signboard remain to remind us of the golden age of tin mining in the little town.
Today, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving tourist attraction. In fact, it is one of must-visit places in Perak. There are lots of things to do and see, and they can be summarised as follows:
Visit Khay Hor Charcoal Factory
Visit the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, the largest mangrove forest reserve in Malaysia
Visit the 131-year-old train station sign
Eat prawn noodles
Eat curry noodles
Take a boat ride
Visit Pulau Sangga
Visit a fish farm
Go eagle watching
Go dolphin watching
See the fireflies
Although Kuala Sepetang is no longer the important port town where tin was transported from Taiping via the first railway, and then shipped overseas, it thrives today because of its various cottage industries, fish farming and tourism. I hope the place will maintain its old fishing village charm for many decades to come. 🙂
I went to the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping last weekend, 20-21 May 2017. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall.
I spent the time dunking myself in the waterfall, and chasing after dragonflies and butterflies with my camera. I took only macro shots on this trip.
I decided to let my phone die and went off the grid. No phone. No Internet. It was the best way to chill out, de-stress and relax, while catching up with old friends and making new ones.
It was awesome to just dunk myself in the freezing cold water at the waterfall for 2 days. A bit of yoga practice was a welcome treat. I also did grounding meditation to align my energies with the earth’s energies. I like it because I am close to nature, and it helps to give a calming, refreshed and peaceful effect.
We went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo for the first time and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.
While others went for a late night herping hike after returning from the zoo, I decided to catch up on my sleep, right next to the window. I drifted off lulled by the therapeutic sound of the waterfall. Luckily, I did not go herping, because people came back with five or six leech bites. :-O
Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay is accessible only via 4WD, because of the condition of the roads. Perhaps because of the difficult accessibility, the waterfalls remains pristine and unpolluted.
The flow of water is not too strong, making it ideal for visitors to dip in the shallow pools. Beautiful rocks frame the waterfall, making it an attractive place for photography. All in all, a visit to the waterfalls is a pleasant experience.
I spent hours taking photos of dragonflies, butterflies and water striders (pond skaters). When I arrived at the rocks, the dragonflies and butterflies all sped off. I had to sit down and wait for them to get used to me. I wanted to become another piece of the landscape. Then, after a while, the dragonflies started to come closer, and finally landed in front of me.
The water striders a.k.a. pond skaters were not easy either. When I inched closer, they would move faster. Back and forth, like clockwork. Their speed increased with my increase in proximity.
On the other hand, a tiny little brown butterfly perched on my arm for a long time. It would not leave even when I prodded it gently with a finger. So, I just left it there and snapped photos of it from time to time, holding the camera in my right hand and steadying the lens on my left upper arm.
I was glad I joined the VAD trip to Ulu Tupai. It was an awesome experience in a beautiful place, and I test out the theory that I did not have to do EVERYTHING and be busy all the time in order to be happy (first brought up by Low last year). It was true. Just relaxing surrounded by nature, taking photos, swimming in the natural waterfall pool, enjoying chit-chat with fellow volunteers in nature made my weekend a fantastic getaway from the city. ❤ ❤ ❤
After visiting Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple in the morning, where we also witnessed a ceremonial procession, we savoured a nasi padang lunch in a small little shop in a nearby market. Despite the light rain, I browsed among the colourful stalls and bought cinnamon powder for my culinary and baking pursuits.
Thereafter, we headed to Taman Ayun Temple, which was a landmark located 17km northwest of Denpasar.
Built circa 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, the temple is situated in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency. Taman Ayun Temple was restored in 1937.
Inside the temple grounds
Inside the temple grounds
Considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi, this temple complex is famous for its wonderful traditional architectural features, including expansive green gardens with lotus and fish ponds. The name ‘Taman Ayun’ means ‘beautiful garden’. It is considered to be one of the most attractive temples of Bali.
The beautiful gardens of the Taman Ayun Temple
Inside the temple grounds
Inside the temple grounds
Besides being well-known for its beautifully landscaped gardens, the hallmark of the Taman Ayun Temple is the series of Pelinggih Meru with towering tiers. The pagoda-like Pelinggih Meru shrine is a distinctive feature of Balinese temples.
Balinese temple architecture is significantly different from Indian Hindu temple architecture. Within each Balinese temple, there are some common distinctive features, which are the bale, meru, kulkul and shrines. The bale are pavilions in the courtyards, each with its own specific function. The meru is a multi-tiered structure, and it is usually dedicated to a god or goddess. The number of tiers must always be odd, and the highest number must not exceed 11, which symbolises the highest respect. The kulkul is a hollow log which functions is similar to that of a church bell. It is used to call the community to come to the temple. Lastly, each temple will have a number of shrines. Each shrine will be dedicated to a god or goddess. Women will present the offerings to them.
11-tiered Pelinggih Meru in the inner sanctum of the Taman Ayun Temple. The highest level allowed is 11 tiers, denoting the utmost respect for the god or goddess revered.
The Taman Ayun Temple served as a main site of worship among the Mengwi people so they did not have to travel far to the main large temples, the likes of the Besakih ‘mother temple’ in Karangasem, Batukaru Temple in Tabanan, or Batur Temple in Kintamani.
Within the utama mandala (jero), the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura
Within the utama mandala (jero), the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura
Taman Ayun Templeis a pura tirta, or a water temple. Besides their religious function, the water temples also serve a water management function as a part of the irrigation system. Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, which I had visited in the morning, also belonged to this category.
Hidden in the quiet town of Chemor, Perak is a gem of a temple. Set up by a schoolteacher, the Confucius Temple of Seen Hock Yeen is well-known for bringing luck to students who are going to sit for exams. However, it is also a place for one to dispel bad luck in other areas of life, as well as to make wishes.
The entrance seems commonplace among temples, until you go into the temple grounds hidden inside. The pond, bridges and temple buildings all come together to create a most serene and beautiful landscape.
I would like to point out that this is the only temple where my photos turned out more beautiful than the view that my eyes feasted upon, and that is unusual indeed.
First-time visitors should come to the temple on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, because that is when the tour groups from Perak, Selangor, and even as far north as Kedah and Perlis come to visit the blessed temple. When the tour groups visit, there will be guided tours led by the temple volunteers, with detailed explanations provided about the temple’s history.
If you are in luck, as we were, the founder of the temple herself will provide the opening introduction about the temple’s background and lead the first prayers for your personal well-being and that of your loved ones as well.
Visitors will be led to each deity or temple building, and guided on how to perform their prayers or share their wishes with their favourite deity, step by step. Confucius, being a famous sage who was highly respected in China, has been elevated to the status of a prominent deity here. Visitors also pay homage to the Goddess of Mercy and Buddha.
At one point, there is a bridge to cross to dispel calamities, where one must remain quiet, and only look to the left. Of course, one should not look back or turn around too!
The temple also collects donations for the needy all year around, especially single mothers who have to take care of their young children. This was the first temple I have come across that focused on helping single mothers, which is very good of the founder and volunteers.
The twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac are also featured here, in the form of twelve golden statues, and people were encouraged to pet their corresponding Zodiac animal, from head to tail, for good luck. 😉
There was even a bunch of cute little puppies, and the children were delighted to see them.
The highlight of the visit to the temple was the sudden appearance of a pretty rainbow near the pond, and I had the good fortune of taking multiple photos of it. In the warm light of the period before sunset, it was the most lovely view I have seen in Malaysia in 2016. 😀
Across the road from the shiny modern Hotel NEO+ Penang, lies the unassuming and run-down Hin Bus Depot. Definitely looking like it has seen better days, one would think that it was abandoned and left to fall apart. However, on closer inspection, there was actually a cafe visible in there. Out of curiosity, we had to go in to check it out, didn’t we?
Any first-time visitors are in for a surprise. Once an abandoned bus depot, it has been converted into an art space, and there is a pop-up market happening every Sunday from 11am till 5pm as well. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic held his first solo art exhibition here in 2014, and his larger than life murals have turned the abandoned bus depot into another world altogether.
Ernest combines fine art techniques with a passion for creating art in the outdoors, and is interested in the interaction of murals and the urban landscape. His artwork results from a spontaneous response to the environment, the community and culture.
The Hin Bus Depot is continually evolving, and more artists will be leaving their mark there soon, promising more exhibitions in the months to come.