Hari Merdeka (Malaysian Independence Day)

The Flags at Dataran Merdeka

Today it is Hari Merdeka Day in Malaysia or otherwise known as Independence Day.  It was on this day (31 August) in 1957 that Malaysian Independence from British rule was declared at Merdeka Stadium.  In the days running up to the national holiday, Malaysian flags fluttered all over the country and was seen on all the major buildings in Kuala Lumpur.  Everywhere I looked, I saw the Malaysian flag.  Such was the strength of national unity and you could tell the Malaysians were proud of their country.

As a tourist, a sight you cannot miss in Kuala Lumpur is the “Dataran Merdeka” or Independence Square.  It was on this square that the British Union Flag was first lowered and replaced with the Malaysian Flag fifty-three years ago at midnight.  A historical moment in the history of Malaysia and one that signified the diminishing British colonial rule in Asia.

It’s incredible to think that this happened only fifty-three years ago.  Just one lifetime.  The world has changed a lot since then and we no longer can imagine countries being colonized.

During my visit, the Dataran Merdeka was decorated with an impressive row of Malaysian flags.  More impressive was the enormous Malaysian flag flying above me on one of the tallest flag poles in the world.    Yes, the flag pole is 95 meters high and proudly boasts the Malaysian flag for all the world to see.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Overlooking the square is an absolutely beautiful building called the “Sultan Abdul Samad Building.”  According to Wikipedia, the building was built in 1894-1897 by the British A.C. Norman to house the British government administration.  Under Malaysian rule, the building housed the high court, but I am told that it now houses the Ministry of Culture and Information.

Built in the moorish style, reflecting the islamic culture, I cannot help but admire it.  I love the moorish architecture.  The archs themselves remind me of Egypt and Africa. 

As I looked out towards the square, I think of the times past when the square used to be the cricket field of the British Royal Selangor Club.  In Singapore, a similar square is home to the Cricket Club.  Today the field is used for special events and parades.

As I stand there, I feel peaceful and calm.  The sun is out and I hear the flags fluttering in the wind.  The oldest fountain in Malaysia stands quietly near the flag pole not demanding attention.  I look around and realize that all state visits must have taken place here.   Afterall, this is the main square in Kuala Lumpur and one of significance importance.

Happy Independence Day Malaysia! 😀

The Flag Pole
The Clock Tower
The Fountain

Prayers at Masjid Jame’ Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

From Across the Canal it looks majestic

Back from my very brief vacation in Kuala Lumpur I must admit, I miss it already.  Flying out Friday morning and back on Sunday evening, it was indeed a very short trip but one that I’m glad I finally made.  I had been meaning to go for several years now upon the invitation of a wonderful friend there, but for one reason or another, I just never made it.  Now that I have, I wish I had done it sooner.  Being able to reunite with a long time friend was wonderful and I’d like to “Thank You” her and her family for giving me such a wonderful time there.  They were a wonderful host.

There is much to see and do in Kuala Lumpur than first meets the eye. 

Only a two-hour flight from Bangkok and accessible on the low-cost AirAsia it is a wonderful little getaway place to go if you are in need of an escape from everyday life whilst at the same time discovering a new culture and way of living.

Unlike Thailand which is predominantly Buddhist (90percent), approximately 60 percent of Malaysia’ population practice Islam, 20 percent Buddhism, 10 percent Christianianty and the rest is a mix of Hinduism, Taoism, and other chinese religions. It’s no wonder that most of the major buildings and sites reflect the Islamic architexture and influence that have prevailed since times past.

During my short time in Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is most commonly called, I was fortunate enough to have been able to observe muslims at prayer.  It was an unforgetable experience and one that I shall always remember. 

It started on the way to visit the ancient mosque called “Masjid Jame’ Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur” built in 1908 at the turn of the century.  It’s beautiful islamic design reminds me of the moorish architecture found in the south of Spain.  It’s breathtaking, especially from across the river.   Suddenly, late afternoon we heard the Islamic call to prayer called the “Adnan.”  The sound echoed throughout the streets of Kuala Lumpur and the strange yet emotional stirring sound told all muslims that this was the time to pray to “Allah.”

My good friend, who is a muslim, wanted to pray and so she kindly took me in to observe the Islamic prayer.  Of course I had to dress properly and cover up myself with a headscarf, but it didn’t bother me at all.  I was in the Islamic world and you had to respect it.  Afterall, I’d want someone to respect my Buddhist temples when they come visit.

 Before prayers could begin, I wastold that all muslims must undergo “Ablution.”  It’s a cleansing of the body before the ritual prayer.  Hands, arms, mouths, and feet must be cleansed in the provided cleansing area.  It reminds me of the ritual cleansing pools in front of Angkor Wat or the basin of Holy water at the entrance of each church.  Different religions yet they have similiarities.

 Once cleansed, you are then ready to begin your prayers.  The males and females pray in different areas.  There is usually a smaller and screened off area for the females to perform their prayers.   Once inside, I felt safe.  There were women and young girls all around me, some praying and some waiting.  Those who have their “time-of-month” are not to pray and so must wait for their friend. 

Those praying wore gowns of white that covered up their bodies and scarves that covered their head.  If you didn’t have one, they were provided for you.   Everyone stood side by side no matter where you come from.  During prayer, it does not matter who you are or how your family is, you are a muslim.    Prayers are done in synchronization and everyone bows in unision.  I imagine this same prayer eing performed throughout the country at the same time,  in all the mosques.  Amazing.

Unity.  Religion has brought everyone together.  

I don’t understand Arabic, but it sounds mysterious to me and like all prayers, they sound calming and peaceful.  Prayers are like a form of meditation.  I am told that if you unecessarily move your hands to push away hair or give the itch a scratch for four times, then your prayers are considered void.   I suppose it is like meditation.  You have to keep focused on your prayers.  It makes sense.

Relaxing after prayers

Growing up in a Buddhist family, living in Christian countries, I pretty much understand those religions.  Islam, however, has always been elusive to me.  My brief encounter with it, however, has taught me more than I imagined.  I understand it a little more, but there is still much to learn.  All religions I understand, teach its followers to “do” good and “be” good.  There are similiarities and there are differences, but it doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.

Travel to New Places

There is something about traveling that always makes me feel light and happy.    I love booking tickets for a trip, no matter how short the trip.  I love the anticipation of going away.  It makes me “happy” and I find myself in a deightful mood.  Sometimes it’s good to just get out of your normal routine and venture out to the unknown and discover a new place.   It excites your brain and gives it new life.

Yesterday, I ventured out to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I hopped on the low cost Air Asia which was pleasantly ontime (despite rumours that it’s always on delay).  I had pre-ordered food and booked my seat in advance so I had absolutely a great flight.  No one sat next to me and I was towards the front of the plane.  The food was not bad for airplane quality and their Nasi Lemak (Malaysian dish of coconut rice with chilly, fish, and peanuts) was quite delicious and tasty.

I felt happy and satisfied.  I don’t need much on a plane.  Just a comfortable seat and some food to fill me up.   The ride was smooth and fast.  Two hours later and I’m already in a new country.   I wonder why I didn’t come here before or do this more often.

Although it’s so close to Bangkok, I have never been to KL, and it’s the unknown that is always exciting. What will the country be like?  What will the people be like?  How do they live?  What is their culture? 🙂 I have Malaysia friends and met many Malaysians, but you don’t really understand someone until you see them in their home country.

Afterall, we are who we are because of our country and our culture.  After a night here, I already am starting to understand it a bit more…  Today I will go out and be the “tourist.”

I’ll be back on Sunday with pictures and more insights 🙂 Until then, have a good weekend!  Try going somewhere new this weekend!

Taking a “Break”

Source: Gotoknow

 It’s important to listen to our bodies and know when to take a break and when to ignore it and keep on exercising.  Although it’s wonderful if you are managing to keep a fit schedule of exercise three times a week and an active lifestyle, don’t over push yourself when you are ill.  If you come down with a flu or get ill, don’t be so hard on yourself.  Give your body a break.

Give it a break when it needs it.  Not when the “mind” needs it. 

I know myself that I get lazy and tend to want to stop running or going to the gym, so I make myself go by telling myself  “No excuses.”   I make myself get up and go.   It works wonders.  I go to the gymn and I exercise.   I feel wonderful. 

Sometimes though, I tell myself  “No excuses” even when I need to stop and just let my body rest.   I catch myself not yet fully recovered yet I want to go so that I am still on schedule.  It becomes a little obsession that I have to make my quota of at least twice a week. 

As with anything, it’s best not to be obessed.  As Buddhism teaches us, follow the “middle-path.”  Do everything in moderation.   Make the experience enjoyable and fun.  If your body is telling you to “stop”, stop and let it rest for a bit.   However, make sure it’s not just an excuse to stop exercising !! 

Take a “break” if your body needs it. Just make sure it isn’t a permanent break.  Make a schedule of when to start getting back on track to exercise after you’ve fully recovered.  Don’t let your exercise stop for more than a week.  This way, you can sustain being “healthy!” 

Happy running!  (I went running already since my recovery and will continue to do so!)

Cured by “Soup”

Everytime I get ill, I am told that having “soup” is good for me.  A nice big pot of home-brewed soup simmers away on the stove filled with all the goodness of vegetables, some chicken, or minced pork.  The aroma of fresh soup fills the air and before I know it, a large bowl of delicious and healthy soup stands before me.

I am given nothing but a variety of soups to eat during my “flu” and it doesn’t matter for how long it lasts.  Three times a day for as long as it takes, I am to have “soup.” 

I do admit though that “soup is good for the soul.” 

The warm soup, warms up the ill body and leaves it feeling good.  Steam from the soup helps clear up our congested nose, chest and throat.  Of course you could do it with just plain steam, but it’s so much more satisfying with delicious soup! Don’t you think?

Not only that, all the goodness of vegetables which are nutrient packed with a bit of carbohydrates help give us much needed energy.   Healthy food, after all, equals healthy body. 😀

What kind of soup to have?  Well, traditionally we always hear about “chicken soup” but I find that any kind of  “soup” works well.  In Thailand, I have the Thai version with minced pork and a variety of fish balls.  Carrots and tomatoes are switched to local produce and the results are just as satisfying.  Add a bit of vermicelli or egg noodles for carbohydrates 🙂

So have “soup. ” It’s good for the soul 😀

Stay Away Flu!

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for your patience..:)  It’s been almost a week since I last wrote and I must say I miss writing my blog!   Yes, catching the seasonal  flu is absolutely no fun with its body aches, fever, headaches, stuffy nose, and sore throat.    Even though it’s not as bad as the 2009 flu, it was bad enough for me.  I’m happy to be over it.

It’s been raining almost daily in Bangkok and the humid weather makes it perfect ground for the flu-virus to spread.   Everyday on facebook, I spot a friend either having caught the flu or getting a flu shot.  So my advice to everyone?

Take care of your hygiene!

1. Wash your hands regularly after going to the bathroom, before meals, or whenever you have the chance. Make sure you use soap and give it a thorough wash through.  (Not one of those fast running-by-the-tap washes.)
2.  Carry a small portable anti-bacterial hand gel that you can use to clean your hands after you’ve been on the sky train, or holding on to rails that have probably passed by a hundred hands.  Elevator buttons too.
3.  Avoid rubbing your eyes or your mouth with an unclean hand.

Of course we all know this.  Sometimes we just forget 🙂  I do all the time.

Oh, and if you feel yourself catching a cold/flu and start coughing,  please wear a face mask so you won’t be spreading it to others around you. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s better for everyone. Thank you.  🙂

If you have a fever, my doctor tells me that the normal body temperature is 37 degrees.  If you go to 38 you have a fever but it could be just the regular flu.  If you go up to 39 degrees that is considered “high temperature” and you should consult your doctor.  It could be the 2009 flu!

If you don’t have one already, a thermometer is always useful to have at home. This way you can check to see if you are just “thinking” you are ill, or if you really are ill.    (I didn’t so I didn’t know if my temperature was high or not. Now I have one. 🙂 

Of course, all you have to do is sleep, sleep, and more sleep!   Get lots of rest!

Good health to everyone and stay away from the flu! 😀

Magical Fireworks

There is something magical about fireworks that I just love.  During the Queen’s Birthday celebrations last week, each night ended with a beautiful display of fireworks.   Fireworks which I could see from my balcony.  Each day’s display differing slightly from the other.  I’d stop whatever I was doing and just look out the window with a grin on my face, like a child eyeing candy at a store.

I don’t know what it is, but it could be the sound of fireworks sizzling up into the air before a little “bang” sends streams of sparkling light down all around you that touches my inner child.  It brings me back to the time when I first really witnessed fireworks and felt how extraordinarily wonderful they were.  I remember, I was in Luxembourg during the Grand Duke’s Birthday Celebrations.

Every year it is celebrated on the 23rd June when the leaves are green and the air is fresh.  Summer is just around the corner and everyone is out and about.  Schools are out and everyone is getting ready for the holidays.  The festive atmosphere is everywhere.  The usually quiet streets of Luxembourg City were full of people walking, laughing and just having a good old time.  I do remember thinking to myself then, people in Luxembourg are so clean.  Not a single litter was spotted on the busy streets.

Being one of the smallest countries in the world and 890 feet above sea level it is like a little escape.  The walled city is perched atop a cliff that falls down to the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, dating from the times of the Romans. 

Just before sunset, the firework displays begin.

It’s magical not because its fireworks, but because of how you experience it.  Standing in the old city overlooking the rivers, there is this immense sky that stands before you.  Nothing blocks your view.  You are high above the rivers and down below is a valley.  Suddenly, from the valley, fireworks flare up into the sky and burst into an array of sparkling twinkly light. 

Standing in the dark night sky you suddenly find yourself blanketed by a stream of sparkling lights as fireworks burst above your head.  For a second you forget those around you and just savour the moment. 

You feel like you are in a magical place.  The sort of place you can only find in your dreams.

It must have been around two decades ago now, but the memory still makes me smile everytime I think of it. Everytime I see fireworks.

It’s great to be a child.  Even as grown ups and adults, one should never forget what it is like to be a child.  If you feel that life is horrible and nasty, look at the world through a child’s eye and feel the awe and wonderous things that surround us.  Not just some sparkling lights, fireworks are a ticket to a magical place….  A place for you and me.