Alley plants

Our second day in Melaka was one of of aimless roaming around. We spent our time looking for small alleys and backstreets with interesting shops. We started out by veering off Jonker street. The street running parallel with Jonker Street was mercifully less crowded, but definitely not less interesting. The old architecture here, really shined. Some buildings were completely redone with fresh paint while others sat in a somewhat dilapidated state. Although, each building had some distinct, interesting architectural details.

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Porch architecture

Cutting back across Jonker street we headed towards the area known as Harmony Street. The street gets its colloquial name from the fact that along its length it has a traditional Chinese temple, a Mosque, and a Hindu temple. We weren’t dressed properly to enter the Mosque and the Hindu Temple was closed, but the street still has lots of fascinating local shops to visit. One of my wife’s favorites was The Clay House, where they sell locally produced clay products and run classes that allow you to make your own clay products. The owner (I’m guessing) was very kind and allowed us free reign of his shop. We came away with a very nice mug for our tea and a beautifully designed candle holder.

Street artChicken rice ball

Harmony street

Also, on that same street is another shop that does wonderful calligraphy art and wood carvings. I don’t think we picked up anything here, but it was not for a lack of options. Having wandered in and out of most of the stores, we made our way to the Chinese temple that was buzzing with activity, as they usually are. The temple was in the middle of having some renovations done, so some of the paintings and doors had fresh coats of paint that really made them pop.

After our turn around the temple we walked across the street and happened upon a calm, serene oasis. The sign for the area said Kampung Ketek and it’s located almost opposite the Chinese temple. The walk takes you past some quaint, old houses and into a quiet, tree-filled courtyard, where there was not another soul. It was the perfect place to escape the heat of the day. We sat and rested while eating our putu mayam, a local dessert, that we had just bought from a hawker on his bike outside the courtyard. Feeling rejuvenated from our peaceful break, we headed back out into the heat.

Blue houseSyamsudin Mausoleum

Following our trip down Harmony Street, our wandering became even more aimless. I can’t describe where we went because we honestly just ducked into alleys that intrigued us, following them down the rabbit hole of more alleys. We finally popped out near the river, where we found a pedestrian bridge. Crossing over the river gave us a spectacular view of the murals painted on the buildings facing the river. Almost, every building was painted in a unique style giving the area an eclectic mix of art, filled with a kaleidoscope of colors.

Crossing the bridge

Collection of murals

With the sun setting the time had come to delve into the madness that is the night market on Jonker Street. You can hear the calls of the hawkers and low murmur of crowds of people talking as you approach the street. When you get a clear view of it, you witness the bright light bulbs protruding from every stall, bathing the people and buildings in a harsh light. We gave each other looks of second guessing, but we had both agreed that it was something we wanted to experience, so with a slight nod we dove in. We rode the waves of people through the market, catching glimpses of frozen, iced coconuts, iPhone cases, hand-carved trinkets, durian everything, and plenty of baked goods. We broke out of the cascade of people when something caught our eye. During our walk we sampled some of the local delicacies; popiah and pineapple tarts, both of which were delightful. At the end of the street is a large stage where people get up and sing karaoke to a crowd sitting on plastic chairs. We listened to a few tunes, not understanding a lick of it, but applauding the performers for having the courage and desire to get up and sing in front of all those people. After we’d had our fill, we exited the street, happy that we visited the night market, but with no strong desire to dive back in anytime soon.

 

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Malaysia, Travel

Roaming the backstreets of Melaka

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China, Favorite Photo Friday, Photography

Favorite Photo Friday: Wishing Tree

Wishing tree

Going back to China for today’s photo. The one thing I really like about this picture is the yellow temple in the background and how it makes the green and red stand out. You can see the drops of water hanging off the leaves as it was a really rainy during our short time in Xitang.

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Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

Being raised in a small, rural town I could find solitude any time I desired. Get in the car and drive to a park or go for a stroll around the country roads. I enjoyed the solitude, especially at night; sitting alone, looking at the stars, and contemplating life. Then we moved to Guangzhou, one of the most populous places on the planet. No more solitude and with all of the light polution, no more stars to admire. Homesickness for me wasn’t a constant longing for home, it was a sharp wave of something lacking at random times. For example, a sudden desire to eat at your favorite Mexican restaurant or wanting to go to a movie with friends. One of the most constant creator of homesickness for me was the desire to just sit alone, in silence and look at the stars. So, imagine the joy and almost palpable relief I felt our first night camping in Australia, when laid out before me was the largest blanket of stars I could have ever imagined.
So there I sat in solitude, but feeling more connected than I had ever been. dsc01321

In response to The Daily Post’s prompt, Solitude

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Photography

Favorite Photo Friday: Frozen in Time

frozen-spiderwebOn our first morning in Milford Sound we woke up to a blanket of white laid out before us. Everything the dew had touched became tiny crystalline objects, including this delicate spiderweb. I loved how the the ice and light highlighted something that you would normally not give a second glance.  Camping in Milford Sound was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. The grandeur of the surrounding mountains and luscious valleys were spectacular, at the same time, the small touches of nature in that place were just as divine.

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Malaysia, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge

Repurpose: Street Art in Malaysia

During our 10 day stay in Malaysia we were impressed with the various kinds of street art springing to life around every corner. The way spaces in alleys, pedestrian paths, and buildings were filled with a smorgousboard of art was remarkable. I especially dug the way they used various mediums in their art, repurposing old objects to give them new life through their art.

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An old trishaw reused in Ipoh

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Traffic markers painted to resemble cigarettes in Penang

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An old swing set given new life as a favorite photo stop in Penang

In response to The Daily Post’s prompt, Repurpose

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China, Favorite Photo Friday, Photography, Travel

Favorite Photo Friday: Happy Spring Festival 春节快乐

spring-festival

Red, the color of good fortune

Two years ago we rented bikes from our hostel in Yangshuo and rode off to visit the small villages scattered around the mountain. In one of the villages we saw an old worn down temple entrance that beckoned us to enter. As we entered the gate we saw a sea of floating red paper, remnants from the hundreds if not thousands of firecrackers lit in the courtyard. The families both young and old burning joss sticks and praying for good fortune in the year ahead. The red carpet of debris and the air filled with the acrid scent of gunpowder has always lingered in my memories. Sadly this year we’ll miss the festivities, but wherever you may be I say: Xīnnián kuàilè (新年快乐)! Happy New Year!

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China, Guangdong, Photography, Travel

The Ancient Diaolou of Kaiping

Undoubtedly one of my favorite places in China was the small city of Kaiping (开平). Not for the city itself, which is your typical small sized Chinese city: crowded streets, tall buildings, and general gray haze hanging over everything. It was the small villages around Kaiping that attracted me. Once outside the gray doldrums in the city, the world exploded into color. Vibrant green fields of rice, blindingly blue skies, and of course, the Diaolou (碉楼), ancient fortress watchtowers littered throughout.

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A Diaolou swimming in a field of rice

Taking a bus from the city outside into the countryside you can see little pockets of civilization and in every pocket there is at least one watchtower standing sentinel among the scattered homes. The Diaolou not only stand out in stature, but in their truly unique style. They are a bizarre combination of Chinese and Western architecture and that’s because most of the people who built these towers during the Ming Dynasty had previously emigrated to the West and wanted to reproduce what they had seen abroad.

diaoloubuilding-frontdiaolou-2We got off the bus in several villages along the bus route, always surprising a group of locals who probably have had very few foreigners wander into their village. I’m sure foreigners visit Kaiping, but most probably stay to the well trodden paths that lead to two main collections of Daiolou museums. We would eventually visit those museums, but for now we sought out our own discovery. It proved difficult to get near and go inside many of towers in these village because frequently the towers now sit empty and there are issues with safety to the structure. But we thoroughly enjoyed the hunt and the random encounters with strangers who stood agape at our progress through the village.

One especially fond memory is of flagging down a local bus to get on and ride to the next village. As we’re waiting to climb on the bus I can hear the cacophony of everyday conversations on the bus, however as soon as we stood on the bus to pay our fare all conversation ceased. Absolute silence as every eye was fixed on us. Then, as quickly as it had stopped it started up again, but now the conversations were about us. I could hear the telltale signs woven in their conversations, “foreigner (老外)” and “American (美国人)” said over and over again. I just smiled at anyone that made eye contact and contentedly rode on until the next stop.

After our solo excursions, the next day we took the bus out to the museum style clusters that Kaiping offers; Li Garden and the Watchtower Group of Zili Village. Both are definitely worth your time as these towers are well preserved and beautiful to look at it. They also have furnished the interiors so you can see how the families would have lived back when they were built. There are even a few that you can climb to the top of to get a view from the balconies.

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The Diaolou at Li Garden

The Kaiping area offers another very unique site that is worth a visit; Chikan Old Town (赤坎) . In Chikan there is a wonderful collection of old shophouses throughout the town, but the greatest concentration is along the canal, which provides some unique photographic opportunities. Due to the old style of buildings, Chikan has been used frequently as the backdrop of old Hong Kong and China in various movies. There is even a Movie Town attraction that you could visit.

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