Saturday, December 29, 2007

Garden Fit For a Sultan

Just in front of the palace is a garden that has recently been opened to the public. It boasts of beautifully landscaped flower beds, shady trees and little Japanese style bridges.

This place would perhaps make a very good location for wedding pictures... you know, those over-airbrushed, over-photoshopped (and way over-priced) pics of happy couple about to enter the worst years of their lives. Hehehe

This would have been a lovely place for a romantic rendezvous had the 'stream' been a real one.

The flowers, however, were definitely very real. And looked well tended to as well.

There were lots of different shades of the hibiscus, which is Malaysia's national flower.

I am trying out close-up shots with my new Tamron lens. Ok kah?

Don't exactly know what flower this is. Can anybody help?

Is this a type of morning glory? I'm not too sure as it was already quite late in the afternoon when I took this. Perhaps its a cousin... the evening glory. ;)

I found this peachy hibiscus very interesting because of its hearty shade of red at its core.

Another one of those 'specially designed' corridors perfect for wedding photo ops.

These cutesy little flowers reminded me of those multi-flavoured jelly beans that I used to buy at the school tuck-shop. Update: According to Hamdi, this is a type of Chicken Shit Flower. ;)

I thought this one sported a very strong red which contrasted well with its leafy green background.

Some more 'chicken shit' for you. Hehehe

Another attempt at a macro shot. Comments? Update.... According to fellow blogger Hamdi, this (and pic #4 above as well the pic below)) is a type of Kemunting cina (Chinese... erm... Kemunting. ;) )

I really like the red filaments coming out of the bell shaped petals.

Please help me fill in the blanks by identifying this flower. Update: According to Cute Panda, this is a type of Bird of Paradise.... (or Heliconia by another name ;)

By this time it was getting to be really hot. But i was so engrossed in taking the pics of the flowers I didn;t realise my shirt was already drenched in sweat.

Another shot of hibiscus(es?) in full bloom.

Please help me fill in the blanks....

Please help me fill in the blanks..... Update: According to Hamdi, this is chicken shit blooms from the kampung. Seriously, they should start coining up better names for flowers.

I didn't realise how far we've walked away from the palace till I turned around and found myself just behind the St. Paul's cathedral. I thoroughly enjoyed myself that afternoon and I should do this more often.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Palace fit for a Sultan

One of the more interesting tourist attractions in Malacca is the Istana Kesultanan Melaka (Malacca Sultanate Palace). It's a full-scale replica of the royal palace that was razed to the ground by the Portuguese when they attacked Malacca in the 15th century.

The current palace was built to specification as described in the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu) and was believed to be the royal abode of one of Malacca's most celebrated Sultan, Sultan Mansur Shah.

As we entered the palace, we were ushered into the Main Hall, where dignitaries and envoys from all over the old world would come to pay their respects to the Sultan, bearing gifts and royal decrees from their respective Kings and Emperors.

There were local officers, businessmen, warriors and religious leaders sitting bersila in a row. It must have been quite boring... coz it looked like some of them were dozing off already.... ;)

Melaka was a de facto protectorate of the Chinese Empire as evidenced by multiple visits from the famous Chinese viceroy Cheng Ho. Boy did he look ugly.

There are three levels in the palace, and the entire building is completely air conditioned. Which was a welcome development as far as I was concerned as it was freaking hot outside. Still, I reckon the original 14th century palace would have been quite cool with its airy corridors and high ceilings.

At one corner of the second floor is the royal bed chamber. So red..... it reminds me of a chinese wedding night.

Also on display were various decorative items like hair pins, broaches as well as traditional attires.

Wah, the women of old Melaka all had very deep set eyes and sharp noses.....

Would this be a 15th century clay whistling kettle, perhaps?

Looking at these water jugs made me thirsty for a ice cold coconut drink.....

More female accesories for the fair haired, sharp nosed women of Malacca. ;)

Hey, this looks like my Baju Melayu. Sigh it looks better on him than it does on me.

The kris, a wavy dagger with patterns carved onto the blade, is a proud Malay symbol of heroism and gallantry.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Malacca Symphonic Orchestra!!!!

Hey, don't these 'Bengali' traders know that ivory is a banned item?

All in all, it was a very educational trip down history lane and a very cooling one too. ;)

As we stepped back out into the sunshine, it felt like we were in a time warp and had just returned to the present 21st century. A really great educational way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Guys and Dolls

And who says chinese women aren't sexy?

video

This cultural performance was filmed at a Mongolian restaurant in Beijing.


video

Part two of the pretty maids all in a row.


video

For those of you who prefer a more erm... masculine performance, here's one for you. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Few Of My Favourite Things 2007

Its amazing how fast time flies. In a blink of an eye, a year is almost over and in a couple of weeks, we'll be ushering in twenty-oh-eight. Looking back (as I always do), this has been quite a busy year for me, with all the travelling around the world (well, mostly South East Asia) and getting very caught up with work as well as an ever expanding social circle. Overall it has been a very positive 12 months and through it all, I've learnt a lot about myself and also a lot about the world around me. Hopefully the next twelve months will be just an enriching, if not more.

This year's list is quite an eclectic one, one which includes items which I never would have thought possible if you'd asked me about it a year earlier. Goes to show, life really is like a box of chocolates.....

1. Favourite travel destination: Angkor Wat
Imagine this: one dark and stormy night in January, two doctors (Wymen and I) who had too much time on their hands were sitting in front of their laptops hammering away on the internet, trying to score free flight tickets to ... well, anywhere, actually. And anywhere became Siem Reap which is the Cambodian city nearest to the famour Angkor Wat, Southeast Asia's most revered religious site. It is also the largest, most well preserved and most impressive. No superlative can and would do this ancient Buddhist temple complex justice. All I could do was to continuously remind myself to pick my jaw from the floor.

2. Favourite Song: Never Again (Kelly Clarkson)
"I hope the ring you gave to her turns her finger green." 'Nuff said!

3. Favourite TV programme: Amazing Race Asia
I never thought I would actually bother to follow another reality show. The US version never caught on with me, and in fact I only actually started viewing the Asian version halfway through the race. But once I did, it was all I could talk about for weeks. And the final episode when our Malaysian lasses Joe Jer and Zabrina became the first all-girl team to win the race was truly nail-biting to the end. Syabas girls and Malaysia boleh indeed! Now on to the second season!

4. Favourite Movie: Rattatouille
I've always been a fan of Pixar movies and this year, they really outdid themselves with this charming story about a peasant rat with a culinary gift. Romantic images of gay Paree interspersed with the madness of a haute cuisine kitchen were so lovingly portrayed that I willingly forgave the producers for the one faux pas in Ratatouille - that everybody in France speaks french-accented English while the two lead characters, Remy the rat and Linguini the plonguer spoke American!

5. Favourite Book: The Power Of Now - Echkart Tolle
I bought this book on a whim about a year ago, read the first few pages and then promptly forgot about it. It wasn't until last July that I was reacquainted with it when I saw an Oprah rerun about the book and its author Eckhart Tolle on tv. I was nursing a bit of a broken heart back then, thanks to my uncanny ability to fall for people who have really short attention spans. So this book ,which basically took all the blame for all my misery and placed it squarely on erm.. my mind, really helped me get over whatever little dramas I was putting up for myself and allowed me to look at things more calmly and objectively. And I shall trust Oprah with all her recommendations from now on.... except the ones about dieting. Ha!

6. Favourite Dish: Gion bread
The brochure (yes, the bread comes with its own brochure!) said that it's fresh 'Danish' bread and yet maintains that it is an original recipe from Kyoto (which I assume is the one in Japan). Anyway, this bread is TO DIE FOR. So deliciously aromatic especially when it's freshly toasted out of the oven, so good you can even eat it on its own. Really. Oh one more thing. One loaf costs RM18. Aiyah, you get what you pay for mah....

7. Favourite Gadget: Canon EOS400D
It was only a matter of time before I caved in to temptation and got myself a digital slr. And really, it does take better photographs than my compact. As much as I loved the S80, the 400D easily beats it hands down especially when it comes to close-ups and macro shots, even when using just its kit lens. And when I plugged on the Tamron 18-250 zoom lens, it was love at first click. So now the S80 has been relegated to just underwater photography which sadly I hardly did much of this year. Well, at least it did get to go to Beijing with me, when I FORGOT TO BRING THE 400D!!!!!

8. Favourite Experience: Climbing The Great Wall Of China
There is a famous saying in China. "You're not a good Han (Chinese) unless you have climbed the Great Wall". Well, I guess I am a member of the elite club now, something which I never expected to be part of so soon. It really was an unforgettable experience to be walking on the very bricks that ancient warriors and conquerors once stood on to defend the Middle Kingdom. The scenery from the top was breathtaking and the air was crisp and cool. Now, if only they had built a cable car system...... Just kidding.

9. Favourite Drink: Aik Cheong 3-in-1 Teh Tarik
You have to try this. It doesn't taste like a 3-in-1, in fact it could rival any of the mamak stall teh tariks... almost. ;) It is aromatic, richly flavoured and lightly sweetened, just perfect for one of those afternoon tea breaks along with a slice or two of fresh oven-baked Gion bread!

10. Favourite people: All my friends.

Nigella Lawson says it the best. Too much of a good thing can be good for you. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by so many good friends, and I feel blessed to have made some really great new ones this year, especially Adrian, Alex, Brett, Eddie (Ah Boy), Erwin, Leo, Nan, Rachaelle, Said, Saifuddin and Shah. Of course, I am forever grateful for my 'family', the G8++, without whom I'd be a tad crankier... and definitely a lot more drama. ;)

And that's it. The list to top all lists for twenty-oh-seven. It's been a memorable one, if nothing else, for the wonderful people in it who have enriched my life in so many ways and made it a lot more interesting. ;) So, here's to a great 2008 and may all your champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true in the new year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Contraband!

Got bored one day, so I went walking round Melaka town and then suddenly got pulled into a very unassuming building beside the river..... oh it's the Museum of Customs Department.

The officer there practically begged me to come in... plus it was free and it was fully air-conditioned, so what the heck....

The place exhibited mostly stuff that got confiscated throughout the long and distinguished history of the Customs departments.

Opium and opium smoking paraphernalia....

Ooh.... S&M anyone? ;)

Ok, this mannequin gave me the creeps....

This is a very beautiful piece of work. Very sexy. Funny... am getting a bit turned on..... ;)

Oooh... I spoke too soon. Hehehehe Now it gets interesting......

Oh so that's where I .... ahem.... I mean, so that's what 60's porn looks like. Wow... never seen it before in my life.

This pair of his-n-hers toothbrushes brings a whole new meaning to the term oral sex. Sorry, I just couldn't resist that.

Erm.... no comment.

Singing Frogs! Aren't they cute? Bet they're performing "Singing In the Rain".

This must have cost the poor guy a fortune. Really stupid to try to smuggle it out of the country tho.

This is a real turtle that's been stuffed and polished. Makes me sad to think there are people who actually collect stuff like this.

Fur from an endangered wild cat. Apparently the guy was caught trying to smuggle this in his underwear!

The world's first Sony Vaio prototype. ;)

I don't even want to know what these hooks were for.

Oooh.... booze.....cigarrettes.... Hmmm... I wonder if there really is still whisky in that bottle. Now If I can just stretch my hands in a bit further......

Ah here are the keys.... What's that? Oh sorry Tuan, tak tak... I tak buka pun... Tak sentuh pun tuan... Tengok je tuan....Sorry tuan.... I pergi dulu ye..... Best lah muzium Tuan..... He he he.