2014 Projects

Escaping Songkran, meeting an old friend & making some new ones

PENANG  april 8 – 13, 2014

Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration that happens every year around April 13, when temperatures are in the 40C range, and everything slows down.  What started out as a Buddhist celebration, with the gentle pouring of water over hands and feet has exploded into a mass frenzy of water canons, buckets of ice water, and the imbibing of lots of alcohol.  While it’s fun to go out with friends armed with water pistols and drench yourself and others on day 1, by day 4, you begin to suffer from either mildew or cabin fever.  Businesses and schools close, people travel to their home villages, and general mayhem ensues.

photo: Simon/Bordermedia

Songkran in Mae Sot photo: Simon/Bordermedia

photo:  Simon/Bordermedia

Songkran in Mae Sot photo: Simon/Bordermedia

So this year we decided to travel to Penang, Malaysia, where there is no Songkran.  Then an old friend who was doing an artist residency in Kuala Lumpur asked if we would like to do a presentation on the MY STORY photo project.  That was the icing on the cake so off we went for 10 days.

Our version of Songkran, Penang-style!

Our version of Songkran…Penang-style

While Georgetown on Penang Island is a UNESCO Heritage site, what we did mostly was eat street food; cheap and delicious, and ride bikes the wrong way on one-way streets…it wasn’t always clear which way the street was going… It is multi-cultural: Malay, Chinese, and Indian, with traces of the British years in some of the architecture.

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The old and the new

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Off shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flea market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our favorite chicken/rice lady

Our favorite chicken/rice lady

 

Nasi lemak at Sri Weld

Nasi lemak at Sri Weld

Watermelon shake in a bag

Watermelon shake in a bag

Dumplings to go

Dumplings to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al fresco butcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign says Dead End.  Map says otherwise...

Sign says Dead End. Map says otherwise…

 

 

 

 

 

Bike lane, Malaysia style

Bike lane?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chinese Clan jetties

The street murals by Latvian-born naturalized British artist Ernest Zacharevic were commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.  The sun and rain are doing a good job of ‘distressing’ them, and several local artists have contributed to the project.

A new friend

Nat on a bike?

Nat on a bike?

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

At night

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Penang street artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so after five days, a harrowing ride up the coast to Batu Ferrengghi (2 lane narrow road, concrete ditch on one side, cliff to the ocean on the other), one last mango lassi and a few sticks of chicken satay,  we boarded the train to head south to Kuala Lumpur.

Bicycles with gears!

Bicycles with gears!

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Sooo Hungry Cafe with the best homemade ginger beer!

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Mango lassi

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Hindu temple on the way to Batu Ferrengghi

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Sign for Hindu temple on the way to Batu Ferrengghi

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Batu Ferrengghi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Waiting for the bus to take us back to hotel after returning bikes….wrong bus!

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Satay on New Lane

 

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At the camera museum….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The train leaves from Butterworth, on the mainlaind, at 8 am, which meant an early start to catch the 6:30 am ferry and walk to the station.  The train itself was very comfortable, with big windows, and comfy, reclining seats, and tons of leg room.  However, like much public transport in Asia, the temperature was arctic!

 

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Brrrrrrr!

Butterworth train station 7:30 am

Butterworth train station 7:30 am

Nasi lemak on the train.  Yum!

Nasi lemak on the train. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 KUALA LUMPUR  april 13 – april 18, 2014

We first met Susanne Bosch at a friend’s wedding at Mae La Camp, Thailand,  in 2009.  She is an artist, videographer, community facilitator, and a lot of other things we don’t even know about.  The next time we met was in N. Ireland at a conference on digital art that she had arranged for us to present at.  And now she is in KL for 3 months, working on a community art project at Lostgens, an artist space in Chinatown.  IMG_0637

The space

The space

 

Susanne and Susan as tourists

Susanne and Susan as tourists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeoh with his map of Pudu

Yeoh, the delightful and energetic director of Lostgens, is an artist, community activist, and generous host.  He took us to dinner with his wife, daughter, and some friends, drove us back to our creepy hotel ( more on that later) and then spent a morning taking us around Pudu, an old part of Chinatown whose shop houses and old buildings are rapidly being razed to make way for hotels and skyscraper malls.

Dinner on the street in Chinatown

Dinner on the street in Chinatown

 

We visited a Chinese temple where several older members were busy folding paper hats and paper gowns to be burned in celebration of the temple founder’s birthday that evening.  A fortune teller, her husband, and her son, the maker of huge wire and paper horses were next.  Susanne wanted to learn how to make the horses.  ‘Too busy!’, was the answer.  When asked who would continue the craft when he stopped, the answer was, ‘ No one wants to do this.  Takes too long!’  He is however, the owner of a nice new Mercedes-Benz, so for now business is good.

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Paper horse maker in Pudu

Paper horse maker in Pudu

 

Breakfast in Pudu

Breakfast in Pudu

 

One of Yeoh's art projects

One of Yeoh’s art projects

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paper money to send with the dearly departed

Paper money to send with the dearly departed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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King of the market; he’s been sitting on that tennis umpire chair for 30 years!

Susanne learns the proper gong hitting technique

Susanne learns the proper gong hitting technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking into an abandoned house

Looking into an abandoned house

Mysterious abandoned house full of shoe lasts

Mysterious abandoned house full of shoe lasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abandoned shoe last

Abandoned shoe last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior wall of abandoned house

Interior wall of abandoned house

 

 

 

 

Another fabulous Chinese meal, thanks to Yeoh.  Lemon chicken ooooohhh!

Another fabulous Chinese meal, thanks to Yeoh. Lemon chicken ooooohhh!

 

 

 

 

 

Yeoh photographs us, we photograph him

Yeoh photographs us, we photograph him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeoh took us to an abandoned house, full of shoe lasts and broken bits of furniture.  We collected some of the lasts…maybe they will turn up in one of Yeoh’s art projects.  After lunch at at Seh Yuen’s, we set off alone with Susanne’s Lonely Planet, a map of the LRT (light rail system), and a pretty good sense of direction and spent the afternoon touring around, with frequent stops for food and drink.

KL's LRT system

KL’s LRT system

Roti canai.  Sweet!

Roti canai. Sweet!

...and we are where?

…and we are where?

 

 

Hindu temple just about across the street from Chinese temple

Hindu temple just about across the street from Chinese temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our fortunes told at the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple by listening to an elderly gentleman who talked us through the whole procedure:   shake some sticks, burn some joss, throw some stones, , and finally read the appropriate passage in the Goddess of Mercy’s Book of Divinations.  I had a good ‘lot’, although I was told to watch out for an accident, and Susanne had an average one.

Be careful of an accident!

Be careful of an accident!

 

Wrapped joss sticks

Wrapped joss sticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer papers for burning

Prayer papers for burning

 

Helping us read the Goddess of Mercy's Book of Divinations

Helping us read the Goddess of Mercy’s Book of Divinations

Numbered fortune sticks

Numbered fortune sticks

Shake the sticks and pull out the one that sticks up above the others

Shake the sticks and pull out the one that sticks up above the others

 

Shake those sticks!

Shake those sticks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goddess of Mercy's Book of Divinations

Goddess of Mercy’s Book of Divinations

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Next was the Museum of Islamic Arts, no expense spared on displays, didactic panels, gift shop, cafe, and air con!  Freezing inside. An exhibition of calligraphy, old and contemporary was on the first two floors.  The other three had pottery, textiles, jewellry, swords, and the history of Islam in China, Afghanistan, Iran, and Palestine.

Aircon set on arctic

Aircon set on arctic

Contemporary calligraphy

Contemporary calligraphy

 

 

 

Minaret with approaching thunderstorm

Minaret with approaching thunderstorm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susanne took us to the KL Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where I had an acupuncture treatment and got a big bottle of dark brown medicine to be taken twice a day ( 2 Tbps. mixed with warm water ).

Acupuncture

Acupuncture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The medicine

The medicine

 

 

 

Before the afternoon shower, we headed for the Petronas Towers, which were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004.  Their steel and glass facades are designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion. We were too late for tickets to the Skybridge, the double decker bridge between the two towers, so we walked through KLCC park to the Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel.

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Rain

Petronas Towers from the 33rd floor Sky Bar at Traders Hotel

Petronas Towers from the 33rd floor Sky Bar at Traders Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaaaahhhhh.  Sky Bar, Traders Hotel

Aaaaahhhhh. Sky Bar, Traders Hotel

THE PRESENTATION @ LOSTGENS

Yeoh did a great PR job for us

Yeoh did a great PR job for us

We had a great audience for our talk, or conversation, about the MY STORY photo project.  It started at 8 pm; Nat and I spoke and showed three animated slide shows on the workshops we did in India in 2013, at Kaw Tha Blay Leadership College, and the most recent one at Rays of Youth in April.

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Susanne and Susan start the set up

Nat has the mic!

Nat has the mic!

View from Lostgens at 7:30 pm.

View from Lostgens at 7:30 pm.

P.S: THE HOTEL IN KL

The One-Stop Residence & Hotel sounded and looked great on Agoda: near the LRT, near shops, pool, wifi.  What we didn’t know was that this hotel occupies several floors in an enormous, empty shopping mall that occupies a large city block and has multiple entrances.   When we first arrived at one of the side entrances to the mall, this is what we saw:

Where is the hotel lobby???

Where is the hotel lobby???

After going up and down non-working escalators and down what seemed like miles of empty corridors we found the lobby!!  Staff were very pleasant and we got 2 passes to the LRT system, whThe room was big, clean, with all the necessary mod cons, but very white and institutional, as were the long, white halls leading to it.  The pool, however, was great!

Night swim for Susan

Night swim for Susan

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