SouthEast Asia for Days: Singapore

it’s hard when those you love so dearly are so far away; souls with who you would entrust your children at any moment, who share ideals and outlook similar to yours, literally live halfway around the world. luckily we had the opportunity to visit this year, for as soon as we departed in our cab to Singapore, our extended family was packing for a new adventure in a much colder climate, closer to home and Western cultures.

image

as soon as we said our goodbyes our cab was crossing the straits over to Singapore, the city of skyscrapers and shopping malls.

image

immediately, we were in a different world, one where our straw hats and flip flops suddenly seemed out of fashion, and where every inch of every square foot of the city was clean, impeccably shiny and slick with fragrance.

image

and while the flood waters rose back home, our hearts were heavy, and yet somehow we felt connected, drenched in cold rain as the day wore on.

image

later that evening, in his renowned remarkable way, the sommelier managed to find a rillette bar nestled in between the historic convents, modern business buildings, and colonial patches of Singapore heritage.

image

and we engulfed the tender pates, confits, and carefully crafted rillettes with loyal passion and hunger.

image

Aligote condensed in our glasses at it hit the moist air, the tart acid bringing life to our mouths and memories of home to our heads.

image

that night we dreamed of an army of ten thousand Buddhas in fog filled river basins, tirelessly fighting imaginary armies of dragons and devils. and we awoke to a brighter sky and warmer hearts longing for home.

image

we climbed the tallest building in the city so we could view the scenery. the thing about Singapore: you see skyscrapers in every direction.

image

and when you’ve had enough of the concrete and shopping malls and high tea sets and eventual rain, a trip always awaits at Gardens by the Bay.

image

the flowers abound in fresh crisp air, sending their scents into the atmosphere as they dance to lively music.

image

the cloud forest, cool and dark in its presence among the sky, mimics gardens found at the top of the world, lush with green caverns and purple waterfalls at night.

image

and in this Singapore, the trees become electrified, providing a nightly dining escape for deserving young and old alike.

image

the backdrop views of the cleanest city in the world are astonishing.

image

contemplating our long journey home, the next morning we lounged and rested and wandered the local streets, often finding hidden treasures in her secrets.

image

we stopped to say a prayer for our safe return, and give thanks for our bountiful trip.

image

and while we strolled our last minute walks through Chinatown and revelled in life size Buddhas, we thanked the Universe again for the opportunity to experience the world in this way.  to know this Southeast Asian culture, and find happiness in its belly.

image

cheers, y’all.

 

next up: what we ate in Southeast Asia.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia for Days: the streets of Georgetown, Penang.

the sommelier, knowingly and aware of my vivaciousness, left the 2016 trip planning to my care. after researching various sources, and gaining insights from Houston friends, I decided that Georgetown, Penang, would be our final Malay holiday. perched on an island just south and west of the border with Thailand, Penang is known as “the Pearl of the Orient.”

image

in no way did we doubt this claim as we checked in to our historic 1818 hotel, Chaong Fett Sze, otherwise known as, The Blue Mansion.

image

immediately we swept the streets, intaking the street art, vast amounts of temples, colonial heritage, and mosques that line the roadways.

image

we were ingratiated into the culture in an instant, feeling soft and supple and appreciative of the art and culture that built the city.

image

although named for King George III in 1786, the renowned trading post was home to many Chinese immigrants who built the small city and worked in its changing industries. the jetties, a row of clan (family) houses that run into the water off the bay, still exist today.

image

everywhere you turn in Georgetown, art lines the streets.

image

after our stroll in the afternoon sun, we loaded our sweaty bodies into a trishaw to be taken back to the comforts of our air conditioned room.

image

and into a beautifully designed, elegant meal infused with local flavors.

image

      (scallop with cucumber and kefir lime)

the next morning we climbed the largest hill in Penang, expanding our sights out the sea and breathing in the fresh, crisp air.

image

and after our jaunt on the longest singular finicular track in Asia, we sidestepped to Kek Lok Si, the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Asia.

image

at the top of the large hill, the giant Buddha stands tall over Penang, eyes perched out to the sea.

image

we descended into even more elaborate temples, and later learned there were over 10,000 Buddhas that align this holy place.

image

we stopped to pray for favors and light incense to release our anxieties into the world.

image

because this part of Malaysia is home to many Buddhists, we stopped at the Thai Buddhist temple soon after, to view the 3rd largest reclining Buddha in the world.

image

needless to say, we had an amazing time in Penang, and could have spent many more days here.

image

namaste, friends.

image

next up: Singapore Sling.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia for Days: Swordfighting in the South China Sea.

there are some who may think that my mind and my body and my soul may have an inability to relax, an irresistible urge to hang on to the unforeseeable anxieties that pace the world. sooner or later, though, they learn that every once in a while, I let go.

image

and so it was this past weekend we reveled in the clear waters of Pulau Tioman, an island thought to be shaped like a sleeping dragon. and although the road long and arduous and rocky, we all agreed that it was in fact the destination, and not the journey, that made this weekend special.

image

when we finally arrived at Tunayama, we slowly took in the realization that we were in absolute paradise for three days.

image

with the sun hot and the water clear, the kids took no time to hit the beach, and then cool off in the pool that seemed to stretch out for eternity.

image

we wasted little precious minutes getting head to toe treatments at the spa, languishing in salt scrubs and body massages, allowing our faces to feel fresh and clean and minty with newness. we were so relaxed we lost all definitions of time and only knew this place.

image

the next morning we watched as storms rolled past, appreciating the tides and how they synergize with life beneath the water.

image

later we boated to a different jetty, where we trekked up the mountains to the famed Asda waterfalls; while stories of South East Asian pythons in the trees above skipped through our heads, we pushed onward until we found the fresh springs.

image

drenched in sweat and crying from the burning heat, we dipped our feet and cooled our bodies with the clear water.

image

we returned to the dock to await our ride back, and sword fights ensued in front of the Tioman sleeping dragon.

image

as our boat drew nearer the resort, we decided to drink up the flora of the sea with our eyes, and for almost all on our trip, go snorkeling for the first time. the sights weren’t as grand in front of the resort as would have been seen elsewhere, however still beautiful and vibrant for coral passed over and swam over and envied by guests over time.

image

that night, we feasted on the bounty of the ocean over an open flame, stuffing ourselves with deliciousness and allowing ourselves the fruit of the vine in our veins.

image

we slept hard and rested through the night, only to awake to the sad realization that we would be leaving our paradise soon. we frolicked on the beach and in the water, enjoying every moment until our departure.

image

against the yearnings and the wills and the pleas of our souls, we said our goodbyes to the lovely staff and rode into the vast waters of the ocean, promising to never forget our jaunt in the South China Sea.

image

keamanan, friends.

next up: Georgetown, Penang.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia for Days: Kuala Lumpur.

after spending a few days in Johor Bahru, the sommelier and I jetted off to Kuala Lumpur for a short rendezvous. the sunset rivaled any we’ve seen, and that says a lot coming from this Native Texan girl.

image

as our iron bird perched its wings and stretched its legs to land, we could view palm plantations rolling out before us, the mountains providing a sunlit backdrop of orange dreamsicle.

image

we climbed into a taxi and headed east into city center, and even though the journey was long and winding and somewhat maddening, what waited for us when we finally arrived was infinitely worth the internal chaos.

image
venturing out for a quick bite to eat and maybe some late night fun, the sommelier and I soon found ourselves full and sitting in familiar wine surroundings.

image

the uber ride home showed fantastical sights, even for a smaller city of 1.6 million.

image

in the early morning we awoke in gracious awe of our surroundings, thankful for our late night internet searches for hotels with views of cityscapes and nightscapes and magnificent skylines.

image

imagesoon the taxi cab driver was meandering through the crowded morning street to Pudu Market, where even the most fresh and crisp and breathable air was nullified in an instant.

image

after hearing the lyrical stall calls from the sellers and seeing the rainbow of vegetables and smelling all the morning caught fish the market had to offer, we sat for some local tea.

image

we then skipped across town to Chow Kit, passing through downtown neighborhoods whose decay ranked similar to even the largest global cities.

image

at times, it seemed the streets of Kuala Lumpur were swarmed with motorbikes, they filled the air with loud bangs and puffs of smoke.

image

finally arrived at the National Gallery of the Visual Arts, we slowly breathed in the transcendence of Malaysian art history from early stencils… (my personal favorite)

image

to art movement paintings…

image

and finally to modern sculptures…

image

each era displayed the deep history of the building of a nation, from colonial rule, to Japanese occupation, to the Malaysian Independence.

image

having filled our eyes with local sights and sounds for the morning, we took to a British Commonwealth favorite for lunch and beers.

image

we meandered around KLCC Park for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel, setting our eyes on some of the most interesting trees, those whose branches reach deep into the earth to take root, so that over time, each tree gains in circumference the work that tree puts in, a symbol of individualism in a historically colonially ruled country.

image

napping before our plane ride home, we felt refreshed for the reunion of our family, ready to take on the next adventure: Tioman Island.

image

Selamat Malam, friends.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia Day Three, Part III: Hindu Heaven.

the final day three post. 

feeing refreshed from the icy bubbles that quenched our dry throats, we set out to fulfill the remainder of our spiritual conquest. the streets leading to Arulgimu Rajamariamman Devasthanam were adorned with bright white and yellow flowers that spray freshness into the sticky air, gifts for the Hindu gods.

image

when we reached the temple, we were delighted to find it open to those of us who were traveled and hot and weak and weary.

image

we removed our shoes and washed our feet, reading ourselves to enter this holy place.

image

the mixed fragrance of incense and flowers dissipated into the rising heat waves as we entered the sanctuary. touring Chinese students were gracefully seated in the main temple as we wandered among the gods.

image

the intricacy of detail was impressive, hours of hand carved imagery, layered in delicate paints, are used to depict the honored deities.

image

a much larger temple then imagined, I lost count of how many altars were present, for the breathtaking beauty of it all was overwhelming to the soul.

image

the peacefulness challenged us as the sun shined directly into our hearts.

image

we said a prayer to the universe as we silently closed our eyes in unison with the earth.

image

(this was her favorite, Rhea said, because she had so many arms to help others.)

as we retreated from this holy place, we rang the bells in the exuberance of our peaceful minds, peaceful hearts, and peaceful souls. we were now whole, leaving in love.

image

shaanti, shaanti, shaanti.

 

Next up: Kuala Lumpur.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia Day Three, Part II: a sea of red at The Old Johor Chinese Temple.

the dark citrus sun felt as it were directly on our backs as we walked the streets of Johor Bahru; the sweat glided off our arms and legs and ran down our faces in a sea of salt. soon, we found ourselves in front of The Old Johor Chinese Temple.

image

the air turned pleasant as we crossed the threshold into the sanctuary, as incense filled our throats and minds.

image

on the either sides of the altar, our eyes gazed upon various figures. as a diverse Malaysia emerged, 19th century Chinese immigrants of Johor who practiced folklore found they worshipped contrary gods. although culture and dialect was varied, prayers were not. so the Old Johor Chinese Temple was a common sanctuary to worship the five named deities of the region.

image

the original iron bell installed in the temple still stands adjunct to the chancel, a proud artifact of the bell ringers of today. (and, they love to take photos with red-headed tourists.)

image

every year at The Annual Chingray, each of the deities is hoisted above the crowds, flacked by paper dragons and fragile red lanterns and crowds in the tens of thousands.

image

plaques adorning the outer walls of the temple still hang in the accompanying museum, a flickering light reminding us of the passing time, the heritage that makes up the increasingly complex and diverse culture of Malaysia.

image

as we made our way towards the exit, we stopped to observe the shrines so lovingly adored by their followers. a young couple lit their incense and bowed in fastidious motion toward their respective God. a wave of peace overwhelmed us as we stepped back into the putrid streets.

image

the heat melted our sky-scraping emotions. alas, fizzy drink stop.

image

next up: Hindu dreams. Selamat Malam, friends.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia Day Three, Part I: exploring Johore

so far, we’ve experienced this country in segue, a mild purgatory between Western and Eastern worlds. with a growth economy, available land, and a low effective tax rate, Malaysia has fast become a hub for international businesses and services, including satellite British university systems.

image

there are many diverse ex-pats here, mostly from British Commonwealth countries. we made a brief visit to The University of Reading Malaysia, as the sommelier’s sister is shortly ending her tour here.

image

an amazing campus, her architecture and interior design speaks volumes to the university’s dedication to its students and staff; her curves complement the natural light and beauty surrounding her, shielding her from the harsh rays of the outside world.

image

after dealing with finalities, we drove across the causeway to downtown Johore, amidst a sea of soaring cranes.

image

Malaysia is comprised of several states, nominally ruled by constitutional monarchies, and with ligaments resembling a federalist nation.

image

the Sultan of Johor is one of only five people in the world with his own private army, one which controls in a facade of threats and imagery.

image

we settled on a car park in city center, landing in a prime spot on the highest floor; the view of the city extended across the straight into Singapore, the tall buildings cascading into Johore.

image

we descended into the city streets, my feet barely hitting the broken concrete comprising the sidewalks. the heat bear down on the back of our necks, the sweat rolling into our eyes, burning our vision. we climbed a small hill, and looked up to see the State Secretariat Building extended before us.

image

our noses burned as we took in the airs of Johore city center, passing by store front shops, sewer runoffs, and cafes. we entered into Chinatown with enthusiastic flair and excitement, drowning in a sea of red paper lanterns.

image

the street art here is fantastical, to say the least.

image

we ate lunch in ravenous fashion, engulfing mee siam and chicken smoked in banana leaves, sipping on candied fizzy drinks to soothe our roasting bodies.

image

the whole city lie before us. and this day, we chose to respect centuries of local traditions and pay our penance to the temples. and you will agree… that this type of spiritual post deserves its own. hence, we meet again tomorrow.

image

Selamat Malam, friends.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

Malaysia Day Two: spas, dim sum, and a slow show of feat.

the thing about flying around the world for 22 hours straight… it never really catches up to you. and even though we tried our hardest to sleep in, we were out of bed by 5.30 am making coffee and eggs and watching as the three children met the sunrise with such great vigor we felt instantly aged.

image

we soaked in the morning coolness with earnest, for by midday the heat was bearing down on our shoulders and cheeks, filling in the color we had lost in the winter.  donning our caps and our body crossovers stashed with water, we girls made our way towards town to take in a session of traditional Thai foot massage, partaking in the local customs of reflexology and pressure points, and slowly allowing ourselves to be immersed.

image

the ladies washed our barren feet and then led us to a dimly lit room with soothing music and leather chairs.  they spoke to each other in Bahasa, often pausing to look at me, and then gaze at Rhea; the woman in a top bun marveled at my daughter’s beauty and wondered if she were my child, since her hair was so fair and her eyes so green. an hour later, I was new. and tranquil. and very hungry.

image

winding through the leaky streets of Taman Perling, we soon found ourselves engrossed in Malay culture.  incense and kitchen grease and  dusty clouds filled the putrid air.

image

a few storefronts in, we joined the boys en masse to order Ribenas and soup dumplings and rice noodles and spicy pan fried deliciousness.

image

awash in fullness from the dim sum of dreams, we spent the afternoon lazily snoozing and haphazardly swimming and relaxing admist the expats on the island.

image

eventually the sommelier and I awoke to the reality of empty stomachs and a quiet house.  the crows gawking at the rising moon, we made our way to the local market where we found some Bali bream and local cabbage.  TexMexMalay style tacos emerged, accompanied by the always reliable, crisp, yet dry Trimbach.

image

it was a good day. on the agenda tomorrow: Downtown Johore, temples, and fizzy drinks.

selamat Malam, friends.

Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone