Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fastfood Surprises at Sorya Food City (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

During one of my arrivals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, I decided to check out Sorya Mall again where I once watched Khmer movies, badly made chopsuey of horror and comedy, with slapstick sensibility. I proceeded to the fourth floor - "Sorya Food City" is what it's called. Not food plaza, not food court, nor food salon. I purchased my coupon at their coupon booth so I could start the "hunt" for an acceptable fastfood entree a la Khmer. It was chicken with curry sauce, meticulously wrapped in a cup-like banana leaf that sat on a lettuce. A cup of rice beside it. Yum.

So allow me to masticate and speak no further.

This is the  Eye in the Sky!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grandiosity at the White Temple, Thailand

A holy temple? Nah, it's a singular structure at the White Palace's complex in the Rong Khun area of Chiang Rai. The "temple" is in immaculate white and most times, filled with tourists - truly one of the most gorgeous sites to grace North Thailand. This eye-popping rendition of a temple is built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. But let me turn right back into the structure above. Hold your breath - literally! It is the temple complex's toilet!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Monkey Forest in Lombok's Gunung Sari

If my driver-guide spoke English well, he'd be eloquent, I thought.

My driver for the day, Ajam, was a far cry from the morose Odin, my driver the day before. He was particularly receptive and personable. He would open doors (which I disliked), and curiously tiptoe whenever he'd see me finish a visit. He was one of those who was eager to please. One of the places he took me to was a mountain called Gunung Sari (Sari Mountain) which the locals refer as "Monkey Forest".

The uphill eastward ride through "Pusuk Pass" was pleasant and scenic. A few minutes after our ascent, we pulled by the roadside. Lush trees abound, and cheeky monkeys wait for visitors to feed them, usually bought from a nearby traditional market.  

I am in no way fond of these mammals. Never have. This visit reinforced that. A school of monkeys were already waiting by the roadside, hanging on trees, and hopping on to newly arrived vehicles which, expectedly, came and went. If you didn't bring any banana, the monkeys would come near you and check you out. I was, of course, not amused.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Curious Novice Monk of Innwa (Myanmar)

There are 3 ancient imperial cities that can be visited as day trips from Mandalay in Myanmar. Innwa (aka Ava) was my favorite. I crossed Ayeyarwaddy River to get there, hired a horse-drawn carriage to take me around, and checked out relics of old temples. Catastrophe got the better of this ancient Burmese kingdom, which reigned between 14th to 19th century. The Big Earthquakes of March 1839 leveled the grandeur that was Innwa which literally means "mouth of the lake". The location couldn't be more strategic because it sits at the confluence of Ayeyarwaddy and Myitnge Rivers. But natural forces seem to have cast Innwa's fate.

From Ava Palace, now just a watchtower, I visited Bagaya Monastery. At a relic nearby, I found my youthful welcoming committee - two novice monks who were curious of my presence. I caught my shy but curious little host in one of my photos (above).

Red robes characterize the garbs of Burmese monks. You can't miss them.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Masyarakat Park in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia)

At least Metro Manila has Pasig River. The folks from Malabon and Novaliches have their Tullahan River. Kuala Lumpur, unlike most thriving great metropolises, doesn't have a major river flowing through it. The ones they have, Titiwangsa and KL Lake Gardens, are man-made, albeit worth visiting. Thus when I ventured into another pond at Taman (Park) Masyarakat, it was like finding needle in a haystack.

My destination was Petaling Jaya (PJ), essentially a new city (declared a city in 2006) and a satellite township of Kuala Lumpur, located in the Petaling district of Selangor. If you think it's far from KL, you'd be mistaken. It's just 5 stops from KL Sentral's Kelana Jaya line, a mere 2 ringgit travel. I've long wanted to visit.

From the train station (Taman Jaya LRT), you could visit the Amcorp Mall, a 4-level shopping and business complex, situated just across a football field. To it's left is the city's green lung, Masyarakat Park. It's a great place to just watch people walk by, jog, fish (yes, there's plentiful in the lagoon), etc. There's a couple of children's park in the vicinity too. There are places of worship in the area: Christian churches (St. Francis Xavier Church), a Hindu and a Taoist Temple. I may have to check them out one of these days. Mostly though, the area isn't meant for tourists so I kind of felt like I was eavesdropping on the locals. Not quite.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Suspense and Idyll in Phuket's Patong Beach (Thailand)

I was trying to avoid a Vietnamese monk who was following me around from the airport in Yangon (Myanmar) to Bangkok, then took the bus with me to Phuket. Everything was peachy. After all, what's wrong with traveling with a new friend, right? People do that all the time. But along the way, things turned hairy and I felt like I was being stalked. So I avoided him - and I'd find him hanging around places I'd go. Ever been stalked by a monk? That's one of my contentious "claims to fame", apparently.

One morning in Phuket Town, after hiding inside my room, I rushed out and hopped on a 20-baht (PhP27.50) bus that would take me to the popular Patong Beach, Phuket's "most happening" stretch of beach. Bought my lunch at McDonald's and guess who I found walking by the Phuket coast? My hair stood on end! Literally!

Later that day, I wound up sitting by the beach. The spot was unusually deserted, and I felt tranquil. For a few seconds, I forgot I was avoiding someone. Looking back, it was one of the most surreal situations I have been in. Something to tell your friends about. Or not.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Monday, May 18, 2015

Candi Brahu in Trowulan, Mojokerto (Indonesia)

Trowulan, a subdistrict of the Mojokerto Regency in East Java, boasts of almost a dozen temple-relics of the vast Majapahit empire (the last Indianized kingdom in Indonesia), many of them in disparaging states of disrepair. Candi Brahu (Brahu Temple) was among the more special. It sits on a majestic garden lined by flowering plants. Two kilometers from the Mojokerto-Jombang Highway, my motorbike dropped me in a gorgeous clearing with a brick temple rising like a reddish phallic symbol. A cryptic window peeks from the top.

Founded sometime in the 15th century A.D., Brahu Temple was believed to have been a crematorium of kings. Their dead bodies were allegedly incinerated here. Subsequently, statues, royal jewelries made of gold, and ceremonial tools were dug and found in the vicinity. Now here's the mystery: ashes of the dead were never found during its pre-restoration studies. So what was its reason for being? No one really knows for sure. Part of its beauty is in its mystery.

Like a window with no portal of entry. I was thinking of Rapunzel, only with Majapahit head garments and nose rings. "Let down your hair, my damsel in distress," I was imagining of course.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Philippines' Sabah Claim at the Muzium Negeri (KL Malaysia)

The National Museum of Malaysia has several entries that mention or reference the Philippines, I was of course surprised. But why not? The Malays and the Filipinos have always been friendly neighbors. Some issues are of valid concern because they involve territories and sovereignty. I shall not discuss this fully, but will feature them as they are presented at the museum.

The photo above is of Alfred Dent, a British Merchant, who provided Baron de Overbeck, the Austrian Head consul in Hong Kong with 10,000 British Pounds to obtain the concessions of North Borneo from Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu. As a result, he managed to request a charter from the British Government and later formed the North Borneo Company to administer Sabah in 1881.

Sometime during the regime of despotic Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, a group of young Muslim Filipinos were gathered together to "claim" Sabah. They were trained for this takeover, but when the mission was aborted, these young Muslim men were summarily executed, thus the "Jabidah Massacre" which has recently been accepted as part of a cantankerous chapter of our history as a nation.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

The formation of Malaysia also affected Malaysia-Philippines bilateral relations over claims to North Borneo (Sabah). In 1962, the Philippine government demanded that the British Government hand over the land which the Philippines claimed as theirs, because North Borneo was part of the Sultanate of Sulu. After the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the Philippines submitted a claim to the government of Malaysia.

On February 10, 1964, both parties agreed to meet in Phnom Penh in order to negotiate a solution. Finally, on February 12, 1964, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman formally announced the restoration of the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and the Philippines.

A copy of the Borneo Cession papers in Jawi script given to Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent in 1874 by the Sultan of Brunei.

An indenture made out to Alfred Dent by the Sultan of Brunei for all the islands of North Borneo in 1881. 

An in-depth discussion on the conference's proposals took place at the Kedah House, Cameron Highlands on May 24, 1964. WPhoto shows Prime Minister Abdul Rahman, Thai Foreign Minister Thun Thanat Khaman, Salvador P. Lopez representing President Diosdado Macapagal, and Dato Ong Yoke Lin.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

National Museum of Malaysia Part 2: Galleries C and D (KL Malaysia)

I wasn't looking forward to visiting the last two galleries (C and D) of Muzium Negeri (National Museum of Malaysia) because I was expecting static exhibits and pictography. What I wasn't expecting was a considerable entry on Manila and the Philippines' claim of Sabah, but I am getting ahead.

Gallery C concentrates on the "Colonial Era", thus there would be considerable mention of the Portuguese settlement in Malacca (Melaka) followed by the British influences.

Gallery D covers contemporary times in "Malaysia Today". There are of course entries on Singapore's break away from the Malay Kingdom, as well as Brunei's refusal to take part in the said Federation of 14 States.

To be quite honest, this was welcome information for me. My Southeast Asian history is close to nil. My collegiate education hasn't made adequate mention of these neighboring countries' history. We were more interested with what went on with America than the southeast Asian countries.

This "muzium" will provide at least a couple of hours' worth of informative roaming if you're into this stuff. There are a few things that one has to look out for, or might miss them in case you're rushing to another itinerary. There's a replica of Melaka's "A Famosa"; a good mention of James Brooke, Raja of Sarawak circa 1847; up until the Malaysian shouts of "Merdeka"! It's noteworthy to look for "The Speaker's Chair", a gift of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as token of friendship for the country being a new member of the Commonwealth Association. The Philippines' claim on Sabah shall be posted separately to underline its significance.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

During the Portuguese Administration, the administrative epicenter was Melaka head by a captain of the fort who reported to the Viceroy of Goa who, in turn reported to the King of Porrtugal. 

Melaka's "A Famosa"

The Bunga Emas (the Golden Flower) was a gift sent triennial by the Sultans of the Malay states of Kedah, Kelantan, Terangganu, and Patani to the once powerful King of Siam in Bangkok as a symbol of friendship. The sending of the "bunga" began in the 14th century in a very elaborate and colorful ceremony. The King reciprocated sending items of similar value. However, this practice ended at the end of the 19th century. 

James Brooke, Raja of Sarawak of 1847.

Sarawak was in chaos.

Pangkor Treaty

Rubber tapping, the process of rubber gathering.

Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley was pioneer of the rubber plantation in Malaya. He earlier worked as botanist of the Kew Gardens of Singapore. 

The first locomotive used in the country traveling from Taiping to Port Weld in 1885.

Taiping Railway Station in 1885

Railway Station Hotel in 1915

Mail service using motor vehicle. This was taken as the vehicle passes through from Jalan Kuala Kubu to Kuala Lipis in 1910.

The jinriksha was a Japanese invention.

Some people used to ride on elephants as means of transportation.

Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak at the site of the Singapore riot on July 22, 1964 to observe the situation on the island. He urged the government to be calm and reassured them the restoration of peace and order in Singapore.This was during the 1965 separation of Singapore from Malaysia. 

The Speaker's Chair is a gift from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, given to the Malaysian government on November 2, 1963 as a token of friendship and as a member of the Commonwealth Association. 

The different communities of Malaysia.

Masyarakat Chitty, the Hindu Peranakan community

Orang Asli, the pribumi or indigenous people.

The Siamese Community are mostly from the north, usually Kedah, Perlis, Perak and some from Terangganu.

The Serani Community denotes people of Asian-European parentage. They usually come from places like Melaka.

The Sikh Community. Men usually wear "turbans" to keep their hair neat because religion disalows them to cut their hair.

Straits-born Chinese, the Baba and Nyonya.

Kuching cats, maybe? They're on display at the souvenir shop.