Wednesday, 27 February 2013

High Flyers at Pasir Gudang

“Colouring the Sky” could not be a better theme for The Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival this year. Imagine 3,000 colourful kites flying simultaneously in the sky of this southernmost state of Peninsula Malaysia, creating a new record in The Malaysian Book of Records, thanks to the participation of students from around the district. This year is the 18th edition of The Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival. The inaugural edition started in 1995, registering only 11 foreign participants from five countries. This year it recorded 236 participants from 36 countries which included new entries like Zambia, Colombia, Russia and Ukraine.

My journey to Pasir Gudang started at 8.05am from Kuala Lumpur, a brief stop at Pagoh Rest Area and off we shoot to Rahmat Ikan Bakar at Kampung Pasir Putih, Pasir Gudang for an early lunch. We reached the popular  restaurant-by-the-sea (it’s actually by the straits of Tebrau) at 11.10am. The restaurant’s specialty is grilled seabass, hence the name ‘Ikan Bakar’.  The customers can choose their dishes from the wide array of food choices but grilled-seabass is a compulsory dish.  Streams of customers could be seen coming in small groups as we were enjoying our scrumptious lunch while being cooled by the afternoon sea breeze. We took our time to savour our delicious meal, and as we planned to reach Bukit Layang-layang (layang-layang means kite in Bahasa Malaysia), the venue of the kite festival by 2pm, we figured we still have plenty of time. I paid for the meal for two. Total bill - 1 grilled seabass + fried prawn + sambal petai (bitter bean) + lauk sayur kobis (cabbage) + 2 plates of plain rice + 2 glasses of ice lemon tea= RM38.00. That was really cheap… and a great start to my trip!

My best lunch for this year

3 kilometres away from venue and we could already see the sea of kites soaring in the sky. What a panoramic sight it was! How I wish my kids were with me to share the experience. I was in time to watch the Rokkaku Challenge and the Lolly Pop Drop by both local and international participants.

One of the participants, Peter Lynn said he never missed the event ever since it started 18 years ago. “It’s great to see so many participants here, and the event is getting better and better” exclaimed Peter, who is running a full time kite business in Ashburton, New Zealand.  Another participant, Kim Yoon Sik said that this was his first time coming to Pasir Gudang and agreed that this was one of best kite festival he has ever went to. The 60 year old Korean kite enthusiast who chose insects to be his main subjects, said he promised to come again next year with better kites.

Kites of all shapes, sizes and colours filled the sky.

This year was the first time the event was having a special category for the Asean School Kite competition. The competition attracted participants from Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, China and Malaysia. This was besides the five standard categories which were “The Most Creative Kite”, “The Most Harmonious Kite  Design”, “The Dragon Kite”, “The Train Kite”  and “Rokkaku Challenge”.

Launching the kites are no easy task.

The happy kids and their kites

The success of Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival, which is an annual event, has won itself “The Best Tourism Product” from the Johor Tourism Department as well as being an important event in Malaysia’s tourism calendar. I, for one, will definitely come again for next year’s event, only this time I’ll make sure I bring my kids along. 

For more information on Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival and other tourism events, please visit:

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Chinese New Year at Kampung Cina

Kampung Cina (literally means Chinese Village) is a microcosm of Chinese settlement along the fringes of the Terengganu River, which houses 236 pre-war ancestral Chinese shophouses. Many of these shophouses have extensions to as far back facing the river. In the early days, the river was the essential mode of transport. Some of these extensions had back entrances and jetties for loading and unloading goods from boats. Today, at the back of some of these riverside shophouses are jetties which dock their speedboats.
I was at Kuala Terengganu purposely to visit and experience the Chinese New Year celebration at this first Chinese settlement in the state. I planned to reach Kuala Terengganu before 6pm as that was when the ‘Big Feast’ would start. However I was not so lucky as I only reached there at about 7.30pm. What was normally a five to six hour journey eventually became eight and a half hour due to the unusually heavy traffic, and I was so exhausted that I decided to head straight to the shower and had a quick nap. 

The welcoming arch of Kampung Cina
My ‘quick’ nap turned out to be a long slumber as I woke up at 6.30am the next day. I was starving and by 7.30, I was already sitting with Pak Din, an elderly man in his sixties, whom I shared a table with, savouring my Nasi Dagang (Terengganu special glutinous rice) with chicken curry at a roadside stall near the Grand Continental Hotel.

An ornate swing door of one of the shophouses 

It was almost 8.30am when I finally reached my real destination - Jalan Kampung Cina (Kampung Cina Road). I had to park my car about a kilometer away as the whole area was especially busy with traffic and pedestrians, a sight very welcoming to the local traders and hawkers. Chinese New Year celebration here was observed just like in any other towns in Malaysia, albeit in a small way. The decorations on the shop façade and the lanterns hung criss-crossing the street were most significant and visually appealing.
Almost all shops were closed for business as family members and close relatives would have a get together, had meals and gave out ang-pao to the young ones. However, there were still a couple of shops that were opened and I later discovered that they were run by either the Malays or the Indian Muslims with the majority of them being goldsmiths or selling textile and garments. 

A mix of old wooden and concrete shophouses lined up the one way street.

I came across a few buntings on the five-foot walkway pillars that were promoting an ongoing exhibition on ‘Kampung Cina Kebaya Heritage’ being held at the State Museum. Apparently, some of the Chinese here are of the ‘Peranakan’ clan.  Originally, the Peranakan were mixed-race descendants of Chinese and Malay and have adopted to the Malay customs - partially or in full, to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities.I was  snapping photos of the bunting when suddenly the sliding grille of the shop behind me opened, and there it was! A cute old lady in a full Peranakan Kebaya with a sarong came out of the shop after bidding farewell to the shop dweller (possibly her daughter or a close relative) and I couldn’t help myself from asking her to stop for a quick pose!

A bunting promoting the Kampung Cina Kebaya exhibition.

A cute old lady in a beautiful Peranakan Kebaya
Further down the street was the Ho Ann Kiong Temple. Built in 1801, the old temple was quite busy during this time as a lot of people came to say prayers and make offerings. It also serves as a community centre for the Hokkiens and the Hainanese and used to offer temporary shelter to the early immigrants. It is also the oldest structure in Kampung Cina and its brand new look is because it was rebuilt according to its original specifications after it was literally burnt down to the ground on Feb 22, 2010.

The completely rebuilt Ho Ann Temple
Little did I realise that I had been wandering around and snapping pictures for almost two hours on the busy Jalan Kampung Cina. Time for a break, and what was more appropriate than having a cup of Hainanese coffee with keropok lekor at one of the old coffee shop! 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix - The Heat Is On

Motorsports has been long established in Malaysia and we have successfully organised many events of world status like the FIM Road Racing Grand Prix World Championship from 1991 onwards (better known as MotoGP), the FIM Superbike World Championship, the FIM Endurance World Championship, FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, FIA ASIA Pacific Rally and the FIA Formula One World Championship Championship from 1999 onwards. These are on top of the numerous national and state level motorsports events being held almost every other week. However, the real crowd pullers will always be the two annual international events – Formula One (F1) and the World Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP). Along the way, Malaysia has managed to produce a couple of world class drivers and riders in the likes of Moto 3 rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin, Fairuz Fauzy and Alex Yoong in F1 and GP2 and Karamjit ‘The Flying Sikh’ Singh in international rallying scene.

The beautiful Sepang International Circuit was designed by German designer Hermann Tilke

Come 22 March, the much awaited Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit will again be the focus of the international motorsports enthusiasts. The local Malaysians will have more reasons to come and watch the event this time around as there will be three Malaysian F1 teams in contention. They are team Lotus, team Mercedes AMG Petronas and team Caterham. That’s quite a power to be reckoned with, and it reflects the nation’s seriousness in further developing the sports.

I was one of the spectators on the hillstands during the first Formula One Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix on 17 October 1999, which saw a dramatic ending. Michael Schumacher, in a Ferrari, allowed Eddie Irvine to pass him twice, which led Irvine to went on and win the race. Immediately after the race the two Ferraris were disqualified due to an infringement on their bargeboards. This meant that Mika Häkkinen (in a MacLaren Mercedes) was effectively handed the championship by default. However, a couple of months after the incident, Ferrari appealed against the FIA's decision in court and both drivers were subsequently reinstated. I went on to watch three more Malaysian F1 Grand Prix after that, the last one being three years ago which saw the same controversial driver, Michael Schumacher of Mercedes GP, not finishing the race due to wheel issue.

And if the thrills of the F1 race is not enough to get your adrenaline rushing, then there is one party that will set your motor running to the max. It is the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix 2013 post-race concert that will feature the legendary rock band Guns N’ Roses. Yes, you hear me right, it’s The Guns N’ Roses! The concert is free for all One Ticket Unlimited (ITU) grandstand ticket holders. ITU is also a passport for additional privileges including premium packages for transportation with ERL or Skybus, F&B voucher, exclusive 15th years anniversary merchandise and additional discounts during the month-long 1Malaysia GP Sale 2013 for certain category of tickets. Hillstand ticket holders will have to add an extra RM120 to catch the must-watch rock act.

So, for all of you motorhead fans out there, come on over and lets watch the ultimate event in motor racing and conclude it all with the explosive rock performance by Guns N’ Roses!

For ticketing details, log on to

For more information on the Malaysian F1 teams, please log on to:

Friday, 1 February 2013

Thaipusam in Malaysia

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that is celebrated on the 10th month of the Hindu calendar and falls in January or February each year in our lunar calendar. It is a day of forgiveness and thanksgiving for the Hindus, celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan (also known as Lord Subramaniam).

One of the devotees with metal spikes across his mouth and forehead.

Devotees piercing their flesh and carrying colourful ‘kavadis’ were a common sight in the annual festival held at Batu Caves, some 10 kms from Kuala Lumpur city centre. More than a million people, most of them visitors and tourists, came to watch the week-long celebration at the popular Hindu cave temple. Home to the world’s largest statue of Lord Murugan, the Batu Caves have become one of the world’s most spectacular places to witness Thaipusam.

Devotees and visitors climbing up the 272 stairs to the cave temple.

Devotees who took part in the festival prepared themselves by cleansing their bodies by fasting and abstinence, usually observing a vegetarian diet for a certain period of time. On the eve of the festival, the image of Lord Murugan, on a bejewelled silver chariot, was pulled along by two bulls. As the traditional abode of Lord Murugan is a hill or mountain, the grand procession, which began at the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Bandar Road, Kuala Lumpur, concluded at Batu Caves where the devotees carried the image of Lord Murugan up 272 steps to the cave temple.

The cave temple can only be reached after climbing the 272 steps of stairs.

'Kavadis' - ornate frames of semi-circular structures decorated with peacock feathers and images of deities supported by metal spikes and hooks inserted into their bodies, were carried by the devotees. Thousands of coconuts were also smashed along the route of the procession.

These boys wouldn't want to miss the chance to show their devotion to Lord Murugan.

Thaipusam is also celebrated in other cities in Malaysia such as Penang, Ipoh and Melaka but it is in Batu Caves that it is celebrated in such a grand scale that it has never failed to attract thousands of foreign travellers and tourists to this part of the world annually. 

For more information on Batu Caves and Thaipusam festival, please contact:

Tourism Malaysia Head Office 
9th Floor, No. 2 Tower 1
Jalan P5/6, Precint 5
62200 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA
Tel : +6 03 8891 8000
Email :
Tourism Infoline : 1 300 88 5050
Web :

Tourism Malaysia Selangor
6th Floor, Wisma PKPS
Persiaran Perbandaran Seksyen 14
40675 Shah Alam
Selangor, MALAYSIA
Tel : +6 03 5510 9100

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