Ipoh, Malaysia

Vihāra Buddha Gotama

Finding the place in Temoh (close to Ipoh) sounds easy in the beginning but in fact it isn’t, and that’s maybe intended. I found VBG after the local bus driver decided to let me stop at the nearby Mahayana Buddhist Temple called ‘Buddha Hill’. This photo is taken from there.

   

Seven well-fed dogs guard the compound and enjoy a happy life at the Vihāra

   

Time is an illusion, albeit a persistent one

   

The meditation hall. Given that there are five (!) clocks in the room and we are bowing down before and during and after the chanting session it almost seems as we are bowing down to the digital clock. Made me smile 🙂

   

What I like about my stay is that the abbot (Ven. Dhammavuddho) and the monks take me along on their almsround in the towns nearby. I encounter so much generosity… especially by elderly people. We also bring some of the offerings to poor Indian families in the area. For the trips to and fro, a van is used as the Vihāra is located in a quite remote area.

Here is a short video…

Standard
Malaysia

My second home

I love Penang. There is a National Park, there are beaches, there are great places to eat delicious food. Wonderful people. A multicultural hotspot deluxe.

Here are some impressions since I don’t feel like putting experience into words at the moment 😉

In the order of appearance —

A ceremony for the goddess at “Annalakshmi” (Temple of Fine Arts/Donation-based Restaurant)

Dancing lessons for young girls at a Hindu Temple

Taiji group performance at the Youth Park

Wild monkeys indulging in a feast at Botanic Garden

Reclining Buddha Statue at Wat Chayamangakalaram

And finally proof that money does grow on trees at Dhammikarama Temple

   

   

Standard
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Cameron HiLands

… AAAALLMIGHTEA!!

   

Bob the local dog. He is our loyal canine companion on the jungle trails, joining us for about six hours through the thicket. When we meet other hikers he stays with us and poses for a photo from time to time. After visiting the Chinese temple (watch the video!) he gets his reward in form of ayam goreng (fried chicken) which he gracelessly yet gratefully devours in one gulp.

   

After a long trek in the highlands we reach first the clouds and then the summit ‘Bukit Brinchang’ (2092m). On our way downhill we are rewarded with this splendid view of lush green nature. Someone gives us a ride to the next tea plantation where we have a chocolate cake and a carrot cake… and a cup of tea, of course 😉

   

Surreal Estate – your postcard pic

Yeah there’s the two of us happy, just before reaching the peak called Bukit Brinchang. You might not be able to see it but it’s rainy & muddy and with every step higher it also gets more mistyrious

   

On a jungle trail near Tanah Rata 🙂

Standard
Kuantan, Malaysia, Sharing

East Coast

As mentioned in the post about jetlag we are here to recharge our batteries after the long flight. Another reason is our intention to attend a retreat at Dhamma Malaya which is situated west of Kuantan, reachable by RapidKuantan bus 100. We arrive at Kuantan after a 3.5hrs bus trip from KL station TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). After we have clarified how to get there we cross the road close to the Central Market which is next to the Hentian Bandar (Town Bus Stop). Well, let’s say we try to cross 😉 It’s a four lane road with a never-ending flow of cars and buses. Over time, we get better at this, even to the point of regarding it as some kind of sport to find the right timing, i.e. the kairos of starting the sprint.

As I had to leave the gas cartridge for my portable gas cooker, i try to find a new one in Kuantan. Alas, no chance. Some things go smoothly. Others are not. Wanting always plays a part. It is the precursor to suffering. That, at least, becomes painstakingly clear. After half a dozen shops and malls I give up on actively looking for a gas cartridge. Would have been a help to cook some water or beans in the jungle, but whatever… does it realy matter? Nope. Once I let go it becomes so obvious how most of the things I think I need are simply things I do not own. Once I own something, the job is done, so to speak. I get, and then I for-get. Isn’t it… an almost too human habit? We all get attached not to things but to the cravings. What follows therefrom is a state of restlessness ever pushing us further into a miserable state of mind dissatisfied with what is actually happening.

So what IS happening?

Today I get up early, at around 6 a.m. and stretch my limbs for about half an hour. I go to the nearby big market (Bazar Besar) to buy some papaya and bananas for breakfast. Joy and I have brekkie in the room and then take the RapidKuantan bus 200 to Teluk Cempedak, the easternmost part of the city.

Teluk Cempedak

Before we reach the beach at Teluk Cempedak we catch sight of McD, KFC, StB, 7/11. We pass all of them and go along the beach and the plastic bridge to arrive at an area called Tongkang Beach. The colourful signs which are fastened to numerous trees carry a clear message: “Private area” and “No Pay No Stay!”, while others are announcing the prices of having a picnic there, using the toilet, littering etc.

There is one sign on Teluk Tangkong that makes perfect sense. ♪♪Forget all worries♪For the rest of the day♪It’s all trouble free, in harmony♪♪

Who puts up these signs?, I think. Curiously, yet somewhat cautiously we venture forth into the dragon’s lair. The first guy we see is a bearded man washing his wild red mane. He looks up and asks: ‘Oh, you must be the couch surfers, right?!’ Without thinking, I respond that yes, we are couch surfers, too. We introduce ourselves and find out that this place is a café. It’s called Sempai Café. The owner comes out and welcomes us to his abode. His name is Thom, and he lives here with MayMay and his two-month old daughter Lya. They are happy to have us here after the retreat. Easy!

We go through the jungle to the other side of Teluk Cempedak and arrive at a beach. No signs here. All empty. Only three boys playing over there. The rest of the beach is one long stretch of white sand. The ocean waves are inviting us to take a dip. After about five or ten minutes, we are visited by a helicopter. He circles above us and then leaves again. Five minutes later he comes back and we have one strange encounter with it. The pilot draws near and hovers just 5 metres above the beach, confronting us, as if inquiring: ‘ Identify yourselves. What are you doing here? How did you get here?’ An awkward situation. The helicopter seems to prepare a landing on that empty beach because of us? Have we done something forbidden? Overlooked a sign?: “No access! Military training ground!” Maybe it was just the coast guard that haveseen me wave to Joy from the sea and thought I need help? Whatever it is, we have no intention of finding out. Instead, we pick up our stuff and vanish back into the jungle, partly enjoying the adrenaline rush while the deafening rotorblades of the helicopter makes verbal communication an almost impossible undertaking.

The helicopter drawing a circle above us before a rapid descent to confront us

We return to Sempai café and tell Thom that we are going to visit again in a fortnight, i.e. after the Goenka retreat. So after two weeks we revisit that place and stay as couch surfers in a tent. And in the course of our stay, it becomes increasingly clear for us how Thom tries to establish a business here while for the Malay people it must feel weird to be asked to pay a Frenchman in order to be allowed to stay at a Malay beach and enjoy a family picnic. Imagine you go to the Danube island in Vienna and some Chinese businessman has recently opened a bar and you come there just like every weekend, and now you’re asked to pay for sitting down and having a picnic with your family. In life and in death, I find it is of utmost importance always to see both sides of the equation.

Standard
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kay El

​My first jetlag experience. Hitherto I’ve heard only stories about it, second-hand experience. Today I know what it means to be in a state of confusion regarding time. The wake/sleep rhythm is totally out of whack. We check in at a place called Dengba Hotel. It is located on a bustling street full food stalls and massage salons. After dinner we go to sleep… at least that was the intention. Waking up at night totally awake – it’s 2 a.m. Falling asleep again. Waking up after what seems like an entire night – checking the clock – it’s 4 a.m. Sleeping…. … … and waking up at noon! Getting up the question arises: What to do? I feel resistance and slight aversion to this big Babylon. We decide to walk to Botanic Garden. The free bus GoKL makes it very easy to get around the city.

One of numerous water fountains in front of Masjid Negara (National Mosque)


Botanic Garden in the west of KL – a perfect place to relax amidst lush nature and huge butterflies!

This first day is over soon. In the late afternoon Joy meets Melody, a yogīni friend she met in Bali. I go to Wynn’s Place to stuff my belly with roti canai and nasi goreng with veggies, carrot juice. Back to Dengba Hotel. Feeling tired. Hot feet. Learned some Malay words today, mostly to do with food hehe…
Kuantan

Next day, we get up and get going quite early. Destination Kuantan, on the east coast. We are going to participate in a 10-day Vipassana retreat (as taught by S.N. Goenka who deceased in November 2013).

We arrive at 24/7 Hotel, check in and explore the town. Mostly, we are here to charge our batteries after the long flight. This can be done best in lush green areas with many trees and fresh water.

Taman Gelora – a great place to spend a sunny afternoon in the cool shade of palm trees, only 20mins busride from the city centre

We particularly like Taman Gelora, a wonderful park with palm trees and lotus pond – easy to reach by RapidKuantan local bus 201. So many animals live there! We see monkeys copulating after territorial disputes, we see munching squirrels and cats chilling in the shade. We share half a water melon and spot birds chirping their way thru life and mini-crabs crawling into sandy holes on the beach nearby. I have a short walk in the river.

At Botanic Garden KL a huge butterfly poses for a photo session

In the evening we dine again in the deli restoran: daal, naan, mee goreng, teh tarik, a most fabulous combination 😛
In general, I feel a bit weary and irritable today. Jetlag symptoms, we agree. Joy hurts her toe cuz of flip-flops. Only to have some alternative she buys some red plastic footwear which she decides to leave behind two weeks later. All in all, it seems to be a pretty little town, Kuantan. Of course, we are curious to explore more of it.

At the esplanade

How could we know what awaits us in the days to come?! An adventurous plot ahead, with two beginner’s minds like us, not-knowing proves to be a blessing, no doubt.

Standard