Great Penang

Adrian Cheah loves Penang. He brings you interesting insights into the UNESCO heritage city of George Town where he calls home.

Great Penang © Adrian Cheah


Hari Raya Open House

Hari Raya © Adrian Cheah

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes an open house as "a social event in which hospitality is extended to all". This could be taken to mean that the diplomacy of inviting one and all to your house to celebrate an event is not an unfamiliar practice. But one could conjecture that nowhere else in the world would you find an open house event as big and as merry as the ones held in Malaysia.

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Bak Chang Festival in Penang

Bak Chang © Adrian Cheah

Bak Chang is steamed pulut (glutinous rice) seasoned with dark soya sauce wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with pork belly, shiitake mushroom, dried prawns, salted egg yolk and chestnuts, or just black eyes beans. This rich and high cholesterol delight which is a specialty during the Bak Chang Festival is available all year round in Penang.

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Ramadhan – a time for reflection

Ramadhan © Adrian Cheah

Once again, Ramadhan, the holiest of months for Muslims, is almost upon us. The ninth month of the Muslim year is strictly observed by all Muslims as a month of fasting (and abstinence) during which they would abstain from the pleasures of eating, drinking and carnal desires and actions from sunrise to sunset. Ramadhan usually lasts from 29 to 30 days, after which Muslims celebrate Id-al-Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa in the local language). Fasting is one of the five basic duties of Islam.

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Pausing for Reflection on Holy Vesak Day

As 21st century Malaysia hurtles deeper into the recesses of globalisation, an urban rat-race and the 'kiasu' syndrome, does Buddhist culture still bear relevance in preserving traditional values?

Vesak Day © Adrian Cheah

The beggar readily sees a bare floor as a place for a good sleep. The rich man, on the other hand, will have nothing else but the softest bed in a 5-star hotel.

Both men, poor and rich, have one similar need - to sleep. But they have completely different levels of craving, different heights of desire.

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Celebrating Vesak (or Wesak) Day in Penang

Vesak Day © Adrian Cheah

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." – Buddha.

Vesak day falls on the full moon in May. Also known as Buddha Purnima, it is considered as a holy celebration for the Buddhists as the day commemorates Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (parinirvāna).

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The Spring Festival – an insight into the festivities of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year © Adrian Cheah

The Chinese community observes many festivals, some religious and some secular. One of the most important celebrations is the Spring Festival, more commonly known in Penang as Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year.

The Chinese lunar calendar, dating back thousands of years, follows the cycles of the moon. A complete cycle takes 60 years, made up of five cycles of 12 years each (12 Chinese zodiac animals taking turns to govern each year). Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the start of the Chinese lunar calendar can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. Thus, the first day of the new lunar year that marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations changes each year.

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Cheng Beng – the Festival of the Tombs

Cheng Beng © Adrian Cheah

History

The history and practice of Chinese religious and cultural festivals go back a long way, some even beyond the span of written history.

Over the years, the traditions associated with these festivals are handed down from generation to generation within communities, with very little changes introduced. The only difference found in a festival celebrated in two different countries would be cultural ones.

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Madam Hong and Cheng Beng Festival

Cheng Beng © Adrian Cheah

There are some who believe that traditionally, the task of performing Cheng Beng rituals fall on the family of the eldest son, followed by the next in seniority and so on. The eldest son is thus entirely responsible in ensuring that the rituals of ancestral offerings are carried out properly.

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Chap Goh Meh – The Night of Romance

Chap Goh Meh © Adrian Cheah

A fascinating Chap Goh Meh legend tells the tale of a lonely young bachelor, who during an outing on this moonlit night, was suddenly enchanted when he caught a glimpse of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Who was this exquisitely delicate beauty driving by in all her finery, he wondered? With excitement pounding in his heart, the hopeful young man quickly jotted down the number of the car she was in, lest he forgot.

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On The Crest Of Prayer – The Thaipusam Story

Thaipusam © Adrian Cheah

From the top of the green hill, the endless string of devotees dotting its way up the concrete steps seemed like a sacred procession of silence.

Carrying milk-pots of brass and silver, and harnessed in colourful kavadis, the worshippers inched their way to the great temple overhead with sweet hypnotic resolve. The children, the elders, even the disabled ones, scaled slowly with their ceremonial burdens, ascending with a mission to the call of the good Lord Muruga above.

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The intriguing tale of deliverance behind the Hokkien New Year

Hokkien New Year © Adrian Cheah

The ninth day of the first lunar calendar is especially significant to the Hokkien people (a subgroup of Chinese). Some traditionalists would even venture as far as to say that it is much more important than the Chinese New Year day itself because on that day, the entire Hokkien clan was spared from being massacred. They believe it was the Jade Emperor, also known as the God of Heaven, who protected them. Thus, it is celebrated with more grandeur especially in Penang compared to the first day of the lunar calendar.

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Remembering loved ones on All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day © Adrian Cheah

The feast of All Souls' Day is a reminder for us to offer up prayers for the departed, to help them on their journey to heaven. We pray not just for those we know and love but also for “neglected souls”. This is regarded as an act of charity.

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The Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Penang

Nine Emperor Gods Festival © Adrian Cheah

How far would you go to uphold your beliefs? Would you undergo a strict vegetarian diet for nine straight days? Would you walk on fire barefooted or pierce a long spear through your cheeks? Or are you an armchair devotee who would prefer to remain in your comfort zone and observe events from afar? Does the younger generation know what this festival is all about and how many would stop to find out more?

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Deepavali – Celebrating the Light

Deepavali  © Adrian Cheah

Squatting at a corner of King Street amid the human bustle of Penang's Little India, Manickam P. sorts through a giant pile of fresh green banana leaves.

Clad in baggy khaki shorts and a sweat-soaked singlet, he seems to take no notice of either the automobiles that incessantly purr past or the hundreds of human apparitions that mill by him. The elderly odd-job worker certainly has his work cut out for him nowadays.

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My understanding of All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day © Adrian Cheah

Images of St. Joseph from the Roman Catholic Penang Diocesan Museum, Farquhar Street, Penang.

Can you name five saints that you have heard of, even if you are not a Catholic? The first name that would come to mind is St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. The famous church in Bukit Mertajam is dedicated in her honour. Of course standing next to Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus, is St. Joseph.

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St. Patrick’s Ball 2017 through the lens of a Nikon D750

St Patrick's Ball in Penang

Yes, I am a Nikon D750 and would like to invite you to stop, pause and discover wonderful things I see through my lens. I am a brilliant engineering wonder that has evolved through the passage of photography. Having said that, the man who decides how much light goes through me, how fast the shutter speed is and when to capture that magical moment makes all the difference in the outcome of a photograph.

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Penang Dragon Boat Festival – race of the ancients

Penang Dragon Boat © Adrian Cheah

About 100 years ago, large clans of sea-faring migrants from China settled along the foreshores of Penang island, building pier houses on the fringes of George Town.

Many of these humble coastal plank settlements, like the old Bang Liaw jetty in Weld Quay, still exist today, housing scores of fisher-folk families just as they did many decades before.

During the early period, every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar, the settlers would push out to sea lengthy specially built boats for a passionate day of racing. It was one of the great traditions they had proudly brought along from China.

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Fate of Little Penang Street Market uncertain after tomorrow

The Star, Saturday, 29 July 2017

BY AFTER 11 LONG YEARS BEING A VIBRANT, INTERESTING BAZAAR, AND THE FINAL CURTAIN WILL FALL ON THE LITTLE PENANG STREET MARKET (LPSM).

Little Penang Street Market comittee

(From right) LPSM committee members Khoo, Cheah, Ong and MBPP assistant administrative officer Amir Ali showing the press release on the last Little Penang Street Market and its 11th anniversary celebration.

For all the stakeholders, tomorrow will surely be a special occasion as the LPSM will also be celebrating its 11th anniversary.

“This will be the last Little Penang Street Market for us. We do not know what will happen next.

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Little Penang Street Market - more than meets the eye

Little Penang Street Market

To call the Little Penang Street Market a microcosm of Penang and Malaysian cultures is no empty boast. Its multi-faceted makeup has little parallels elsewhere. But it is also an incomplete description. The Street Market isn't merely another weekend shopping spot. Penang already has plenty of those, both traditional and modern, elaborate and simple, for every day of the week. In fact, Penang is such a shopper's paradise that some have been 'moved' to say, in local language "tengok pun dah kenyang" (a Malay phrase meaning that one is sated merely by looking).

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Plan to breathe new life into market

The Star, Friday, 4 August 2017
BY CHONG KAH YUAN

THE state government is working on a solution to keep the Little Penang Street Market going.

The market held at Upper Penang Road has just marked its 11th anniversary but its future is now uncertain after the organising committee members expressed their wish to retire.

State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he was open to new ideas on how to use the space.

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The durian burger, a journey of discovery

durian burger © Adrian Cheah

I am game for all things durian. Durian egg tarts are delicious. Homemade durian ice cream is such a sinful treat, especially eaten with crispy kuih kapit (love letters). Passion Heart Cafe bakes one-of-a-kind Fresh Cream Durian Cake; it is a sponge cake layered with fresh cream and creamy durian paste, topped with durian kaya (coconut jam). This is one of my favourite cakes at the cafe.

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