Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Penang - Thaipusam (Nava-K's Spiritual And Religious Journey)

Some friends I believe are really peculiar. Perhaps I should also label them as weirdos. Wanna know why? No, no, I am in no way referring to the fake social media friends, but my most to most 5 to 10 closest friends whom I thought knew me at the back of their hands. How wrong. When I told a few of them that I will be fulfilling my spiritual and religious vows at Waterfall Temple/Balathandayuthapani Temple for Thaipusam, they burst out in laughter. Why? Seriously, I didn't know what were they tickled about? Do I look like a misfit? Not as far as I know. Despite asking over and over again, none actually could spill a concrete reason. I of course was agitated. Then again, it can't be my fault if friends judge me wrongly. Maybe because I am modern and outgoing, I can’t be religious, is it? Whatever, I've come to a point  I care too hoots how people perceive me. My life, my choices, my happiness and my relationship with god.  

Anyhow, I fasted for two days prior to heading to Penang (Penang Part 3). Yes everyone. Two days beforehand because in my religious faith book it is acceptable and for my standard of not being the holiest grain, I think god will still be with me. Done. Arriving at Traders Hotel which by far is the best spot for next morning’s procession, we opted out from paying RM50.00 per head for buffet breakfast. What for? Why not to free food and drinks from both sides of the road stalls during the procession next morning? Isn’t that how our faith is tested as well compared to a cozy and lavish hotel buffet? Of course.  

Upon checking into our room  - clean, comfortable, just basic-plain deco and equipped alongside the standard things we generally expect in any hotel room, I changed into my religious yellow decent attire and at the recommendation of Penang cousin, we headed to Paal Sangam Café.  

Located at 535-A, Jalan Dato Keramat, Paal Sangam Café was not a let-down. Nope. Delicious pure banana leaf lunch. Tofu Sambal, Stir Fried Beansprout, Potato Podimas, Chutney and Curries, all of these tasted truly authentic. Could it be because of the types of spices or cooking technique? Really unsure I am, but obviously one of the best vegetarian food. I sincerely loved it though Kesari/Indian Semolina Cake was dry and sadly too they couldn’t serve us cow’s milk coffee. What? No cow's milk in Paal/Milk Sangam/Association? Hilarious! So close I was to loudly giggling. If I would have, there goes my spiritual journey and remember, I am in yellow religious attire? Most probably, I would have been eye ball quacked by the rest of the customers.  

Gulping down the coffee without cow's milk and settling the bill for this reasonably priced meal, we left for Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil/Waterfall Hill/Temple. Not an easy spiritual religious journey mind you. walking towards the high up temple in the scorching heat. Killer! Eventually we made it, not before taking short comfort breaks to catch our breath.    

We waited not knowing why the main prayer hall is still locked and when we told at about 4.30pm that milk can be poured in the buckets albeit prayers will only begin at 5.00pm, instead of waiting and instead of paying for prayers, money went into money box. I prayed, subsequently, on my way out, for the first time ever, I had a close glimpse on why Thaipusam in Penang is different compared to Batu Caves. It’s the religious atmosphere and not carnival-funfair like, somehow you will become momentarily overwhelmed by religious faith till your bones. Devotional songs, religiously decorated food and drinks stalls, s
ponsored by every other organization, including government departments, stretching from one end of the road to the other, the coordinated effort on traffic control and I was also told about free water and electricity, courtesy of the residence. Amazing. Hats off to Penang! 

By this hour too, my fasting was officially over. I decided. Remember, I have already fulfilled my vows? So, dinner can be anyway right? Sure. At Rose Garden, food unfortunately didn't really make an impact. Tasteless unlike the last time we were here (Rose Garden Food Paradise). Anyway we eat out of hunger and then returned to the hotel.
 Pork Stew
 Fruit Rojak
Prawn Mee

The next morning, I was among the thousands along the road. I walked further up from Traders Hotel and slowly followed, first the silver chariot and later, the gold chariot by watching my steps amongst the colorful saris and dressed to kill devotees. Indeed, glitz and glam fashion statement. Just wondering how on earth these people manage when I was sweat dripping until I felt like running back to the room to change into my knee length pants and faded t-shirt. Really. Now, while tucking into the food and drinks from the stalls at the roadside, we also observed the smashing of coconuts, supposedly a symbol of smashing your ego and humbling oneself before god.      

Once the gold chariot had passed by, we walked to the nearby Restaurant/Kedai Kopi Bee Hong. Reasonably priced, Fried Kuey Teow, Lam Mee and Salted Egg Pau were not the best, but quite acceptable. Can. You won't be disappointed. 

Next was journeying in the back to back crawl from George Town to Light Hotel, Seberang Jaya. Indeed, a familiar hotel and for dinner, we were at the other familiar ground. Chai Leng Park (Penang (Part 1). Fish Head Curry from the stall in between the long stretch of stalls was a wow-pow fulfilling meal. Creamy, spicy and generous serving of fresh fish head with vegetables, eaten with rice. I then returned to the hotel, whereas other half-half as usual left to meet his clients.    
Up next - Alor Setar, Kedah. 

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