Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year! (Same Old, Same Old)

Happy New Year, Everyone! It goes without saying that 2011 was eventful for us, but there's no need to look back to boast and weep. Time to move on and welcome 2012.

Unfortunately, one thing we thought we left behind in South Florida decided to follow us to India:

Don't worry, power should return any week now (just kidding - Tropical Cyclone Thane came ashore south of us yesterday and we are fine) and we'll start to enjoy 2012 then. So set off some fireworks for us, we need a reading light.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Tile Madness

We showed you the basic architecture of George Town in Penang, the shophouse. A standard feature of these buildings is the covered front walkway. And in that walkway you'd better have an impressive expanse of tile, both on the floor and wall -- and the more pattern the better. Don't worry what your neighbor has tiled, it's your time to shine.

One regularly runs into a riot of pattern and color while strolling the town. Fantastic!

Walls tend to have more detailed tiles and the luxury of adding a bit of texture. Here are a couple of examples of flower-themed tiles.

More floor details. Why would you ever settle for plain 12" tile again?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Monkey Business

Monkey see, monkey do, monkey is a sucker for taking pictures of other monkeys when they're just hanging out in the wild.

Just catching some guardrail laze time. The doctor will see you now and you can bet he's going to get a good look.

Don't give the kid those energy drinks! Why can't you be like your brother and eat right?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Little Night Nosh

We couldn't leave Penang without hitting "Hawker Stalls" -- a sort of combination street food cart, restaurant and night market. The places are casually disorganized, dotted with cooks making specific dishes and open to the elements. You wander in, pick an entree, find a table and wait to be culinarily transported. We were.

The chaotic scene. Tables mixed with gas canisters around cooking stalls and ingredients. No one is paying for presentation, which does have its own look. We'll take it.

An impressive mise en place at one of the stalls. Our choice for dinner. Get stir frying!

Our meal being created before our eyes, while we wait. A happy customer.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Penang Jazz Funeral?

One thing we've learned from our ramped-up travels is never to be surprised at what we encounter. James has spent a lot of time over the years in Louisiana shooting numerous commercials for tourism in that state and has been able to soak up the local culture. When a musical ruckus erupted outside our hotel room in Penang, a quick look out the window confirmed a familiar sound: A classic New Orleans-style jazz funeral procession.

The version in Penang:

The original, down New Orleans way:

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Draining Experience

Penang is tropical, which means it's also subject to a rainy season or heavy rains. One must prepare for the annual deluge. With apologies to the elegant work of Toshio Shibata, here are a handful of drainage fields on Penang Hill. At first glance they look like just windy stairs in an incline, but they're actually, depending on your point of view, clever, organic, boring, necessary, deceptive, basic drainage structures.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011

India Gifts, Malaysian Shops

While waiting to check in for our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Chennai, the regular baggage dump seemed to turn into the shipping department of a big box mega store. From the avalanche of TVs being checked, it looks like the place to buy big screens in India is a four-hour plane ride away. Just in time for last minute Christmas shopping, we bring you the scene at KUL:

Best of luck with your last minute shopping adventures!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Dueling Temples

Directly across the street from Wat Chayamangkalarm sits the Burmese temple called Dharmmikarama Temple. Got the spellings down? Good. Alas, no 33 meter figures, but more than a few pleasant features. Far East temples don't skimp on fanciful imagery with an icing of bright colors to wrap up the effect.

The temple from the street and the star attraction inside.

A couple of figures not far removed from a Disney film or theme park. A regal white elephant, one of a pair of pachyderms marking the entrance.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Consulate Santa Visits A Children's Home

As one of its good deeds for the holiday season, the U.S. Consulate in Chennai "adopted" 87 boys and girls living at the Community Health Education Society -- an orphanage for children affected by HIV and AIDS. Foreign Service Officers and local staff agreed to sponsor the children, providing each of them their own backpack full of Christmas gifts. A group delivered the gifts last weekend.

Some of the boys, doing what boys do best -- looking tough for the camera. The assembly audience, waiting for the show to begin, a little music and dance revue held for Consulate guests.

Santa and his crew doing a little winter dance, giving Radio City a run for its money. Time for the present presenting. Everyone got a backpack filled with clothes, toys and other items.

The unwrapping begins. The room got noisy quickly, all good sounds of appreciation. The skateboarding challenge starts.

Sarah and one of the kids. Good all around - organization, performance, kids, gifts and deed.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Recline Of The 33 Meter Buddha

In Penang, there's an amazing Thai Buddhist Temple called Wat Chayamangkalaram.

Everything about it is a feast for the eyes -- from the figures outside to ward off evil spirits to the pink lotus candles and the giant reclining buddha inside. (More on this in a moment).

Here's a little warm up to the main temple, just a small ante building. Still more than plenty for the eyes.

Various figures greeted us before entering the main temple. How can you feel anything but joy before heading inside?

The main course, the big Buddha -- all 33 meters of it -- in all its reclining and gold-plated splendor. Sarah and James felt like they were taking their pictures with a rock star, say, er, a teen idol? The Justin Beiber of Buddha?

Something that big, you gotta check out the details. Nice toenail polish, so blinguful!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's All About The Latkes

Happy Hanukkah everyone! Time to light those candles and get down to some serious latke eating. When we say we got 99.9% of the Jews living in Chennai together for tonight's Hanukkah ceremony, that's no exaggeration. There were probably a few Jewish expats hidden among the 8 million folks who live in Chennai, but we're sure we rounded up a majority. Still not a minyan. But a latke party nonetheless!

Making the golden stars of the meal. Wait, we need to light the candles first! You gotta have the kids take the lead. Well, maybe next year one of the little ones will be brave enough.

Consulting an iPad for the proper prayers. Where's the iHanukkah app? Eating commences. Nothing like homemade latkes and applesauce in South India to keep traditions alive. Chicken cutlets, green beans and a salad seal the meal.

Happy Hanukkah!