Location: Kuan Yin Temple, Penang.
A Prayer for good fortune has been made by millions in the last few days as the new Chinese year of the dragon was welcomed in by celebrations that still have another ten days to go. From the grand parades and fireworks of Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Sydney, London, to the more intimate family reunions in the smaller villages of South East Asia - the faithful press incense sticks to their bowed heads and mutter the same prayers asking for luck and prosperity. I wouldn't be surprised if plumes of incense smoke could be seen from the air rising above this part of the world at the moment. It is the only time the bustle, the factories, the street vendors, the machine of Asia comes to a grinding stop as not only the Chinese recognise the new lunar year.
Puppetours wanted to see the New Year make its entrance in Penang where a more intimate affair played out. While the main parade is not until Sunday, we witnessed something special in Penang's Kuan Yin temple, where hundreds came to pray and pay respects to their ancestors on Monday.
Birds were set free as a symbol of charity and freedom, incense and joss sticks were lit and prayed upon. And I spent a moment with a monk who managed to disassemble the whole world, remove its cruelties, prejudices and intolerances, and put it back together as a much more human and beautiful place, in a single hug and a smile that had me believing, just for a fleeting moment, that world peace and an end to world poverty was possible. And I'm somewhat a cunic on these issues.
Travel really does transcend. I'll let the photos take you there this time round.
Location: Central Markets, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Price: 5 ringgit for 10 minutes.
Monsoon rains keep us off the streets of Kuala Lumpur today. It is the kind of day to explore one of its museums or to sit watching the grime run like mascara from its streets and into the deep concrete drains from the shelter of a hawkers stand selling beer. But we’re not planning to do either, as we have an appointment with the doctor to have our toes sucked on.
Our appointment is shared with about five other tourists. It is within KL’s crowded central market where stallholders are trying to flog off all kinds of “handmade” souvenirs produced in China.
The doctor makes the American lady squeal with laughter and jump from her seat while her husband’s face looks like a squeezed sponge as hundreds of doctors tend to his feet... underwater.
“Do they have teeth?” I ask the Chinese lady at the desk. “No, you will get your foot back, I promise,” she replies laughing.
I am about to have a fish foot pedicure, but I am yet to dunk my feet in to the smelly-foot-broth that is brimful with fish. This treatment is a popular therapy, especially amongst the Chinese and Japanese, who have since imported the trend to Malaysia. It involves hundreds of scavenging fish - called doctor fish - sucking and nibbling on the dead skin cells of feet. It is said to have originated in Turkey as a bonafide alleviant for skin ailments. Today it’s a luxurious treatment for those that want a natural solution for soft feet and curious tourists.