Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang

Back to Malaysia for this post, as I still have so much to tell you, and so many photographs to share. I can’t believe it’s already been 2 months since we were there!

We visited a few religious buildings in Penang – Dhammikarama Burmese Temple & Wat Chayamangkalaram in George Town, and Kapitan Keling Mosque in Little India ,but this one deserves a post all of it’s own. It’s a beauty, and an instagram dream. Everywhere you look is something that needs to be photographed – ornate detailing, tiled floors and walls, buddhas and carvings. It’s incredible.

The temple is just outside of the capital, George Town, in the Air Itam area. You can reach it by local bus, the hop on hop off tourist buses, or taxi. We opted for the latter to make the best use of our time and get there as quickly as possible. If you’re accessing the temple from the street then you could quite easily miss the entrance, it’s a little dark passageway which looks like it leads nowhere, through stalls selling cheap bits and pieces, fake clothes and bags, and up a number of stairs. Once we got through this bit we saw that there’s an upper entrance to the temple grounds with a car park, where, in retrospect, the taxi driver could have dropped us. Never mind – all those steps are good for you, and certainly lead to a sense of achievement!

The construction of the temple started in 1890, although further development and building work continues to this day. The temple and connecting areas are now very heavily commercialised, with shops selling trinkets and souvenirs at every opportunity and around every corner (we found this very surprising).Although the temple is free to enter, there are nominal fees to enter certain parts of the development, but these are only a couple of pound each and well worth it.

It probably took us around 90 minutes to get around all areas of the temple; which included a slow amble, stopping off to take lots of pictures, sheltering from a couple of rain showers and climbing all the steps to the highest points possible to make the most of the views below.

The 7 story main pagoda has Chinese, Thai, and Burmese influenced architecture. This was completed in 1930.

Kek Lok Si temple 7 stories

This 99ft bronze statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, was built in 2002. A pagoda has since been built around and over the statue, and there is currently scaffold and some work happening around it.

The whole site is a riot of colour, with bright decorations, flowers and gardens.

There are buddhas everywhere! Big, small, printed on tiles – they’re all over the place!

This really was one of the highlights of our entire trip, and certainly is not be missed if you ever visit Penang.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Friday Feeling [9] – people power

Despite all the horrible things that have been going on in the UK recently, the thing that’s stood out to many (including myself) is the sense of community spirit, people supporting each other, strangers reaching out to other strangers, and the general feeling that we’re stronger together.

Nothing sums that up more than this story. Not connected to anything that’s happened in the past couple of weeks, it’s the story of a group of people – all strangers – holding on to a man who was trying to jump from a bridge to take his own life. They held on to him for 2 hours, until emergency services were able to take over.

Always look for the helpers

It’s easy to think that no-one cares about us in life, that we’re all alone in the world and no-one would miss us. But this story proves the power of human compassion and that everybody has somebody – even if they don’t know it.

Be kind to people – you never know the difference you might make.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Who’s the real threat?

Crikey. What a rotten time London has been having lately. Between the terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire, there seems to have been very little focus on what’s going to happen with the government. Obviously the focus needs to be on those who have suffered and continue to suffer from a tragic couple of weeks, but the fact remains that the Conservatives didn’t get a majority in the General Election, yet Theresa May and co seem to be proceeding in a business as usual fashion. The Queens Speech is going ahead today, and the Brexit negotiations have started led by a Tory representative. I know things can’t remain indefinitely on hold, but is this constitutional? Is she using the fact that people are rightly distracted by tragic human events to get in through the back door?

Who's the real threat

I see a bigger threat to our country at present than terror attacks. The real threat, for me, comes from the government. Arms deals into the Middle East and wars under the pretence of “protecting” vulnerable citizens. We’re shocked and horrified by people in the UK being killed by terrorists, yet seemingly untouched by civilians losing their lives in the Middle East – where numbers killed by terrorists and Western bombs are much higher than those we’ve seen in the UK. Where are their pop concerts? In fact, where is their media coverage? Can we be surprised that our country is under attack from extremists, when we’re party to attacks on them?

And the Grenfell Tower fire – another seemingly government caused tragedy. Everything seems to be pointing towards the illegal use of flammable cladding on the outside of the building – where would that decision have come from? Why weren’t there sprinklers in the building? Residents don’t make these types of decisions. Councils do. Councils who form part of local government, which in turn forms part of the overall government.

Such decisions lead to tragedies which put additional pressure on our already stretched emergency services. Why are they stretched? Because the government have cut their numbers and refuse well deserved pay rises so that, for some people, the role becomes untenable. When you read stories of nurses working 12 hour shifts but having to use food banks to feed their families, you know something is horribly wrong.

How about the media? Their biased reporting of Theresa May compared to Jeremy Corbyn in the run up to the election. Their biased reporting of the “Muslim terrorists” who “attacked” people as they enjoyed their Saturday night, compared to the “White Van Driver” who “collided” with Muslims as they celebrated their religion. Luckily many people see this bias for what it is, and are able to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions. But what about those who can’t? Those who trust the media and therefore respond accordingly; by blindly voting for Theresa May, or shouting abuse at peace loving Muslims in the street.

Having taken such a battering as a country in the past few weeks – because it does affect the whole country, not just London and Manchester – people seem to be opening their eyes to what’s going on; wanting answers and wanting change. We deserve those answers and that change. Something isn’t working. The system is broken. And we can’t just carry on as we always have done, because the gaps in society are just getting bigger. The gap between rich and poor. The gap between Muslims and non Muslims. The gap between Remainers and Brexiters. A divided society will eventually implode, and there’s nothing British about that.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The Naked Finger

My wedding ring is currently at the jewellers being fixed up. Constant wear for 8.5 years have left it with an unconventionally flat rear (!!) so I popped it in for some well deserved TLC.

It’s no surprise that I feel naked without it, and keep touching my finger and panicking that I’ve lost it somewhere.

Not only is it my favourite piece of jewellery for sentimental reasons, I absolutely love the design too. It’s unconventional, and the husband said at the time that it doesn’t even look like a wedding ring (I don’t know if he thought I was trying to maintain the appearance of a singleton?!) but it had my heart as soon as I saw it.

On our wedding day, in Mauritius, with our stunning wedding flowers.

Wedding ring

I don’t have an engagement ring, through choice, I never wanted to be engaged, just married (I sound like a desperado here, I know!) We were married less than 9 months after we got “engaged” (without being engaged) and I always wanted a statement wedding ring rather than a plain band and an engagement ring. I don’t think there’s any need to stick to traditions when it comes to weddings; it’s whatever works for the couple involved. Besides, I have a love of chunky jewellery, so an engagement ring that would have met my style would have cost a ridiculous amount!

Funny story – whilst we were shopping for our wedding rings in the jewellery quarter, the husband saw Emma Willis (who, I can confirm, is just as stunning in real life) and went all girly pink and weird. I mean, yeah, she’s hot, but we were BUYING OUR WEDDING RINGS!!!! I offered him a get out of jail free card to go and chat her up, but luckily he made the right decision…

Normal finger service will resume soon!

Thanks, as always, for reading x

5 good things that happened in the General Election

General Election 2017

OK, so it wasn’t the result I was hoping for.

And the prospect of Theresa May teaming up with the DUP just to stay in power is abhorrent.

But, on a positive note, there were some good outcomes!

1 – Theresa May’s arrogance was proven to be misplaced

Yeah, technically she won, but realistically not so much. She expected a landslide and it didn’t happen. So up yours Theresa!

2 – 72% of young people (18-25) turned out to vote

Go young people! This number is up massively on past elections, and gives me hope for the future. Young people need to be engaged in politics in order to make a difference.

3 – UKIP now have no seats, and party leader Paul Nuttall has resigned.

There’s no place for a party like UKIP in a constitutional and progressive country. Just do one. Goodbye – close the door on your way out.

4 – Diane Abbott retained her seat by an overwhelming majority

75% of the voters in her constituency voted for her, in spite of the bullying by the press and suggestions that she’s politically unfit to be shadow Home Secretary.

4 – Jeremy Corbyn was totally vindicated

Despite the media’s best effort to undermine him, Theresa May’s insults, backstabbing within his own party and people calling him a clown with no political clout, he’s proven that he is liked, he is supported, and he is the catalyst for change that’s so very needed. It’s just a shame that so many people blindly voted for other parties without realising what they were voting for (and against)

Let’s see what happens next.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

When the weather matches your mindset

Grey, miserable with the occasional sunny spell. That’s how I feel, mentally, following the terrorist attack in London on Saturday night.

London skyline

Mindless killing in the name of “Allah” – I don’t think so! Real Muslims are currently fasting for Ramadan, honouring their God and the Koran.

Terrorists are not real Muslims.

And real Muslims are not terrorists.

Scary times. I know that’s what they (the terrorists) want, and I know we (the general public) aren’t supposed to give in – that we should be strong and stoic and refuse to change our behaviour, but I’ll admit, I’m scared. I’m going to London for the Guns n Roses gig next Friday and I’m nervous.

But enough about me. The current time should be for sending thoughts and love to any of the victims, their families and their friends. And to the amazing emergency services who selflessly put themselves on the front line, not knowing who or what they’re dealing with.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [8] Muslims are people too

Following the horror of last week’s terror attack in Manchester and the humbling response by people in the City pulling together, I’ve been so uplifted by seeing Manchester and beyond showing strength and solidarity.

This story embodies it for me.

It’s a fairly long watch, but worth it. My eyes were squishy by the end and I felt proud of my fellow humans – whatever age, colour, or faith – showing this brave young man that we’re all in this together.

Just have a look.

We stand with you, Manchester.

Thanks, as always, for reading . x

 

My latest thoughts on the upcoming General Election

A few weeks back, when the General Election was announced, I summarised my thoughts on the options available, the parties and their leaders. At the time I already knew that I wouldn’t be voting Conservative this time around, but didn’t really see a good alternative.

I’ve changed my mind.

I realised that my opinions on Jeremy Corbyn were unfounded, because I’d never even heard him speak! Perhaps I had been swayed by the media coverage telling me he wasn’t leadership material. More likely I had made a passing judgement without investigating further.

Jeremy Corbyn

I’m not afraid to hold my hand up when I’ve made a mistake, and this is one of those times. I believe I made a mistake in my opinion of Jeremy Corbyn. The more I see of him and listen to him, the more I see that he is a viable alternative to the Prime Ministers of the past. Just because he’s different; quieter, less power hungry, doesn’t make him a bad option. In fact it makes him a stronger option. Because, in recent times, all of our Prime Ministers seem to have been cut from the same cloth – media personalities with a personal agenda – and look where that’s got us? We’re somehow in a position where the governing party wants to privatise our NHS. How is that representative of the people and it’s needs?

JC isn’t a shouter, or a bold statement maker (“strong and stable”, anyone?) He’s measured, he answers genuinely and calmly, he doesn’t get drawn into inane bollocks from media reporters who are obviously trying to catch him out. He comes across as genuinely having the best interests of the country at heart, rather than the best interests of a few.

Contrast that with Theresa May, who is seemingly so arrogant that she’ll win that she’s dishing out all sorts of controversial policies – fox hunting, school meals and social care being at the forefront. That kind of behaviour almost seems like self-sabotage, yet there are still people – hard working people who will be negatively affected by a Tory government with it’s privatised NHS – who are planning to blindly vote Tory because May is our best bet for a strong Brexit. I’d say she isn’t. Her bolshiness and thinly veiled threats to the EU aren’t going to put us in a very good position. I’ve said all along that we cannot dictate to the EU what the terms of our departure are. If they want to make life difficult for us, they can. It’s a fallacy to believe that “they need us more than we need them”. We’re not in the days of the British Empire anymore, we’re just a little island where even the neighbouring parts of our union want to devolve and seek independence. Hardly the most attractive prospect.

Also very much in Jeremy Corbyn’s favour is the fact that he turned up to take part in last night’s televised debate, whilst Mrs May stayed away and sent Home Secretary Amber Rudd instead (whose Dad died only on Monday – compassion in the workplace, eh?)

I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t think the Conservatives were necessarily a shoo-in, and it seems that the tide is turning somewhat, with the Conservative majority having slipped massively, if opinion polls are to be believed. With just a week to go, I wonder if Theresa May is beginning to regret calling what was always an unnecessary election – designed purely for her own vanity and popularity. As her public appearances become more awkward and strained, whilst the other political party leaders stick the boot in about her cowardice in avoiding face to face debate, next Thursday could indeed be a turning point for the Tories, and equally for Britain.

The most important thing I can say is – VOTE! If you’re eligible and have registered then please don’t squander an opportunity to have your say in the future of our country. Democracy belongs to all of us.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

5 things I learnt from living in our flat

We officially moved into our new place on Saturday – how exciting! We haven’t quite left the flat yet, there are still bits and pieces lingering around that we need to transfer over, but its no longer our main residence (I sound like the Queen!)

It’s been a super happy and fun 11 years in that little place, and I’ve loved every minute.

5 things I learnt from living in our flat

I’ve also learnt a few things too!

———–

You can fit a lot more stuff in a 2 bedroom flat than initially thought

As evidenced by the fact that we still haven’t 100% moved, and that we have boxes everywhere, and that I don’t remember our move 11 years ago being anywhere near this messy, it’s fair to say we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. Neither of us are good at living a minimal lifestyle – me with clothes and shoes and the husband with music and guitars, so it was inevitable that we’re going to have to buy more storage for the new place!

I love one level living

The idea of living in a flat didn’t come naturally to me at first but within days (more likely minutes) I loved having everything on one level! Not having to go upstairs for the loo in the middle of a TV program, or go downstairs for a drink in the middle of the night – it just really worked! So much so, in fact, that when we started to earnestly talk about moving, I insisted I would only move to a bungalow! And now I have a whole 13 stairs – I’m just hoping they help me lose weight!!

How much I like trees and squirrels

The flat was built in the 1960s, and most of the trees on the estate are from that era, so you can imagine their height and magnitude after growing for 50 years! The surrounding is so very green and lush, with thick trunks and dense leaves perfect for squirrels to climb, jump about and hide in. I love to sit watching them playing or chasing each other. We were worried that the move would mean giving up all the greenery as we live in an urban location, but we’ve been incredibly lucky to find a place that, if possible, is even more green and quiet than what we’ve left behind. Standing in the garden, all you can here is leaves rustling and birdsong, it’s beautiful. And I spotted a cheeky squirrel at the weekend too.

How much I dislike ceramic hobs!

I bought our kitchen hob for appearance rather than functionality and it drives me mad! It’s so unresponsive when you change the temperature, and it’s a sod to keep clean too. Definitely not repeating that when we get our new kitchen!

Fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas

Ah, tiny twinkly lights, how I love thee! From multi-coloured pretties on the balcony, to star shaped ones in the lounge and a Moroccan inspired set in the dining area, I think everything is improved with the soft subtle glow of fairy lights. I’ll be having lots of them in the new place, and even more in the garden!

———–

With all those lessons learnt and experiences…experienced, it feels nice to be starting in a new place with the basics all ticked but the rest as a blank canvas for us to make our own mark. It’s going to be a long, slow and expensive process, but it’s going to be fab!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Teachings of Islam at Masjid Kapitan Keling in Penang

I had planned this post as a standalone to my other Malaysia trip posts as soon as I left the Kapitan Keling mosque in Penang and, in view of the bombing in Manchester, which has now been claimed by Muslim terrorists, today seems the right time to write it.

I love religious architecture; the grand scale, the intricate detail, the commitment to beauty. As I mentioned in my previous Malaysia post, the temples were one of the things I couldn’t wait to visit on our trip. I’m fascinated with churches, despite being a firm atheist, and will always seek out grand religious buildings whenever we’re on a trip.

Yet I’ve never been in a mosque.

On one of our visits to George Town, capital of Penang Island, we walked past the Kapitan Keling mosque – a stark, white building in the middle of the city, with it’s strong arches, rounded domes, and towering minaret.

Masjid Kapitan Keling outside

We took some pictures from the outside and were spotted by a volunteer in the foyer, who invited me in. I was given a scarf to cover my head (I was already dressed conservatively, with my legs and shoulders covered because of the possibility of visiting religious sites, but people who were dressed in strappy tops and shorts were cordially invited in and given clothes to cover themselves) and the young female volunteer began to tell me about the history of the mosque, and more about the Muslim faith.

I was struck by the simplicity of the inside of the mosque. In contrast to churches, and the Buddhist and Thai temples we had visited earlier in our trip, there were no physical depictions of Allah, no decorations or ostentatious shrines.

My guide explained to me that Allah’s physical appearance was never described anywhere in the Koran and so there are no imaginations of what he looks like anywhere – not just in a mosque but in every day life. Also, it is against the religion of Islam for any person or animal be represented in a mosque, part of which is that it can lead to idolatry, and also that there is no distraction during the praying process. Praying is a direct connection between the individual and Allah.

She explained to me about the pre-prayer washing process, which has to be done in a particular order, and that prayer water is inhaled into the nose and mouth for healing and purity reasons. She explained to me about the call to prayer, and prayer times – I incorrectly thought a prayer time had to be adhered to exactly, but she told me that as long as prayer is taken between the first call to prayer time and before the next call to prayer then that’s acceptable. She pointed out the segregated women’s prayer area, showed me the Koran, and read the Islamic prayer which is said to Allah 5 times each day.

It was incredibly enlightening, calming and interesting.

When I left the mosque she gave me some leaflets to take away and, because I’d been gone for a while, the husband joked that I’d been radicalised which is just the kind of sense of humour we have but not quite so funny in view of recent events.

Leaflets about Islam

When we got back to the hotel I sat and read the leaflets (more inappropriate radicalisation jokes!) which are designed to dispel some of the myths, rumours and negative press that Islam gets across the world.

Two quotes stand out to me:

“Have you ever wondered why a nun can be covered from head to toe and she’s respected for devoting herself to God, but when a Muslim woman covers, she’s viewed as “oppressed”? Or why a Jew can grow a beard and he’s just practising his faith, and when a Muslim does that, he’s an “extremist”?”

And this:

“Would you send your car to a butcher for repair, or a sick child to a florist? Of course not. A butcher is not qualified to repair a car, nor a florist qualified to treat the sick. Likewise, people without Islamic knowledge are not qualified to inform others about Islam. So why is it that people are willing to accept information about Islam. So why is it that people are willing to accept information about Islam from those that do not have the required knowledge?”

I’m not here to preach or change people’s minds, or even to share the content of the leaflets, but the way they approach common misconceptions was definitely an interesting read, and something I believe a lot of people could benefit from reading (EDL and Britain First members, I’m looking at you).

Whenever there’s a terror attack, the level of vitriol towards the Muslim community rises, and it’s so often misplaced – aimed at innocent people who simply believe in a religion and a God who is there for them; in the same way as a Christian or Catholic may believe in religion and God. We don’t turn against Christians when a Christian fundamentalist commits a murderous crime. We don’t see the religions of criminals reported in the news – unless they’re Muslim.

Crimes committed by Muslims in the name of Islam are anything but what they profess to be. They are extremist individuals who have a twisted view of “their” religion and the world at large, and try to justify a thirst for blood and an anger against a perceived threat in the name of a God who would deplore such actions.

Apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my writings about the mosque, but that’s the information as I recall it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x