Kwai Chai Hong @ Panggung : A Nostalgic Alley to the Past

Kwai Chai Hong @ Panggung : Nostalgic Alley to the Past

Kwai Chai Hong is the latest tourist hotspot in town. The name alone aroused my curiosity, and I bet you have questions of your own. 

Let’s see what all the commotion is about.

Kwai Chai Hong @ Little Demon Alley.

Well, Kwai Chai Hong is located within the proximity of China Town. It has been a while since we last explored China Town, but hopefully you remember your way around. If not, let me jog your memory a bit. Do you remember those tasty delicacies we tried there? Roasted chestnuts and Air Mata Kuching, also called cat’s-eye drink? (No, the drink doesn’t come with an actual cat’s eye, but is made from a fruit that has a large seed similar to an eye. 😉) And what about the thrill of returning home with Gucci-filled suitcases? Bet those incredible bargains made losing your voice worth it.

Exploring the colourful  Kwai Chai Hong.

It’s easy to get to this neighbourhood. Just hop onto any bus or train heading to Pasar Seni station.

Heading to Panggung Lane (Lorong Panggung).

Ten pre-war shophouses along Jalan Petaling (Petaling Street) and Lorong Panggung (Panggung Lane) have been restored, and this area is our destination. 

Lorong Panggung is also known as Kwai Chai Hong, which means “Little Demon Alley” in Cantonese. Today, this neighbourhood is booming and has a classy, nostalgic vibe. Each of the buildings and lanes have been tastefully restored to recreate the late 19th and early 20th century feel. You will find several new trendy restaurants, charming cafes, decent hotels, and quaint hostels as you walk along these streets.

One of the many charming cafes at Kwai Chai Hong.

My two friends Libor and KM, whom I have worked closely with over the years, and I had originally planned to visit the Little Demon Alley together after our dinner in the same neighbourhood. Alas, a creative menu at Merchant’s Lane and years of untold stories got the better of us. We decided to try again another day.

Catching up at Jalan Panggung.

My curiosity to learn about Kwai Chai Hong has brought me back several times since. I wanted to get acquainted with these demons myself.

Little Demon Alley, you said? Yup, that’s right. There are two theories on how this place got its nickname. The first is that the migrant workers from China in this area referred to the mischievous children of the neighbourhood as little demons. The second theory suggests that this neighbourhood was once known for notorious gangsters and illicit activities. I prefer to go with the first.

Little Demon Alley.

The entire area is an Instagram-friendly place, with many large murals inside the alley. When you go, have your cameras and mobile phones ready.

Large murals.

To see the back alley, you need to cross a small red bridge. The alley is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to  midnight every day. Entrance is free.

The small red bridge. 

How often do you get to see a functioning century-old lamp post? Remember to look out for the only surviving one from the early 1900s. Don’t miss this — its right after you cross the bridge!

Century-old lamp post.

Inside, you will be reminded of the world of yesterday. Did you notice the murals? Each mural will transport you back to the daily life in the early 20th century. 

  • There was a queue at the barber’s, so I suspected he was good. I waited my turn to try something new, hoping it’d turn out well.

Alas, my turn.
  • That was a long wait, indeed. Do you see the stars in the sky now? Despite needing to leave, I couldn’t resist getting a picture with the skilful calligrapher who helped me draft some long-overdue letters.

Write me a letter.
  • Soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone and to the little girl at the window. “I’ll be back. That’s a pinkie-promise,” I tell her.
See you again.

Time for some coffee time after returning to today-land! I opted for a local brew at one of the newly-restored shophouses-turned-cafes. It’s a Hainanese white coffee (Nanyang style). Hainan coffee was brought to Malaysia (known as Malaya back then) by the Chinese from the Hainan region of China. Today, Hainan coffee is a popular breakfast choice in Malaysia.

Coffee at today-land!

According to the restaurant employee where I had my drink, Kwai Chai Hong only recently opened to the public.  

And, here are a pictures of a few more cafes in the neighbourhood.

Long queues, notice the name? 

Look, tarts! Delicious, I am sure.

Pretty yellow tarts.

Earlier on my way from the train station, I spotted a building that had previously been the post office of Jalan Panggung. This building too had been restored.

Post office of Jalan Panggung.

What a day, what a coffee and what a year it had been! 2019 just zoomed by. I hope you had fun exploring and revisiting the past. 

How important it is to keep these memories close as we embrace rapid progress around us! Everything is precious, and so are our bonds we have with people, pets and places. All that is precious to us survive the test of time. Memories! Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi!

See you next year. Enjoy the holiday season!

Enjoy the holiday season!

See you again next year!

Asia: Indonesia, One Morning in Lombok.

Asia: Indonesia, One Morning in Lombok. 

Sun, sea, sand lovers, here is another treat for you. Today we are visiting an island paradise in Indonesia: Lombok.
Mystical Lombok.

Lombok Island is located in the province of West Nusa Tenggara and is often compared to the more famous neighbouring island, Bali. Having visited both islands, I find this comparison is unnecessary. Both have their own unique rustic charm to delight any visitor.

Pick one, the options to do are plenty.

Much of Lombok is still untouched, so any visit means enjoying the raw, natural beauty. Even still, there are reliable transport options for local travel, as well as various types of hotels to suit different budget preferences. In general, travel-related expenses are not going lighten your pocket too much. The people are friendly and will readily welcome any visitor.  So, if you want a quick, stress-free Asian getaway or a moment to yourself, you’ve come to the right place.

Guided by a light.

To get here, you can fly into the Lombok’s international airport. If you are travelling from another Indonesian islands nearby, check out the ferry and speedboat travel options. There are scheduled transfer services from most islands.

I am coming your way, Lombok.

All you trekkers, adventure seekers, and non-water freaks, Lombok is not all about the surfing, sea, and sand. You can still enjoy the sun and warmth while you explore the various trails at Gunung Rinjani National Park. Mount Rinjani, 3,726 meters (12,224 feet) above sea level, is the second-highest volcano in Indonesia. It’s also an active volcano, having last erupted in 2016.

Indonesian coffee, a local brew. 

Though Lombok is a small island, the few days I had there just weren’t enough. This poem about my laid-back mornings in Lombok will tell you why.

One Morning in Lombok ....

One morning in Lombok
peace-count years back,
I followed a trail of yellow trumpets, 
pausing at the sight of an earth-warm pot. 
The dew-filled golden carpet guided me
to the feast of beating drums.
The performer-in-waiting,
accompanied by a melodious eastern orchestra.
Both set for the centre stage.
Just in time, thoughts hurried, as I raced.

A trail of yellow trumpets and the earth-warm pot.

But they were no longer visible,
shadowed by the fluffy curtains.
Did you not see?
Weren’t you here for them?

The performers now far away
Nikon did not handshake,
not today, nor the dawn before.
Maybe tomorrow.
But it was OK they say,
pointing me to the flying doves, 
for they too had posed,
looking at us, pointing at me, at them
Oh that mastery, that perfection,
They will return.

I didn’t come to hear
the noises of late arrivals,
but to pick up a trick or two.

My local friend, the fisherman.

Far off, a fisherman
wrestling wind and line,
finds no comfort from either.
There is still space in the bucket for more.
A chilly start, did you not see the dew?
The boats set sail.
A new day begins,
There is comfort in the quiet rise of a warm cup. 
How many sunrises had he seen?
How many sunrises had I missed?

Pristine, clear sea.

The pristine shores of Lombok wiggle,
The tide so high, I can’t see myself.
A sail set for the west –
Gili is her name, they say.
But, the rising sun pleas with me to stay,
the mountains and a lake of glorious green and grey
soothe my restless mind.
Is that her, the mighty one?
Rinjani, so full of mystery,
Ness missed this spot,
Would she send her spirits if I asked?

Glorious natural shades.

Beard now chin length,
the bucket filled.
The western orchestra’s turn for centre stage,
showing off the glorious skies of paradise.

Sunset, preparation for another day.

Another sunrise,
another pause.
A few more clicks.
one morning in Lombok.
 -----   Uma Singaram ----

Culture, art and history enthusiasts, there is something in store for you too. Pura Batu Bolong Temple in Tabanan district is a must-visit spot. This is a beautiful rock-top temple that overlooks the majestic sea.  

Visit to Pura Batu Bolong.

Taman Narmada (Narmada Park) is another popular local attraction, built-in 1727. The park is located ten kilometres away from the main town centre, Mataram. At the park, remember to look out for the famous royal tiered gardens and the Fountain of Youth (the water source is from Mount Rinjani). According to legend, anyone who drinks from this fountain will gain eternal youth. 

Regaining lost youth in Taman Narmada.

During my visit to the park, the fountain had been turned off.  Nevertheless, I hope some of Rinjani’s mystical powers had seeped into me in the form of coffee, because there are a lot more places to take you to with Reaching Delphi. Stay healthy, keep fit always. Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi for eternal memories together.  

One morning in Lombok

Conscientious Traveller, Conserve & Protect Mother Nature

Conscientious Traveller, Conserve & Protect Mother Nature

Let’s admit it, we all jump at the opportunity to get out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. A stroll in the park. A visit to the neighbourhood playground. A trip to the seaside. A trek with your pet. That all sounds great to me. It’s wonderful seeing glorious blue skies and feeling the sun's warm rays on our arms, wouldn’t you agree?

A little hope, a little prayer,
to see the light.

But as you’ve explored the great outdoors, have you ever noticed the natural beauty of those beautiful places gradually diminishing over time? Have you seen signs of adverse changes or any disturbances to the equilibrium of the ecosystem? If not, then it’s time to pay attention.

Protect the path.
Responsibility to Mother Nature.

Recent catastrophic disasters (hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones) and ruthless deforestation are not only causing the loss of countless lives and wrecking homes but also damaging the natural landscapes that we take for granted.

I am distraught, and that is why I am writing this article as a reminder that all of us need to do something, especially for the ones who cannot speak up for themselves. This article is a follow-up to my post on the Maldives.

Be the voice. Choose to protect.

The fires blazing today are ruthlessly destroying our million-year-old green lungs in the Amazon, Asia, and other parts of the world. Sadly, this form of destruction has become the norm in some parts of the world. Humans are junking more and more items into the sea. We use more plastic today than we did decades ago. We have larger carbon footprints today than anyone in the past. Experts warn that these are some of the causes of global warming.  

We are all witnesses to the disastrous effects of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. The destruction in the Bahamas, Haiti, and countries affected by the great Asian tsunamis is a reminder of nature’s mighty powers.

A hurricane passing through.  Natures mighty powers. 

We read about the melting glaciers, ice sheets, and general thermal expansion caused by the warming of the sea. It is an inevitable fact that our sea levels are rising, affecting cities like Jakarta, London, Dhaka, Bangkok, New Orleans, and several island-countries like the Maldives. Some of these cities may no longer exist in years to come. If nothing is done today, they will only be text in historical recordings. These effects of global warming are impacting real people with families and friends. The struggles they now face are constant reminders that we are on a fast-track to destroy our four-and-a-half-billion-year-old home. 

Flooded city. No cycling on these roads today.

It is vital to recognise every form of life: Ancient trees and the ones that aren’t so old. Plants. Parasites. Bacteria. Fungi. Coffee beans. Marine life. The creatures that move on the earth, as well as those that don’t move an inch. The creatures that dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean. Birds of all sorts. Insects we haven’t even seen. Oh, yes, and humans. The list doesn’t end. Every life on Earth is essential and equal. 

Every life is equal.

As a traveller and, more importantly, as a fellow citizen of Earth, I am saddened by what I have seen over the years. That is why I am writing this article: to remind ourselves that we too need to do something. When a child like Greta Thunberg speaks up for the earth and challenges world leaders and corporations to stop climate change, I know we too are in a position to lend our hands and voice. Change starts with us. It begins in our homes.

Alone after Hurricane Gaja. 

I have always taken extra time and care to post beautiful pictures of places in this blog because, well, the earth is beautiful! The countries, cities, towns, and villages that exist on it are beautiful! The living beings that dwell here are even more beautiful! This is our place, our Earth. Our Mother Nature. Our home. If we also want future generations to see and experience the pristine surroundings you see here, we must conserve it. Grab your coffee, because what I am going to say next is a dead-serious matter. 

Serious topics, strong coffee. An Otter stares back.
Its a matter of responsibility.

Conservation is a continuous process. The future existence of islands, atolls, and marine and land wildlife is in our hands. Even though we may be miles away from the ocean or the Amazon, you and I today must take some of the many small measures within our means to ensure the equilibrium of the ecosystem:

  • Dispose of waste responsibly. 

  • I'll start with this because we have control over this action. Let’s follow this candy wrapper explore the world:
  • You unwrap a candy. Since no one is watching, you throw the wrapper onto the street. Don’t roll your eyes, because I have seen this plenty of times.

Be responsible. Do the right thing.

  • The wrapper is very light. A gentle breeze blows it away. After a few iterations of this, the candy wrapper ends up in a drain. Imagine 1,000 more candy wrappers ending up in the same drain.
  • The drain gets clogged with candy wrappers, other plastics, and waste. Clogged drains cause drainage systems to fail.
  • Heavy rain! Time to sing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. Ohhh! Clogged drains. The excess water cannot flow smoothly. Rain continues. Next thing you know, it’s flooding. Residences need to be evacuated. The tune changes to ‘Rain, Rain, Go Away’.  
Would you want your ‘sweet’ candy wrapper to be the cause of lost possessions, homes, lives, and the spread of disease?
Let’s take it a little further.
  • The wrapper survives the drain clogging. 
  • It makes its way along with other waste-companions to the rivers. The river meets-up with the sea. The wrapper says, ‘I am free! I am free! I am in the deep blue sea! ‘

Conscientious travel: Love the life within. 

  • Look, there is a copepod. Did you know that small fish feed on this important group of animal plankton known as copepod? Well, it thinks the wrapper is a moving plant and nibbles on it. Part of the wrapper is now inside the copepod, but not only in one. In thousands. Oh, boy, oh, boy!
  • A tuna nearby is hungry but extremely happy to see the well-fed copepods and swallows them in. Delicious!
  • Meanwhile, a fisherman at sea pulls up his net. What a whole load of yummy fish, he thinks as he wonders how many bills he could pay with this catch.
  • At dinner, the fish is now a deliciously grilled dish serving on your dinner table.
  • You and your children are enjoying the toxin-filled fish! Your wrapper returns to you.
Think about it!
Care for what you consume. Protect the oceans.

  • So, when you come across someone disposing of something irresponsibly (littering, dumping waste into rivers, leaving rubbish on sidewalks), do the right thing – tell them not to or call the authorities. 

  • Save energy and reduce carbon footprint.

  • Now come on, don't be shy to take public transport, carpool, walk or why not cycle whenever possible. There is nothing wrong with walking a bit or riding a bus or taking a train.
Reduce carbon footprint and keep fit. 

  • Walk to the grocery shop or market to pick up your supplies. Too many things to carry back? How about using a push-cart? Afraid to shop alone? How about organising or joining community walk-shop-talk trips? 
  • Switch-off any electric appliances that are not in use at home, office or in your hotel room. 

Save energy.

  • Switch to solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. The use of solar panels to create electricity helps mitigate global warming and urban heat islands by lowering the emission of greenhouse gases.

Switch to solar energy. Do you see the light?

  • Opt for energy-saving alternatives. Examples include using a handheld fan instead of an electric fan or taking the staircase instead of the lift. These are simple ways to save energy while losing a couple unwanted calories. 
  • Eco-friendly hotels are booming. Do support them and their initiatives.

  • Recycle reusable material and reduce the use of plastics.

  • Don’t like that shirt, dress or over-coat? Wait, don’t trash them. Extend their lives by donating them to various organisations or giving them away to other fellow-travellers. 
  • Most of us are guiltily dependent on plastics and overuse them. Reduce your use of plastic as much as possible. Pack your food in recyclable containers and use only recyclable or biodegradable bags. 

  • Spread awareness to protect the oceans.

  • All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. Without the ocean, life would not exist. Period! Protect the rivers, sea and oceans as dearly as you’d protect your life.
Everything is connected. Protect the sea and oceans. 

  • Recycle water around the house by catching rain water. This water can be used for washing clothes, utensils and gardening. Recycling water in large scale brings tremendous benefit to the environment, including  creating or improving wetlands habitats.
 Save water and save on bills.

Encourage your connections to adopt environment saving-measures. Some coffee sure helps. ☕ Educate those around you, at home or when you travel, about the effects of climate change and provide pointers to help them institute positive change.

We have nothing if we don't have this earth. It’s time to step up. It’s time to do something to protect the planet. Every little step forward counts. We may not all have the revenue to tie ourselves to trees to prove a point, but we can start with ourselves, our homes, and our communities.

Enjoy the mild sun.
Say no to global warming.

There’s no longer a wait-and-see-fix phase. We have passed that stage. The earth is angry at our lack of concern. But it’s not too late to pick up the pieces. Let’s together protect it as we would defend our ourselves. The four-and-a-half-billion-year-old Earth the only real antique we have! It is priceless. Choose to conserve. Choose to protect. Be a responsible and conscientious traveller. Counting stars, Reaching Delphi, for a cleaner and safer tomorrow.

One Earth, One Home. Ours. Protect her!