Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thaipusam In Penang

Last year I avoided Thaipusam because I knew traffic would be bad and also I just plain got lazy, but this year seeing as it will be our last year in Penang Aya and I decided to go see what all the hubbub was about.

In Malaysia there is a pretty big Tamil community and Penang I feel like even more so. Thaipusam is a word meaning the month of the star, or something close to that, and is celebrated by Hindu devotees. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. I can’t pretend I know any of that though, wikipedia tells me so. What I knew about the festival is that it involved moving a heavy silver shrine from Lorong Kulit temple  in Georgetown to Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple near the botanical gardens, people would be making offerings of milk, and there would be a lot of devotees making the long walk there with hooks and spears in their bodies. Yeah, you read that right. Carrying kavadis, or burdens can be done as an act of penance. Usually in Penang this is done by carrying pots of milk, being speared, or both. Upon reaching the temple, devotees will fulfill their vows, offer thanksgiving prayers and penance to Lord Muruga.

We didn’t get speared or carrying any milk. More or less we wandered around Jalan Waterfall to see the speared men making their march to the temple and to get some street food. Aya ended up getting some henna done on her hand as well. After snapping a couple of pictures we left, mission complete. On the list of things to do in Penang, one more thing checked off. Now, I have to get Aya to climb Penang Hill with me!

Sunday, February 02, 2014


Back in Osaka for the new year we took some time to visit the castle and to go to the shrine to make a prayer and wish. On the way to the airport we stopped in Rinku town as we had a couple of hours between checking out of our hotel and the flight. Rinku town is the last stop before the airport and is a center for an outlet mall. We stuffed our bags into a locker and then went to do some shopping, have lunch, and then go to the hot baths. It was rather nice to do before the long flight back to Penang. For those of you who can't read it, that sign on the floor says that "pleasure town" is to the right. Yes please! 


Back in Naha the weather did improve slightly, no more rain. It was pleasant during the days, just warm enough to wear short sleeves. While in Naha we went to an orphanage that Alex had visited before. This was a great highlight to the trip as it was great to volunteer some time doing some good. I wish we could do more, but it seems like we were lucky enough to just get to spend some time playing with the kids. They definitely seemed to like it, but it was sad to go. Many of them asked when we would come back.
The next couple of days Alex spent seeing some acquaintances of his on a nearby island and Aya and I did some shopping and went to the aquarium in the north of the island which was very cool. This was my second time there, but this time I got to do something I didn't last. We watched the feeding of the whale sharks, which was so cool to see them sucking in and filtering their food. After that we were allowed up onto the top of the aquarium for a look down.
On the new year we went to an american base to walk around for a bit and also to watch some dancing and fireworks on new year's eve. It was a good time. That night we bid Alex goodbye and were on our way to the airport and back to Osaka the next day.