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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Myanmar – Girl at Indein Village

Girl at Indein Village, Myanmar

Girl selling colourful scarves at Indein Village, Myanmar. Indein is one of the small villages located on the western bank of Inle Lake.

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Penang – An Alternative Guide to George Town’s Street Art

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

My Facebook page has been flooded with photos of George Town’s street art for this entire year. Curiosity stoked, Darren and I decided it was time for us to do our own interpretations of George Town’s famous street art. You can be sure they will be quite atypical ;)

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Best way to go on a street art trail – rent a bicycle. We got ours for only RM8 for an entire day!

It was only recently that Penang’s street art stared to generate quite a buzz on social networks from Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s series of murals painted during Mirrors George Town for George Town Festival 2012. What is not widely-known is that the seed to plant art in George Town started back in 2009 when Kuala Lumpur-based art company Sculpture at Work won the Penang state government’s commissioned art challenge ‘Marking George Town: An Idea Competition for UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sculpture at Work proposed to tell stories of Penang inspired by their residents and culture through 52 steel rod caricatures place all over George Town. Together with the wall murals, they caught the world’s attention and tourists started flocking to Penang for another reason – other than its food.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Every Penangnite wants a piece of the tourism business. Shops such as this clothing store rent out bicycles to tourists, and have their own ‘street art’ outside their shops to attract business.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Here we go on our street art exploration!

First, to find the famous murals painted by Ernest Zacharevic…

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

The Trishaw
Jalan Penang
When Darren stopped in front, I kept asking “Where? Where?” Until I raised up my head. Silly me.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Kungfu Girl (no, not the one in sunglasses)
Lebuh Muntri

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Boy on Chair
Lebuh Cannon

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

When visiting during weekends, be prepared to queue for your turn to take a photo

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Little Children on a Bicycle (yes, all 3 children)
Lebuh Armenian
This would easily be the most popular mural of his series

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Cycling – a great way to see the city. Do it together on a double bike!

While Ernest Zacharevic started the street art faze, other Malaysian artists have also started to leave their mark around the heritage town, such as 101 Lost Kittens.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Skippy to Penang for animal awareness (by 101 Lost Kittens)
Gat Lebuh Armenian

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

It looks like the cat and the rat have been painted by two different artists. The one who drew the rat obviously has a wry sense of humour!

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Love me like your fortune cat
Gat Lebuh Armenian

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

While we usually back away if we see people gathering in back lanes, in Penang we go towards it. Because there’s likely to be a street mural.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

The real Bruce Lee would never do this
Lebuh Ah Quee

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

I can help catch rats
Lebuh Armenian

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Scent-sational
Not much is known about this unnamed artist. I sure had a good time with this mural!

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Rob me Rob me – no money, got honey!

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Art defaced
This used to be half the face of a Chinese opera singer, and half skeleton. It has since been destroyed. Many people ask the question – what if street art gets vandalized? I think it’s is just part of its natural evolution; created from inspiration, added on to over time, faded with memories and then something new will sprout up signifying the rebirth of yet another cultural expression.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Magic
Lebuh Armenian
Super vainpot :D

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Grandma & Grandson
Entrance of Chew Jetty

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Lebuh Armenian

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Lion dance mural found outside a shop

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Peek-a-boo!

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Minion Invasion. They are everywhere in the streets.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Minions
Lorong Soo Hong

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Fatt Choy Minion?

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Stylo-mylo

Did you know the streets of George Town were named after its trades, people and events? Learn about how each street got its name through the 52 steel rod sculptures placed all over the city which were inspired by Penangites going about their daily chores.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Procession
Lebuh Armenian
The Tua Pek Kong Hneoh Grand Float Procession is held in the Year of the Tiger to wash away bad luck and bring great wealth and health.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Cannon Hole
Lebuh Cannon
A cannon shot fired during the 1867 Penang Riots made a large hole in this area, hence the name.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Quiet Please
Lebuh Gereja
To the dismay of parishioners of the Portugese church there, Church Street also housed the headquarters of the notorious Ghee Hin secret society.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Ah Quee?
Lebuh Ah Quee
The street is named after Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee who generously donated this house to the Municipality for vehicular access, ensuring that his name lives on for posterity.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Budget Hotels
Lebuh Chulia
At the turn of the last century, many shophouses were turned into cheap hotels, making this internationally-known tourist strip very popular with backpackers.

My favourites happen to be drawn by a young non-commissioned Malaysian artist Louis Gan:

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Two children playing basketball
Lebuh Gat Chulia
Very cute shot, and an extremely happy family.

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Brother and sister on a swing
Lebuh Gat Chulia
Louis depicts childhood in Penang through a mural of a brother and sister balancing on a swing

Penang - Street Art in Georgetown

Unleasing the Inner Child in me

I think it’s a wonderful idea and meaningful art/heritage trail for every visitor to Penang to embark on. I enjoyed my ride on wheels around the city, venturing along small laneways and hidden alleys in search of art. And Darren’s company was icing on the cake – he was great with the map and way -finding!

Street Art Maps
Street Art Map
Best map I have seen from Timeout Penang
Learn more about the 52 steel rod sculptures
Mural Map iphone app

You will not need to print the maps out; simply get a street art brochure when you arrive at the airport or from your hotel. Have fun :)

Read more about Penang
Penang – Made In Penang Interactive Museum 美因槟廊


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Chasing Nature at Gaya Island Resort

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Brilliant Green Throated Lizards and more exotic creatures await you on Gaya Island Resort’s daily Nature Walk

Darren & I recently went on a getaway to nature’s paradise in the form of Gaya Island Resort, a newly opened five-star retreat located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu on the shores of Pulau Gaya, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Sabah/Borneo. Being nature lovers, this was the perfect location for us surrounded by untouched tropical rainforests and mangroves lovingly preserved for thousands of years complimented with the majestic view of Mount Kinabalu. Borneo is also home to many rare species including the orangutan, proboscis monkey and pygmy elephant.

We were thus naturally excited to go on the resort’s guided nature walks (9am daily lasting about 1hr; complimentary for guests) led by their in-house naturalist Justin Juhun – what an adventure! We couldn’t wait to discover the island’s distinctive flora and fauna hidden in the rainforest, and hear the stories he has to tell about them. We hear that a family of proboscis monkeys have been spotted in the jungle too, so we were even more eager to spot them on our walk.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Get wild with Gaya Island Resort’s Resident Naturalist Justin Juhun
Born in Tawau, a town located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Justin was raised in a family of wildlife enthusiasts who owned an animal sanctuary in their backyard. Justin’s thus no stranger to wildlife as he has been hand rearing orphaned infants from an early age.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

On our way into the rainforest just behind the resort

Tips for surviving a jungle walk:
– Beware of commando-trained mosquitoes: wear a long sleeved shirt (I brought detachable sleeves) and pants, or prepare to be human buffet for the mosquitoes.
– Slather on insect repellent especially on the uncovered body areas.
– Keep your mouth closed. You’ll know why later on.
– Talk softly else you will scare away all the animals and insects, and your companions.
– Wear proper shoes as there may not be proper walking paths (we are in a real jungle, not theme park).
– Try to stay with the group or you may become the next Survivor wannabe – by yourself.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

In awe of nature’s sculptures

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Justin’s pretty much a modern-day bushman
He prances like a nimble monkey, crouches to listen to nearby animals like a leopard and mimics the calls of birds. Darren tried to do the same bird calls later, but all he attracted were mosquitoes.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A man’s favourite plant – Tongkat Ali
Nature’s aphrodisiac was aplenty on the island; we saw one of these every five steps we took. The Tongkat Ali root has been said to boost male virility, although Justin said this is not scientifically proven. Instead, he has been using this as a medicine for cancer.
I learnt a trick on how to identify  a Tongkat Ali plant – the leaf texture is velvety, and it doesn’t break when crumpled unlike other plants.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A butterfly (to-be) did this
Justin taught us how to identify wildlife by the traces they leave – poo, foot trails, half-eaten leaves and in this photo – the larvae of a leafwing butterfly (so named because their wings mimic dead leaves) rolling itself up in a leaf which acts as a temporary shelter. They secure the leaf with silk they produce.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Husk of a molted cicada
Cicadas molt (shed their skins) on a nearby plant when they are about a year old and emerge as adults. The abandoned exoskeleton remains, clinging to the bark of trees or on leaves. There must be millions and millions of cicadas in the rainforest, cos’ they were noisy as hell.
And remember why I said not to open your mouths in the rainforest? Raise your head up and you will see romantic trails of water dripping from above. It is not morning dew. It is cicada pee.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Close-up of a cicada

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

The rainforest flora is as fascinating as its fauna

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Green Pit Viper curled up in the tree
Snakes apparently make home at a specific spot – Justin knew exactly where to find this fella. I was filled with trepidation as we trekked towards its location. I was honestly scared to death as I had never seen one outside of glass enclosures. It was quite happy to mind its own business while we ogled – or shrieked – from below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite hill

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite’s Recreation Centre
Termites do not stay in this ball-like structure – it’s sort of a recreation centre where they hang out to socialise and maybe date, and then move on to their housing quarters which is the giant terminate hill just below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Mini termite hills – nature does have its own humour

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Bioluminescent mushroom
Something tells me I shouldn’t eat this. Perhaps I should ask Justin to conduct a jungle gourmet tour since the greedy me kept looking around for things to eat :p

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

A really pretty lizard well-camouflaged by the tree bark
We would have missed it if Justin didn’t point it out to us. It seemed that the urbanites in us were blind to many things around us despite being so enthusiastic to spot wildlife. This walk actually me to slow down a little in life, to just quietly observe my surroundings. I have come to realise I see more now, and am able to give more creative ideas when I invest in few moments to really listen and think, instead of scurrying through life.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Flying Tree Lizard

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

What a cutie!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Banana Flower

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Fruit of the Nutmeg Tree
Finally something I can eat! Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, in perfume and medicinal oils. An extremely useful plant to have around.

Gaya Island Resort

Reishi Mushroom, more commonly known as Lingzhi (ganoderma lucidum)
The jungle is full of medicinal treasures too! This tiny little lingzhi took about 2 years to grow, no wonder they are so expensive. Justin told us that he had spotted another piece nearby which is over a hundred years old, and its value would have been about US$45,000 a few years back.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Even the birds came to sing

Gaya Island Resort nature Walk

Chat with the bushman
We were fortunate to have lunch with Justin after the walk and got to know him better. It was intriguing to hear him talk about his lifelong interest in wildlife, and about his ambition to start his very own wildlife reserve and conduct more research on flora and fauna’s useful properties as well as conservation.
While he was really serious and alert as a panther on the walk, he was very chatty during lunch, and almost like a little boy when talking about his future wildlife reserve. He was the one who set up the jungle walking paths at the resort, and I could sense his eagerness to get back into the jungle after lunch for more exploration. He shared that he is building an observation tower near a family of proboscis monkeys he discovered so resort guests will be able to see those precious creatures during future nature walks. I want to come back!!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Discover nature’s wonders for yourself
We had an enlightening experience – and an awesome good workout (Darren was dripping sweat and showing too much through his white linen shirt, not that I mind haha) during the nature walk. It is definitely an activity that I would recommend going for when you are at Gaya Island Resort (and it’s complimentary for goodness sake!) I think it may change the way you look at things.For a more exclusive exploration of the forest (or if you want to do a walk in the nocturnal evening), Justin can be booked via the resort at RM150 per person in the group, and the walks can tailored to varying difficulties and distance to suit one’s ability and interests. And I am looking forward to the day the bushman finally has his very own jungle. 

More on Gaya Island Resort:
Gaya Island Resort – Romancing Sunset
Gaya Island – Private Paradise at Tavajun Bay
Gaya Island Resort – Finding Zen at the Spa Village