Image

Tian Hock Kung – The Snake Temple of Klang

I’ve always had a fascination with temples—and being raised a Buddhist (the faith of which a majority of Malaysian Chinese people profess to), I’ve been to my fair share of unique places of worship in Malaysia. Among them are:

But just when I think I’ve seen it all, my backyard surprises me with a hidden gem — Tian Hock Kung, also dubbed the “Snake Temple of Klang”. I chanced upon some pictures online while doing research; there wasn’t a lot of info available in English, but it was enough to pique my inner travel journalist. So I decided to drag the Hubs, a fellow person of culture, on an impromptu adventure to seek out the place.

20220625_135359

Once the capital of Selangor, Klang is one of the region’s oldest cities, known for its colonial buildings and rich heritage sites. It has a huge Hokkien Chinese population, and as such, there are dozens of beautiful Chinese temples within the city, some of which are over a hundred years old.

Tian Hock Kung is tucked in a quiet locality next to the Klang River, a few minutes drive from the city centre. There are no signs along the way pointing to the temple and the building is hidden from the main road by foliage, but it’s not that difficult to find (you can Waze there, or look out for Klinik Kesihatan Sungai Berthek, which is just next to it).

Even though it was a weekend, and most temples would have seen at least some visitors, it was so quiet that we thought the place was not open to visitors. But since the gate was open, we ventured in cautiously. No caretaker was present; we were greeted only by a skinny black and white dog, ie the informal temple guardian.

20220625_135614

On the outside, Tian Hock Kung looks like an ordinary Chinese temple, with all the elements — curved orange roofs, lots of red, typical Chinese motifs. But as you walk closer, you’ll see why they call it Snake Temple.

In place of dragons or phoenixes, which are common motifs that represent auspiciousness and prosperity, you’ll find dozens of life-like snake statues and carvings; coiled around pillars in menacing poses and perched atop roofs.

20220625_135720

Even for someone without ophidophobia (fear of snakes), looking at the figures can trigger a feeling of uneasiness — even though they are clearly not alive. I think it stems from a primal sort of fear : a NatGeo article suggests that fear of snakes may be hardwired, a remnant from a time when being wary of dangerous animals gave humans an evolutionary advantage. Even though only one in five snakes are venomous (a smaller number are fatal to humans), and snakes are generally shy creatures that would run away from people rather than attack them, I think the natural reaction for many of us towards snakes is to get the hell away from them, lol.

20220625_140937
20220625_135748
A large green snake figure surrounded by flowers and plants on a giant wheeled float.

There is also, perhaps, another reason why we fear snakes. Their appearance and slithering movements seem cold and alien; far removed from mammals like ourselves, and so unlike cuddly, furry animals such as dogs and cats.

PS: For those unaware, a majority of the Malaysian Chinese population subscribe to an amalgamation of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, the latter two which incorporates many elements of traditional Chinese folklore and pagan practices of ancestor worship. Tian Hock Kung is primarily a Taoist temple, but it has a Guanyin statue as well, which is worshipped in both Buddhism as a bodhisattva, and Taoism as a deity/god.

20220625_135641

So why does this temple have so many representations of snakes?

Since I couldn’t find a caretaker to answer my questions, I can only rely on info I found online (most of these are written in Mandarin, which I can’t read lol and had to Google translate— so excuse me if I get some things wrong in translation).

The deities worshipped here are three sworn brothers, and like many Taoist deities, they are based on real historical figures. They are Zhang Gong Sheng Jun, Xiao Gong Sheng Jun, and Hong Gong Sheng Jun. You will find their statues inside the temple, with the main deity sporting a green face.

I’m not 100% sure which brother it is (I think it’s Zhang Gong Sheng Jun) but the god has an affinity for snakes and was known for defeating a thousand-year old snake demon. He also carries a magical weapon that used to be a snake which he subdued. You can read about the legend here.

20220625_140102

The interior of the temple is quite spacious, and the ceiling features an octagonal window with a Yin Yang motif — the primary symbol of Taoism — surrounded by other Taoist symbols that represent the different Immortals, such as the fan, gourd, iron crutch, and flute. In the centre of the room are several small but intricately carved wooden shrines with wooden seats on them (I’ve seen this before and I think they’re used to carry the deity statues out on religious parades). During our visit, there were also large stacks of paper offerings, sorted into neat bundles.

20220625_135956

Of course, it won’t be a Snake Temple without at least one resident snake — a huge albino python in a cage in the corner. Apparently snakes used to come here from time to time (on their own). According to a China Press article, in 2011, a six-foot-long python climbed into the temple and made a cozy nook for itself behind the altar, just before the deity’s birthday celebration. However, the snakes don’t come anymore, likely due to the surrounding neighbourhood’s development.

PS2: The northern state of Penang, another Chinese majority place, also has a snake temple, but instead of being in cages, the snakes roam freely around the temple. The history behind that temple is super interesting too, but I haven’t visited, and that would be a story for another time.

20220625_140519
Wall paintings. I think they tell the story of the deities worshipped at this temple.
Not being able to read Chinese characters is a real bummer. :c
20220625_140429

The main altar has been designed to look like a cave, complete with stalactites and outcroppings. There are three nooks, each housing one deity. The main one, as mentioned, has a green face, with a dragon on its back, and many smaller deities at the base. There are also large snakes with glowing LED eyes on each side of the central altar.

Unlike Buddhist statues, which often have serene, calm expressions, Taoist gods can appear quite….intimidating. In Cantonese, we call it having a strong sat hei, or ‘killing’ aura — ie a fierce disposition which is meant to scare away evil. You need not fear if you’re not an evil-doer, but those with evil in their hearts, beware.

20220625_140543
More paper offerings, these in the shape of clothes.
20220625_140554
Why pineapples? Pineapples are symbols of prosperity and good luck — the Hokkien word for pineapple ‘ong lai’, sounds like ‘prosperity comes’.
20220625_140612
20220625_141023

The entire time we were roaming around and taking photos, there was not a soul in sight. I would have liked to speak to the caretaker to understand more about the place, but it was also a positive experience in a way, as I could take my time exploring without having to worry about bothering anyone.

20220625_141247

While on my way to the toilet, I chanced upon an area that was almost hidden from sight, adjacent to the main building. Peeking in, I saw that it was a shrine to the Taoist god of the underworld, Yanluo Wang. The entrance was designed to look like the gates of Hell, flanked by Hell’s guardians in Chinese mythology, Ox-Head and Horse-Face. As the name suggests, they have the bodies of men, but the head of an ox and the face of a horse. They are believed to escort newly deceased souls to face Yan Wang’s judgement, where they will subsequently be sent to the different levels of hell for punishment, based on their earthly crimes, or sent on to heavenly realms if they’ve been good people. Trivia: Japanese mythology has similar beliefs, where they are known as Gozu and Mezu.

20220625_141323

If what the temple committee wanted to achieve was to evoke a sense of fear and apprehension, then they certainly succeeded. The shrine was located lower than ground level, so visitors would have to descend steps to get closer (I did not because no way, Jose), and it was also bathed in an eerie blue light.

Instead, I respectfully (call me superstitious if you like, better safe than sorry!) asked for permission to take photos (the husband, a Christian, looked at me with a funny expression at what must seem to him absurd; ie me talking to the air, lol).

There were baskets of paper offerings lined up on one side of the shrine, a small table and chair on the other with some teapots (for mediums to channel the gods, perhaps?) on the other. Like at the main shrine, Yanluo Wang’s shrine was made to look like a cave, with the deity elevated on an outcropping, flanked by his assistants, the Black and White Guards (Heibai Wuchang). Taoism is heavy on balance, and like the concept of Yin and Yang, the Hei Bai Wuchang represent rewarding the good, and punishing the evil.

20220625_141656
20220625_141740
20220625_141901

Before leaving, I paid a visit to the Na Tuk Kong shrine within the temple’s compound. You might be wondering why there’s a dome resembling a mosque, and why the deity within seems to be wearing traditional Malay clothes. Well, when the Chinese migrated to Malaya centuries ago, they brought their folk worship beliefs with them; that is, paying respects to the local guardians and spirits they may encounter in this new land. Malays probably have another word for it — penunggu.

Klang’s Snake Temple is an interesting look into the Malaysian Chinese community’s way of life, culture, and beliefs. It’s a unique mixture of adherence to long held traditions passed down through hundreds, perhaps thousands of years – combined with new influences shaped by centuries of migration and assimilation. Definitely one of the more unique temples around!

TIAN HOCK KUNG (KLANG SNAKE TEMPLE 巴生天福宫)

Lot 3115 & 3116, Jalan Siakap, Jln Tepi Sungai, Taman Teluk Pulai, 41100 Klang, Selangor

Opening hours: 9AM – 11PM (daily)

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

Image

A Zen Experience @ The Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden, Shah Alam

Malaysia and Japan have long enjoyed good bilateral ties – and it’s no secret that Malaysians love everything Japanese, from its food to its culture and traditions. Anything trendy from Japan, such as discount chain store Don Don Donki (which opened last year), or brands such as Daiso, Uniqlo, and Muji, are hugely popular – as are the slew of notable Japanese restaurants (especially in KL) that are always packed with customers. Pre-pandemic, Japan was also one of the top international tourist destinations for Malaysians.

While COVID-19 has dashed many hopes for the latter, fret not. You can still experience a slice of Japan, right in the heart of the Malaysian capital: at the Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden in Shah Alam.

20211201_134704

Opened in March 2021, this beautiful park spans 2.4 hectares and is located adjacent to the Shah Alam Lake Gardens. Built at a cost of RM3.8 mil, the garden is meant to symbolises the warm ties between the goverments of Selangor and Japan, on top of being an added attraction for the state. For those who have missed travelling to Japan, a trip to the garden might just be what you need to cure your Japan blues.

Video below:

I came here with my parents a few months ago (but only got down to posting about it now :P)
20211201_135054

The gardens are beautifully landscaped, with five themed zones. Just next to it is the famous Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), its dramatic spires and giant dome peeking from above the tree tops.

20211201_135228

Expect to see Japanese-inspired features here, including trimmed bonsai trees, traditional torii gates which are commonly found at Japanese shrines, as well as fixtures such as tsukubai (washbasin – pictured).

20211201_135513

The central feature is a huge pond stocked with colourful koi fish. You can buy feed from the counter to feed the fishes and turtles.

20211201_140213
20211201_135719

Next to the pond is the Rumah Selangor (Selangor House), which provides some welcome respite from the heat. For those who want the full experience, you can rent some summer yukatas to wear and imagine that you’re in an authentic Japanese garden. There is also a small museum at the back with displays of items from Japanese culture such as clothing and traditional dolls.

20211201_141714
20211201_142258
We might not have sakuras in Malaysia, but these gorgeous bougainvillea blooms are just as pretty
20211201_142355

Meander along the shady pathways, past a maze of waterways and over small bridges with exquisite architecture, or just sit down on one of the benches and wile the morning away.

20211201_142652
20211201_142808
Course, not all of the plants are similar to Japan, but I think the landscape architects did an excellent job at replicating the ‘feel’ of an authentic Zen garden.
20211201_143003
20211201_143256

The garden has reflexology paths as well, where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and walk on the stones, which purportedly helps with improving blood circulation.

20211201_143350
20211201_143432
20211201_143550
20211201_143558
Bamboo trees add to the authenticity
20211201_143704

The Zen garden section boasts features such as carefully stacked stones and meticulously spread-out gravel. In traditional Zen philosophy, this stripping of nature to its barest form is meant to promote meditation and bring out the meaning of life.

We spent a good hour strolling through the garden, and since it was the afternoon, we had the whole place to ourselves. Best of all, entry is free!

The garden is open daily from 10AM – 6PM.

SELANGOR-JAPAN FRIENDSHIP GARDEN

Persiaran Bandar Raya, Seksyen 14, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor

PS: If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto!

Image

Photowalk: Things to See and Do Around Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

How often do you play tourist in your homeland?

Pre-COVID, I always wanted to ‘discover’ new places and experiences – but this pandemic has made me realise that these things can be had, even in our own backyard: it’s all a matter of how you ‘frame’ it. Even something like grocery shopping can be an adventure!

The hubs finally arrived in Malaysia over Christmas, and while dropping off supplies at his quarantine hotel near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, I took the chance to do some sightseeing – and was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to explore within this small but historically-rich area.

Video below. Subscribe if you haven’t already! 🙂

Video has some extra portions that include Bukit Bintang.

DATARAN MERDEKA

20211224_120325

There’s something very powerful and moving about being in places where history was written – you get a sense of being separated only by time, and not by space. Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square, is one such place. It was where Malaya declared its independence from British colonists, where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted in its place, and where our forefathers basically laid the foundations of our country.

The field was not purpose-built for this; rather, it was formerly used as a cricket field for the adjacent Royal Selangor Club, which was a country club for wealthy British and government officials. Fitting, then, that it was repurposed – I find the idea of taking something that stood for colonisation and reclaiming it as our own quite poetic.

Standing underneath the giant flag pole facing the green, it’s easy to visualise how this place would have looked like years ago – minus the modern skyscrapers – and marvel at how far we have come as a nation.

20211224_120122
At 95m high, the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka is one of the tallest flagpoles in the world!

SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING

Even if you’re not a history buff, there are many beautiful historical buildings around Dataran Merdeka that make for great photos, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad building. Completed in 1897, it was used to house British government offices, and then the Malaysian Courts, post-independence. It is currently home to offices of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

20211224_121552

Spanning two floors, the building is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, such as Indo-Saracenic and Neo-Mughal, which were popular in British colonies such as India, Sri Lanka, and Malaya. The arched windows are distinctively Moorish, and the towers are topped with copper domes, which are common elements in Muslim architecture. One of the building’s highlights is the clocktower, which was designed to mimic London’s Big Ben. It first chimed at the building’s completion, and has continued to do so ever since.

ROYAL SELANGOR CLUB

20211224_121835

As mentioned earlier, the field that is now Dataran Merdeka formerly belonged to the Selangor Club (now the Royal Selangor Club) – a clubhouse founded by the British administration as a place for British elites to gather and socialise. The club still stands, boasting Mock Tudor design and the style’s distinctive ‘striped’ look (which is meant to mimic historical homes with half-timbering effects).

Access is for members only, where they can enjoy facilities such as football fields, pool and billiards rooms, squash courts, tennis courts, as well as bars, lounges and restaurants. Pre-pandemic, there were tours that the public could join for a glimpse inside the exclusive clubhouse.

OLD CHARTERED BANK BUILDING / MUSIC MUSEUM

20211224_115646

Sporting similar Mughal architecture as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building across the road, the old Chartered Bank building was the very first bank to open in Kuala Lumpur. Aside from scalloped windows and a signature arched entrance, the building also has four large domes on each of the roof’s corners. An interesting story: as the buildings here are close to the river, the area was prone to massive floods before KL upgraded its flood and drainage systems. In 1926, a severe flood caused damage to millions worth of bank notes in the bank’s vault. So they took them out and laid them on the field to dry in the sun. It must have been quite a sight!

The building now hosts a Music Museum (I visited back in 2016), which chronicles the history and diversity of traditional and modern music in Malaysia, with displays of instruments and more.

KUALA LUMPUR CITY GALLERY

20211224_115707

Just next door is another historical building: the former Government Printing Office building, which was responsible for printing all government reports, publications and other media. Today, it houses the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, a tourist hub with its own museum, souvenir shop and cafe. There is also an iconic “I Love KL” sign outside the building, which is popular with tourists. The building’s Jacobean facade is a nice contrast to the other Mughal-inspired buildings in the area, and features details such as oriel windows (windows that jut out from the wall). Fun fact: as electricity was not available at the time (the building dates back to the 1900s), the building was designed with lots of windows so that workers at the press could work better with natural sunlight.

I wanted to pop in for a visit, but unfortunately they were closed for cleaning. KL suffered a bad flood in December, and the KL City Gallery was also affected.

KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY

20211224_122746

Bibliophiles will want to stop by the Kuala Lumpur Library (Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur), which has an extensive collection of physical books as well as audio visual materials. You have to register as a member to enter, though, but the process should be quick and easy. Bags need to be placed in lockers. The library is open in the afternoon on Mondays, from 10am – 6.45pm from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends. It is closed on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.

RIVER OF LIFE MASJID JAMEK

A short walk away from Dataran Merdeka is the confluence where two rivers meet; namely the Gombak River and the Klang River. They come together in a Y-shape in front of Masjid Jamek — the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur — which was built in 1909 and was designed by (surprise!) a British architect. Although opinions might differ, I like to consider this place the true ‘heart’ of Kuala Lumpur, as opposed to the Petronas Twin Towers or even the Golden Triangle of Bukit Bintang. This is where KL got its name, as the Gombak River was once known as ‘Sungai Lumpur’ (literally ‘muddy river’), and Kuala Lumpur itself means “Muddy Confluence”.

20211224_124124

There are two bridges spanning the river, one located right in front of the mosque, which is the perfect spot for photos. You’ll also get to see the Kuala Lumpur Tower and Petronas Twin Towers in the distance. The walkway between the River and the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad building is nicely paved, and lined with greenery.

If you come at night, you’ll get to see a wonderful light show! This is part of the River of Life project, a river beautification and clean-up project by the government.
20211224_124732
Back portion of Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
20211224_125053
Morocco vibes
20211224_125403
View from the bridge near Masjid Jamek.
20211224_125442
Masjid Jamek compound.

If you’re interested in visiting the mosque, it is open to visitors — but non-Muslims would have to wear a robe or scarf to cover up. If you’re a man and wearing shorts, they have sarongs on hand too.

Dataran Merdeka is also quite close to Petaling Street (Chinatown), but I’ll detail that in another post. The area is central and easily accessible via public transport, including the LRT (Masjid Jamek stop). From there, Dataran Merdeka is a five minute walk away.

And there you have it! I hope this mini-guide has been helpful. If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

Image

Wat Chetawan – A Beautiful Thai-Buddhist Temple in Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Buddhism is a major religion in Malaysia, with around 20% of the population subscribing to the belief. As most devotees here are of Malaysian Chinese descent, many Buddhist temples in the country incorporate Chinese elements in their design and architecture, and tend to also include Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese folklore influences.

Thai-Buddhist temples are much rarer, especially in the south of Peninsula Malaysia (there are more up north, due to their close proximity with Thailand). In Selangor, as far as I know, there is only one major Thai-Buddhist temple : Wat Chetawan in Section 10, Petaling Jaya. Tucked in a quiet suburban area, the temple is located just next to a church, and has over 60 years of history.

20211104_143520

The idea to have a Thai Buddhist temple was first conceived in 1956 by a group of Thai sanghas (monks). The proposal was well received by the Selangor government, who awarded the group two acres of land to build the temple. The project was also backed by the local community and sponsors. As a mark of the friendship between our young nation (Malaya gained independence in 1957) and Thailand, the late King of Thailand himself, Bhumibol Adulyadej, donated to the temple and officiated its opening when it was completed in 1962.

20211104_141249

Over the years, the temple has undergone a few expansions, and today includes several shrines, monks quarters, a columbarium, and even a ‘herbal sauna’ where you can go to relieve aches and pains (the concept reminds me of the Thai massages you can get at Wat Pho in Bangkok).

The main shrine is located up a short flight of stairs flanked by two multi-headed nagas, known as Phaya Naga (lord of the nagas). Nagas are mythical serpents in Buddhist, Hinduism and Jainism, but they hold special reverence in Thai culture as patrons of water and medicine, so you will often see nagas ‘guarding’ the entrances to many Thai Buddhist temples. A popular myth is that nagas dwell in the Mekong, and were even involved in the creation of the mighty river itself.

Video for those who are lazy to read (subscribe if you haven’t already!) :

20211104_141650

Before coming to the main shrine, you’ll pass by a pavilion housing a Phra Phrom (Four-Faced Buddha). Phra Phrom is a unique deity that is often associated with Thailand, and whose origins are believed to be Hindu (it is believed to be a representation of the Hindu god, Brahma). Thailand was once part of the mighty Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in the region, and it is not at all surprising to see a blend of different cultures.

The Phra Phrom shrine here is decorated with colourful glass and mirrors, with offerings laid out in front of each altar. There are also small elephant statues surrounding it, as elephants are seen as symbols of good luck and fortune, as well as being the national animal of Thailand.

20211104_141405

The main shrine looks resplendent in shades of yellow and gold, with gilded windows and a curving roof topped with chofas (a decorative ornament at the corners, made to look like a tall, thin bird, or a horn).

20211104_141939

Two apsonsi flank the stairs leading up to the prayer hall. Apsonsi are mythical beings from Thai mythology, depicted as half woman on top, and half lion on the bottom. They are said to guard Himavanta, a legendary forest in the Himalayas that is full of magical creatures. Apsonsi aren’t the only chimeras in Thai mythology: there are also kinnaras – half-bird and half human celestials that are believed to be excellent singers, dancers and poets.

20211104_142341

After removing my shoes, I stepped into the spacious prayer hall. There was a row of golden Buddhas on one side, each holding a pot. Devotees can drop their donations to the temple into the pots.

20211104_142750

The Buddha statue in the main prayer hall was clad in bright saffron robes and seated tranquilly on a golden, intricately-carved dias studded with shiny pieces of glass and stones. The workmanship is a marvel to look at. Offered up a donation and prayer for good health for the fam and I – and an end to this pandemic.

20211104_142900

Coincidentally, a monk was offering blessings, so I joined the session. While chanting prayers, he sprinkled devotees with holy water. You can get bottled holy water as well to take home.

20211104_141750

Aside from the main prayer hall, there is also the Bhrama Pavilion, which houses a few other Buddhas and statues of former temple abbots.

20211104_135812

You can grab some free books on Buddhism in this area. The books are usually printed by religious organisations, and even devotees with their own money, as the spread of dharma (Buddha’s teachings) is believed to help gain good karma.

20211104_140025

As I mentioned earlier, the Buddhism in Malaysia usually has a Chinese influence, and this is no exception at Wat Chetawan. So amidst the elephants, roof spires and Thai-centric architecture, you’ll also find traditional Chinese influences: like this shrine to Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) which is distinctively Chinese – think tiled orange roof, topped by a pagoda and dragons. Next to it is another shrine housing the Matreiya Buddha (commonly known as the Laughing Buddha – a Chinese semi-historical figure-turned deity).

20211104_140547

You can light a pineapple-shaped or lotus-shaped prayer candle. Why pineapples? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s because in Chinese culture, pineapples are seen as symbols of good luck and fortune, because they are called ‘ong lai’, which is a homonym for ‘wealth/prosperity comes’. As for lotuses, lotus flowers are a common motif in Buddhism – since they grow and bloom in mud, they represent purity, rising from murky waters.

20211104_141107
20211104_141048
20211104_141231

You can also find statues of characters like Son Wukong from Journey to the West – a classic 16th century Chinese novel based on the pilgrimage of Tang Xuanzang (he’s a real life monk who spent 20 years travelling from China to India to get sacred Buddhist texts).

20211104_141528

Even if you’re not a devotee, Wat Chetawan is a good place to visit for its beautiful architecture and rich culture. If you come on a weekday, when it’s less crowded, the surroundings are actually quite tranquil and conducive for meditation – or just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Entry is free, and there are some parking spaces within the compound.

WAT CHETAWAN THAI BUDDHIST TEMPLE

No.24, Jalan Pantai 9/7, Seksyen 10 Petaling Jaya, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Open daily from 9AM to 5PM

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

Image

Attractions in Jenjarom, Selangor – Ban Siew Keng Temple

It has been months since I last traveled anywhere other than a mall for groceries (due to the COVID situation in Malaysia) – but since travel restrictions have recently been eased, the fam and I decided to go on a quick day trip to Jenjarom over the weekend.

Tucked between Banting and Klang, about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, Jenjarom is a mid-sized town with a population of about 30,000. The town grew from a Chinese new village – settlements that the British set up during the height of the communist insurgency in Malaya so they could keep an eye on the local Chinese population – which is why a majority of the current Jenjarom residents is Malaysian Chinese, of Hokkien descent. In the 1990s, when youth unemployment soared, the area became infamous for gangsterism and other social ills such as prostitution and gambling.

Thankfully, these days, the town is better known for its tourism, especially from the Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen temple, a massive temple-cum-attraction by the Taiwan-based Fo Guang Shan monastic order. Chinese New Year is a good time to visit, as the temple holds a grand celebration every year, complete with stunning decorations. (I visited in 2017; read about it here.)

Although FGS gets more tourists, there’s actually another temple within town that is worth a visit. Enter Ban Siew Keng, which is located just a stone’s throw away from FGS.

20211002_140757

The story goes that there used to be four small Chinese temples in Jenjarom, each dedicated to a deity. It was costly and difficult to have four celebrations for each deity, so in the 1950s, the villagers pooled their money and resources to build a temple to house all the deities under one roof. Thus, Ban Siew Keng was born. The original building was a simple wooden structure, but it has since been renovated into the grand structure that we see today. The temple grounds have also expanded to include parking spaces, a food court, and a small but well kept park.

Video here if you’re lazy to scroll:

20211002_141601
20211002_141739

Even the furnace for burning offerings is beautifully decorated!

20211002_141823
Stone steps leading up to the main shrine, complete with dragon carvings and the customary foo dogs guarding the entrance.
20211002_142255
20211002_142339

Ban Siew Keng’s architecture is typical of many Chinese temples, in that it mixes elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confuciusnism, as well as those of Chinese culture. Think red lanterns, dragons coiled around stone pillars and scenes of Taoist gods like the 8 Immortals hand painted on the walls, fierce-looking ‘door gods’ (they’re deities that guard the temple against evil spirits).

20211002_142607

The design here actually reminds me of Thean Hou Gong temple in Kuala Lumpur, especially the combination of red pillars and green roof tiles with blue and gold dragon motifs. Like Thean Hou temple, Ban Siew Keng also has a ‘dome’ on the ceiling above the altar, with a dragon at its centre surrounded with beautiful carvings.

20211002_144114

I also like the open space they have in the middle of the temple, which resembles the courtyards you find in old Chinese mansions. This allows for plenty of natural sunlight to filter in, so the space feels bright and airy. Despite the sweltering heat outside, the temple is quite cool, thanks to the lofty ceiling and marble floors.

20211002_144122
20211002_143837
20211002_143821
Scenes of gods and deities in heaven are painted all around the interior of the temple.
20211002_143550

The main altar is a spectacular piece of work, intricately carved and painted over in gold and red.

20211002_143203

The caretaker said it was okay to take a closer look, so I went right up to the front of the altar. Although it was mentioned that the temple was built to house four deities, there are actually five at the altar, including a Buddha. I recognised one as Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy in Taoism and Buddhism. The caretaker mentioned the name of the principal deity, but I forgot coz he told it to me in Mandarin and y’all know my Mandarin sucks, lol. 😛 There are two sets of statues on display. I’m guessing the smaller ones are from the original temples, as they look a bit weathered.

20211002_143303
Aside from the four main deities + Buddha, there are other deities as well, housed next to the main altar.
20211002_143454

In the old days, fortune tellers would setup their shop either within or outside the temple. You would get a ‘cheem’, or fortune stick, by shaking it from a wooden container until one fell out, then take the stick to the fortune teller to have your fortune interpreted. These days, temples use these contraptions where all you have to do is bunch up your sticks and drop them into the hole at the centre – the one that sticks up is your fortune. You then look for the slot corresponding to the number on your stick, and voila! Fortune.

Unfortunately, the fortunes at this temple are written in Chinese, unlike the ones at Thean Hou temple where you also get an English translation. So once again, my banana-ness proved to be a disadvantage.

20211002_144140

You can get a wishing ribbon to toss over the branches of the tree outside. This is more a cultural rather than a religious thing; in the old days, people would write down their wishes on ribbons and if you manage to snag it over a tree, your wish would come true, that sort of thing.

20211002_141115

The park outside is small but good for a short stroll. You can take photos with the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Guess what my sign is?

20211002_141258

So if you’re coming to Jenjarom for a daytrip, do stop by Ban Siew Keng! FGS is a great place to visit and it’s much larger, but I think Ban Siew Keng has its own charm, and a very interesting history. It stands as a monument to the resilience of Jenjarom’s people, and how they’ve made a life for themselves from a small Chinese new village to the town it is today.

BAN SIEW KENG TEMPLE

Lot 5623, Jalan Sungai Buaya,Sungai Jarom, 42600 Jenjarom, Kuala Langat,  Selangor.

*No opening hours listed.

Getting there

Your best bet is by car, as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of public transport to Jenjarom. According to Moovit, the Wawasan Putera bus 730 stops at Jenjarom between Banting and Klang, and its 734 bus travels the route between Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur and Banting, with a stop in Jenjarom.

If you like this content, consider supporting me on Patreon. You can also buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal. Happy travels!

Image

Why Tamarind Square in Cyberjaya Is Perfect For Photographers and Lovers of Architecture

Brutalist architecture is characterised by functional, ‘soulless’-looking buildings, which often incorporate raw concrete and massive, monolithic designs with rigid, block-like shapes. The style was especially popular in the Soviet Union and its former allied countries from the 1960s to 1980s. Over the years, brutalism fell out of favour due to its association with totalitarianism and its cold, unwelcoming appearance — but the style has been seeing a comeback in the last decade, albeit with softer features and fixtures.

Tamarind Square in Cyberjaya seems to be one of these places drawing inspiration from a hipper, more modern version of brutalism, and industrial architecture. Developed by Tujuan Gemilang, the commercial development was intended to promote a ‘tropical retail and office experience’, and is arranged in an 8-figure courtyard with a ring road circulating the premises.

20210327_161513

On their own, the buildings might have looked austere and clinical, but the impact is offset by beautifully landscaped plants. Here you will find curtains of green draped over the side of metal walkways and staircases, and a cooling stream runs through the centre of the courtyard, which is lined with shrubs.The greenery is in stark contrast to the square’s raw concrete floors, stone pillars and exposed brick. Personally, it gives me a feeling of an abandoned place reclaimed by nature — and it’s easy to feel you’ve been transported someplace else, especially when there aren’t many people around.

Walking tour here:

Please like and subscribe if you haven’t already! 🙂
20210327_161258

Tamarind Square is spread across several blocks, with most of the shops concentrated on the lower floors of Block A. Aside from chic cafes and eateries, visitors will also find retail outlets selling clothing, eyewear and shops providing beauty and wellness services. The block is centred around a courtyard filled with plants and two-storey “stand-alone” shops. These are not connected to other shops within Block A, but can still be traversed via the ground floor and elevated walkways on the first floor. Pictured above is a shop called The Botanist (they serve artisan brewed coffee and handmade baos), which I’ve wanted to try for the longest time but unfortunately couldn’t on this particular visit. Other noteworthy cafes in the area include Herbs and Butter (Asian and Western fusion), Pastribella Bakeshop (cakes), Alcea Cafe (coffee spot) and Book Barter Cafe (they have book shelves where you can read while you sip on drinks).

20210327_162718
20210327_162501

The layout of the place is such that you can round a corner and discover a ‘hidden’ nook, or staircases leading to your next adventure.

20210327_162814
The square is a popular place for photoshoots. During my visit, I counted no less than five couples, some with bridesmaids and best men in tow.
20210327_162823

20210327_163203

Not all of the offices and retail spaces are occupied, which lends to the ‘abandoned’ vibe. But it’s good news for architectural photographers – you can basically take your time photographing and exploring without having to worry about crowds getting in your shot!

20210327_163312
20210327_163327
20210327_163413
Boardgame cafe
20210327_163444
20210327_163757
20210327_163949
20210327_164009
20210327_165217

I come to Tamarind Square mainly for BookXCess, which at 3,000 square metres, is the largest bookstore in Malaysia. Prior to the pandemic, it was also open 24 hours, so you could come for a spot of book-shopping if ever insomnia hits (is it just me?) Keeping to the theme, the store’s design is similarly industrial (it was apparently part of the car park — so you can see pillars with signs on them and yellow lines on the floor).

20210327_221805
Anddddddd self-control was defeated that day.

GETTING TO TAMARIND SQUARE CYBERJAYA

It’s best to drive or take a Grab, as public buses are few and far between, and do not stop directly at the Square. The nearest bus hub is the Cyberjaya Transport Terminal, 2 kilometres away. Driving, Tamarind Square is accessible via the MEX Highway from Kuala Lumpur, or if you’re coming from Puchong, the SKVE.

Tamarind Square, Cyberjaya

Tamarind Bldg Rd, Cyberjaya, 63000 Cyberjaya, Selangor

https://www.tamarindsq.com/

Like this post? Please consider supporting my website by buying me a cup of coffee through Paypal. This will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. You can also support me on Patreon. Thanks for stopping by!

What To Eat In Tanjung Sepat : Handmade Pau, Coffee, Cendol and Snacks

At first glance, Tanjung Sepat looks like any sleepy fishing town – boats docked by the river mouth, narrow roads flanked by wooden homes, quaint flower gardens and vegetable patches. Venture further in to Lorong 4, however, and you’ll find a bustling area where you can find all sorts of delicious delicacies, from handmade paus to local snacks.Villagers have made the area into a food street of sorts, with their homes doubling as food stalls. Some offer seating, while others sell snacks that you can get for takeaway.

20200712_133415

 

20200712_133507

Tanjung Sepat is famous for its pau (buns) – and there are two popular places to get them. One is Mr Black Handmade Pau, which is closer to the centre of town; the other is Hai Yew Hin, located at Lorong 4. The shop is a nondescript wooden building, but you can easily find it by looking out for the long line of patrons spilling out onto the road. Their signature is mui choy bao (pork with Chinese mustard), sang yoke bao (pork chunks with egg), vegetable bun, as well as various baos with sweet fillings such as red bean.

20200712_134932

20200712_194009

Tried the sang yoke bao when I got home; it did not disappoint! I enjoyed its light and fluffy texture. The egg and pork was filling as well.

20200712_133419

If you want to have your buns fresh out of the steamer, you can dine in at the coffeeshop across the road. They also sell loads of snacks such as fried crab rolls, shrimp fritters and fishballs.

HAI YEW HIN 

Address: 405, Lorong 4, Off, Jalan Besar, Pekan Tanjung Sepat, 42800 Tanjong Sepat, Selangor (opening hours: 1PM – 6PM (Mon-Fri), 10AM – 6PM (Sat – Sun) 

20200712_133919

20200712_133850

Next to the pau place is a store selling pastries such as tarts and biscuits, which are made fresh in house. It’s easy to be enticed by the smell of baked goods as you walk past the shop, and you’ll get to see the store assistants in action as they expertly pack up kaya puffs, lou por beng and egg tarts neatly into plastic containers.

20200712_133854

20200712_133609

Another must-try in the area is coffee from Kwo Zha B. This small but charming kopitiam is run by 3rd generation coffee roasters, and is quite popular – there are pictures of food show hosts and celebrities adorning one side of the wall. The coffee beans are locally sourced from a nearby village and roasted with sugar, margarine and salt – creating a deliciously smooth and rich flavour.

20200712_134704

Perfect for a hot day! You can add a scoop of ice cream for extra oomph. Kwo Zha B also sells their coffee in powder form so you can make your own drinks at home.

KWO ZHA B

Address: No. 15, Medan Selera Lorong 3, Tanjung Sepat, 42800, Selangor (Open daily 10.30AM – 4.30PM) 

 

20200712_141043

If you still haven’t gotten your fill of cold desserts, walk a bit further to Jalan Sekolah’s Hin Leong, which has great cendol. They offer several flavours, including the traditional one with green cendol and red bean, as well as pumpkin and durian.

20200712_135559

The inside is air conditioned, so you can escape the sweltering afternoon heat. There are other snacks for sale as well.

20200712_135825

The traditional cendol is good, and the chewy rice flour jelly has a satisfying texture. If you like flavours like salted caramel, you’ll enjoy the pumpkin cendol, which has a salty aftertaste that balances surprisingly well with the rich coconut milk. I like that they serve the cendol in coconut husks – more sustainable and environmentally friendly, less mess and easy to clean !

HIN LEONG TRADING

Address: 359, Jalan Sekolah, Pekan Tanjung Sepat, 42800 Tanjong Sepat, Selangor (Open daily 10.30AM – 5.30PM)

Kuan Wellness Eco Park, Tanjung Sepat, Selangor

With state borders reopened and regulations eased, the government has urged Malaysians to help boost domestic tourism by travelling local (following SOPs, of course)! Heeding this call, the fam and I decided to go for a short day trip to Tanjung Sepat, located on the fringes of Selangor, to feast on seafood and check out some attractions. I’ve been here a few times (you can read about what to do in town here) – so I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are some places I missed out on, like the Kuan Wellness Eco Park.

20200712_102540

The park was founded as an ecotourism attraction, in addition to being a birds nest business, which is a booming industry in Malaysia. In Chinese culture, birds nests created by swiftlets (using solidified saliva) are considered a delicacy, and they are eaten for their purported health and beauty benefits.

The main building is a 3.5-storey swiftlet house, the ground floor of which doubles as a visitor centre. Traditionally, swiftlet nests are collected from caves, but these days, swiftlet houses (rumah toko) are becoming increasingly popular. These are enclosed concrete structures meant to emulate the dark, warm environment of a cave.

20200712_103103

The museum is not big, but the exhibits are educational. There’s a mini theatre where you can watch a documentary on birds nest harvesting, how to differentiate the different types of birds nest, what to look out for when picking out one for consumption, etc.

20200712_103227

Structure of a rumah toko.

20200712_102951

20200712_103649

Running a swiftlet house is more than just having a building – there are multiple factors to consider including pest, water quality and bacterial control. Pests such as rats and certain insects, as well as predators like owls can snoop in and destroy the swiftlet population, so keepers have to be vigilant to ensure that the swiftlets are protected, there is no contamination and it yields the best results. Typically it takes six weeks before the nests can be collected, as you can’t harvest them if there are young swiftlets within.

20200712_103917

Samples of birds nests. Sometimes you get stuff like faeces, feathers, mold, broken nests, etc.

Top grade birds nest are usually pure white, with minimal breakage and contamination. Previously, ‘blood’ nests – nests that are tinged red – were much sought after, as it was believed that the red colour came from the blood in the saliva of exhausted swiftlets hurrying to finish their nests.These blood nests fetched a very high price, sometimes much more than regular birds nest. We now know that the red likely comes from exposure to nitrites (in caves or the swiftlet houses), and can actually be harmful.

I mean the idea of eating bird saliva is probably quite gnarly to some, but why anyone would wanna eat bird blood vomit (and pay 10s of 1000s of dollars!) is beyond me lol.

20200712_104107

Bottled products for sale. Birds nest is usually sweetened with rock sugar. Sometimes they can also include other ingredients such as jujubes (red dates).

20200712_104200

 

20200712_104237

Despite its purported health benefits, science has never really backed birds nest as a health food, although those who swear by it will tell you otherwise.

20200712_110029

Aside from the museum, there is also a mini zoo of sorts within the park, which has a RM5 entry fee. I do not recommend visiting this, as the enclosures are poorly maintained and the animals are unkempt. In fact there was a dead bird in one of the cages, and the other birds were taking turns doing something we shall not write about in this family friendly post @-@. The caretaker removed the poor thing after my mom alerted him, though.

 

20200712_110131

 

20200712_110907

Rabbit enclosure. You can go in to feed / play with the rabbits. They looked dirty and some of the ones that were in cages had sores and wounds, with patches of fur falling out. Not good. 

20200712_111237

At least the fish looked okay.

20200712_111646

A nice building for photos. The inside has a small shop selling organic products. Next to it is another building with a nostalgia theme, selling snacks and children’s toys.

20200712_112818

20200712_111651

Cafe area where you can order birds nest soup and other snacks.

 

20200712_113449

An outdoor display of vintage cars.

Overall, Kuan Wellness Eco Park is a place you can consider visiting if you’re in Tanjung Sepat, although I wouldn’t drive all the way here just for it. The birds nest exhibits are interesting and educational, but the mini zoo needs some serious upkeep.

KUAN WELLNESS ECO PARK 

408, Tanjung Layang, Kampung Batu Lapan, 42800 Tanjong Sepat, Selangor

Open on Sat / Sun only : 9AM – 5PM

kuanwellnessecopark.com