Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vivekavana Solitude Grove, Bukit Berapit

many times, on the way back from penang, while passing thru permatang rawa heading towards bukit mertajam, i can see a pagoda-like structure perched halfway to the top of the hill far in front of me. curiosity soon have me googling for info about this pagoda - and found out that the location should be berapit hill (bukit berapit).

one evening, armed with the info of the approximate location, i head towards the berapit hill area. driving around the main berapit road, i soon saw a small red sign with a pagoda symbol, pointing towards a housing area. Pearl Garden, to be exact. there are actually some chinese words on the sign board as well, but i can't read those :p.

from Pearl Garden, i can see the pagoda closer on the hill. the next step - find the path that leads up the hill, towards the pagoda. and after going round the housing area, a small road near an area with large clearings is the only probable place to begin. a few cars are parked there as well, and i saw a father and son in "hiking attires". so, this should be the right place to begin...

the trail up is cemented, cutting thru the forest (looks more like abandoned orchard to me). going up, the trail soon branches into two separate trails, going left and right respectively. there's a signboard, but it's in chinese... anyway, as i know the pagoda is located roughly to my left, i took the left trail. i wonder where the right trail leads to; will be back to explore sometimes later.

all in all, it was just a short hike before reaching the pagoda/temple. it is quite interesting seeing a pagoda up on a hill like this. it must be quite some works bringing the building materials up here, as the cemented trail is narrow and quite steep in many areas.

the place consists of many buildings scattered around; prayer rooms, activity rooms, accommodation area, meditation halls etc. which i did not enter - but from the signboard here, this place is open to the public from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm daily.

a few random statues: there a quite a few large statues here which i did not took any photos of, as there were people praying there, and i don't want to intrude...

the pagoda, up-close: the pagoda consists of five tiers. the floor is marble-tiled, and visitors are requested to take off their footwears before stepping onto the pagoda area. small children should be accompanied by adults.

on every tier, a bronze bell is hanging at each of the four corners.

at the topmost tier, there is a large bronze bell at the center, and also a large bronze gong. vandalism is quite evident here, as witnessed on the bronze gong. the surface is marred by various writings made by scrapping the paint away. to my amusement, i can also see many 4D numbers among the graffiti :D

i didn't ring the bell nor the gong, as i wasn't sure whether it's okay for me to do so. i do hear the ringing from the bells on the way down though..

a random flower...

and a view of the sunset from the hill...

sorry, there's no photo of the surrounding areas as viewed from the hill to show here - the air was very hazy, and coupled with the strong sunshine, whatever aerial photos that i took turned out dull and blurry.

as the hillside is facing towards the west, there is plenty of light illuminating the hiking trail late into the evenings. although, when i came down from the hill, my car is the lone one parked at the clearings from where i began my hike. and i don't see much people here; probably, this place is not as popular or well-known as a hiking place compared to Cherok To'kun (Hutan Lipur Bukit Mertajam) which is another hill located just behind this hill.

getting here: from Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE), take the Penanti/Berapit exit, and follow the signboards towards Berapit/Bukit Mertajam. along the way, watch out for Taman Pearl (Pearl Garden) on your left, and turn in here. if you came to a railway crossing, you're way past the place already, so turn back. if you're coming from Bukit Mertajam, look for Pearl Garden on your right. once here, locate the local community clinic (near a school). close to this clinic, you'll find a large grassy area where you can park your vehicles - and nearby, a trail (sloping downwards) leading into the forest. look out for the pagoda on the hill to make sure you're at the right place :p

Saturday, January 27, 2007

St. Anne's Sanctuary, Bukit Mertajam

St. Anne's Church is located in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, somewhere along Kulim Road. every year, around the 3rd to 4th week of the month of july, thousands of pilgrims will come here to celebrate the Feast of St. Anne, which falls on 26th of july, and to thank St. Anne for prayers answered and petitions granted.

if you are wondering who is St. Anne, she is the grandmother of Christ, a.k.a. the mother of Virgin Mary.

the present main church's dedication took place on 26th july 2002 to coincide with the feast of st. anne. it has a minangkabau-styled multi-tier roof, adding a touch of malaysian to the design.

if you view the main church from the air, you'll notice that the church is built in the shape of a cross.

an angel statue holding the holy water - there are pairs of these flanking the entrances to the main church.

classical lighting design with a touch of modernity: electrical bulb inside.

inside the main church: on normal days, the main church is locked up - this photo is taken thru the metal grills. if you look carefully, there are red colored decorations around due to the coming chinese new year celebration.

the bell tower: notice that pieces of tiles are missing from parts of the tower.

above the front, rear, left, and right entrances to the main church, there are colorful tile arts depicting various biblical scenes. below are three of them - i forgot to take a photo of the one at the right-side entrance :p.

a life-sized angel statue, with 2 of them guarding the main entrance to the church:

in between the new and old church buildings, one can find a wall-like structure with 12 chambers, each with a faucet in it. from here, you'll be able to get St. Anne's Water. there are signs prohibiting the act of washing one's hands and feet using the water there, but i still saw a few touristy-looking people doing just that.

the old church is situated just a few meter from the new church, sitting majestically atop a higher ground.

the stained glass inside the old church:

behind the old church building is a small hill. there are stairs for climbing up the hill. sign boards prohibiting people from placing candles along the stairs can be seen everywhere. It is just a short climb up the hill, and there are a few statues and crosses on the hill. there were not much view from the top of the hill - for one, the hill is very low anyway. the first chapel was built on the top of this hill, before the present old church was built - but it is no longer there.

the ten commandments, painted on the surface of a large rock:

There are 15 life-sized Stations of the Cross around the church area. They cost quite a huge sum of money, all donated by the people who came here to pray. Photos of these will be in another post.

st. anne's church is open to the public daily until 7pm, after which the gates will be closed.

Stations of The Cross @St. Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam

at St. Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, there are 15 life-sized Stations of the Cross scattered around the church ground. these statues depict the Passion of Christ. what follows here are photos of all 15 stations.
(okay, some of the photos doesn't look good, cos i took them under strong sunlight, and i'm lazy to go back and reshoot again)

* * *

(I) I am condemned to death

(II) I am made to carry my cross

(III) I fall the first time

(IV) I meet my sorrowful mother

(V) Simon is forced to carry my cross

(VI) Veronica wipes my face

(VII) I fall the second time

(VIII) I meet the wailing women of Jerusalem

(IX) I fall a third time

(X) I am stripped off my clothes

(XI) I am nailed to the cross

(XII) I die on the cross

(XIII) I am taken down from the cross

(XIV) my body is put in a tomb

(XV) I am the Resurrection and the life

- The End -

Monday, January 22, 2007

Disastrous Photo Outing

note to self: next time, before going for seaside photography, check the tide condition first. else, it'll end up like today...

was heading for the jetty at teluk kumbar for some photo-taking, but what greeted me was muddy dirt-brown sea shore with the water line far beyond the end of the jetty. plus, the sky was overcast with grey clouds... not exactly a picture-perfect day i'd say.

on the way back, passing near the airport at bayan lepas, i saw a plane approaching from far away. and i stopped at the roadside, wound down the window, zoom to max telephoto, and took a shot of the plane preparing to land...

doesn't seem like a local airline's plane (mostly boeing or airbus) based on the engine locations. too bad planes took off towards the north side, while i was at the south side of the airport. loitered around for a while, but saw only a few more planes taking off and none landing, so i left soon after...

* * *

a lesson learnt today: never put your cam on the front seat of the car unsecured. driving in penang, you won't know when you may need to perform emergency braking - and when you do, the cam will be flung down from the seat. and that's exactly what happened, no thanks to the idiotic PFN1951 Proton Wira... common sense would've tell any driver to wait for a car less than 3m away, travelling at 70-80kph to pass first before turning out into the main road, but this obasan couldn't care less...

* * *

from south end of the island, i head to the north end. gurney plaza, to be exact - and a supposedly photo-shooting trip became a shopping trip instead :p... note to self: remember to snap a pic of your food before your mouth snap 'em...

as i was nearby, and not wanting to join the after-office rush hour, i made an unplanned stopover at the botanical garden. the last time i came here was around 9 years old, during a vacation to the peninsular... and the first thing that struck me is how few 'cannon-balls' there are on the 'cannon-ball' trees. i remember taking a picture with one of these trees during my childhood trip here, and there were a lot of 'cannon-balls' on the trees then.

saw a signboard pointing to a lily pond - went there, and what greeted me is a small, neglected pond with hardly any lily leaves floating on the water, let alone lily flowers. wtf...

and i realised that i don't have the knack for photographing small insects up-close. stood motionless and waited for a few pretty butterflies to stay still, yet after a few minutes, they're still fluttering around like nobody's business. i give up...

moving around, taking close-up photos of various flowers, it doesn't took me long to realise the limitation of a compact camera in this kind of situation: the depth-of-field of a compact is way too large for me to be able to take photos with properly blurred backgrounds, even at the largest aperture. and without blurred backgrounds, close-up images of flowers fall flat as the flowers blend into the background instead of standing out. sigh... times like this make me wish for a DSLR...

and i noticed that i get better results by using the far end of the telephoto zoom rather than relying on the macro mode in taking close-up photos, as the background blurs out more. hmm... and 6x optical zoom is just never enough, especially when trying to take spy-shots of a leng lui :p - not that i took any .

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bukit Hijau Waterfall, Kedah

...a.k.a my pathetic first attempt at waterfall photography T_T~

what i wanted to achieve was shots of the waterfall with the water appearing flowy, soft, ethereal, silky kinda look... and i know i need slow shutter speed to achieve that. but... i went with ISO 80 (lowest ISO on my cam), f8.0 aperture (smallest available), stepping back the exposure compensation at -2ev, yet the slowest shutter speed that i can achieve is 1/8 second at some shady spots. any slower, the pictures are wayyy over-exposed to be of any use. sigh...

maybe i should've came earlier in the morning, while there's not much light yet. or maybe that's the limitation of a compact point & shoot camera. sigh...

anyway, on to the photos. most are taken with Shutter Priority AE, resized to 800x600 and added watermarks. no cropping is done, point being that i want to learn to compose my photos using photography skills rather that relying on photoshop/post-processing to create attractive compositions, even though it means discarding otherwise perfectly usable shots that can turn out great with some trimmings.

bukit hijau waterfall is actually a multi-level waterfall. there are 3 vertical falls, while the rest are cascades. One of the vertical falls is very steep and is not accessible; you'll pass it on the way towards the top.

there are cemented walkways skirting the falls to make it easy for visitors to move around. however, be careful. the steps are covered with moss and can be slippery especially after rain. a few bridges are built for crossing the falls at several strategic locations.

the paved walkway ends at the highest fall. there is a dam further up, but reaching there entails going through a forest trail. i chose not to go further as i wasn't exactly equipped for a hike (slippers :p)

this is actually my second visit here. the first time here, i did not own a camera yet, and today's trip is purposefully for photo-taking ^_^. compared with the previous visit, there's much less water flowing thru the falls today, likely due to less rainfalls recently.

how to get here: from kulim town, head towards kulim hi-tech park. if you pass kulim hospital on you right, you're on the right way. head on straight and watch out for the signboards telling you where to turn next. don't worry, there are plenty of them :) there are two types of signboards to watch out for: large, brown colored ones, and smaller white ones with green borders and letterings, with "Hutan Lipur Bukit Hijau" written on them. It's around 30-40 km from kulim town, passing thru oil palm plantations.