Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Hindu celebration in Cameron Highlands

The drive along the North-South highway was very pleasant, with a short stop at the Tapah North R&R and Bidor before heading to Cameron Highlands via the Pos Slim route.

The weather on the way up was dull and cloudy. The highlands has seen constant rainy weather in recent months which must have been rather depressing for the farmers. And there were signs of landslides along the route and work being done to address the problem and make the journey safer for travellers.

I finally arrived in Cameron Highlands to overcast skies and rain which added a certain gloominess to the atmosphere. Since I only intended to stay one night, I resigned myself to the possibility of missing out on some of places I intend to visit if the rain persists 'til the next day.

After checking in the bags and driving around for a while, I chanced upon an organic vege steamboat restaurant situated in one of the shops facing the Rosa Pasadena Hotel. At RM18.00 per person, it was certainly good value with a very generous supply of 5 different types of organic greens plus fresh large prawns, sliced chicken meat, bouncy fishballs, tofu triangles, fried beancurds, meatballs, crabsticks, seaweed, thick slices of fresh fishmeat, sotong rolls, rice noodles and an egg per person. It was all cooked at the table in an old-fashioned charcoal steamboat pot.

It was a wonderful way to unwind and enjoy the night after hours of driving. And because it is a very communal way of dining, you really get to appreciate sharing sumptious food and good company in an unhurried way. Unfortunately for you guys, I forgot to take out my digital camera to take a snapshot of the table laden with the delicacies so that you can drool over it here. Guess I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere, glad to be rid of my recent depressing blogposts while on my mini break ... hehe!

There's not much to do after dinner, since it was still raining lightly. Surprisingly, it was not at all cold outdoors in the highlands that night, about 18-20 deg.C and without even a hint of a breeze. But still, the town is jam-packed with tourists taking advantage of the 3-day weekend break. We were actually lucky to decide on an early dinner because not long after we were seated in the restaurant, all the tables were soon filled and many diners had to be turned away. And later, when we took a leisurely drive around Tanah Rata, we saw that most of the restaurants were doing roaring business.

I will blog more about other stuff concerning this trip later, but for now I want to talk about an interesting sight which greeted me the following morning.

I was surprised to see that there is a celebration of sorts among the Hindu community in Cameron Highlands that Saturday, 14 May 2006, the day after Buddhists celebrated Wesak Day on the 13th. If I am not mistaken, it must be the same "mini Taipusam" celebrated by Penangites as reported in the New Straits Times.

All along the road from Tanah Rata to Brinchang, Hindu families came out dressed in their colourful best and some of them were walking towards their destination without any shoes on. Even the ladies in their fine saris were walking barefoot on the tarmac. I supposed they were walking from one temple to another.

And I guessed it was a religious celebration because some of the men carried kavadi and the whole atmosphere was really joyous with happy smiling faces and accompanying music from the drum beaters. Although it created a traffic jam because most cars and tour buses slowed down to have a look and also at the same time, to be mindful of the many people and kids walking along the narrow roads, nobody really minded. And the best part is that some local policemen were around to lend a helping hand so that the devotees can proceed with their celebrations without too much difficulty in the congested roads.

All in, the sight of the Hindu devotees going about their religious rituals peacefully and joyfully amidst their fellow Malaysians warms my heart no end. It reminds me once again of how delightful this country truly is by virtue of its multi-racial citizens and I hope and pray that I will continue to find much to love about this country and its people despite many other things which tears me up inside.



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