Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Zoo time!

              A month into settling down in a new place, we finally have some free time to go about exploring.        With buying an old bike in mind, we set off in search of a scrap yard. 
As we went deeper and deeper into 'unchartered territories'' of the land of Borneo, we found a wildlife park! 
So we abandoned the original idea and went into the park and I did 4 pieces of sketches. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Old China Cafe and Antique Gallery

Found this gem in Balai Polis street, near Petaling street. It was very retro and full of antique. Must try its Nyonya laksa. A trick to fully savour the laksa is to order a bowl of white rice and eat it with the gravy. After a tourist at a neighbour table saw us doing that, she did the same. =)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Unsung heros of Ipoh's heritage

A day after I posted about preserving heritage buildings in Ipoh, I made a pleasant discovery on Hugh Low Street, right beside the building where my mom used to work at, and where I spent my childhood playing on the second floor. The pleasant discovery was 'Lim Kopi' restaurant, serving traditional Hainanese food and really good white coffee.

The atmosphere was nice and most importantly, the whole family values heritage buildings, and Lim Ko Pi is just one of the 12 buildings acquired by them with preservation and conservation in mind. The family was even invited by the city mayor to meet him in appreciation of the Lim family's effort in conserving Ipoh's heritage.

What was amazing was it all started with the eldest daughter, Lim Bay Sie, who is the same age as me. She started having interest in heritage conservation after she'd been to other countries and seen how heritage was conserved. So similar to my case! I started valuing heritage after my NZ trip.

Here are some links to newspaper articles about the Lim Family :
1. The Star: Family prides in preservingpre-war buildings
2. Nan Yang Siang Bao: 市厅研究保育古迹奖励 老建筑物或扣门牌税

Previous OAC building, Lim Kopi is the red buidling
I spent 2 days walking around Ipoh old town, trying to record as many heritage buildings as possible with my Hero pen and brush.

Han Chin Pet Soo 闲真别墅

Monday, September 19, 2011

Preserving Ipoh's heritage: What We Can Learn from Georgetown, Napier and Greymouth

My sketch of Ipoh's living heritage- Ipoh white Coffee

A few years ago, I was infuriated by a short passage in the Lonely Planet book on my beloved hometown. It described Ipoh as, 
“… mainly a transit town, a place where you change buses; … chaotic traffic; … crumbling Chinese shop houses and ugly modern blocks”; and, specifically for New Town: “…. generally dingy part of town, with a notorious prostitution problem and no real attractions.” 
No mention of its food, its heritage, its natural attractions whatsoever! As I visited more and more cities, both in Malaysia and overseas, most recently New Zealand, I began to realize the lack of appreciation for heritage and culture in my hometown. Some cities have done really well on heritage preservation, most notably Georgetown and Malacca, which both obtained World UNESCO historic city status in 2008.

The same cannot be said of some cities in Malaysia. As much as I was impressed and cheered by vibrant, youthful walls of the buildings in Chinatown, Kuala Terengganu, which I visited 3 years ago, I now think that they are nothing but an evidence of misinterpretation of the meaning of heritage tourism by the local government, or maybe it wasn’t even thinking about heritage tourism? It looked more like a fun fair with its garish appearance. You’d almost expect Mickey Mouse and gang to materialize any minute. But at least the municipal people there did something to promote tourism.
Garish wall in Chinatown, Kuala Terengganu,

Back in Ipoh, I heard of the infamous new toilet replacing the historic Birch fountain in Little India, the demolition of a whole row of buildings once filmed in Ang Lee’s ‘Lust, Caution’ and the Yau Tet Shin market-turned-carpark and most recently, crumbling of 2 of the 7 dangerous buildings in Concubine Lane( Lorong Panglima ) making national news.

Birch fountain ( demolished )

 toilet ( current) 
(photos taken from Ipoh Echo)
In Napier, New Zealand, I joined an art deco walk guided by volunteers. There were only 2 of us, a middle aged woman from Australia and me. Being on a very tight budget, I’d forgone 2 other heritage walks (in Dunedin and Wellington) that I was interested in and shortly after the Napier walk, felt that I should have joined the heritage walks instead. As I have no basics in architecture, I think I only understood about 50 % of what the guide said, retained about 2% as I made the silly mistake of throwing away the art deco walk brochure (into the recycle bin). Retrospectively, I have no regret joining the Napier walk, although I still wish I’d joined the heritage walks. That 2% of knowledge has sparked off in me a new found interest in heritage buildings.
When I came back to Ipoh, it became clear to me that Napier and Ipoh have a lot in common: 
 In 1892, the ‘Great Fire of Ipoh’ destroyed over 120 houses. Town planners reorganized the town’s layout and replaced soil paths with proper straight roads. Old town was founded. The population swelled to 11,000!
Fast forward to 1930, Ipoh became the first town in Malaya to supply electricity. In the same year, Napier was devastated by an earthquake, which was followed by a fire, The disaster changes, forever, its geological landmark, giving it more land and a new start, with wider roads, and most notably, the opportunity to build what was very fashionable back then – art deco buildings.
1. Ipoh, the sentimental side: A self-guided heritage tour to touch the past( brochure) 
2. memory from guided tour ( brain cells) 
Sadly the similarity stopped pretty much there, at least in the efforts made for heritage preservation and tourism. Napier has an impressive collection of art deco buildings. It is not shy to show it to the world, promoting it in the form of art deco guided walks and the annual art deco festival, a major tourist attraction. On that day, people in art deco costumes would go on street to dance and sing and be spectators of a vintage car parade.
Art Deco festival in Napier ( photo taken from punahou)

And as most cities in the First World, they are very strict about the preservation of the art deco buildings. Renovations of an art deco building are to follow strict rules on what constitutes art deco architecture. 
Ipoh has been commended by visitors as a very well planned town, some even said that it’s the best planned in Malaysia ( Putrajaya doesn’t count)! Neat rows of buildings, 45 degree design( don’t know the technical term) at major junctions to enable motorists to have a better view of vehicles approaching from sides, old and new Towns flanked by 2 major roads( Hugh Low and Brewster Rds) and clearly demarcated by the Kinta river( another sad story for another day). Sadly, the CBD in Ipoh seems to have shifted to Greentown (with no historic value at all). 
On my recent trips to Georgetown, I was very impressed by the effort made to preserve heritage buildings and to promote heritage tourism, especially after visiting Mr Tan Yeow Wooi’s office, an architect specializing in heritage building restoration.

It dawned on me that Penang was doing as good, if not better, as the cities in New Zealand! I was pleasantly surprised as frequently as every few steps on streets like Armenian Street, Love Lane, Muntri street by its bilingual/trilingual street name signage,

   heritage building turned boutique hotels/ hostels,
Ryokan Chic Hotel, Muntri Street

 art galleries,

 quirky souvenir stores eg 14 Living Story,
14 Living Story, Armenian street.

restored temples
Khoo Kongsi

various heritage organizations in beautiful heritage buildings with lots of free tourist info brochures,  Just like isite, the government tourist info centre seen everywhere in NZ, even in rural towns with only 330 people ( Norsewood ).
Georgetown World heritage Inc building
(photo taken from the star)

Speaking of Norsewood, this reminds me of another happy discovery in Georgetown, community arts! Fuh, now very excited! The first evidence of community art I spotted in Penang is an impressive wall mural by English artist Ernest Zacharevic. It’s a mural of old man  on the wall of Armenian Art café.
Impressive wall mural, Armenian Art cafe

There’re also quite a lot of giant sized wall photographs of normal people of Georgetown, praises for Georgetown by world renowned people like Zang Toi, printed on boards fixed on walls. And the one that tickled my heart the most was a kind of thick wire art depicting stories of the old Penang.
wire art , Muntri st.
 How much does it cost to make wire art like this? I’d rather the money to build the ugly toilet in Little India be channeled to decorate Ipoh. Speaking of the ugly toilet, there’s a pile of horrendous-looking fake stones under the flyover near Kampar Road. I bet it’ll cost much lesser if the money’d been used to sponsor local artists to paint mural on walls of the flyover.

 If I were to be given the chance to be part of a group to introduce community art in Ipoh, I’d do it in a heartbeat! Maybe I’m just not aware of an existence of community art in Ipoh, just as I was not aware of the availability of the Ipoh heritage walk. Maybe there is hope for Ipoh art! We could print LAT’s cartoons of old Ipoh and famous Ipoh food on giant sized boards and put them around Old and New towns!

LAT's cartoon of the demolished Yau tet Shin market, now a carpark =(
 When I expressed my concern over Ipoh’s lack of effort to a staff of Georgetown heritage Inc ( an ex-Ipohite, who attended the same school, Anderson school as LAT) , he lamented that Perak was not meant to strive on tourism, but tin. But Greymouth in New Zealand (commented by many to be the ugliest town in nz) was not meant to strive on tourism either, but Gold! So they focused on that and built a gold mining heritage theme park.

 Greymouth brochures explained extensively about the history of Gold mining. Although I was not attracted, my boyfriend certainly was. There have been talks on building a tin mining heritage museum/gallery in Ipoh but where is it?

 Something must be done to revive Ipoh’s past glory. I am leaving Ipoh in a short while and may never live here except for the occasional balik kampong trips on holidays. I hope that my fellow hometown people may someday realize that what we have is very special and it depends on us to preserve it. And what I can do right now, as my time before leaving Ipoh dwindles from weeks to days, is to sketch as many of the heritage buildings as possible before they deteriorate beyond recognition and repair, and I wholeheartedly wish that that day will never come.

My sketch of Ipoh Old Town

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sketching Georgetown The Second Time! 念念槟岛

      I went to Georgetown for the second time this year. I did a warm up sketch in the ferry and a little old lady asked to see my sketches. She then started talking about how crime rate was high these days and depicted a robbery story she heard from someone she knew. She reminded me of an old man in KL, who reminded me to hide my wallet in my bag. 

   When I reached the terminal, Kiah Kien was already waiting there. He brought me to a printing shop and I saw some really nice paintings on the wall. One of them inspired me to try out a new watercolour style. He then left me to go back to his parents' house. I walked along Church Street and settled down at the junction of Church st and King st to draw a Chinese association and the temple beside it. 

Guangdong Chinese Association
As I was starting to paint, Kiah Kien joined me and produced a vertical sketch of the building I was sitting in front of. Some of the passersby stopped and looked at us sketch. One of them was an amateur photographer who spent 2 weeks photographing a street, which I forgot the name. 

We were then joined by Cheang Jing, another painter friend and had some local food. Cheang Jin did a quick sketch at the hawker stall. 

I then continued sketching and found a nice spot at Armenian street. I lingered for quite a while before settling down, trying to decide between sketching yet another temple and a row of old buildings. The later won. Just as I started sketching, a man walked up to me and started commenting: 

''Why are you using pen instead of pencil ar? Use pencil ma, can correct mistake.''
''Why your leaves so round ar? Dun bluff la. The leaves are pointed.''

To my horror, he then insisted upon showing me his pencil colour drawings and said he'd tear up the ones that I didn't like. What a weird guy.

Anyway, I got rid of him by saying I needed time to sketch and he could show me his drawings later. Fuh, peace at last. 

Armenian street 
I then walked to Love Lane and had a pleasant discovery, a new art gallery exhibiting cheerful and colourful paintings by artist Joey Lim and her students. I saw a nice all white table with some wooden coloured pencils and was tempted to draw something so I did! 

Unique PenangArt Gallery ( check out their facebook! Owned by a lovely couple Clovis and Joey)
Then I spent my evening visiting 2 art exhibitions at  Straits Quay and A2( nice food!) 

On the second day, I woke up to heavy downpour and was worried that the sketching session organized by penang sketchers group'd be cancelled. Luckily it's not and I sketched something simple. 
Campbell street market
All of us!

After lunch, I continued sketching and was joined by Marni half way through. We sketched on Love Lane.

Love Lane 爱情巷

Then we moved to Muntri Street. A man saw us and walked across the street from Muntri Mews and chatted with us( actually I kind of ignored him cuz I wanted to save time to sketch so Marni was the one answering his questions). Then Kiah Kien arrived to fetch us and the man's friend was holding Kiah Kieh's book - 素描老槟城 Sketches of Pulo Pinang and he shouted,'' Hey this is the man lah! '' and took a photo with Kiah Kien.

Muntri Mews, Muntri Street

We then attended a mid autumn gathering at a very unique art gallery. By that time I was quite exhausted. But upon reaching my Penang host, WanLu and Yong Qing's house, wanlu and I talked til 2.40am. yak yak yak....

On the third day, I did a sketch and met with Kuan Yew.

Carnavon Street, sketched in front of  Penang Heritage Inc. building

Lebuh Carvanon

Kuan Yew and me

We had homemade cake and vanilla ice cream at Moontree 47. Delicious! 

I really do love Georgetown. I wish I could work there. I hope that Kuan Yew'd one day fall in love with Georgetown as I have. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011


今天原本到斗母宫的目的是看到报纸说有电脑展,电脑adaptor一命呜呼, 便想去一趟。 一到斗母宫, 便喜见一盆巨盆栽,耸立门口, 原来是有盆栽及雅石展赛会!

盆栽比赛又分大型和小型,有各种各样我第一次听到的树种, 最新奇的叫寿娘子。除了盆栽, 还有雅石展。刚好我们去的时候, 有来自吉隆坡的雅石爱好家张国顺医生, 给了一个名为,“雅石的鉴赏与艺术”的座谈会。 张品石家说,欣赏一个石头, 有四大条件, 即“ 形﹑质、色、纹” 。 其中形和质又是最主要的。


      后张医生又谈到雅石和艺术的关系。他说,一些人还在争论石头是不是艺术这个问题。因为石头不是人造的,是天然的,而普遍上人们口中的艺术品是指人造的。张医生解说道,如果有个朽木,被丢在河里,便不是艺术品。 要是有一个人把它带回家,洗干净,再修饰、替它提名, 那么那块木就是一个艺术品。说得非常好!这也令我想起,上个星期托嘉强的福,有幸到陈耀威建筑修复家的办公室参观。看到好多原本是横梁的弃木, 摆在架子上,有的刻上字,成了艺术品, 除装饰点缀外,还有纪念老房子的价值。


Friday, August 26, 2011

槟岛。会大师。亲子游。Penang Sketching Trip

Ever since the first sketching/painting session organised by the Facebook group Penang Sketchers about a year ago, I'd been wanting to attend the sessions, but due to my location i was unable to. Last week I finally, finally attended one, at the world heritage site in Georgetown! Nothing could have been more wonderful than seeing my favourite sketch/painters in action with my own eyes. 

My parents and I received the warmest northern hospitality from sketchers Cheang Jin and Kiah Kien. I am a typical introvert. Long and loud outings drain my inner energy and confuse my overstimulated brain. But after meeting with my new sketcher friends I always felt revitalised and elated, for days!

The only sketch I did during the sketching session( 4.5 hours!) as I had an inflammed wrist (De Quervain's disease) but most importantly, I wanted to learn water colouring from the master. The first 3 hours of Cheang Jin's painting process were slow, tedious, impossible even. Then, everything just fell right into place,unveiling an extremely realistic, three dimensional  painting that attracted passersby and drew admiration from onlookers and facebook friends. Great patience and skill pay well, after all!

Photo of happy sketchers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


                                              今天心血来潮, 到家附近画画。画了一棵不知名的树,和一棵香蕉树。

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fruit King and Queen!

These are my parents, and they are avid supporter of local fruits, especially our king of the fruits, durian
It is a traditional Chinese belief that durians are 'heaty' food, and is best countered by 'cooling' food, which is none ther than the queen of the fruits, mangosteen! Or, you can drink salt water with a durian shell.