Tuesday, March 24, 2015

From Rubbish Art to Masterpieces

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Stains of dirt and residues of the rainwater dripping down these once-white washed brick and lime plastered walls are evident, stripping the pre war buildings and shop houses of their former glory.
Perhaps they were once majestic in their past; concealing the untold stories as they stand in their place, bearing witnesses to the many events and even tragedies which unfold before them.
Today their dilapidated state is a sure giveaway of their age and sorry states, as they stand in the bleak part of the town, casting gloomy shadows of themselves as they are no longer at the prime of their youth nor are they the center of the limelight, but instead they are today sore to the eyesight, and no one would even take a second glance at them.
They are only known as the old buildings; thrown into the background as urbanization and modern buildings step into take their places and the only attention they are getting are from the people who call them hazards to the society and placed them on the list of demolition, paving that way for their blueprint plans of sky high buildings adorned with glass windows and ceilings in their places.

There is no escaping that fate, and they are screaming, weeping tears in silent protest of their own extinction; pained by the cruelty of their fates and also the fact that their contributions, deeds and reasons of existence have been forgotten in that blink of an eye. They are no longer important; that message was clear and the recognition of their past (or lack of) is clearly almost nonexistent.
They were nothing but just remnants of trash to be taken out to clear out the backyard; all in the name of modernization.

Their futures are bleak and they moan their distasteful eviction from the present but no one heard their cries. Their existence no longer means anything.
One man changed everything.
With a touch of his brush and creativity, he gave life again to these walls.
He saved them with his grace of painting and brought back feelings of exuberance and reformation to the town.
With just one brush.

A joint effort between the municipal of Georgetown and this budding young Lituanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic took on the bold challenge to transform the historical town, also the capital of the famous Pearl of the Orient, the Penang island located on the north of Malaysia, with just a few paintings to inject that fresh breath onto the yellowish pages of the town.
It started with six paintings; and the local council granted the artist the permission to begin his project, painting, on, get this, the old street walls.

The old dilapidated walls are the artist’s canvas for him to unleash his talent and creativity.
It is a winning situation for many parties, if you come to think of it; the town gets another identity and an overnight sensation of catapulted fame, the local authorities reap from the boost in tourism, the artist gets to showcase his talent and a chance at fame, the owners of the shophouses, well, get a fresh coat on their sorry walls, and the walls, are, now, priceless and saved from their intended evil destruction.

It was a huge success, probably more than the original plan.
Ernest Zacharevic proved to be an incredible talent with his strokes, and he had painted realistic and remarkably heartfelt depictions of the local scenes.
His paintings drew the locals and tourists from all over the nation and worldwide to throng the island in droves.
It was amazing, the way his paintings; his street art or murals, evoke emotions and memories of the local scenes which is perhaps, the very reason for drawing his audience (art or even non-art enthusiasts) to flock to each location of his art like opposite sides of the magnate.

From the “Boy on a Bike” to the “Little Children on a Bicycle” and the striking “Awaiting Trishaw Pedaler”, the location of these walls became instant tourist spots and dot the traveler’s map, topping the list of the places to visit, or must visit in Penang.

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Another piece, "Reaching Up" found on one of the walls and have been featured in one of the Hong Kong drama

Already a tourist destination in its heydays due to the crowns of “Food Paradise” and heritage status (Penang is recognized and honored as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2008), along with its longstanding tiara of being nicknamed as the Pearl of the Orient due to its many wonders (nothing could be better than that; in fact the island is almost unbeatable in its fame compared to its minute size on the map), the island continues to enjoy more attention worldwide and welcoming visitors from all over the world.
The spike in tourism delighted the locals and businesses continue to prosper, and there is no longer a difference in weekends and weekdays for there are always foreign folks on the island throughout the year.

The locals were the first to pay homage to these artistic paintings, of course, though there were also many who have not been. It is always as such, for the locals are always the comfortable in their own backyards and believe that they are always going to be there.
After all, it is their hometown, isn’t it?
Tourists are excited to stalk the spots where the wall art are located, and it became sort of an activity of treasure hunt, or rather, wall art hunt, as everyone follows the trail, preying on one mural after another.
Technology has definitely helped to spread the reputation of these street murals; with the creativity of poses and postings to social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

The walls have definitely been restored to its former glory, though they have been reinstated with a new breath of identity altogether, with that coat of illustration and colors on their faces.
Well, at least, it did well to mask their fears and insecurities, and also the misery of their former selves.
The walls can now breath a sigh of relief, and continue to smile as they are now, right smack, thrown into the limelight and perhaps, they might now silently wish for a moment of silence, once in a while.

The surge in the overnight fame of the street wall art catapulted its artist, Ernest Zacharevic into stardom, as he rides on his new fame; holding his art exhibition on the island as well.
It probably also inspired many others to have a go at demonstrating their skills, transpiring the many more unknown paintings and murals to emerge on the street walls over time, and perhaps, at an alarming rate too. The growth of these murals makes it difficult for many to distinguish between the real McCoy from the decoys.
Perhaps there are many more Ernest Zacharevics out there, or they are just wannabes, trying their luck to be someone one day.
However controls are exerted, for unauthorized paintings on the public street walls constitute acts of vandalism and is a breach of public responsibility, and definitely, illegal by all means.

Once regarded as an act of vandalism; street paintings (or perhaps some form of beautified graffiti) on public street walls, are now given a new name in justice, with their contributions to the local tourism.
They are now known as Street Art/Mural.

Ernest Zacharevic has popularized street art, and given a fresh perspective to as he calls it, rubbish art, but he has definitely given them their due credit.
It is not just with a flick of brush, but it comes with talent and skill, and of course, that burst of creativity.
Let’s not forget about opportunity either, for there are so many talented people out there who remain unrecognized and perhaps underrated for they never had the opportunity.

Given the opportunity and the permission, rubbish or street art can become tourist and social media worthy of attention but remember, doing it on your own and without the right approval, it is still a crime and one is just asking for trouble.


Thanks to Ernest Zacharevic, these street art has unveiled the beauty of Penang to the world, through her very own eyes, or walls, if you may, of the simplicity and exuberance of the lives here, a secret well kept by the locals and now, proudly illustrated for the world to see.

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What a coincidence when I captured this photo, definitely not planned in my "accidental photo shoot"!



**Most of the street art by Ernest Zacharevic are located in the UNESCO Heritage site of Georgetown; mainly centering in the Armenian Street enclave, bordering  Weld Quay and its vicinity. **

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seafood by the Sea at Baywatch Restaurant


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Baywatch Seafood Restaurant was the one I tried on my visit/day trip to the coastal town of Tanjung Sepat (in my last post here).

Reputed to be one of the more popular ones in town, this seemed to be the restaurant that many have been to during their visit to this town.

Perhaps it is their sea view facing location that attracts many to come for their seafood meal, or maybe it is their opening hours; operating throughout lunch and dinner.


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The other reason could be the popularization by local food commentary and host, Axian, who had paid his visit and recommended the restaurant.


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Lunch was a simple affair, and most of the dishes were supposedly their signature or recommended ones.

These are not the only things we had at the seafood restaurant, of course, but they are the starters to the meal.

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Crabs with salted egg yolk


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Lala/Clams in Herbal Soup

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Deep Fried Mantis Prawns with Dried Chilies (Kung Pow Style)

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Spare ribs in BBQ Sauce

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Prawns wrapped in Lotus leaf

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Steamed White Pomfret with soy sauce

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Claypot Beancurd with assorted Seafood

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Stir Fried Kale with Salted Fish 

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I have not much to comment on the food; just on the average for most of them, hence the photo essay theme for this post where I let the photos do the talking.
As I was also on a guided tour (where everything is arranged by the company and paid for), I am not aware of the prices for the dishes above.
I would say that I still stick to my regular favorites for my own list of seafood restaurants :-)

The view is however quite something for one to enjoy while having their meal here, and I think the main attraction of the restaurant, or at least, it is for city dwellers who do not get to enjoy this on a daily basis.


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Maybe I could do a comparison when I get to try another restaurant on my next visit.


For Just One Day - Tanjung Sepat

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Ask any city dweller their ideal concept of a short getaway and you will probably get majority of the responses in the direction of heading out of the city; to the outskirts of the city and there is no doubt images of sea, sand, lush greenery, blue skies and the serene sounds of nature would fill their minds.
Well, majority, that is.
(I would not mind going to another city though; or say no to that idea, because I have such strong love for cities. It is in the blood).

It is not that we do not have blue skies or even that slightest sign of nature in the city; maybe not really that blue on days when it is all shrouded in the thick haze (which is pretty much most of the days), and we do have trees, planted on the roads where we travel to work every day. Young budding trees which peek out with their thin and frail branches in that peek-a-boo manner as they stand in that well-distanced line along the road dividers, choking in that massive clouds of carbon monoxide while doing their best to breathe and balance their supply of oxygen and carbon dioxide at the same time.
That, is pretty much our definition of blue skies and nature in the city.
Maybe not to such an extent, though there is still that truth in it and adds to that longing in the hearts of the urban folks to crave for that fresh crisp air and the sweet sounds of nature once in a while.

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If you are living in a city, you’d understand.
(City-born are still quite used and have grown accustomed to their environment, but anything out of their daily surroundings will still fascinate them to the core – just make sure that the conditions are bearable with no cripple in their basic needs).

That is why you always see city folks jump for joy whenever they are presented with a simple view of the sea and sandy beaches, along with verdant greenery and dense jungles. It immediately brings peace and calmness to their senses.
While there are many locations out of the country promising such ideal getaways, there are also plenty to be found locally and one need not look too far to search for it.
If you are living in the city of KL, one of the nearest location and one of the best hidden spots (until recently) is this little fishing village town along the coastal shores of Selangor.

Just a few kilometers; or 15km north of Bagan Lallang (another popular destination), Tanjung Sepat is a homegrown coastal town in the Kuala Langat district of Selangor (the state bordering the Federal Territory).  
This humble town is all about fishery; with most of the economy centering on the fishing activity and also the trading of their haul from the sea.

Of late, the town has caught the attention of many, with the boom of the Sepang Gold Coast which attracted many visitors to take that trip off the beaten path and landed them in this small fishing village of a town.

The size of the town and its location tucked away far from the city makes it relatively easy to navigate and even to explore on one’s own.

An itinerary would not be too much of a fuss to plan, for the locations are focused in a few primary spots and do not need much traveling distance from one to the other.
The laidback nature of the town is one of the main attractions, and their specialties, while may not rival the long lists of other tourist destinations are still held proudly by the locals.

One Day, that’s all you will need to explore what Tanjung Sepat has to offer.
(and that includes a seafood meal with the seafront view as well)

Things that Tanjung Sepat is famous for, can be summarized simply:- 
1. Seafood
2. Fish-based Products
3. Agro-based products
4. Pau
1

Start the trip early in the morning; it takes approximately 2 hours or so to drive from the city to this town and be ready to enjoy the views of the beckoning sea as one reaches the part of the outskirt, or coastal area of the Selangor state.

There are a few farms to explore, and as I was on a guided tour (it was a trip courtesy of my company), we stopped by the Dragon Fruit farm.


The Multi Rich Pitaya farm is an eye-opener; well, at least for ignorant city folk like myself, presented with that opportunity to see the dragon fruit locally grown in their modestly sized plantation.

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It is my first time, seeing that very tree, or rather cactus-like plant sprouting the baby dragon fruits (in their stages of growth).
The plants were somewhat terrifying to me; in their expansive flourishing style (some even sprawling-like) with the fruits growing on the ends of their seemingly sharp claw-like branches.


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The pitaya fruits (the more generic term for the dragon fruits, as they are also known) are wrapped with plastic bags to avoid birds pecking at them, or insects drilling into the fruits for commercial reasons.
These fruits are popular among the locals and are also exported in multitudes to the cities and other states, some even to overseas (for the larger plantations.
(The wrapping of fruits with plastic bags or newspapers is commonly practiced, as a way to protect the fruits from damage, be it for commercial reasons or even for personal consumption).

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The fruits are also available for sale, and it is fascinating to note, as the growers also generously demonstrate, that the fruit can be consumed in many ways.
From direct consumption of the fruit to the extraction of the juice, there is no doubt the natural sweetness of the fruit promising that relishing taste is the main reason for its popularity.

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There are two types; with the colors of the flesh being the key difference, mainly the white and the red, and here in this farm, they are harvesting the version with the red flesh.
The red is the more popular version, due to the sweetness but the white flesh is the one believed to provide the health benefits.

Fresh dragon fruits, and the flesh was excitably fresh and bursting with sweetness.

Fresh consumed just like that, where they generously allow rounds of sampling, the fruits are sold by weight or based on the general bulk by their stated price.
It was quite reasonably priced and freshness is guaranteed when you buy straight from the farm.

Enjoy the freshly made juices, or even take a swig at the ice sticks made with the fruits themselves.

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There is no doubt that this is indeed a very popular fruit; not just for its flesh and health benefits but also for the enjoyable tastes and its color have also made its way into the natural coloring ingredients to substitute the artificial coloring.

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Gano Farm is also another of our stop; introducing the various types of mushrooms.

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A Visit to a Potato Chips Factory

The making of plant-based chips

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Fish-based products are definitely familiar grounds for the local traders, and one can easily find a shop lot functioning as a mini factory, arduously processing the sea products into fish balls, fish paste and other fish-based products.

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(Tanjung Sepat boasts of their locally handmade fish balls and fish pastes, which are proudly fresh and springy in that bouncy texture, perfect for fish ball lovers ).

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A side visit to a small home coffee trader taught us a little bit on the coffee beans and also the art of making coffee. There is even an old-fashioned coffee making machine to be found in the home.

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P1260817_Fotor While perhaps irrelevant to the core of the town, it was still an interesting side visit.


Enjoy lunch at one of the seafood restaurants, or even dinner, if you would like to stay until later in the evening.
P1260798_Fotor I was not particularly intrigued with the seafood, which I personally have tasted better elsewhere in other seafood-famed states or towns.

One simply should not leave without a visit, or even taking away the famous pau (steamed buns stuffed with filling of pork, sweet red bean or lotus paste) and watch the pau-making process from that tiny glass window.
P1260830_Fotor The small size of the shop is not to be belittled for the pau business is massive and incoming orders kept the bun makers busy throughout the day.

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A few things I may not have covered in my trip, which included the famous Tanjung Sepat Lovers’ Bridge which was dangerous in its state and at the risk of falling down (which it did after that – read here, thus the reason for it being closed off to public at my time of visit)


I have also missed out on the Seafood Steamboat and the Seafood Bak Kut The (usually served with pork), but I guess that would warrant another visit?

In a nutshell, it is just an ambitious task of a day but Tanjung Sepat is definitely one gem of a fishing town fast growing in its popularity in the tourism segment, attracting local visitors from the cities and other states, with its humble offerings and hidden treasures proudly displayed for all to enjoy.

All in just One Day, and one can momentarily take one’s mind off the hustle bustle of the city!


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