A Butterfly Fashion Show at the Penang Butterfly Farm

As a child, I was the epitome of a tomboy. I’d spend hours in my childhood home’s back yard in the Midwestern United States, hunting for critters large and small, tending to my open air clubhouse, and maintaining the ravine’s trails as if I were a park ranger. Because of this past, it’s no surprise that I so enjoyed our visit to the Penang Butterfly Farm, outside of Georgetown, Malaysia, several months ago. Seeing the delicate butterflies on parade with their extravagant costumes was a treat: sophisticated black & white dresses, polka dots, neutral ensembles, colorful madness!

The manner in which some of the butterflies systematically laid eggs on leaves reminded me of Braille, or the sugary dot candy I so enjoyed as a little one. Despite the signs warning visitors about treating the insects with care (hands off!), some kids were so fascinated by the life cycle that they plucked at the eggs with Mom & Dad staying silent.

Another butterfly stood guard near a neighborhood of vacated chrysalises.

My husband turned out to be a butterfly magnet, attracting a dainty, yellow butterfly for the duration of our visit inside the greenhouse-like structure.

After Shawn had bid farewell to his flighty lady we marveled at the pitcher plants – just as a tiny ant was about to fall into the sticky vessel. Despite their carnivorous ways, I loved the plants’ design – twisty, curly-q like limbs and a textured pottery-like appearance!

We then visited the ducks, toads and frogs, iguanas, cockroaches and spiders (the latter two of which I have an irrational fear). As a former owner to a toad named Timmy, I was thrilled to see the croaking creatures, warts and all.

Now, if only I can work on that silly, childhood fear of certain insects that are so plentiful in Southeast Asia and beyond! :)

Getting There: Time certainly flies while at the Penang Butterfly Farm, billed as the “tropical world’s first live butterfly & insect sanctuary.” Be sure you arrive a few hours before closing time, as we found ourselves with much to see in the exhibit areas and not enough time. We traveled to the sanctuary by local bus and then taxi (a short ride) from our guesthouse in Georgetown.

Have you been to the Penang Butterfly Farm – what did you think? What favorites from your childhood would you like to revisit? 

Georgetown, Malaysia: An Illustration of Contrasts

A stroll through Georgetown gives one a sense of being whisked to several countries in a matter of hours. In this largely Chinese city, bundles of smoldering incense scent the maze of bustling streets as crimson red lanterns sway overhead. Bollywood music rumbles in Little India, echoing off storefronts dotted with colorful saris and bins of sparkly bangles. Women donning headscarfs whizz by on motorbikes. A pristine white clock tower from the colonial era commemorates the reign of Queen Victoria. Georgetown is indeed an illustration of contrasts.

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Where in the World?

Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

A Mélange of Spirituality, Faces & Culinary Treats in Malacca, Malaysia

After escaping the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur we were delighted to arrive in comparably sleepy Malacca, a UNESCO heritage city, two hours south from Malaysia’s hectic capital city. Melacca was colonized for centuries and the remnants of Portuguese, Dutch and British occupation are evident in the architecture – most notably the Dutch Stadhuys town hall building, as well as the former Portuguese fort and Chinese merchant homes and businesses.

Malacca, like Malaysia, encompasses a hodgepodge of cultures even today. During a mere 36 hours there, we journeyed ‘round the culinary world. First, there came Malay spicy noodles, then southern Indian fare served on banana leaf plates, and finally Nyonya Cendol, a Chinese shaved ice dessert with coconut milk, kidney beans, palm sugar syrup and the jade-green Cendol.

As we strolled down Jalan Tukang Emas Street, also known as Harmony Street, we were amazed by the blend of places of worship. First, there came an elaborate Chinese Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucionist Temple. Next, there was a white-washed mosque with a rich green roof, and finally a colorful Hindu temple.

As the sky turned a deeper grey and the sounding thunder of an approaching storm reached a mighty crescendo, we happened upon the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple ( 青云亭 ), which literally means ‘Temple of Green Cloud.’ The name was fitting given the thick clouds overhead, and the deluge of rain that soon fell from the heavens. It was a lovely place to seek refuge during the storm.

A caretaker inside was eager to share the history of the temple with us – pointing out that having been built in 1645, it was the oldest temple in Malaysia. We were astounded to learn that its elaborate wooden interior was constructed without the use of a single nail. Its materials were imported from China. As the rain danced on the rooftops and poured through the dragon-adorned downspouts, we watched as a mother taught her little girl how to pray at a shrine. Other faithful followers lit incense sticks and performed ritual kneeling. I imagined merchants and explorers from days bygone approaching the deity of sailors to pray for a safe and fruitful journey.

Once the rain departed Malacca’s skies, we ventured back onto ‘Harmony Street,’ passing by the stark, white-washed Kampung Kling Mosque, which had a closed gate, and finally the Sri Poyatha Moorthi Hindu Temple, which is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia.

The Hindu priest sitting outside Sri Poyatha Moorthi was shirtless. He wore a sarong-like garment and vibrant crystal beads. He ushered us inside. Our timing couldn’t have been better, for just as we walked through the temple’s front door, a drummer started tapping away, as did a horn player. The music was intoxicating and the service that followed was festive.

For the next thirty or so minutes, followers, as well as the priest’s assistant, ushered us from deity station to station, until we had revolved around the temple’s perimeter twice. The ceremony was circus-like, with flickering flames, flower garlands and followers kneeling to statues of ganesh, the sacred cow and other deities.

As we returned to our temporary home away from home – a small hotel in Melacca’s China Town – we digested the day’s culinary and spiritual journey around the world. Georgetown, Penang, would be our next destination.

The Petronas Towers in Black & White

With the aid of their spires, the Petronas Towers rise 1,483 feet ( 451.9 meters) into the heavens over Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur (KL). For six years, they held the title of being the tallest buildings in the world, until they were surpassed by Taipei 101. Today, they are still the world’s tallest twin towers; they have 88 floors.

The towers’ glass and steel façade’s design incorporates Islamic art motifs, reflecting Malaysia’s Muslim religion. Their skywalk is a dramatic element. Of it, architect César Pelli said:

“According to Lao Tse, the reality of a hollow object is in the void and not in the walls that define it. He was speaking, of course, of spiritual realities. These are the realities also of the Petronas Towers. The power of the void is increased and made more explicit by the pedestrian bridge that … with its supporting structure creates a portal to the sky … a door to the infinite.”

Whether seen towering over KL’s skyline by day or twinkling brilliantly at night, the structures are sleek and elegant. Alas, they were closed for renovation during our visit to KL. We hope to return  someday to see what must be a marvelous view of the city. We won’t, however, be taking the same route favored by a French daredevil climber, who, on several occasions, has been arrested ascending the towers using only his bare hands and feet!