« I <3 deadlines! | Blog home | On Valentine's day, the photo booth, and aegyo. »

...and let me assure you, it wasn't the most pleasant experience I've had.
Let me start from the top.
The day of my last posting was a day of preparation. It was Sunday.
Where for many Sunday dictates rest, I was busily planning my blog, my photos, the arrival of my friend (from Florence), my other friend (from Kabul), my Aunty (from Sydney) and my move (back to the Parkroyal apartment).
In a moment of weakness I chose a quick and easy dish from my favourite Indian pit-stop Restoran Nagasari Curry House of Nasi goreng with octopus and prawns.
Yes, the main kitchen doleing out the dahl and curries was closed. Yes the roti kitchen was closed. But WHY oh WHY did I have to choose the dish with the food-poisoning packed seafood?

pills pills.jpg

DOPED UP: alas, my saving grace was the medicine. I had all of these within a four day period. The pills that are there without packaging are charcoal and ciproxin (anti-biotics)- these prescription pills were most effective. Thanks to my microbiologist aunty who arrived on Monday and got them for me I was able to recover within a week.


However my week was far from bed-ridden.

Thaipusam, the second largest Hindu festival in the country and one of the largest religious events in Malaysia (over 2.5 million people at Batu Caves) was on Tuesday and I wasn't going to let some nasty nasi goreng stop me from covering it.

Although all orifices were yet to cease in the relentless purging of my food poisoning, I pulled through in time for Thaipusam- just.

batu caves.jpg

(Above) THAIPUSAM: Just 13km outside KL, Batu Caves is the largest location for the festivities in Malaysia. The religious event is the climactic day in a sustained period of fasting for Hindus. On the day devotees carry either a 'Pal kudam' (milk pot) or 'kavadi' decorative sacrifice to offer up to the Lord Morugal in exchange for penance.


Look, I have had my fair share of cultural coming of age events before this but the intensity of this sensory experience was oppressive, exciting and intriguing all at once. Walking around the festival and talking to everyone from Welsh uni students, Indian religious devotees and market stall holders, I got a grasp of the enormity of the event, the grandeur of the parade and the fascination humans have with elaborate forms of worship- regardless of religion or faith.

The following few photos are snaps I took during the day...

praying devotee blue.jpg

(Above) PRAYERFUL: most devotees were colourful, determined and in a trance-like state. Their intention was clear- offer their worship and sacrifice all the way up the 272 steps and enter into the sacred area of the caves.

devotee lime hooks.jpg

(Above) PAIN: Thousands of followers place hooks with weighted flowers, fruit and other items across their body. The scariest part for me was not so much the visual shock of the hooks (one man was even dangling from dozens of them) but that I did not once see blood or pain etched in a devotees face. They were all in this hypnotic state. An army of Hindu worshipers.

pal kudam.jpg

(Above) MODEST: The majority of devotees climbing the steps of Batu Caves held the Pal Kudam milk pot atop their heads as a symbol of their sacrifice.

kavadi.jpg

(Above) MAGNIFICENT: Others were more extravagant, carrying the weight (and attention of the crowds) with their kavadis- elaborately decorate contraptions that include idols, paintings, peacock feathers and weights. They are carried on the shoulders of these people who are completely in a trance. Otherwise I would have no idea how it could be humanly possible to carry that much weight all that way up the 272 steps in 35 degrees.

baby shave.jpg
(Above) CLOSE SHAVE: a seven month old baby cries as her head is shaved as a sacrifice to the gods for her parent's conceiving her. Unlike their Indian counterparts, many Malaysians toss their hair into the river instead of selling it as wig-fill to the West. I interviewed the owner of this makeshift barber store, ankle deep in black hair and he said he expected to shave the heads of 500 more devotees on the day.

devotee pink mouth.jpg

(Above) WEIRD: sometimes the hypnotic trance worship was too much for me. This guy was convulsing fluoro pink liquid from his mouth while jutting his neck out and being directed by a plain-clothed Indian man who was holding metal chains around his legs.

Thaipusam was- as I said to my editors and fellow reporters- a fully sensory experience. Sights, sounds (the hypnotic tribal beats added the most sensational ambience to the offerings) and not-so-seductive smells.

Smells that include the raised armpits on the hour long train ride back into KL so I could rush to write the story. Yep, not recommended when you have food poisoning.

But alas, I have a once in a lifetime cultural experience I will never forget. Oh, and also an interesting page four article (see here)

Apart from that, most days were bed and home ridden. The two other days I worked that week included several press conferences for three KL/Petaling Jaya localised stories that have been published. The stories have been largely led by one source (sometimes I would add another voice and further research) which is fairly straightforward stuff that I am used to back at the Northern District Times in Sydney. These included a press conference about an NGO utilising football to curb juvenile crime and illiteracy, a PR-led piece on a company working with PJ council to plant 500 trees, and a swiss watch manufacturer reopening at the upmarket Starhill Gallery. (I will link them all in my final blog post...)

maurice lacroix.jpg

(Above): MAURICE LACROIX Press launch. I also got an exclusive interview with the managing director, where we talked everything from the mainland Chinese luxury watch market to Roger Federer. The perks of working for the largest daily newspaper in the country.

I finished off the expat story I was working on and the valentine food review was also published. I also pitched a couple of stories, an Air Asia story (Sydney visitors to KL and the tourism economy in Malaysia) and an opinion piece which were both seemingly accepted quite readily. Now I just have to get onto them...

It hasn't all been work here for me though (far from it, in fact).

Apart from the constant dining explorations, I went to an open mic night in Chinatown last week that turned out to be one of the best, impromptu performances I have ever seen with a mixed group of hostel-stayers, London show girls, retired holiday makers and Aussie hippies getting into some serious party vibes. Pity I had work the next morning or I would have stayed there alot later than 1.30am.

warehouse open mic.jpg

(Above) PARTY times at the Warehouse/Cafe/Bar/Open Mic night

Vilashiney news desk sat.jpg

(Above) SIESTA: I am also making friends with the local reporters. Obviously when it's just two of you on a Saturday afternoon shift there is plenty of time for nanna naps.

malacca yawn.jpg

(Above) MALACCA: On Sunday I went down for a second time to visit my dear friend Sophie in the quaint, old port town of Malacca. Clearly we are having a great time.


Less than a week and I will be back in Sydney. It is surreal but entirely reality at the same time (does that make sense? Or is that 1.30am and work tomorrow talking?). I feel this is my working and living reality but at the same time I understand this experience is truly unique and I am incredibly grateful for it. Apart from my lonely Valentine at home, let's hope the next five days don't fly by too quickly.

About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
More