Dateline Sunday, Penang 2/4/2007

Greetings to all!

And thanks to many of you for your messages.

Sunday was Fun Day for me here -- just being a tourist! And I saw a lot, thanks to my good friends Yumi and Jason. Appropriately for a WASP, we visited a lot of temples of various sorts today. First stop was Kapitan Keling Mosque, one of the oldest in this city. One of the interesting features is the tall tower in front, from which the faithful used to be called to prayer -- the caller must have had a loud voice! These days it's all done with loudspeakers, much easier but less picturesque. Still, the tower is there. The mosque itself is, according to Yumi, one of the more decorated ones. Apparently the newer ones are much more austere. This one has really lovely architectural details, and a good bit of Moorish influence. Also beautiful prayer rugs running the full width of the sanctuary area, rows and rows of them. At a lot of mosques people have to bring their own rugs on which to kneel. All this, of course, is only for the men. For the women, there's a little boarded-off area to one side, without pretty rugs or pretty anything else. There were other buildings in the complex, including a separate school building (very plain indeed, no desks or chairs, no sign of books, just an open room with a raised platform for teacher). And a graveyard, remarkably small. Apparently they 'recycle' the grave sites, so a person might be buried in their grandfather's or great-grandfather's plot. Saves space, anyway!

After the mosque we toured the fascinating Blue Mansion, favorite home of Chinese legendary Cheong Fatt Tze he was dubbed "China's last Mandarin and first Capitalist" and apparently this was well deserved. When he died in 1916, Dutch and British flags around the world were flown at half mast -- that's how powerful a force he was. The mansion is pretty amazing. Built in old Chinese style, with each wing around an open courtyard to provide light and air. The outside walls are all colored with indigo, so the house is a very Blue house indeed! Apparently this was a pretty common house color 100 years ago. Many beautiful Chinese antiques inside, a lot of talk about the Feng Shue of the house design and execution. Most impressive of the decorative work on the house is the ceramic cut-and-paste artwork -- elaborate scenes decorating beams and gables of the exterior, all created from shards of colored ceramics. Rare to find on a residence, this kind of work was usually reserved only for temples. Wish I had time to download pictures to go with this, but as it is I'm going to have to stop here for now. I have to get packed to leave for Kuala Lumpur this morning! (I'm writing this on Monday morning before breakfast).

More to come!

Love to all,

Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to