Tag Archives: Southeast Asia

Remember ancestors

Chinese ancestral temple in Penang
Chinese settlers brought together with them the complete set of culture, not least this type of structure, rich in decoration and well-conserved.

The annual Chap Go Meh festival this year and the Hakka festival that follows a week later sparked the old tale of Chinese settlers in this small island that now became one of Malaysia’s attractive tourist destination.

For all its heritage, George Town depends on its ubiquitous, well-preserved old buildings to present a “Truly Asia” experience, a tourism jargon created by its host country, Malaysia.

Some of the epic buildings were inherited from the past British administration, located near the main harbor, but Chinese architecture dominates the greater part of the town. An outstanding example would be the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Chinese ancestral temples are found scattered across the old parts of George Town, the very heart of it. It is note-worthy that not only the municipality protects these buildings for its historical value, the Malaysian of Chinese descents also care for each of their memorial center, keeping the tradition of paying homage to the past generations.

A couple of elderly in one of these temples are responsible to keep it clean. There is an office for them on the first floor where they occasionally welcomed relatives from other countries.

Chinese ancestral temple in Penang
Chinese Ancestral temples are usually managed collectively by the same group of family or people with the same specific places of origin.

Singapore some time ago


The article first appeared in Monomat, February 1, 2013.

Easo out in Singapore

Singapore is the most developed country in Southeast Asia. But on the other side of the equation, it is a prisoner of tourism destination high level of expectation.

As is the case with countries vying for prestigious place in international stage amid the rapidly growing status as economic hubs, it builds mega structures and modernises prime districts in the city in a way that only a certain group’s ambition are concerned, all the while disregarding the wisdom of efficient and quality living.

These photos revealed when Singapore was a more livable place a decade ago.

World class art center

Before there is the monolithic Marina Bay Sands or the hustle of Formula One night race, the city state of Singapore was not soring to the eye or too choking as it is now.

Then, the city was the center of attention largely for its durian-shaped theater on the bay “Esplanade”, opened in 2002. Southeast Asia grabbed a limelight in art cultivation, positioning itself on par with few other world class art centers.

The city of working class

Singapore is still the city of working class people. Packed public transportation modes like buses and MRTs, or crowded pedestrian precincts are the indicators.

People still allocate an amount of time seeking leisure near the Merlion, among other open, public venues in the city.

But now tourists set another must-visit site on top of the itinerary list, that is, the summit of MBS that comes in the shape of giant boat awkwardly placed on the tip of its three in-line buildings.

It is also a popular choice for Indonesian couples to do their wedding photography, a case of which is represented by a friend.

Now the island nation is among hosts to gas-guzzling automotive sport, the second in the region following Malaysia. The race to leverage status has somewhat shifted to grandiose building projects for rich society and overblown sports events.

Singapore some time ago
Merlion park
People ease out in the afternoon at Merlion Park

A decade ago, when giving oneself a night treat to the Clark Quay while looking at the business district where there stood skyscrapers and UOB tower as the highest building in the city at the time was a simple yet memorable experience, when buying marinated beef at a tiny stall “Bee Cheng Hiang” near the entrance of one of the plazas in busy Orchard Road was one of the things your family had asked to bring to Jakarta, when I went to Temasek and learned later that the word actually derived from a Javanese meaning “sea”, or when Changi Airport was abuzz with seemingly plain-box-shaped design on the outside but of ultra-efficient system of direction on the inside, Singapore in 2003 was a distinctive city in openness.

Dangerous Bangkok


A writer and a business photography practitioners, that is how Dicky Stefanus describes himself. He loves to experience a new culture, meet new people and to share knowledge.

thailand 2

You might have heard about Dangerous Bangkok, a 2008 movie starring Nicholas Cage. Well the title is enough to describe my tiny adventure in Bangkok. I won a round trip to Thailand from a world famous air conditioner company.

Hearing lots of the beautiful and the exotic Bangkok, I decided to prolong my stay in Bangkok for three days and two nights. The story is not to say Bangkok is bad. On the contrary, I want to say please go there. It is a beautiful city. However, knowing more about the city in your travel wish list is an advantage.

I also have a few great friends there, especially my lovely Ann W.

Apparently there are quite a few oriental minority. When I was there, a tour guide book told not to get a cab that refuses to use meter. Apparently this is hard enough to be true. When I speak to the cab drivers they just said in adequate English, “No! no! out!”. Or else they will just ask 100 bath.

Thuk Thuk in Bangkok
Thuk Thuk roams the streets of Bangkok

This rules also apply to Thuk Thuk. With a stern face, my local tour guide stated that don’t talk too much or try a bit pushy. If this works please how tell me how.

Thuk Thuk scam

Before I left my group tour, I learned how Thuk Thuk drivers can do some unpleasant things to you. But I just need to experience it anyway. Otherwise I won’t have this story to share to you. Due to budgeting and internet recommendation, I decided to stay in Khaosan Road. It is kind of Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta, where there are nice accomodations for backpackers.

The story was in my first day alone in Thailand. When visiting temples around Khaosan, I met a good European. When we were traveling there was a guy telling me that he is a policeman. He told me that that day was the king’s birthday, so some Thuk Thuk’s could be rented for free and he will take us around Thai if we can we can give him some money for the service.

The tour was sponsored by the king himself. I smelled something fishy, but hey, it is an adventure. We got around great and famous places of interest. Finally we were taken to a gem factory.

It was pricey. I didn’t find it interesting, and so I thought this was the end of the tour. But later he asked us to go to a travel agency, and there I fell prey to the scam and took the accomodation package because it gave a 3/4 higher rate of the first hotel I went into days before.

However when I checked at Khaosan Road the price I paid was triple than what the hotels in Khaosan Road offered. Well, how the tour goes, I will save it for another time. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the notes. I can’t wait to hear your comment or other experience.

thailand 3

1814 Borobudur revisited



1814 was the year of rediscovery of Borobudur Temple amid volcanic ash and resurging jungle, ten centuries since its date of build. British governor for Java administration Thomas Stamford Raffles was largely credited for it with the publication of History of Java.

But he could not do it without the Dutchman HC Cornelis, whom he instructed to excavate the site for over a month, involving some two hundred workers.

Construction began in 824 under Syailendra dynasty, and completed during the reign of Samaratungga. It served as the center of religious activity, but started to lose significance when Mataram capital was moved to East Java, and went into oblivion in the 14th century.

Read the excerpts by Erwin Supandi of his selected pictures during his visit to Borobudur Temple, Magelang, Central Java.


With just a little know-how in doing landscape photography in Borobudur Temple, Central Java, from the higher surrounding platform, I left the nearby hotel at 03:45 AM. I got lost and finally able to overcome the situation by asking the local motorcycle taxi driver for an escort. The extra expense proved to be worthwhile with the spectacular view that slowly reveals as the sun began to rise.

This photo was cropped to clarify the detail of the temple. Most commonly people use telephoto lens—at least 70-200 mm—to get a perfect result. However, seeing the remarkable crop result proves that mirrorless camera does an excellent job in reproducing noise-less details. It is taken with Fujifilm X-E1 paired with 18-55 mm kit lens.


This photograph proves how capable the mirrorless camera—some said mirrorless DSLR in making a competition with the already established DSLR cameras. This was taken while the photographer was driving. The left hand held the steering wheel while the other hand held the camera. The action is surely a tough call for DSLR users.


George Town

George Town

For all its heritage, George Town depends on its ubiquitous, well-preserved old buildings to present a “Truly Asia” experience, a tourism jargon created by its host country, Malaysia. Some of the epic buildings were inherited from the past British administration, located near the main harbor, but Chinese architecture dominates the greater part of the town.

Malaysia cashes in from their tourism sector through basic steps of optimising what they have best to offer: nature and history. In the case of George Town, no less popularly called Penang, the government could foresee the incoming of foreigners from closer region if they could improve the general quality of infrastructure compared to the neighboring countries.

The sidewalks are narrow and not in their prime conditions like what other major sightseeings are supposed to be, but they are in relatively good shape, providing the basic infrastructure for a tourism city.

The cost for conservation

Colonial buildings are typical to any other places in Southeast Asia, as these countries share similar past of western colonisation. But simply maintaining conservation has paid off. It costs considerable taxpayers money, but the reward for the citizen and the country’s image as a whole outweighs the small sacrifice.

Joko Avianto’s Theatre of the Ships in GTF 2013

Following his rising status in the local art scene, notably his signature bamboo-based abstract installation at Ciputra World, Jakarta, 2010, and in Art Jog 2012, Joko Avianto brings out even bigger scale of his work this year in George Town, Malaysia. Avianto’s “The Theater of Ships” is the main giant visual treat in George Town Festival (GTF) 2013.

Situated between the iconic town hall and city hall, a municipal office gets a new radical exterior look with a facade consisting of around 3,000 bamboos. We are delighted to get the opportunity to enjoy this intricate design on the first day of GTF. The month-long festival stages a plethora of art works and cultural exhibitions across the city.