Hello, I'm Tamar. Hi, I'm Kevin.

Profile Welcome to Asia Steps! This blog documents an exciting journey of trekking, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting throughout Asia. Thank you all for following the adventure!

Flash and Fish in Singapore

Posted by on Mar 05 2009 | Food, Singapore, Technology

The Oglivy Center building in Singapore

The Oglivy Center building in Singapore

When I first decided to include Singapore on this trip I thought it would be fun to meet some fellow web developers. In NY I belong to a Flash user group called Flash Coders NY and I did a little search online to see if a similar group could be found in Singapore. Sure enough, I found A-SFUG which stands for Another Singapore Flash User Group (apparently they even have more than one!).

By the time I visited Singapore I was already in contact with Shang, one of the organizers of the group, and we arranged to meet for lunch. Shang works at Ogilvy, an award-winning, global advertising agency (based in NY) with nearly 500 offices throughout the world. I met him at the Ogilvy Center a very nice rounded building on a busy corner in downtown Singapore. Shang brought along his co-workers, Ed, Yulun and Danny all of whom are web developers working in either Flash or .Net.
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New Photos: Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang

Posted by on Mar 03 2009 | Malaysia, Photos, Religion/Spirituality

Kek Lok Si Temple on Penang Island

Kek Lok Si Temple on Penang Island

I’ve uploaded new photos of the beautiful Kek Lok Si Temple, a Buddhist temple located on Air Itam near Penang Hill in Penang, Malaysia. Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Photos of the temple include the large assembly hall, hundreds of lanterns and flowers and the view from hill upon which the temple is situated.

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Last Post from Ho Chi Minh City

Posted by on Feb 26 2009 | Vietnam

With only 30 minutes left before I need to grab a taxi to the airport I have just enough time for one last drink at Centro and a quick charge of the laptop. My visit to Vietnam this trip has been brief and was roughly split between Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne. However, Vietnam never fails to surprise me and, despite the limited time, this visit has still given me some great and new experiences. With each visit (this was my fourth), Ho Chi Minh City continues to establish itself as my most favorite place to be in the world. In short, I feel welcome here, I feel free here and most of all this place just makes me very happy.

But that’s not all I have to say about HCMC and Mui Ne! That’s just all I have time for right now.

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New Photos: Motorbiking the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Posted by on Feb 20 2009 | Malaysia, Nature, Photos, Transportation

I’ve uploaded new photos from my motorbike drive up in the Cameron Highlands where tea is grown on the mountain slopes. The air was cool and the roads wind around these mountains and up and down the hills. Driving the motorbike is the best way to experience the Cameron Highlands.

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New Photos: Six Albums from Penang, Malaysia

Posted by on Feb 20 2009 | Animals, Food, History, Malaysia, Nature, Photos

I’ve uploaded six new photo albums from my visit to Penang, Malaysia, including the following:

Georgetown
Food in Penang
Jewish Cemetery in Penang
Driving to Penang Hill
Penang Botanical Garden
Penang by Night

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Kevin Maes

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New Photos: Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, Malaysia

Posted by on Feb 20 2009 | Food, Malaysia, Photos

I’ve uploaded new photos from a driving tour of Putrajaya, Malaysia’s new administrative center which includes the Prime Minister’s home, his office, the Justice Department, a mosque and large boulevards and bridges over a man-made lake.

Also, new photos have been added from walking and sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur as well as photos from my last weekend in KL.

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Penang’s Jewish Cemetery: Remains of a Community

Posted by on Feb 20 2009 | History, Logistics, Malaysia, Religion/Spirituality

The plaque at the Jewish Cemetery of Penang

The plaque at the Jewish Cemetery of Penang

Malaysia is a country that is jam-packed with diversity including many cultures, environments, foods, terrain and foreign influences throughout its rich history. With all of those great things going for it the question arises as to why Tamar didn’t join me on this visit to Malaysia since we all know she loves these things as much as I do. Well, unfortunately Israel citizens are not permitted to enter Malaysia and Malaysians are not allowed to visit Israel, in fact it even says so in their passports! That’s really too bad for everyone since I’m sure Israelis would have a blast adding Malaysia to their Southeast Asia itineraries and, from some of the young Malaysians I spoke to, there seems to be a fair amount of interest and curiosity about visiting Israel as well.

I started to dig a bit deeper into the current state of Israeli-Malaysian relations and I came across an interesting article written by an Israel professor for whom an exception may have been made (or he holds another passport) since he recently spoke at a conference in Kuala Lumpur. You can read about his impressions of Malaysia and its cultural diversity as well as his experiences with colleagues and conference attendees.

As with anything related to Internet research one thing led to another and I found myself looking into whether there is or ever was a Jewish community in Malaysia. After all, there are thousands of Jews in Iran and nobody from Israel is hopping on a plane to vacation in Iran these days or vice-versa. It turns out that there is a very small Jewish community in Malaysia although it was larger in the past. That past is now represented by the Jewish cemetery that still exists today in the middle of Georgetown on the island of Penang. There were a couple of articles written about this cemetery and they gave me the idea that I could just rent a motorbike and drive around looking for it myself.
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Thaipusam All Night Long

Posted by on Feb 19 2009 | Festivals & Holidays, Food, Malaysia, Religion/Spirituality

The full moon over the Batu Caves on Thaipusam

The full moon over the Batu Caves on Thaipusam

In my three weeks of travel now that Tamar has returned to the US I planned to visit Malaysia, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City. When I told my Malaysian friend, Vannitha, that I was in the process of making plans she told me about the Hindu Thaipusam Festival that was to happen in and around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, the weekend of February 8th this year. She described it as an “unforgettable experience” and “a very out of this world sort of thing”. That certainly sounded interesting enough for me so I planned to arrive on February 7, the day before.

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrating the deity, Murugan, and is marked largely by Tamils in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius. Malaysian Tamils created the shrines at the Batu Caves just 13km north of Kuala Lumpur in the late 19th century and, although Thaipusam is celebrated in many states in Malaysia, these caves are the primary location for the festival in the country. Devotees take part in a procession originating in Kuala Lumpur and ending up in the Batu Caves. They shave their heads and carry out acts of kavadi, or burdens, ranging from carrying a pot of milk to piercing of the body flesh, tongue and cheeks with metal hooks or skewers.
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Goodbye, Malaysia and Singapore!

Posted by on Feb 18 2009 | Blogging, Malaysia, Singapore

Singapore Skyline at Night

Singapore Skyline at Night

I haven’t posted anything to the bog other than photos over the past week because I’ve been so busy during my time in Malaysia and Singapore (over the last three days). Both countries were the two new destinations for me on this trip and I really loved what I saw of both. I had wide-ranging experiences in Malaysia such as attending the Thaipusam Festival at the Batu Caves, exploring the sites in Georgetown and motorbiking to see monkeys, tea plantations and scenic views in Penang and the Cameron Highlands. I also got to hang out with friends, old and new, as well as their family, co-workers and other friends, getting a more authentic taste of life in Malaysia.

In Singapore I saw sites and ate great food but I also met some very cool people along the way, all of whom were interesting and friendly. I got to see some examples of a really clean, organized and well run city including advanced urban features we don’t even have going on in New York yet. Last night I spent time near the river eating a huge crab, listening to live jazz and taking photos of the city at night. In addition to the photos I’ve posted, I have much more to say about my time in Malaysia and Singapore but I’ll have to play catch up while in Vietnam over the next week. For now, enjoy the photos and I’ll try to post more soon!

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Kevin Maes

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A Tour and a Talk at Penang’s Kapitan Keling Mosque

Posted by on Feb 11 2009 | Malaysia, Religion/Spirituality

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Kapitan Keling Mosque

I went to the Kapitan Keling Mosque yesterday and spent quite a long time there. After getting a nice tour of the mosque I sat with my guide in his air conditioned office along with two of his friends, one visiting from Egypt and the other from Mexico. The three of them explained many aspects of Islam to me. It was interesting to hear about Islam from the perspective of Muslims in Asia (in this case, Tamil) but also to know that, at least within the Sunni Muslim Community, as represented by these particular men, there seemed to be complete agreement and unity regarding the religion and how to practice it.

I’ve studied about Islam in the past and it was nice to see that some of the things they talked about were familiar to me, for example, the five pillars of Islam. In discussing these I was particularly moved when they talked about the need to give to charity. They said that they have no need for personal wealth and that their primary concern is having no want for “food and drink for themselves, their families and their neighbor”. Instead of throwing out food or an older piece of clothing it is the duty of a Muslim to give it to a poor person to “help them and to lift them up to your level of living.”
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