Doorway, Penang, Malaysia

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion, built towards the end of the 19th century, was the home to a very wealthy Chinese man and his extended family. Though the tour I took of the Mansion did not make this clear – the guide was full of information, or so it seemed, but next to impossible to understand – I presume the man made his fortune as a trader. Chinese trading networks built around families originally from Guangdong and Fujian in southern China have played an enormous role in the history of Southeast Asia. You certainly see their influence everywhere in Penang. In any case, the Mansion is now a museum housing a magnificent collection of traditional Chinese arts and crafts, from painting and jewelry to jade, porcelain, and embroidery. This is a photo of the beautifully carved wooden door panels that form the original entrance to the building.

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Pagoda, Da Nang, Vietnam

Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam bear a resemblance to pagodas in China with one significant difference – the dragons decorating the roof tops. Virtually every pagoda in Vietnam has dragon decorations on the roof tops; they give Vietnamese pagodas their distinctive style. As far as I know, Buddhist temples elsewhere have nothing comparable. Late afternoon light on a crystal clear day has the roof top dragons at this small temple almost glowing. The Chinese characters say something like “golden hall of the ancestors”, but I am not sure of the Vietnamese name of this Da Nang pagoda.

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Lunar New Year, Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese decorate their homes with various kinds of plants and flowers during the celebration of Tết, the lunar new year. Today is new year’s eve (January 27) and yesterday was a madhouse at the temporary market to sell Tết decorations. This guy is all set with his rather small orange tree lashed to the back of his bike for the drive home. While this man is bringing his own decoration home, there was an army of delivery men carting away trees and plants often much larger than this one on the backs of motorbikes. There are some larger orange trees and more buyers in the background. Unfortunately, the fruit on these trees is for decoration, not eating. I’m told the trees are sprayed and pumped up with chemicals to keep the fruit small while the trees continue to grow. Definitely not for eating. Alas.

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