Friday, April 30, 2010

This is, by chance, not a love story.

This is a story about a very strange friendship; a relationship that was created based on almost nothing at all but has so far lasted as if the foundation was laid strongly, brick by brick, mortared with the mighty volcanic ash from bareback mountains from the world's far end. This is a story about how completely two strangers, divided by a wide stretch of an open sea, got to know each other in an occasion most of us usually refer to as coincidence. This is a story about humanity and divided emotions; a story about sharing, caring, and the likes.

This, in fact too, is a story I write in an ode for a faraway friend; never I ever have met in my entire life face to face. This is a story I write in order to show my endless appreciation for the care and the coming of this special one from the day we met till when this story is written, and God bless, for an even longer, prosperous time to come.

This is a story about you.

* * *

There was a time when life was not so kind to me in the past.

Devastated and hopeless; angst got to me real quick. Just like when you start to give up to keep on walking to a destination unknown in this journey of life, I fell on my knees in the middle of the walkway, surrounded by a total emptiness; a flanking stillness that echoed nothing but the sound of my own tired breath. There was too little hope, and there was too many tests. Future faded from my eyes, and all I saw was merely nothing - nothing at all. And there I sat on my bended knees; cold, exhausted, dying. And the rest of the people, they just kept on walking.

At that point, nothing could really save me.

But who would ever have expected, that someone would come and offered me her hand for me to hold. Out of thin air she appeared and pulled me up although I showed her much resistance, more than she could ever take. With her little strength she pulled me up and shouldered me as we both walked again, towards a destination unknown, against all odds that mattered.

She took care of me, a complete stranger to her, from hundreds of miles away. If upsetting event was about to happen to me, it will never happen, for she will first halt them from even showing up and whack the crap out of them evil things dead, only to leave one back alive to where it belongs so that the one alive could live to tell the tale.

And here I am today, standing on my own mighty feet, walking like a tiger, all prepped up for any incoming terror. At this point nothing could ever poked into my veins no more; for I am better, stronger, mightier than ever. All these are the things I owed her.

Then came my birthday.

She was one of the first few persons who wished me on that date. Even weeks before that she promised that she will send me something as a birthday gift, an offer from which I hardly accepted even until today. And Lord knows how many times I have to turn down her offer each time she asked me what do I want for my birthday.

And then there was a time when she fell and knocked herself wounded on the pavement during the walk of life sometime back, and I did not at all resist to lift her small body up and carried her like she once did to me not a little too long ago. Let there be hailstorms and quakes; I'd still carry her along the way, and I did.

I did it all the way.

Soon to discover that I was to leave the country a few weeks back, she thought I was never to return. Prior to her birthday just a few hours before my flight, I wished her though in my heart I tried my best not to, for I knew that that wish could be the worst she could have ever received from anyone this bloody year. And I knew, the moment I entered that goddamn plane that cold Wednesday morning, she was in her bed, crying.

I didn't even say goodbye.

Gone was the man who was always stood by her side, in her mind she kept telling. Now who will stand by her; to keep her happy, to keep her well, to keep her rock steady? No one. No one ever will. And she cried days and nights to that thought, a full three days and three nights completely bedridden, swamped and drowned in her very own tears.

Only to know that less than a week after that, I was back again for good.

And why did I do that? Seriously enough I did and still do not know what do I give for her birthday, so I thought a bit of surprise will make her day somewhat. And deep inside I still hope that this, all that I did, could be the best birthday present she had ever received, if not in her entire life then let it just be for this bloody year.

Because nothing reliefs you better than to know that a friend that you can count on, but has left you to a place so far away, comes back again just to be by your side.

Thank you for everything, Fara.

* * *

"Nazmi," she said. "Tell me what do you want for your birthday, please. I ran out of ideas already. Seriously."

I just smiled as I heard her frowning.

"Fara," I said. "If there was anything valuable that I have ever wished to get this year, is for you to promise me that you will live well and healthy, happy and prosper, though without me, because nothing really matters to me at all anymore at this point, other than to know that you are living happily out there in the faraway land."

She cried.

It was raining outside.

And still.

I was alone in the room since the Roomie is back in KL. With clearly nothing to do I foresee myself to be endlessly bored throughout the rainy night. After some time wasting time staring at the wall while computing some ridiculous mathematical logic sequence in my rather dumb head, I gave up the calculation and decided to go window shopping online instead.

First stop, IKEA.

Browsing through, I happened to come across this particular table lamp:

But I did not think that I will be spending that much of money on such a ridiculously cheap thing.

So I dug up into my utility cum junk box where most of my old projects' leftovers are kept. I found this one bulb holder with a long cable, and a matching bulb.

And so came along some wiring jobs.

Eureka, it works.

Soon after that, I took a yellow-colored A4 paper and rolled it into a cylindrical shape and stapled its end to keep the shape that way.

Roll roll roll

So, paper cylinder plus light bulb:


* * *

Gila cozy sial bilik aku sekarang. Boleh jadi stok bistro-lounge dah kot. Pokok bonsai belakang tu dah ada. Lagu Smashing Pumpkins dah ada. Kopi apa segala dah ada. Karpet tebal dengan comforter wangi bau Softlan Peach pun ada. Gitar dah ada tiga. Pendek kata boleh la buat aku senyum gembira.


* * *

P.S: Nak cozy lagi kena ada bini sekali. Tapi itu nanti dulu-lah!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water. The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. In the Summer Palace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.

The bronze cow that protects the lake from catastrophe.

The Summer Palace Complex seen from the lakeside

The Bridge Stone Guard

My Bro. He's hot.

The Palace Complex

The faraway pagoda

A row of guardian lions.

The handmade Kunming Lake

A mythical creature guarding the four corners of the bridge.

Just another random shot

The entrance gate to the Summer Palace, also the exit.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There was a time when money really mattered to me.

It really did.

Then there was another time soon after that when money did not really matter to me at all.

Strange, just how one thing that once made a great impact to your life suddenly changed just like that, over time. Time here is of course the main reason why things change every single day; love to hate; excitement to dullness; happiness to sadness and the many yins and yangs of life that take place around us.

As we grow up we soon to discover that, amidst all the commotion, there are many things that we used to look in high regards at before are completely nothing today. We learned about quality and quantity and the differences in between both. We learned that at times quality tops quantity, and there are also times where quantity tops quality. Perfection suddenly becomes the main thing in life that one has to pursue for.

And the pursuit goes on and on, towards infinity.

But everything in this world has its expiry date. Everything faces the ashy states; the end of the journey when everything just does not matter anymore to anything surrounding it. Rocks break down, trees die out, and lakes dry up. Everything does not last forever.

As so us human.

Therefore in the pursuit of perfection a limit has to be set in order to keep us at ease in between the run for perfection. This limit is what we call gratefulness.

Imagine you as a person in search for a great prairie; a green plain where the grass grows healthily green as ever - a place where you call a heaven on earth for yourselves. The search somehow continues for a long time, in fact, longer than you have expected, because each time you come across a greener plain than the one you did before, it seems that the grass is always greener at the other side of the current plain you are currently standing on. And this happens every time you set your foot on the newer plain you thought was the best as seen from the ones you stood on before. And in the pursuit for the greenest grass, you carry on walking.

Only to in the end realize that you never really stop walking at all.

Wouldn't it be disappointing to know that you grow old trying to find a place that never really exist in your life because somewhere along the line, your perception of perfection and beauty outgrow you?

Same here when it comes to finding the perfect match for yourself. There will one day come a time when you need to call it off once the limit that you earlier set is reached. Or else you will die a lonely being.


In the pursuit of finding the perfect match, remember; no matter how many prairies you have gone to in the search for the greenest grass, you will always find that the grass is always greener at the other side - catching perfection is an endless pursuit, therefore always specify your limit or otherwise you will always in the run, never to retreat, you'll die in defeat.

Because the girl next door is always hotter than your current spouse - she always is!

These are the photos taken at the Forbidden City during my visit recently. It was raining on the day I was there, and the temperature drops drastically to around 6 to 10 degree Celsius.


* * *

In the early 1400s, the third Ming Emperor, YongLe, moved the capital of China to Beijing. In 1406, he began construction of a new 'Forbidden City' that would include the imperial palace complex.

The Forbidden City, located at the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing, was the home and center of power for 24 emperors during the mid to latter Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Forbidden City cover 720,000 square meters (74 hectares). There are 800 buildings that have in total 9,999 rooms, less one room than the Palace of Heaven, a palace of gods in the sky. In some accounts, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms - the half-room, apparently, houses nothing more than a staircase. The Forbidden City is as well the world's largest palace complex.

The digit 9 was seen as a special, magic number, especially for emporers, because it is the highest value ordinal. Also, the word for nine in Chinese, 'jiu', is a homonym for 'long / lengthy'. The number of rooms has a further rationale : because the Forbidden City was on Earth, it was impossible to have 10,000 rooms, which would conflict with the number of rooms in the version found in Heaven because the number 10,000 symbolizes infinity.

The Forbidden City is surrounded by a six meter deep, 52 meter wide moat.

Inside the moat, the outer wall is 10 meters high and 3,400 meters long. The walls are very thick (8.6 meters wide at the bottom and 6.7 meters wide at the top) and were specifically designed to withstand attacks by cannons.

The bricks of the wall are said to be made partly from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made partly from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials were said to make the wall extraordinarily strong.

The Tiananmen Gate

The Tian'Anmen Gate, or literally the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the entrance to The Forbidden City. As seen at the center is the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong and the seal of the People's Republic of China..

The portrait weighs 1.5 tonnes.

* * *

The First Courtyard

The huge courtyard covers a space of over 10,000 square meters. The grand size was both to acommodate large numbers of people on ceremonial occasions and to create a sense of imperial majesty.

The gate is guarded by a couple of bronze lions which aimed to show imperial dignity. The west one is male, with its front right paw resting on a ball, symbolizing imperial power extended worldwide.

The lioness on the east side has its front left paw on a lion cub, indicating a prosperously growing family and the never-ending secession of the imperial lineage.

The original tiles at the courtyard.

There are no trees here because in ancient China emperors considered themselves to be a Son of Heaven, born to reign over the country, so they should occupy the highest position. Nothing was allowed to overwhelm the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the highest building in the Forbidden City - and trees were no exception.

* * *

The Hall of Preserving Harmony

The Hall of Preserving Harmony sits on the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace of the Outer Court, similar in style but a bit smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony but larger than the Hall of Complete Harmony. It was first built in 1420, rebuilt in 1625 and renovated in 1765.

The walkway to the main courtyard of the hall.

Rows of Gargoyles.

Decorative ballustrades.

During the Ming dynasty, emperors would often prepare for ceremonies here, practicing speeches and changing clothes; for example, before ceremonies of conferring the title of Empress or Crown Prince. During the Qing dynasty, imperial banquets would usually be given here. To celebrate a princess's marriage, emperors would invite high officials, the bridegroom and his father, and any relatives who have served the imperial government to a banquet. Every New Year's Eve, banquets would be held to feast and honor margraves, Mongol princes and civil and military officials.

Decorative ballustrades.

There are over 1000 gorgoyles around the raised platform for the Outer Court halls. In heavy rain, each becomes a fountain as rain drains out through each mouth except for those in the corners.

A dragon head sculpture.

The mystical creatures guarding the imperial roof. Originally the roofs were made mostly of wood, and to prevent the tiles from sliding off, wooden nails were used. However, without lightning rods, the palace roof would easily catch fire. Therefore, some alchemists suggested that symbols of the fish-tail star could be installed on the roof to prevent fire. Later, these symbols were replaced by glazed tiles which were shaped like lucky animals, some of them mythical.

Closeup look at the door holder.

* * *

The Gate of Celestial Purity

The Gate of Celestial Purity is the main gate of the Inner Court. In front of the gate, there is a courtyard which is 200 meters long from east to west and is 30 meters from north to south.

This courtyard both separates the Outer Court and the Inner Court and integrates them.

The opening gate to the Inner Court. All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, except for the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows.

Along the walls flanking the gate the are ten gilded bronze vats. These huge vats are both decorations and reservoirs in case of fire. Each one weighs 4 tons by itself and can hold 4 tons of water.

One of the many strange creatures guarding the roof of the imperial palaces. Yellow is the color of the Emperor. Thus almost all roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles.

* * *

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility is a double-eaved building, 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the official residence of the Empress.

The sculptures on one of the two pots at the main courtyard of the palace.

The Dragon holding a fireball.

The pot, the deer and the dragon - all in one set at each side of the palace.

The inside look of the sleeping chamber in the palace. These items are the originals as once used by the empresses, including the jade candle-holder and the tea set.

The front yard of the palace.

One of the cool-looking rock display by the wall of the walkway.

* * *

The Imperial Garden

The garden was built in 1417 during the Ming dynasty. It covers an area of about 12,000 square meters and was the private garden of the imperial family. This garden was used exclusively by the imperial family to sip tea, play chess, meditate and generally relax.

A specially shaped rock promotes harmony and peace in the Imperial Garden

Rows of hundreds of years old cypress trees in the Imperial Garden

A closeup look at one of the many cypress trees.

A lonely dragon head watching over a still pool of cold water.

Towering cypress tree surrounding an Imperial building.

A very old cypress tree inside the Imperial Garden

The rear exit of The Forbidden City. The moat is highly visible here.

* * *

Me at the main courtyard of the Forbidden City.