Saturday, September 17, 2011

(Travelogue) Oriental Outings Day 12: The Malay Wedding and the Chinese Steamboat of Cameron Highlands

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Today, we were to attend a local - Malay style - wedding ceremony; an invitation by Eda, a member of Couchsurfing community!

The happy family!
To the Barber Shop
Though I wanted to take the traveler’s advantage, however, Urooba forced me to get the beard trimmed! After getting it done from a nearby barber shop we marched towards Mardi; the venue for the marriage ceremony. We had to be there by 12, and being a Karachite it took us some time to fathom that it was 12 in the day!
I'm going to the party!
Initially, we thought Mardi as of a traditional wedding arena but it turned out to be a huge agricultural park, one side of which is used for social events. The park showcases a wide variety of Cameronain roses and fruits, and is surrounded by thick forests and jungle treks! A perfect setting to get married!

Getting Lost in Mardi
The unending walk up to Mardi, during which we had to ask passersbys a couple of times for direction, continued further as we inevitably got lost in the park! Actually, we followed the loud music as a sign which proved deceptive because of the resonance effect! Eda tried to help us out on the cell phone so that we could finally make it to the floor.
The way to Mardi
Lost!

Following the sound!
Food First!
At the reception, Eda was expecting us, and after introducing her foreign guests to the mother and younger brother, she took us straight to the buffet. “We would first like to meet the newlyweds and will then have food”, I was a bit surprised. “Fine! But in Malay weddings the guests are supposed to have food first”, Eda placated the cultural shock in an amicable tone.

Food right away!

Spicy and delicious!

For special guests
Later she explained the wedding day norms in detail: guests can join the ceremony as per their convenience during the given time range – usually the whole afternoon – have food first and then meet and greet. It is also upon the guests how much time they want to spend there. This flexi style not only makes it convenient for visitors but also allows hosts to get rid of big seating arrangements as the visitors keep rotating.


The groom

And here are the special guests!

That was quite a contrast to the mess we do in the name of wedding here in Karachi; where, usually, the first guest arrives not before 10 in the night cursing their luck to find an empty arena. By 11 the place looks crowded, or overcrowded actually, with people waiting for none other than food. It is only when the already fed-up faces become more fed-up, due to the empty stomach,  and when the last important Uncle/Aunty arrive, the dinner is served!

But that was not the right time to think about chaotic Karachi weddings, especially when we were standing in front of the buffet! Menu consisted of a variety of rice to be topped up by a range of curries including chicken and mutton dishes, if I got them correct. The mutton one looked a specialty; threaded meat fried with spices and served curry-less, like the hunter beef sold by Hanifia shops around Karachi. In short, that was delicious and fulfilling, and won the ‘Meal of the Trip’ award, unanimously!

The wedding cake

Fruit Platter
Rukhsati
Out of the several events – a typical Malay wedding consists of – that was the “Akad Nikah”, the day when the marriage contract is signed between the bride and the groom and endorsed by the elders as per the Islamic guidelines. In the subcontinent jargon, the ceremony was equivalent to “Rukhsati”, the day when the bride leaves for groom’s home for the rest of her life.

The couple was sitting on an elaborately decorated dais, or the “Pelamin”. The path to the Pelamin had been fenced with the gifts for the couple. Eda further explained the ritual that the groom side first offers their presents, which has to be in an odd number, say x, and then the bride side has to reciprocate by offering back their presents which should be x+2 in numbers!

The environment was lively, jubilant, and overwhelming, as it should be in such an event, however, with an implicit touch of simplicity and ingenuousness, which is actually hard to find in the modern day urban life. 

Smile, please!
Thankyou Eda
That was indeed a valuable experience thanks to Eda who gave us full attention despite being one of the main hosts.

A traditional give-away from hosts
Before going back to the hotel, we rather decided to roam around the scenic Mardi to enrich our Cameron Highlands experience a bit further.

Bus Station, Again!
On our way back, we also bought bus tickets for Penang after losing all our hopes about the Taman Negara adventure and instead settled for a detour to the historic island before hitting Kuala Lumpur.

The bus station
Steamboat
The trip to the highlands would have not been complete without us having the much talked about ‘steamboat’, a forte dinner meal served in traditional Chinese cutlery. Also called Chinese hotpot; a perfect hot treat in the cool breezy highland! 

Advertising steamboat
So after getting our luggage packed for tomorrow’s journey, we headed back to the main market to search the eatery which Suja, the hotel manager, recommended us keeping in view our halal preferences. It was just past sunset and about the right time for the culinary experience as an hour later all those steamboat sellers were packed with customers!

The recommendation
First came a hotpot, filled with two kinds of soups of our choice – tom yam and chicken soup – along with a small stove to keep the hotpot simmering, and a variety of uncooked food ranging from vegetables to chicken to seafood. The stove and the hotpot had been placed in the center of the dining table to cook the food stock live in the simmering soups!    

Hotpot is set!

Soups are ready
Confused where to start from, we sought some assistance from the waiter, who refused to extend the helping hand arguing that it would diminish the unique experience and we should help ourselves no matter it was our first time! However, he courteously gave us a tip to cook chick, noodles, and other familiar items in the end so that we would not get filled up before we even start.

Our food is coming!
It turned out to be more testing and more fun, at the same time, than what we had expected! First test was to attack the formidable seafood variety: unpeeled prawns, fish balls, tofu, and a whole range of stuff which we could not even name! You can imagine the plight of our corrupt bellies, which always carve for spice loaded food, but then had to face pure seafood even without a pinch of salt and pepper! Chicken and egg came to the rescue when our endurance finally started touching its limits. Overall, we did not do that bad, evident from the messy battlefield, which was actually a neatly decorated dining table an hour ago!

Yes! prawns!!

You guess?

Some familiar looking food!

Fillers
The end!!

Messy!

This is what we left!
Goodbye
That ended our third expedition of the Oriental Outings, after Bali and Singapore, in a high note as we had to move back to the lowlands, i.e. to Penang, the next day with very little idea where to stay and what to do there!

It's cool!

Some memorable moments!
See you tomorrow

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