Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Spent a lovely day poking around the mosques, temples, shops, and historical buildings of this UNESCO world cultural heritage city. Renovation and preservation of the city's 19th and 20th century architectural heritage provide a visual treat for the visitor. A perfect small city to get lost wandering about.

Much like Singapore, Georgetown has been a crossroads settlement for 200 years, with the imprint of Hindu, Buddhist (both Thai and Burmese), and Islamic traditions alongside Chinese clan temples, a Little India, and the familiar ethnic mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indians I have seen throughout the region.

Most impressive were the ubiquitous Chinese kongsi-- storefront clan headquarters for overseas Chinese bearing the same surname-- and the impeccably maintained Kapitan Keling Mosque, where we had to don long dark robes to cover our shorts and were treated to an excellent tour from a charming young Malay Muslim. The only sour note there was after I complimented him on the serene atmosphere inside, he began to discuss the difficulties of the world outside, starting with the tragic deaths of the 300+ Gazans at the hands of the Israeli aggressors. Oops. Time to leave...

Exiting the mosque, I reflected on how often our religious faiths serve as demarcations of the differences among us rather than provide a framework for finding and reinforcing common ground. Another strong argument for remaining grounded in the secular world and safeguarding the strict separation of church and state.

Back to Singapore tomorrow for New Year's Eve and the departure for Bali, my final destination before heading home to NY.

sent via Blackberry wireless PDA

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