Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Second Day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2011(九皇大帝) at Ampang (Day 2)

September 28th 2011 is the second day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. The Ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple comes alive with this festival, and transforms the sleepy Ampang village into a bustling hive of activity, especially at night (more like past midnight)! It is now 43 minutes past midnight, and I am beginning to see buses that ferries the aged (and those who don't have transport) devotees from other temples have begun to pour in. At this hour, the blaring announcements over the PA system continues on. Children separated from their parents get called to go over to the counter, but hell, even an adult can get lost in the maze of stalls and the sea of people surging back and forth from the temple. Parents, next time around, keep your child/children on a leash (if they are allowed to do so by the law).
One of the tour buses that brings a busload of devotees to the temple (white arrow). It is past midnight and there are still a large number of people going to the temple (cyan arrows).
The parking lot filled to its maximum capacity at 12.43am!

In the morning, the temple has less visitors, and they are mostly devotees who make their way to offer incense and joss paper. This is due to the fact that most of the stalls were closed during the day, thus the temple does not attract that many casual visitor who just wants to soak up the sights and sounds of this festival. Buses that ferry devotees from other temples have begun to throng the temple. You can see the bus going down the road and turning to park at the parking lot.
The temple on the morning of the second day. Notice the bus on the far left, carrying devotees from other locale for a visit to the temple.
The bus making its way into the parking lot (yellow arrow).

There is also another procession tonight, which starts at 8pm. This procession is carried out to welcome the arrival of Marshall Tian deity (田府元帥) and his heavenly soldiers. When I got back from work, the procession was in heading out of the temple.
The floats and flags making its way towards Ampang Village.
The musicians banging on drums and clashing cymbals that announce the arrival of the temple medium supposedly possessed by the Nine Emperor Gods.
One of the mediums from the Nine Emperor Gods temple, walking in front of a huge yellow parasol.
Hey, there are two devotees under the huge parasol! Must be the Urn Master inside with the Nine Emperor Gods' joss urn.

Not satisfied with the shots that I got, I went back, took a shower and return to secure a better spot to catch the procession when it returns to the temple. I planted myself on a spot in front of the Ampang Old Folks Home, waiting patiently for the return of the procession. A sign that the procession is nearby is the presence of a traffic police outrider clearing the road and making sure that vehicles do not block the route. When the procession was in sight, the frenzy of photo taking began and you can see a wide range of photo taking devices, from DSLRs to point and shoot to camera phones. A trick in taking photos here (or any Chinese temple festival) is that if the air is excessively smoky, you cannot use flash, even slow synch or fill flash, as this will bounce off the joss particles and appear like large, white ghostly blobs in the photo (or you could say that you have captured the gods in your photo to justify the poorly taken shots). Read my post (God or Ghost??) about this and also read here (about ghost stories) to see how this phenomenon confused 3 photographers, lol.
Traffic police outrider - he was the centre of attraction whilst the crowd were waiting for the procession. Look at the giggly girls snapping photos of the traffic policeman. Men were more interested in his bike.
First around is the police patrol car as escort.
Next are the flags bearing the name of Marshall Tian.
In this digital age, divinity turns to electronics, with a digital signboard saying 'Welcoming the Nine Emperor Gods and Marshall Tian deity.
Even Guan Yin Ma took part in the procession. Hmmm, how does and sounds?
A drummer coiled by the dragon.
Hmmm, when will this procession end?? My hands are tired and my botoxed face is cracking.
Stilt walker dressed like characters from Chinese folk tales. The yellow arrow points to one of the stilts.
One of the stilt walkers giving a spectator the 'death stare' after one of the kids 'molested' him.
Showing off by hopping on one 'leg'.
Blazing cymbal players.
'Give me back my ball!' - On of the dragons that danced in this procession.
The medium for 田府元帅is dressed in a Chinese general costume and carrying green flags (partly blocked by his assistant - no paparazzi shots please!).
Another medium in trance with skewers through his cheeks and running frantically down the road. The were a few other mediums in trance with similar implements going through their flesh.
The swinging Chariot sedan of the Nine Emperor Gods.
After the Nine Emperor Gods' medium, the devotees in white followed suit.
Then the spectators and others rush to join the crowd swarming back to the temple. If you step into the road to join this surging mass, be warned that you can hardly turn back. Motorbikes and humans move side by side.
Almost there but can't get in. The crowd is just unbelievably huge.
Since every fasting devotee (white clothes with white headgear) carries a bundle of joss paper and three joss sticks for the procession, the joss paper eventually find their way here to the joss paper burner at the end of the procession.
The flames burning fiercely, fueled by the large amounts of joss paper.
After taking the pictures of the burner, I turned back and went to the stinky tofu stall to give it a try. It smells very much like a combination of wet chicken feathers, open sewer and rotting garbage. However, the taste is quite mild, with just a hint of the smell. Since it is fried, the outer shell is cripsy and salty, and the inside is soft and somewhat creamy. Not too bad, but just like blue cheese or durian or belacan, it falls into the category of an acquired taste. And just like durian, you have got to get past the smell, for once you are eating it, you do not notice the stink that emanates from the tofu. The tofu is served with a tangy sauce that contain calamansi lime juice, shredded cabbage and chillies - not hot but tangy and the cabbage gives the tofu more bite. I also bought back a packet of Sichuan cold noodles, but this time I tried the whitish noodles and asked the stall owner to make it even hotter. It was delicious, with enough heat and the numbing spiciness of Sichuan pepper.
Selling stinky tofu. I wouldn't want to sit beside her in a car or plane.
I bought six pieces but got seven, which I ate one before taking this photo.
Sichuan cold noodles with the white noodles.

At home, I can hear the Chinese opera blaring away, the temple bells ringing and the PA announcements going on and on as devotees were reminded to carry their lit joss sticks higher and parents to keep an eye on their children.