Pilgrim of Beauty

Life, Death, and Everything In-Between Including Ice Cream

My Baby’s Back!

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Zooming at the speed of light… past the milk and butter. I guess supermarket aisles can look pretty awesome sometimes. This photograph was completely unplanned for (not that any of my other photographs were) as I had to take some pictures for our malls’ tenants (y’all still remember I’m in retail management, right?) for a competition. Turns out my boss found this shot to be incredibly flattering of the supermarket too so all’s well with the universe.

Oh, and by uploading this image with my watermark on a Friday morning (2am y’all… livin’ the life of a retail corporate employee), I’m happy to announce that my MacBook has returned and is now working beautifully. Apparently, the hard drive died… of causes unknown, though I’d put my money on playing the Golden Girls on repeat every night before going to bed. Comedy helps me sleep, but it kills my laptop so I might cut back on that a little… and just when Mamrie Hart enters my life with her boozy jokes. Dang it…

Anyway, short update, and I’ll be posting about another location this weekend as usual, god willing if I don’t die from exhaustion. Today’s a public holiday for everybody else, but I’ll find myself picking up my boss from her place again in 9 hours and heading straight back to the office. I certainly hope you will be having a much better day than I will

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The National Visual Arts Gallery Pt. II

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And then, it feels like we’ve stepped into the looking glass and realised Wonderland was really more macabre than we have ever imagined. Yes, the imagery was as shocking as the vending machine itself, sitting at a lone corner in the dark, with the only light glowing a sickly yellow from within the machine. I could almost hear the thud of meat as the hooks mechanically moves and drops them to the floor, and the flesh sliding against the screen as it settles to the ground. In art, even the grotesque are celebrated. I’m just not sure it I enjoy as much as I would a Renoir painting. And in case you’re wondering, the Malay words above translates as “Fresh Frog Cow(s)”.

… who comes up with these?!

So, busy day. I had to rush out to pick up my boss from her place, then take a thirty minute drive down to the office while listening to Electroswing in the car hoping to make the journey less awkward than I think it was. In all fairness, it was actually quite comfortable. We ended up just talking about property in Singapore, my projects during the weekends, family, food, the slight possibility of her tagging along at one of my excursions whenever I visit a new place that I think deserves a feature… now wouldn’t that be an interesting title for a post? “Hanging Out with the Boss”.

It is something I wouldn’t mind exploring someday because I think not many people are able to connect with their employers the way I do mine. I think… I’m picturing Anna Wintour hanging out with her newest secretary… wouldn’t that make the headlines? Besides, my boss jumped at the idea and told me,

“Do you know what’s the good thing if it happened?”

“What?”

“You don’t have to drive! Akmal (her driver) could drive us!”

“… so you mean, he’ll come pick me up from my place?”

“Yeah!”

… exciting, or intimidating, I’ll let you decide. I think it’ll be fun, albeit a little unnerving perhaps. But hey, I was the one who actually threw the suggestion, so why not own up to it?

Anyway, minor digression, and it’s back to the art gallery.

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I’m not entirely sure if there are any permanent exhibits in the art gallery aside from the one that houses this pair of paintings and the horrific vending machine. Regardless, it is nice to see work produced by local talent displayed on the walls. I’m a little dismayed by the lack of visitors though, and I’m not even sure if Ramadan is a good excuse for the empty gallery. Could it be that people just aren’t enthusiastic about the surreal and the strange (which seems to thrive in this gallery)?

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Some of you might scoff when I say this but I really do miss seeing paintings by Impressionists hanging on walls, marbled Greek gods posing sensually on pedestals, alien scripts incised on stone tablets, porcelain figurines painted in lurid colours, woodblock prints featuring samurais and geishas, china that didn’t come from China… Oh give me the Fitzwilliam or the Ashmolean any day… though the particularly small Scarborough Art Gallery I visited with my dad when he came for my graduation in the UK was surprisingly delightful too.

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I realise I’ve been describing museums and not art galleries earlier, but most items displayed in museums are usually works of art anyway. When you think about it, almost everything in existence is a work of art. From the tissue box on your table to the pillow you nuzzle your face with: who dictates they be in the shape and form they are today? Some designer in a sweatshop who couldn’t be bothered to come up with a spherical tissue box (oxymoronic, no?) or a durian-shaped pillow most likely…

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My friend and I were pretty weirded out by some of the exhibits, so he decided to shake it off by attempting a split mid-air, which resulted in this absolutely stunning photo of his impeccable form. We couldn’t even figure out why there were so many pinafores lined up along walls in this part of the gallery… They do make for one unsettling photograph though. Well, one that’s mitigated by my friend jumping in mid-air.

So that’s the National Visual Arts Gallery ladies and gentlemen. I’d recommend a visit only when you happen to be passing by the area, or when you’re waiting to catch a show at Istana Budaya. Frankly, I’m not too impressed by the place, though there were a few hidden gems here and there, like the (dare I admit it…) vending machine.

Alright, I’m becoming less eloquent by the minute and I have a rough week ahead of me. Good night and so long folks! Next time, a snazzy looking café or two! Depending if I have to drive my boss to work again…

The National Visual Arts Gallery Pt. I

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Good morning world! This might be one of the few rare occasions (or is the first?) that I’m actually typing in the morning. I guess there’s a first for everything, but since I only have approximately ten minutes to type everything I want to type about the National Visual Arts Gallery before I rush out to fetch my boss to work and for work (on a Sunday! Jesus, Shiva and Buddha have mercy…), I’ll have to make this really really quick.

… I hope the picture above isn’t as grainy as I think it is…

Alright, so quick recap: my laptop is still being serviced and I haven’t heard a word from the service centre which is driving me nuts. I managed to borrow a friend’s MacBook for two nights to upload and edit (thank you Cezlynn and Qwang Szaen!) I was supposed to work on this on a Friday night. I crashed. I was supposed to work on this on a Saturday night. I crashed again. Hence, Sunday morning. Plenty of unnecessary drama has been happening, but I’ll save those for a different day, and now ladies and gentlemen, the gallery:

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in previous postings, but I’ve always complained about the lack of good art galleries in Malaysia. The National Visual Arts Gallery, unfortunately, also does not hit the mark just yet. Being located right next to the more popular, and arguably more culturally significant, Istana Budaya (National Theatre), the gallery seems a little unprepossessing comfortably blanketed in trees, hiding it from view as you drive past it along the busy Jalan Tun Razak.

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The gallery is immense, but not the British Museum “immense”. It has the usual offerings: temporary exhibits, sealed off areas for renovation, water fountains … where am I going with this? But for a building with the “National” designation in front of it, it lacks charisma. When I visited this place with a friend on a Sunday afternoon, the place was unusually empty, with an old lady for a security guard dozing off into sleep at a bench when really she should be questioning my use of my iPhone as I snapped away uninhibitedly.

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Aaaaand time’s up! I have to get out of the house now lest I’m late… to be continued in the next post in the evening!

BRATS

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetYes, that is the name of this wonderful surprise I stumbled upon a couple of weeks back. With its minimalist decor and oh-too-hipster vibe emanating from within, I wondered if my get-up (pink-checkered shirt with matching hat) would be a little too colourful for the slick and chic crowd shuffling inside. But who could resist not entering?

Before I jump into BRATS, allow me a quick digression on what’s been happening the past week. As you all know, my MacBook is currently being serviced so it has been a grievous past few days working with my company laptop and its infuriating trackpad that’s more capricious than I am. I know I shouldn’t be complaining because I at least still have another laptop to work with and that I’ve managed to transfer most of the crucial data I need to continue my work, but oh the thought of being unable to edit on a MacBook for at least a couple more weeks is distressing. The colours of my photographs aren’t what they are when viewed on a different screen, so I find myself deliberating at length whether I should even post them up.

That said, a friend of mine has kindly offered his MacBook to me during the weekends, and I could temporarily use it to upload photos, add watermarks, then upload them up to the blog; hence, the usual ‘complete’ product you see up there. Big shout out to Zack (said friend) who has been incredibly supportive and who so willingly allowed me to borrow his laptop. Also, I am aware that I am a day late with this and I’m actually typing this out at three in the morning, but now that I have this arrangement with Zack, my next post this weekend should be up just as you’re smelling your coffee on a Sunday morning. Well, depending on which part of the world you live in that is.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it is back to BRATS.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetOnly two weeks old when I made the visit, I was secretly glad I discovered the place before eagle-eyed food critics penned their comments online. Their menu is remarkably simple, serving mainly hot dogs, some sides, and beer, though with the noticeable absence of caffeinated options, which prevents me from labelling BRATS as a café just yet.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetIts interior is limited to only three colours: white, grey, and beech, with the occasional splash of green from potted plants and herbs at the back.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetI can imagine this place becoming popular among those who wish to update their profile picture; BRATS’s unadorned walls are the perfect backdrops for that très chic selfie you’ve been dying to take.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetTheir gourmet hot dogs were fabulous too; though a little pricey for a sausage in a bun, I’d come back just to sample their entire list. I went for their mango and jalapeño as it looked the most interesting of the lot, and it sure didn’t disappoint with the additional caramelised onions on top.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetWhile BRATS have not begun brewing coffee at their establishment, I was fortunate enough to explore it on the same day a buck-toothed coffee connoisseur set up shop within the premises. His name is Wei Xiong, and when he’s not brewing coffee for friends and family, he’s busy photographing newlyweds in Melbourne. An incredibly friendly chap with a gorgeous Instagram feed (look up @twofrontteeth), Wei Xiong is friends with the founder of BRATS and made arrangements to serve specialty coffee he’s brought over from down under within the premises.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetWe spent an hour or so talking about coffee and photography as he hastily brewed batch after batch of coffee to customers while I took the occasional sip from my fragrant and mildly acidic Ethiopian (or was it a Kenyan?).

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetIt’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to sit down and have a pleasant conversation with someone new. I’ve always found it awkward having to initiate a conversation within such a setting unless I’m in a position to do so (e.g. I’m reviewing the place). I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable with it having had plenty of practice of just putting on my journalistic persona, but there’s always that unexplained initial hesitation I associate with shy little children who hide behind their mothers that consume me before I step forward and greet with that first “hello”. Perhaps it’s the bane of having worked in a corporate setting for too long: I don’t feel as comfortable in my own skin anymore. That outgoing person who’s always the loudest in the group has been reduced to a meek lamb who fumbles his words through any argument.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetI learn from Wei Xiong that he’s back for a friend’s wedding, and so decided to throw in a three week holiday just to hang around the country he used to call home. We then talked about how the appreciation for coffee in Melbourne has more depth compared to Malaysia, where everyone here consumes coffee for the sake of consuming coffee. We talked about his struggles in securing Caucasian clients instead of more Asian couples in his efforts to diversify his portfolio. We talked about how BRATS is truly one of the very few establishments that have nailed minimalist industrial chic, before agreeing that one of the best things of living in temperate climates is the ability to dress in layers. Oh how I do miss putting on cardigans that don’t keep me warm but give others the impression I know what the hell I’m doing with my wardrobe.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetBefore long, we parted company. He to make more coffee with what little supplies he had left till the evening, and I to rush to an art gallery before it closes for the day, but not before we followed each other on Instagram, which was how we said we’d keep in touch.

My trip to BRATS had been a fruitful one as I got to take lots of photographs (although it’s driving me crazy how the white half of the walls looks grey on my screen…) so if you’re ever in Taman Paramount, do drop by for a visit. Order a hot dog or two and pair them with the beer available on the menu.

Alright, I’m off for now. It’s half past four in the morning and I’ll only get a couple of hours of sleep at this rate. Coming up this weekend: The National Visual Arts Gallery. Until then, good night!

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An Awkward Situation

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetAn unfortunate thing happened… my MacBook had a stroke. The symptoms weren’t obvious and it happened so suddenly. The beach ball started appearing more frequently and it was almost impossible to move one file into another folder without me bursting in fits of incomprehensible rage. I had to leave my job early on Friday to address this emergency and had the laptop diagnosed by a technician, only to discover that I have to part with it for a couple of weeks, maybe more. This couldn’t have happened at a more inconvenient time as I am nearing the deadline for a major assignment for my company. What’s even more infuriating is that I wouldn’t be able to properly post things here, as I wouldn’t be able to include my usual watermarks in my photos. The Photo of the Day above is an exception, as it was captured by a friend of mine who I begged to snap this spiral staircase. This was taken at the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, which I highly recommend to both locals and foreigners.

This is but one of several locations I had meant to cover over the course of the next few weeks as I’ve been maxing out my iPhone’s capacity with photographs that I’ve taken over the weekends. Ever since I returned to blogging (again), I’ve been pushing myself to get out of the house more and to keep myself abreast of activities that are happening around Kuala Lumpur. It has been an exhilarating few weeks just planning and visiting these new locations, though there is also great satisfaction in just stumbling upon a random location then realising how incredibly photogenic that place is. Case in point, this picture below was taken at one such location (sneak preview for now, as it’s driving me absolutely crazy that I can’t include my watermark in the picture…):

Great place… and it’s something I’m dying to share with you because the whole place is a haven for minimalist photographers.

The other thing that’s driving me up the wall is that the colours do not appear as vividly on my company laptop (which is what I’m using now in lieu of my fried MacBook). I also question the quality of the images… they don’t seem as crisp on this. Fine tuning minor edits is also impossible now (i.e. adapting them to a laptop screen) as the number of things I can do on the company laptop is limited, unless the photographs already look damn good after the edits on my phone. To be frank, I don’t usually doctor my photos too much, aside from the usual lighting touch-ups and whatever I can do with the VSCO app and Instagram (if need be), but it’s really frustrating being unable to view them on a computer that can display the colours ‘accurately’.

Sigh… So basically, I will still be posting during the weekends, but it may not be as visual as what I’m used to doing here. I might consider borrowing a friend’s MacBook so that I can quickly make my edits and upload them from there unto WordPress. Hmm… I’ll ask around.

Royal FLORIA Putrajaya

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Flowers, flowers, and look! More flowers. It would be another year before the administrative capital of Malaysia would witness a congregation of Malays as large as the one choking the entrances and parking lots to the annual FLORIA flower and garden festival at Precinct 4, Putrajaya. Yes, not even the pilgrims gathered in holy city of Mecca could compete with the crowd in Putrajaya, many clad in colourful hijabs smelling orchids and bougainvilleas as they explore the labyrinthine exposition. But enough hyperbole. Despite the festival’s appeal to a diverse audience (who can dislike flowers?), it is particularly popular among the Malays, which makes me wonder about the organiser’s marketing strategy… do they advertise exclusively with Malay periodicals? This isn’t a complaint, mind you, but merely an amusing observation. In fact, the colourful hijabs complement the floral decorations rather nicely. Probably explains why there are so many here with selfie sticks.

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This happened two weeks ago on the first weekend of June, and I was here with my parents and cousin, who’s with us for the weekend having flown from the U.S. Darren (le cousin) desperately needed an intervention because he couldn’t keep his fingers off his phone, so we thought a therapeutic trip to a flower exposition would do him some good. I need to remind myself to just spend some time driving around Putrajaya and snap some pictures of the government buildings there: I imagine their reception halls will be needlessly ostentatious, which would probably result in good photographs.

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To be frank, FLORIA 2015 wasn’t as impressive as FLORIA 2014. In fact, FLORIA 2014 felt bigger. In addition to the usual displays by students and fancy outdoor exhibitions from various state governments, a large part of FLORIA 2014 was dedicated to a wedding exposition, so there were plenty exhibitions that were designed specifically for weddings. In other words, #tooprettyforwords. FLORIA 2015? A kitty pageant. It wasn’t the highlight of the event, but yes, a kitty pageant.

In spite of that incongruous feline diversion, FLORIA 2015 was still worth the visit. To say that I’m a fan of the annual festival wouldn’t mean much, but if the festival could convince an American male teenager who loves anime and raves about Comic-Con to cease playing Final Fantasy: Record Keeper on his phone for three hours, I would say FLORIA has done for itself.

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From the fantastical to the surreal, the neck-bending to the mind-blowing, there will always be something at FLORIA worth capturing. This picture above is an example of the fantastical; ‘The Red Ceiling’ from the previous post, the surreal. And then, you’d also find the oddly-cute-yet-potentially-creepy ones:

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I’m pretty certain those are chrysanthemums, though I can’t explain the green hue… In addition to teddy bears mummified in flowers, you would also find extravagant floral arrangements like this:

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I overheard a conversation from a fellow observer how one of these, which would probably end up in a hotel, could easily fetch thousands. Whoever said florists weren’t a perfectly respectable occupation?

All in all, there’s plenty to see at FLORIA, and the images here are but the handful I feel comfortable to feature, lest this post becomes one heck of a psychedelic trip with the eruption of colours. So if you’re ever in Malaysia from the end of May to the middle of June, you can definitely put this up on your list of place to visit, especially if you enjoy flowers. A bottle of water and an umbrella you can shove into your bag is a must when you visit due to the torrid weather throughout the day and chance of tropical thunderstorms in intervals. There aren’t many reliable areas for cover so unless you enjoy singing in the rain, pack an umbrella. Getting here shouldn’t be too difficult; getting back, however, might be a little tricky, as there aren’t many cabs that whizz by this area. So what do you do? Hit me up if you ever need to!

P.S. With my current work schedule, I will be updating my blog on a weekly basis, usually during the weekends so I can promise consistency on that. These posts will usually feature a new place to visit, places that I’ve recently discovered, or places I’ve been to in the past. That said, if ever I have the additional time, I might throw in an extra post or so on, well, anything that strikes my interest. Life happens in the spur of the moment anyway so I’ll be sure to share the good, the beautiful, the bad, and the ugly if and when they appear. I already have a couple of things I’d love to share and I’m excited to write about them, especially two new dining establishments I’ve recently stumbled upon so stay tuned for those! Until then, goodnight!

The Red Ceiling

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Back from the Dead

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It’s been a crazy five months. Not a never-ending, adrenaline-pumping, horrific waddle in a corporate community, which I’ve affirmed again and again isn’t suited for me, but a never-ending, mind-numbingly sedate, occasional mental overkill-esque, odyssey into a corporate retail community. The events that transpire within these whitewashed walls could compete with the latest episode from Game of Thrones (of which I’m now an avid fan of), though the scarier part is I’m not sure which character I play.

I’ve been negligent. I’ve made promises I can’t keep and I’m not sure if “it’s my job that’s draining me” is a valid excuse anymore. There hasn’t been a defining moment lately where something happened, and I had a rush of emotions driving me to push my dreams with more fervour and ardour than ever. No, life doesn’t happen that way all the time, although the pilot of iZombie may have had a role in actually making me sit the fuck down and type after that one scene when Peyton, tired by Liv’s lifelessness (can you blame her though?), tells her “it’s breaking my freaking heart [seeing Liv like that]”.

I had to come back to this. I owe it to myself. Despite my own history of dropping things just because it got “too difficult” or “tough”, I couldn’t do that to my blog. It had been a sanctuary for my sanity, and it shall continue to be. There will never be that single perfect moment when everything seems to be falling into place like that last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m here, doing what I love doing best, and working at it to become better at it. I’m picking myself up, and I implore you, please, to give me smack if I disappear like that ever again.

Five months is a long time. Let’s step it up.

P.S.: Photo of the Day (might be changing this up a bit) was taken during the Ching Ming Festival that’s observed by a lot of Chinese families sometime in April where we visit and clean the tombstones of our ancestor’s graves.

Wayang Kulit, Jogjakarta, Central Java

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Returning to Jogjakarta for a bit. These here are unfinished leather puppets hanging upside down on a wall. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at when I took the picture, but was mesmerised by the intricate patterns after I turned it right side up and adjusted the lighting.

Dealing in Death, Pt. II

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Since I’ve covered aspects of Nirvana that were dripping in gold yesterday, today’s offerings shall be gentler to the eyes, like the Photo of the Day above, where the palace’s roof overlooks a cascade that gushes into a reflective pool and several willows whose veil-like appendages skim the water’s surface… or this statue of the Buddha in deep contemplation about his place in the universe, right hand raised with palm opened like a shopper at a supermarket politely refusing that tenacious credit card salesperson who makes your blood boil by following you all the way to your car but all you could muster to him is a restrained “no, thank you” for the umpteenth time:

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You can’t fool us with that stoic expression of yours, Buddha. Admit it, you’re just as peeved as the rest of us.

… before this progresses into a Lewis Black standup, allow me to share one last photo of the sumptuous columbarium because I just realised something about the vaults:

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They look like Regina’s vault of hearts from Once Upon a Time. Just imagine this ritzy looking lounge as your private living room and you’re surrounded by a collection of boxes containing the hearts of people who have wronged you in your lifetime, and now you have them at your beck and call to execute your evil desires. I have such fantastical and sordid imaginations… Oh, they also make for great conversation starters! “That a**hole crashed my car.” “This one belongs to a colleague who kept stealing my Greek yoghurt from the office pantry.” “This one never spelt my name right.” “She took my favourite pen without asking… then lost it.” Fun times… fun times…

Anyway, back to the rest of the memorial park and the solemn subject of death. Nirvana’s main clientele are the ethnic Chinese, consequently explaining the choice of design for the place. The various areas are segregated first by the funeral service (cremation or burial), then land value. Yeap. You’re essentially buying a serviced suite or a plot of land to house your remains, and if you can’t afford the deluxe presidential chamber for two and the one-way ticket to nirvana on a heavenly chariot (no stops, no layovers), never fear, here’s an economic option for you. *opens up catalogue and lays it on the table* 

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Ancestral tablets. They’re cheap, simple, and requires almost no maintenance.

It’s real estate for the dead, and frankly I’m a little concerned over this. I am not entirely certain if my generation of Millennials are cognisant of the astronomical price tags that come with their expiration dates. It’s a morbid subject, I agree, but to think we can’t exactly rest in peace unless we have enough dough to rest in peace seems a little oxymoronic to me. While I’m in a position to secure my own “comfortable” death, what about the rest of the population? What happens to the bodies of so many others who are unaccounted for? Is this even a valid enquiry?

It is because of the value we place in our own deaths that we willingly pay the extra buck to house our remains along with the memories, achievements, discoveries, pleasures, disappointments, experiences associated with said remains. I am a victim of this over-sentimentalisation, and my vulnerability makes me the perfect target for death care service providers like Nirvana. Funerals services are highly symbolic affairs, but they need not be expensive. Superficial ornamentation are of no importance to the dead; it is the living who make such a big deal out of it. I dread the day when I’m eighty and wheelchair-bound, my children would take me to a columbarium to show me my final resting place. “Isn’t this a lovely place?” I hear them ask rhetorically.

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I had all these thoughts in my head as I was exploring the area, and I’m glad that in spite of the tinselly embellishments indoors, I could escape to the placid pool for a breather. See? Death affects not the dead, but the living. These additional areas serve no purpose to the departed, they weren’t constructed for the deceased; they provide sanctuary to those who feel asphyxiated by death, like me.

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Had I been walking amongst unadorned white headstones like those at Arlington National Cemetery, I wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed by death’s omnipresence. I guess it’s different for everyone. Though the smell of burning incense from altars like these did help to calm me down a little as well:

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Once the talk was over. I met up with my parents and showed them the pictures I’ve taken around the area, content that I had a decent selection from my examination of the place. They brought me to the columbarium where they’ve purchased a niche for themselves, which looks something like this:

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I thought it too disturbing to take a photo of their final resting place, but the arrangement of this one at a different area is very similar to theirs.

“See that one? Up there? First row on the left. That’s ours.”

Maaa, I’m not tall, how’d you expect me to see your faces at that height?”

“But it’s the penthouse mah…” *laughs*

What did I tell you? Real estate.