Sunday, January 20, 2019

People I met on the Romanian train ride – Part 2

After a fun-filled day of exploring the historic and scenic sights of Sighisoara, I made my way back to the train station. The earlier encounter with the eccentric Romanian family was still vivid in my mind. I wonder what the next train ride back to Brasov had in store for me.

The train back to Brasov was a couchette car. It was old, stuffy and reeked of cigarette smoke, a far cry from the train I took earlier with a modern and air-conditioned coach. The coach I was in was nearly empty and my discomfort was worsened by the presence of child beggars who were there bothering me for spare change. I settled down in an empty compartment furnished with a tattered bench seat. Feeling bored and restless from the heat, I slid down the window and popped my face out to enjoy a breath of fresh air in the countryside.  While I was spacing out at the picture-perfect villages and scenery outside the train, I felt a chill at the back of my neck, telling me someone was behind me.

 After a fun-filled day of exploring the historic and scenic sights of Sighisoara, I made my way back to the train station. The earlier encounter with the eccentric Romanian family was still vivid in my mind. I wonder what the next train ride back to Brasov had in store for me.

The train back to Brasov was a couchette car. It was old, stuffy and reeked of cigarette smoke, a far cry from the train I took earlier with a modern and air-conditioned coach. The coach I was in was nearly empty and my discomfort was worsened by the presence of child beggars who were there bothering me for spare change. I settled down in an empty compartment furnished with a tattered bench seat. Feeling bored and restless from the heat, I slid down the window and popped my face out to enjoy a breath of fresh air in the countryside.  While I was spacing out at the picture-perfect villages and scenery outside the train, I felt a chill at the back of my neck, telling me someone was behind me.

I turned around and saw a teenager in baggy clothes standing at the doorstep. He looked like a Latino, dark-skinned and his facial expression took on a sly and cunning aura.

“Run for your life, this guy is dangerous!” – My gut feeling was screaming at me.

He started rambling on in a language that I could not understand, with a few occasional English words like “It is OK, YES, please, money,” and a hand gesture as if asking me for a favor. The whole situation really gave me the creeps especially the look of his eyes telling me he was up to something evil.

“Alright, that’s it, bye!”-  I snatched my bag from the seat beside me and bolted for the door.

He was, however, one step ahead of me, jumping right in front of me with his arms out to block me from slipping out.

“What do you want from me!” – I yelled at him, my heart was pounding in my chest, beating so fast.

A smirk was plastered on his face.

I was frozen in terror, my mind went blank and my body turned numb. In that critical moment, I quickly gained back my senses and stood there debating my next move. He was about six feet tall and had an athletic physique. In retrospect, if I had broken out in a fight with him, I could have been easily knocked to the ground by him. As a person who always defends justice, I did not want to stay put and resign my fate to being a crime victim.

It was a tough call, however, I knew I had to do something, first thing first, I got to get out of the compartment!

An idea suddenly flicked through my mind, I put a hand on my tummy and twisted my face into an inconsolable wince, faking a stomachache in an attempt to get out of this mess.

“Excuse me! Bathroom, Bathroom!” – I thrust myself forward and forcibly shoved past him.

When I was in the hallway, I immediately leapt into action, yanking the doors of every compartment open in hopes of one of those were occupied by some passengers who might be able to come to my rescue.

First compartment – EMPTY!

Second compartment – EMPTY!

Third compartment -EMPTY!

Fourth compartment – EMPTY!

“DAMN! THIS IS A GHOST TRAIN!” – I cursed under my breath, getting more and more panicky with every passing second. My fear climaxed when I realized he was following closely and trying to pull my backpack away from behind.

Finally, I arrived at the last compartment and as luck would have it, there sat a beefy local guy who was in his 50s, holding a fishing rod and appeared to be enjoying the privacy of having the whole compartment to himself. I charged into the compartment like a lunatic and closed the door behind me.  Needless to say, the big guy was taken aback by the sudden presence of a trespasser. I moved my eyes motioning for him to look out the door, hoping he would understand my predicament of being hunted down by a potential predator. He was a smart guy, His eyes immediately lit up knowingly, asking me to come over and sit across from him, which I gladly obliged.

The Latino dude seemed to never give up, he was pacing the hallway as if trying to size up the situation before he acted. My rescuer shot him a fierce look, sending him ducking behind the door. I thought he was gone but actually, he was hiding in a corner outside the compartment, peeking through the door every now and then as if trying to wait for an opportune moment to rob the hell out of me.

“Why can’t he leave me alone!” – My fear was turning into anger. The feeling of intimidation was dissipating, and it was slowly replaced by a burning fire of fury building up inside me.

At one point when he was taking a surreptitious peek into the compartment, our eyes met and locked, a menacing and murderous look in my eyes made him retreat a step backwards. His reaction to my look was hilarious!  I was trying very hard to hold in a laughter.

After a while, the train pulled into the next station, he finally gave up on me and got off the train. As my eyes followed him, I saw him walked across the tracks to join a group of dodgy-looking youths in front of a dilapidated shack. Their friends seemed frustrated and disappointed with him coming home empty-handed.  When the train blew its honk indicating its departure, I tapped on the window to get their attention. They all looked to my direction with a rage in their eyes, one of them grew so upset that he picked up a rock and tossed it in my direction.

As the train picked up the speed, I stuck a hand out and waved at them, and soon clenched it into a fist, with a middle finger pointing up to the sky.

People I met on the Romanian train ride – Part 1

Travelling by train is an easy and affordable way to see Romania as the country offers an extensive rail network connecting all major cities and towns. Its official website provides comprehensive train timetables and fare information. During my visit to Romania, I chose train as my means of transportation to whisk me from one city to the other. The experience was both exhilarating and intimidating to me.  Why does it present me with these contradictory sentiments? Read on and you will find out, let’s just start with a fun one.

Anecdote 1:

When I was on a train to Sighisoara for a day trip, a small medieval town in the Transylvania region of Romania, I met a very interesting and peculiar Romanian family sat directly across me. The mother was a kind and gentle person. The son had a shy and introverted demeanor. He was a man of few words despite the fact that he could fluently strike up a conversation with me in English. He, however, only opened up and helped her mother complete a sentence when an English word was on a tip of her tongue. The father, who appeared to be talkative and sometimes temperamental, was the one who spent the entire trip staring me into my soul and grilling me with tons of questions to feed his curiosity. So, here’s how our conversation rolled out.

“Jason? Your name is Jason, is that even your real name? Does everyone in Malaysia have a Christian name?” – The father started to probe.

“Oh Jason, poor Jason! Please, be ready to get tons of questions from him, he’s the one who speak the least English but he could be the one who asked anyone the most questions, GOOD LUCK!” – The mother teased me, throwing me a you-have-been-warned wink.

“Yea, that’s the name I give to myself, for the convenience of foreigners who have difficulty with Malay pronunciation,” I explained

“Jason, I like your eyes, the color of your eyes, it is very special. Oh, and I like the shape of your eyes too,” – The father complimented my eyes. Ok, now it is getting weird!

“Jason, you laugh a lot! Do Malaysian people laugh and smile all the time? I like happy and positive people. I don’t like people here, they are NEGATIVE!” – he complained, unbeknownst to the fact that I was laughing at his silly questions.

“Really? What do Romanian people like? Why are they being negative?” – Finally, there was something that piqued my interest.

“Because of our government! The government here is very … tricky! They tricked people make their life miserable” – He was fumbling for the right word to make his explanation understandable.

“What do you mean tricky?”  – I probed on.

He leaned over and extended his hand towards me, putting his palm around the water bottle in my grip and with a quick swoosh, he grabbed the bottle and yanked it away from me.

“This is what I called …  tricky” – He said that with a smug look while securing my bottle in his possession. WOW! Action did speak volume than words.


“Yeah, but things are getting better than the former days when we lived under the communist regime” – The mother broke the ice, eyeballing her husband and gesturing him to return my god-damn bottle.

“Oh, how things were like when the country was under the communist rule?” I asked, jumping at the opportunity to divert my attention from the father.

“Things were bad when we were young, we didn’t get to watch much TV. There was only an hour of children program on TV every day” – The mother reminisced about her childhood days.

“No way! Don’t listen to her, Jason! An hour of cartoon! Are you kidding me? That’s too short! Obviously, she is exaggerating! They gave us an hour and a half, and I am very sure of that!” – The father snorted in disagreement.


“Wow, it sucks to have to live under communism. I feel your pain and believe me, I would never vouch for communism!” – I cried foul at the mistreatment and hardship they endured as a child.

“Jason! You seem like a good guy. In fact, you really look like a brother to me, a very caring brother I never had. Here, I want you to have this,” – He handed me an oatmeal peanut butter energy bar, staring at me and awaiting me to tear open the pack.

“That’s … very kind of you, uh,” I was struggling to remember his name. Wait a minute! I actually never had had a chance to ask for his name. “You know what, I am good, I am not hungry at all, thanks for your offer,” – I politely rejected his offer.

“Jason, if you see me as your brother, you gotta take it and eat it, come, take it,” – He insisted, remaining adamant that I should accept his offer with gratitude and refusal would be seen as a snub, which would trigger his anger.

Without much options left, I took the energy bar from his hand, peeled open the pack and put it in my mouth. The mother looked away from me, trying to stifle a laugh. The son covered his face with both hands, excused himself and roamed to the other coach of the train.

While chowing down on the snack of his brotherly love, I could feel the train was gradually slowing to a stop. Whispering “thank goodness” beneath my breath, I quickly got on my feet, slung my backpack over my shoulder and got ready to exit the train.

“Jason, you are welcome to join us for lunch, there is one Romanian food I want you to try, and we can discuss our devotion to religion,” –  He got up and motioned for me to hand him my backpack.

“I am sure Jason has a packed itinerary to make the most of his one-day trip at Sighisoara, and we have to find a hotel to check in, let’s keep in touch, Jason, have a good trip!” – The mother chimed in, bailing me out of the father who seemed to be enjoying giving me a hard time.

“Sure, you too, enjoy your day! It’s been a pleasure talking… uh… meeting you,” – I bade my goodbye to them and threw a knowingly wink at the mother, before turning and walking the opposite direction from them, away from the eccentric hospitality that I experienced firsthand in Romania.

My first experience of a Turkish Hamam

There are many Turkish bathhouses (Hamams) in Istanbul. The famous ones being Çemberlitaş, Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam, Cağaloğlu etc where you fork out a fortune (more than 100 liras) to enjoy the finest bathing experience in a lavish and elegant environment. Being a frugal traveler (or cheapskate as sometimes the meaning of frugal connotes), those bathhouses with world-class facilities surely are places I would not be able to afford.

Instead, I found one on the Asia side; a quick online search showed glowing reviews. Most of the writeups raved about this place as being popular with locals, the exceptional service, the professional staff and the affordable prices – a mere 50 liras (USD 13). I noted to myself – ” Teh it is now or never. If it turns out to be a bad experience, I will only lose a small amount of money”!

Before the Hamam day, the owner’s daughter informed me via email of the gender separated section in the bathhouse and reminded me not to mistakenly enter the women’s section. 

Some old men were lounging in the living room with only towels wrapped around their waists. One of them, obviously the owner, herded me into a changing room and asked me to undress, put on flip-flops and wrap a towel around my waist. He then led me to a room with a heated marble stone. He ordered me to lie on top of the marble to sweat out the toxins in my body. There was a beautiful stained glass dome over the marble stone. While I was lying relaxing on my back on the stone, the sunlight streamed through the dome, casting a spectrum of glittering color and lulling me into a dreamy and hallucinogenic state of mind. I actually drifted into a sweet dream momentarily and saw myself being surrounded by a bunch of sexy Persian belly dancers… such magic!

I soon lost track of how long I was basking in a deep meditative state on the stone; by the time I woke up, I realized I was drenched in a pool of sweat. A bath attendant came in and gestured me to take a shower in a partitioned shower room. He was a large sumo wrestler-like man with a big saggy belly, someone very different from the Adonis-like looking people I saw in my dream. After a quick shower, I was escorted to a large common shower room where several local men were washing themselves out of buckets. My presence as the only the foreigner immediately spurred an exchange of whispers among them. Some of them let out a light chuckle as if they were taking delight in watching a nervous foreigner being washed from head to toe by a ‘sumo’ wrestler.

I was ordered to climb on top of a long marble table and laid there on my stomach. The sumo guy started lathering soap on me to the point I was entirely covered with bubble foam. He then put on a bath glove covered with bristles and began the exfoliation process. I could see layers and layers of body dirt being removed with every brisk rubdown. It was not as painful as what I would have thought but the realization of so much caked-on body dirt was certainly not something to be proud of. After that process was completed, I was left covered in a frothy white mass of bubbles for a good few minutes before asked to step down from the table. It was not easy to move around on the slippery stone filled with soapy water, a slight body movement could send me slipping and sliding like a fish out of water.

After struggling to stand, I finally became upright. With my vision still blurred from soap, I carefully tiptoed to the other end of the room where the sumo guy was ready to pour water down on me. I was ordered to remove the wet towel precariously clad around my waist and sit on the floor with my head lowered. One big pail of water after another, I was washed like a baby would have been washed. In between pouring water on me, he did a thorough and revitalizing massage on my entire body.

It was an overall uplifting experience except for a few awkward moments such as at one point during the massage, I was asked to bend over in a position where my head was literally beneath his towering belly so he could reach out to massage my back. Another time he gently patted on my thigh and made a gesture to ask me turn to the side while slightly lifting my butt off the floor.  I did not see it coming until BAM! I was overcome with a whooshing sensation came under my buttocks when he ran his bare hand through the “canal” at a speed of a bullet train! When the washing came to an end, I dried myself up in the sauna before leaving the premises.

Overall I found the bath to be an exotic and eye-opening experience but definitely not a cup of tea for those who prioritize their privacy. Reflecting on all the reviews I read online, I can now resonate with one particular review: I have never felt so squeaky clean in all my life!

The Disappointing Northern Lights Mystery Tour

The primary purpose of my trip to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. October is generally a rainy month in Iceland and the sky is usually covered with clouds; hence the possibility of seeing the lights is very minimal. However, I am by nature a wander luster with a “play it by ear” philosophy and I believe good luck is always with me, the harsh reality of bad weather did not shake my determination to explore the land of ice and fire this time of year.

The rain was coming down in sheets on the day I arrived in Reykjavik and the downpour continued for days. All the Northern Light Tours were called off due to the depressing forecast. Some locals told me that the lights were more likely to be seen on the eastern side of the island. On a whim, I booked a 2-night stay in Vik, a small seaside town on the southern coast of the island. The detour to Vik, however, did not bring me any good luck. The sky was miserably blanketed with layers of ominous black clouds. I had no choice but to make my way back to Reykjavik in a foul mood.

On my last night in Iceland, I had already resigned myself to the fate that there would be no lights for me and went on to pack for my return flight the next day.

When I dropped by Gray Line (the local tour operator) office to book for my ride to airport, miraculously, the lady at the tour desk pleasantly broke the news to me that the Northern Lights tour was on and scheduled to depart in 2 hours.  Ecstatic, I immediately jumped at this unexpected opportunity.

The tour was tackily named “Northern Lights Mystery Tour” – appeared to be full and everyone was in high spirits anticipating the lights magically unfolding before their eyes.

Our Asian tour guide constantly entertained us with facts about the northern lights in her heavy Chinese accent. No doubts she is astronomically savvy, but I would rather she kept her story short to give us some “acoustic breaks” because it was a long bus ride and people were more interested in getting some shut-eye, especially after the lights on the bus were turned off.

The bus soon pulled up in front of a closed seaside restaurant. We were engulfed in complete darkness as there were no street lights around the perimeter. Everyone walked out of the bus in a single file and gathered at the compound in front of the restaurant, some started to set up cameras and tripods, waiting for the lights to make their magical appearance in the sky.

Minutes later, the restaurant opened and was lit with soft lighting and candles. Our tour guide encouraged us to grab something to eat. She especially recommended the restaurant’s lobster soup special and assured us that there was no need to hurry as she would inform us when the lights appeared.

Several buses from other tour companies continuously pulled up at the compound and all passengers made a beeline for the restaurant. There were not many tables in the restaurant and soon diners were packed in every nook and cranny, all waiting for an empty table.

I managed to grab an empty seat and ordered 2 bowls of the highly-recommended lobster soup. The soup turned out to be OK, not as excellent as the tour guide claimed it to be, but delicious enough to distract us from boredom.

We lingered around the restaurant for a little while after eating until we heard someone shouting, “There is some activity going on in the sky!” Everyone stopped at what they were doing and scrambled out to the compound. The sky had become clear and shone with glistening stars. A wave of excitement swept through the crowd. Photograph enthusiasts hurriedly aimed their expensive cameras skywards.

I looked up at the vast expanse of sky above me. NOTHING. The starry sky was intermittently replaced by threatening clouds.

One of the tourists, who apparently was an amateur soprano, started singing, “Aurora, Aurora, Aurora … I love you Aurora,” in hopes that her voice would somehow work some miraculous magic on the lights. The melodious voice, however, did not do the trick.

After what seemed like an eternity, people became tired from craning their necks for too long and returned to the bus. The crowd was receding as a drizzle steadily fell from the gray overcast sky. When the clock finally struck midnight, our tour guide climbed back to the bus and announced that the tour was over. Not wanting to dampen everyone’s high spirits, she informed us that the bus was going to return to Reykjavik using another route and encouraged us to pray for the lights on the way back. Everyone held the last ray of hope at her words!

The bus did make a stop at a small town about halfway into the return trip. Everyone anxiously awaited some good news. The ensuing announcement, however, shattered everyone’s little hopes into a million pieces.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the sky was initially clear when we arrived here minutes ago. Unfortunately, it has become cloudy. We have no choice but to head back to town now. We will commence the drop off at your respective hotels in about 30 minutes from now,” the tour guide announced through a loudspeaker.

To perk us up, she reminded us that we could reuse the ticket for the next Northern Lights Mystery Tour within the next 2 years. Her words also translated into: ‘Sorry folks, but you have to come back to Iceland to try your luck next time!’

Some takeaways from the tour:
– Don’t hold your hopes high to see the lights, especially if you travel during rainy season.
– Bring your own food and beverage to save yourself £5 for a mediocre lobster soup.
– Tell the sopranos and tenor wannabes to keep quiet because they might ruin the good aura.

2018 Penang Temple Fair

Chinese New Year is undoubtedly the best time to visit Penang. During this time, this UNESCO World Heritage site becomes a buzz of activity with crowds, colorful holiday decorations and a lineup of exciting and interesting events. One of the most anticipated events that always draws a diverse crowd is the Temple Fair, otherwise known as Miao Hui in Chinese.

This celebration is a large-scale street fair co-hosted by a collective of Chinese ancestry and clan associations. Every association hosts an open house to welcome visitors and provide information about their ancestry. Out on the streets, visitors are dazzled by an assortment of traditional folk performances and mouthwatering smells of delicious street food.

I always enjoy visiting the temple fair; below are some highlights worthy of mention from the 2018 event.

The primary stage was set up near the entrance where the audience was serenaded by professional folk musicians – those looking for something a bit more classical enjoyed music from a Chinese based orchestra.

Members of one clan association dresses up as the characters of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei from the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the novel that takes place at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, three formidable warriors put their differences aside and form an oath of brotherhood to one another, forging an alliance to fight against the enemies of the Han Empire. Visitors always make a beeline for a photo-op with these three iconic characters.

Kuih Kapit is a traditional biscuit specifically made for the celebration of Chinese New Year. This crispy biscuit roll is made of eggs, flour and coconut milk. Visitors are guided through the simple steps of making their own Kuih Kapit – first, pour the flour mixture on a shaped mould that comes with a long handle for grilling purpose. Next, place the mould on a coal grill and let it cook for a few minutes. Once the mixture is grilled to light golden brown, remove it from the mould and settle the smoldering biscuit on a board. You may proceed to either fold or roll it, whatever your heart desires, but make sure you do this quickly before the freshly grilled biscuit hardens. At last, voila! here it is, your first delicious Kuih Kapit is ready to tantalize your taste buds.

A free traditional Chinese massage is offered to the public inside a clan association building. The massage is designed to restore and enhance the flow of Qi, a Chinese term referring to the body’s vital energy, leading to improved health and well-being. Numerous senior citizens took full advantage of this seldom offered free stress buster.

An altar was located in one of the streets – filled with a collection of offerings paying homage to the Seven Star Goddess, a deity that is famous for matchmaking. Every year at the Qi Xi festival, commonly known as “Chinese Valentines’ Day”, thousands of devotees throng the temple to offer prayers to the Seven Star Goddess. According to traditional belief, those who offer prayers with perfume, flowers or face powder will find their wishes granted – and soon will be in a rewarding relationship with a man or woman of their dreams. Wish hard my friends!

Yee Sang, a prosperity toss, is always one of the highlights of the evening. Yee Sang is a traditional dish that marks the auspicious beginning of a new year. It is a platter adorned with colorful raw ingredients including strips of naked fish and slices of pickled vegetables. This joyous ceremony always begins with everyone gathered around a table and using chopsticks to mix and toss the contents on the platter as high as possible. While tossing, participants are encouraged to shout out as many auspicious greetings as possible to jazz up the festive mood. It is believed that the higher you toss, the luckier and more prosperous you will be in the coming year.

No Chinese New Year celebration is complete without a lion dance. Spectators are wowed by the agile movement and the elaborately choreographed stunts by dancers who jump from one pole to another, moving in sync to the beat of a deafening drum. At one point, the dancers lost their footing and fell to the ground unscathed. Unfazed by the accident, they picked themselves up and dusted themselves off before making their way back to the stage, to a thunderous applause from hundreds of spectators.

Come check out the temple fair next time if you happen to be in town during the lunar new year – this event will surely increase your appreciation for this beautiful UNESCO heritage town! I am fortunate to be able to call Penang, this melting pot of Malaysia, my home.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Open Cremation at Pashupatinath Temple

It was a crisp Friday morning in December.  I was standing on a temple compound in Kathmandu thronged by hundreds of sombre-looking devotees offering prayers with garlands and fruits. The air was scented with a mixture of fragrance from the flowers and incense. The sidewalks were bustling with vendors hawking a wide variety of religious souvenirs and infested with stray dogs scavenging for food through piles of garbage. The place was overrun with wild monkeys. They were running, swinging and jumping everywhere. Occasionally, some of these cheeky primates were seen cautiously inching towards devotees and prodding them in the arm as a gesture of begging for food.

The grounds offered what I expected from a ‘normal’ Nepalese temple – until an ambulance pulled to a stop in front of me, dropping off two burly medical attendants who sprang into immediate action by removing a stretcher with a body wrapped in white sheets, and wheeling it over to the family of the deceased who were grimly waiting for the funeral ceremony to begin. The atmosphere was suddenly shrouded with sadness and gloom, jolting me into a realization that it was not a regular temple. I was, in fact, setting my foot on the famous Pashupatinath Temple where open cremation takes place.

Pashupatinath Temple is a well-known sacred Hindu Temple nestled on the banks of the holy river of Bagmati in Kathmandu Valley. The temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Hindus bid their last goodbye to their loved ones in a solemn cremation ceremony. For those who are keen on exploring unique foreign culture or seek exotic spiritual experience, this is the right place to be. A word of warning for the faint-hearted, you might want to omit this from your itinerary if the sight of cremation is too much for your psyche or stomach to handle.

Visitors are welcome to witness the cremation ceremony from the other side of the river. Out of the respect for the deceased, visitors are advised to conduct themselves appropriately during the ceremony. Basic rules to bear in mind: no screaming, laughing, snickering and foul language is strictly prohibited. I joined the eager crowd awaiting the start of the ritual.

With the entire body blanketed in a white sheet, the deceased was laid to rest on a large wooden plank positioned downward on a staircase leading to the river. The grief-stricken family members converged on the riverbank and began the cleansing ritual by repeatedly wiping the lifeless face of the deceased with a wet cloth. Once the cleansing was done for one last time, garlands of flowers were placed around the neck and tilak (sandalwood paste used in Hindu religious ceremonies) was heavily applied on the forehead of the deceased. The body lay peacefully on the riverbank surrounded by the surviving family members who appeared to be drifting into a state of deep mourning.

The body was later transferred to the cremation pyre made up of stacked dry grass. With hands clasped in a prayer, family and friends paid the last tribute to the departed soul by walking in a circle around the body now partially buried by the haystack. One of them, presumably the wife of the deceased, leaned in and planted a long and loving kiss on the feet of the body. Seemingly lost in a trance, she held the kiss for so long that the undertaker had to come over and gently pull her away. Bystanders were moved to tears by the scene.

Soon after, everyone was cleared out of the area before the haystack was torched and gradually engulfed by a thick plume of smoke. The billowing smoke eventually turned into roaring flames ripping through the haystack and incinerating the body to ash.

I left the ceremony with a heavy heart and a new outlook on life. Life is short, it is foolish to spend our lives dwelling on negative thoughts. So let’s carpe diem and seize the day and do not forget to make every breathing moment count.