New Straits Times - - SUNDAY VIBES -

THE skies sud­denly start to open up the mo­ment my bike banks left into Jalan Gangsa. Rue­ing my fool­ish­ness for not heed­ing my wife’s sound coun­sel to bring along a rain coat, I hur­riedly coax my trusty old Honda C70 to ac­cel­er­ate well be­yond its usual medi­ocre speed.

Soon enough, the red and yel­low pen­nants lin­ing the sides of Alor Star’s Tow Boo Keong Tem­ple come into view. I heave a sigh of relief. It will not be long be­fore I reach the safety of the food stalls lin­ing the road in front of the tem­ple.

De­spite the heavy down­pour, the tem­ple grounds is a hive of ac­tiv­ity as dozens of devo­tees and vol­un­teers join hands to make last minute prepa­ra­tions to wel­come the Nine Em­peror Gods Fes­ti­val which lasts for nine days, start­ing from to­mor­row. It’s the first day of the ninth month in the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar. Apart from join­ing in the fes­tiv­i­ties, my wife and I al­ways look for­ward to the savoury veg­e­tar­ian fare sold here.

While wait­ing pa­tiently at my place at the back of a snaking queue, I over­hear snip­pets of con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two el­derly women stand­ing in front of me. Both an­i­mated, they’re talk­ing about the im­pend­ing fes­ti­val. “This is a great op­por­tu­nity to find out more about the Nine Em­peror Gods (also known as Kew Ong Yeah in the Hokkien di­alect),” I tell my­self, inch­ing closer to lis­ten.

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