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.