Elephants No. 20, 21 and 22

Three very different elephants from a city of many sides: we spent four days in Singapore last week, only slightly marred by the return of the dreaded haze, and a thorough bed bug cleaning operation after a nasty encounter with the fuckers on the ferry back from Koh Tao. Here is my pick of the city’s elephants:

Elephant No. 20


This is a particularly interesting elephant for me, because it is the twin of a different elephant (Elephant No. 14) I found in Jakarta! This one is located outside the Old Parliament House, Singapore’s oldest surviving government building. Both are presents from the King of Siam (modern Thailand) in 1871. I’d love to know more about this king and why he decided to distribute these elephants around south east Asia – and I wonder if there are further ones to be found in other cities?  (more…)

Elephant No. 19: Georgetown, Malaysia 


I found this magnificent elephant in the Khoo Kongsi clanhouse in Georgetown on the island of Penang, an incredibly elaborate temple of ancestral worship built by some of the Chinese community in Penang. Modern Malaysia has many citizens of Chinese ethnicity who emigrated from Southern China in various periods: the Khoo clan mostly arrived in the 19th century and were some of the most successful Chinese in the area, hence the amount of money they were able to spend on this very ornate temple! The elephant and its rider is one of 36 “Celestial Guardians” painted on the inside of the central hall, 18 on each side. Each guardian rides an impressive steed like an elephant, a lion, or a dragon, and each has its own unique weapon. All, like this one, look pretty fierce.  (more…)

Elephant No. 17: Batu Caves, Malaysia

After my two solo weeks in Indonesia, I met up with Alex in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Though we enjoyed visiting the sites of the city, especially the stunning Islamic Arts Museum, we found the city hard to get around on foot, with a distinct lack of pavements and crossings, and there frequently wasn’t a public transport option for where we were trying to get to. Also, the city was smothered in a thick smog, so we were keen to try and get out a bit to some greenery and fresh air. With this in mind, we made a trip to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of the city.  (more…)