The Rohingyas On Land – Betelmania

A Rohingya hawker wrapping areca nut, herbs, spices, slaked lime and tobacco with betel leaf. The pan-Asian tradition of betel quid chewing goes where the addicts go.

At any local Rohingya or Burmese community, one will see many street kiosks blending their own version of the ancient chewing gum.

In researching the ingredients, I found out there is no such thing as a betel nut. It is actually the areca nut which is not a nut but a fruit. The stone fruit (drupe) causes the infamous and sought-after red staining of the mouth.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 800, f4, 1/200 sec.

The Town Beauty

Her great grandfather was English and her great grandmother Burmese. On the maternal side, her great grandparents were Thai and Chinese.

Their son married a Spanish-Filipina. Her Eurasian father, who lives in Malacca, married a Chinese lady from Kelantan.

With such a fascinating mix, their child Jolene looks exotic and ravishingly beautiful, naturally. So what’s her race? Malaysian lah.

More than that, she also inherits a rich culinary knowledge for which she puts to good use. Jolene owns and operates the only fusion cafe in town. I stumbled upon her and the restaurant walking the kaki lima. More on the food next.

Photography Notes: I used the acclaimed Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 lens as an impromptu portrait lens here. It was so sharp that I have to reduce the clarity a touch in the raw processor. Nevertheless, it isolated her from the cluttered background beautifully.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f1.8, 1/800 sec.


Vesak or Wesak Day is celebrated today (3rd May) here in Malaysia and also in Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia and a few other countries.

Other Asian countries such as Thailand and Singapore celebrate on 1st June 2015. India, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan and China observe the festival on a different day.

The variation is due to the different lunar, lunisolar and Gregorian calendars used.

Buddha Day, as it is also known, commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

Golden statues photographed at the Thai Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya.

Follow me on Instagram too, also at @tvsmithmy

Happy Vesak.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1250, f4, 1/160 sec.