Malaysia 2011
I took more camera equipment than clothes on this three week business/pleasure trip to Kuala Lumpur, and here are a few of the sights...


Day 1: Hot and humid. Durban has nothing on this! Motorcyclists don't wear jackets and gloves because of the heat. The evening turned out well - a tropical downpour opened up on the way into the city, but a couple of hours later it was clear...
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Day 2: Around KL centre. The noodles I had for lunch had been cooked in week-old oil and I probably have sunburn, but the extra weight I put on over Christmas disappeared after a few miles of walking.

Here are the Petronas twin towers. Tall, with a large shopping centre filled with brand name stores and restaurants overlooking the gardens. KL has a very clean city centre... Johannesburg city council needs to take notes...
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Petaling Street market... one either knows the price of things or one doesn't, and a good starting point is to offer half of the vendor's opening offer. I'm also assuming everything is fake, even if it is labelled otherwise. Supermarket food can be expensive too - maybe I need to shop around but it is cheaper to eat out when it costs RM99 (about 20) for a pumpkin! It costs 3x as much to catch a taxi out of KLCC as it does going in. Don't use the blue taxis - they charge double rates and don't tell you that!
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Day 3 and it's a state holiday so I'm off to the Bird Park. I really dislike zoos for their confinement of animals, but this place is quite impressive. It is the world's largest free flight aviary, with a net system suspended above the trees.
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Storks nest in the trees above and fly from one pond to the other. One might even get to see an unusual side of a pelican...
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This egret had a sharp look in its eye when it joined me at the tea room table. It's not every day that one gets to photograph a bird at 17mm!
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Day 4 Lunch today at a Korean BBQ in Sri Haratamas, KL. I'll post an image later. The pork meal for two came with 10 side dishes of veggies and noodles, plus sauces and pastes, green tea and a coke. All excellent food, but the small bowl of mild sweet chilli paste turned out to be so exquisite that I ended up smothering a lettuce leaf in the last of it. Price? Only RM60 or about 12 :o There is a big range of Eastern cuisine, from local Mamuk to sushi and Thai, and the food is far tastier and more nutritious than those leading global burger brands or fried chicken chains.

Anyhow, getting back to the photos, here is an urban stream and canyon taken with a 135mm...
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Day 6: Batu Caves, in Gompat, KL. There was a large festival here earlier in the week (Thaipusam), apparently with about 1.5 million visitors. Today was relatively quiet, with relatively few pilgrims. A short taxi or train ride out of town and one enters the caves complex in a limestone hillside. In addition to the caves themselves, there are plenty of vendors stalls, several Hindu shrines dedicated to Lord Murugan and an absolutely enormous statue. The 272 steps to the cave entrance are steep and a bit of a trek in the heat.

Vendors... a lot of foreign vendors rocked up for the event, to the chagrin of the locals. The sweets were expensive, milk based (actually tasted of burnt milk), quite sweet and lots of coconut. Lots of litter lying about and the traffic at the entrance is bad (the train avoids this and is cheaper).
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The caves and entrance... ...some Hindu worshipers had shaved their heads and gone up the stairs on hands and knees. The caves are enormous inside, with several shrines and temples.
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Of course it is about worship too. Hindu temples can be functional places, with vendors, monks and worshipers all doing their thing...
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And there are temple monkeys outside and inside, eating coconuts and fruits given as gifts. If I am reincarnated this would be a good animal to come back as - fed and only gawping tourists to worry about...
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Day 8: Weight loss programme day! Actually I put on 4kg by the end of the trip, so not very effective.

I decided to walk into the hills today. The bag was stuffed with everything I thought I'd need; two D's, four lenses, filters, tripod... And I proceeded to walk to the hills from where I stay. Big mistake in this heat.

Tropical forests are difficult photographic locations. They are hot and humid and without the benefit of any breeze. I should have taken a towel to wipe my face, eyes and the camera. Stop for 5 seconds and one is assailed by mozzies. And it is surprisingly dark in there, so I was on ISO 1600 a lot of the time. Shoot upward and one just gets the high contrast of the canopy against any sky filtering through, with resulting metering issues and purple fringing.

I encountered a couple of monkeys who alerted the whole forest to my presence, but were very timid. There was a red squirrel type animal that quickly scampered away - no picture of that one :( And plenty of insects but not much variety. I now have the utmost respect for jungle wildlife photographers!

So, what images can I share? Let's start with this guy slacklining in the park. I briefly got the nod from him to photo, but didn't intrude to ask for his name - note the iPod.
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Then it was up the hillside. That is Sri Hartamas in the middle, Mont Kiara to the immediate left, KL city and the twin towers on the distant right, and the Batu Caves on the the distant left in the gap between the buildings. After lugging 15kg of kit up there I was ready to invest in a Leica.
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A closer view of the city. This site will be much better at sundown with the light behind the camera. The light at midday is too hard and hazy to produce good classic images.
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The forest walk. The paths are used by rubber tappers working these hills. It's not a plantation, and I suspect they may be doing it illegally, but they do make this area a little more accessible.
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Not much of these however...
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And just the occasional glimpse through the trees to remind me where I am...
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Day 10 and the series continues.
I'm in the city today, and its a mixed bag indeed. The traffic was hell at 9am, so I decided to walk rather than watch the taxi meter ticking over. Let's start with a Nikon store...
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Lunchtime and a bit of 'window' shopping with the 17-35mm...
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More walking about. I call this one 'Who cares...?' because, well, what is the point of another sign here :) And yes, they were going to carry that up by hand using the ladders...
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A storm approaches over the city...
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So I duck inside, and am told Yes! by a multistorey cascade in a Bukit Bintang shopping plaza. The National Geographic store upstairs has dozens of old NG magazines wrapped in plastic to read in the cafe. Reminds me, I've been stopped twice by Sikhs telling me I'm a very lucky person. Actually I'm a very wary and cynical person, so I didn't give them time to explain further (or ask for anything!)
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Time for a beverage. It's too hot for anything hot, and I've tried and enjoyed this before. Old Town Hazelnut White Coffee served cold (a few ice cubes dropped in)...
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Right, off to the infamous Low Yat Plaza. Storeys of electronics vendors all trying to outdo each other. Noisy as hell and actually not that cheap even after a bit of haggling. I also don't see the point of 20 shops in a row selling Nikon gear (or any other brand for that matter), especially since they carry an extremely limited range of anything. These guys have no idea of differentiation or USPs, it's down to price, price, price. I leave a little disappointed and walk into a shopping mall almost next door that seems to specialised in repairs and parts. And that's when I saw this sight... :o If you know what it is, then you'll wonder what the heck it is doing in a shop front working away in front of me! Definitely not the usual throw away approach of the West.
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And a quick visit to Menara KL. This 421m tower with an observation deck and restaurant offers an amazing 360 degree view of the city. I should have gone up here on day 1 to orientate myself - the view imprints itself in one's subconscious better than a map and gives one a big picture to relate to.

The view here is to the south-west, with the Telekom Malaysia tower in Taman Bukit Pantai in the distance and the birdpark middle center to the right of the cream-yellow building (the grey smear is the net). Photographers must just accept the reflections on the glass, and boost contrast accordingly.
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And looking in the other direction... a familiar sight.
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Finally, here's a panorama I produced from snaps taken the other day. The annotations are my 'notes' for when my memory starts to fade :)

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Talking about sights less seen, here is meat processing in an alley. Fish, chicken, you name it it was being butchered. Hopefully flash frying gets rid of the bacteria that must thrive in these conditions :) The floor was extremely greasy, and the smell wasn't particularly palatable.
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And here is an express delivery of ice... ...suppose the effect would have been more plausible without the modern cars in the background :) The look of the processing shows I've loaded a trial version of CS4 to see what the hype is all about... it actually performs better on my Celeron with 2GB RAM than expected.
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Evening meal and a jug of draught at the Deutsches Gasthaus in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, taken with the Siggy 24 f1/8. Not a bad... eisbein!
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It's Saturday! Time for a bit of lunch down the road in Kota Damansara.

The traffic in Kota Damansara was gridlocked, so we walked a bit. The inevitable signage along the way...
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The buffet laid out at one large outdoor restaurant looked good...
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Everything is now decked out for Chinese New Year... the old 35-70mm is still a stellar performer even wide open.
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One has to try out the local cuisine. The mussels, BBQ chicken, prawn mee and other goodies went down well. This was dessert. Bed of red beans and glazed cherries, followed by crushed ice, flavoured syrup, peanuts and something else.
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Stuart took his 'new' F2 out for a stretch. It somehow feels right at home in this setting and quite comfortable in his old WWI pouch. I have mixed feelings about letting it go, it's still a stunning camera, but it is time to give up on film and I no longer have a scanner that will do the trannies justice.
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Today it was off to the National Science Museum. I was expecting something along the lines of the Natural History Museum in London, but it was designed more for young kids to introduce them to science. Some interesting images nevertheless...
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Lunch in Little India today. It was sunny with blue skies, unusual, and the roads were less congested due to Chinese New Year. We decided to drive to an area called Brickfields or Little India with its stalls, shops and restaurants.
Fruit at the stalls here is much cheaper than in the supermarket; RM6 per kilo for mangoes where the supermarket was charging RM4.99 for a single small one.
There are many 'restaurants', but few can claim to be attracting the sophisticated diner. So it was tally-ho into the first one we encountered. Decor was spartan to say te least, with dozens of utilitarian plastic chairs and tables, polystyrene cups and a bare concrete floor. Stuart ordered... banana leaves. Literally. The leaves arrived, waiter plopped some sauce in a corner, some paste elsewhere, and some incredibly hot but tasty dried, salted chillis. Then a cucumber salad, popadoms and chick peas. Our waiter disappeared and came back with the rice and some buckets. Really, buckets. Spinach curry in one, dahl in another. Help oneself to as much curry as one dares. Did we want mutton? Yes. How about squid curry? Yes.
When done Stuart said to fold the rear of the banana leaf over to the front as a sign of approval (folding the front back is a sign of disapproval apparently). Including an ice tea and coke the total cost was RM17.50, or just less than GBP4 for two people! I'm not sure about the hygene, but this was a seriously tasty meal and a big lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
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