19 Jul 2013

Return to Kuala Lumpur

I used to live in Kuala Lumpur. After a brief first step in Singapore, Malaysia was my true beginning in Asia. I arrived at the end of 2008 and stayed there for almost 2 years, until I moved to Bangkok in 2010, where I continue living (hopefully for a long time). KL is only 2 hours from Bangkok, but, for different reasons, I have never had the chance to go back to my former city since I moved to Bangkok, even though I keep close contact with a few good friends over there. But this month, after 3 years, I finally booked a flight and returned to the city that opened my eyes to a whole new world. I packed a small bag and got ready for a week in my beloved KL.

Jalan Ampang, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

The defying tree, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Heights, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Architectures, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

I stayed at my friend's condo and we spent most of the time talking about past and present, eating delicious Indian food, buying and watching movie after movie, and driving around the city, meeting other friends. I didn't have much time to stroll by foot on my own, but every time I had a couple of hours alone, I grabbed my camera and went outside to walk the places I used to walk before.

 Houseless staircase I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Houseless staircase II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Houseless staircase III, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

The city is changing rapidly, and in the course of the last 3 years many big projects have started construction, impacting the life and looks of the city from downtown to the suburbs. From new skyscrapers to the new, ambitious line of the train, KL is a city besieged by barriers and cranes, drills and workers.

 Cut out windows, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

 Public construction I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Public construction II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

But a city lives constantly swinging between change and conservation, and the KL that I remembered and missed was still there, and it didn't take me much time to find it: the street vendors, the smells and colors of varied foods, the multiple skin tones, the constant dialogue between old and new, the patches of lush green amidst islands of concrete.

 Stair shopping, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

 The yellow shack, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

The way home, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Unfortunately, the weather was not very welcoming during the whole week, as it rained most of the days and, when not raining, the sky was usually covered by dark grey clouds that flattened the looks of the city and made it look more dull than it really is. Nevertheless, I didn't stay at home and still went out, but I din't take as many pictures as I though I would, partly because of the unexciting weather conditions, and partly because I found myself walking retrospectively, seeing with my former eyes, rather than with my current I, if that makes any sense. Remembrance over observation, to put it in other words, so the little things that caught my attention were the ones that had struck my eyes 5 years ago and still kept their power in my memory. Images of emptiness, mess, desolation and abandonment crept into my camera.

Out of service, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Unattended oblivion, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

 The wires I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

The wires II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

One of the plans I was really anticipating and looking forward to doing since weeks ago when I was preparing this trip, was to meet Robin Wong. Back when I lived in KL, my interest in photography was tepid at best, all I had was a point and shoot camera that I had borrowed from my parents, so I never got to know about him until much later. In fact, I just discovered his blog (you can find it here) a few months ago, and ever since then his images and comments have become an inspiration for me; the fact that we both use the same micro 4/3 system was an added point of interest, so I decided to write an e-mail to him introducing myself and talking summarily about my visit to KL. Lucky me, he answered with very warm words, and we settled a day when we would meet to have a photo walk around the city together! I was thrilled!

 Street movements, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

One's own chef, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Framed by his goods, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Self vigilance, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Sadly, his mom had an accident the week before my trip and he had to fly back to Kuching and stay there for a few weeks to take care of her while she awaited surgery at the hospital. I wished him all the best and I hope we can have another chance to resume the missing photowalk at a future, not too distant date! So, with its ups and downs, my short stay at Kuala ended, faster than I expected. It was a week full of encounters and missed opportunities, but I enjoyed my stay there nevertheless. And I promise myself not to wait 3 years to go back there again!

Flaking colors, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Night shadows, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

6 Jul 2013

A graduation, a walk and a dinner

Friday afternoon. I finish my classes and I rush to the city center where a couple of friends are waiting for me, and for my camera. I barely have time for lunch, but today is an important day for Pangky, and I can't be late. Today she has the Graduation Ceremony at the University, and it's a great chance for me to see how they celebrate a graduation in this part of the world. 

Flowers, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

We are a small group of friends there, every one of us bringing a gift (a teddy bear, a bouquet of flowers, a number plate with the year of graduation), but all of them (except me) are Thai, so I stay mostly in the "suburbs" of the conversations and focus on taking pictures. All the graduates wear bright, shiny uniforms with different colors depending on the degree, and roam around the university grounds followed by a cohort of friends and relatives.

Pangky's portrairt, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

It's really hot today, and there are hundreds of people in the university, so we walk slowly and wait in line for our turn to pose in front of one of the multiple fancy backgrounds that the university has set up all around the campus. But Pangky is original and she likes going against the tide, so she takes any chance she encounters to find a more suitable context for her pictures.

Fancy driver, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

Granted, we had lots of fun and laughs today, she is very disinhibited and always manages to drag everyone around in her own direction. But we were tired of being surrounded by hordes of identical students and presents, so we decided to leave the campus and walk to a restaurant were we could sit down, chill, eat and drink! On the way there, besides, I had the chance to shoot some random pedestrians who caught my attention.

Offspring, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm 

A break in the walk, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

The restaurant was run by Pangky's family, so we had an abundant and delicious dinner in a big, noisy table. Dishes came and went by at high speed, as were the drinks, cause we all were thirsty and hungry, and it seemed everybody still had many things to say.

Thai salad, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

Some of the people stayed at the restaurant longer, but I was tired, it was getting late, and I still had some work to do, so I left the restaurant and took a bus to return home. But I still had time to catch a last image as I was approaching home with the last lights of such a long, funny day. Oh! I almost forgot: congratulations, Pangky!

Dcondo, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

2 Jul 2013

Bangkok, city of palaces: Suan Pakkad

The idea was to visit Vimanmek Mansion and other palaces that are in the Dusit area, in central Bangkok, near Victory Monument. We walked along the sunny road towards the entrance of the complex in high spirits, because we had a free Monday ahead to enjoy our free time visiting new places in the city.

Red avenue, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm

However, we were not aware that the whole Dusit Complex is closed to visitors on Mondays, so, with a rather disappointed face, we walked back to Victory Monument while thinking of another option to visit not far from there. Oh! But before leaving, at least we could see some of the buildings of the big complex from the street outside!

 Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm

Finally, after we discarded some not very exciting options, like revisiting places we had seen not long ago, going to a mall, or simply going back home, we remembered there was a small palace not far from there that we had long wanted to visit but never found the time to do so. Well, we had plenty of time now, so we finally gave it a chance. Welcome to Suan Pakkad Palace.

Suan Pakkad Garden, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Hidden between the high-rise buildings around it, former royal residence Suan Pakkad Palace remains unnoticed behind a thick concrete wall, and there are not many tourists (or even locals) who visit it. Today, in a quiet Monday afternoon, the palace stayed mostly empty and, apart from us, we could only spot a few other people, therefore we could stroll around at our own pace, enjoying this beautiful gem without any disturbance, paying attention to every small detail.

Afternoon green, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

The roof, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Walking in almost total silence in the wooden corridors of the beautiful, Thai style mansions of the palace has been a really beautiful experience; we were even talking in whispers amongst ourselves, as if silence belonged here and we should not interrupt it. The atmosphere was peaceful and meditative, and one felt like he could just sit down beside one of the arched windows, and contemplate the green foliage outside for hours. And that's precisely what we did...

 Window over the garden I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Window over the garden II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

 Window over the garden III, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm

Window over the garden IV, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm