The Way It Used To Be

Like a fading 3R print, this scene in Hulu Bernam is reminiscent of days gone by. Kampung houses on stilts and children kicking around outside.

While one can still find many such settings in rural areas, this one has an invisible modern element in the air. This village at the border of Perak is billed as a Kampung Tanpa Wayar (Wireless Village).

Photography Notes: Things to do when you are bored in a small town hotel and have a laptop with you. One of the most noticeable self-destructing effect of old colour prints is the magenta shift due to dye aging, light damage and latent chemical reaction.

To achieve the old picture look, I altered the magenta and green balance and added the finger print with Photoshop CC. Scratches, staining and dirt were added via Snapseed Desktop.

A subtle pixel shift in focus was also required as the modern-day a7R is very sharp. Looking at some of the prints from my Canon T90 film camera (dubbed The Tank by Japanese photojournalists), they appeared reasonably sharp too in spite of the subsequent colour fade.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 640, f4, 1/640 sec.

Only Chinese In Kampung Bota Singh

Saw a signboard that says Kampung Bota Singh in the Hulu Bernam area and decided to drive in. Heh. Didn’t I meet the only Singh in a Chinese village a few days ago? This time at a village named after a Singh, I met a lone Chinese guy holding a pair of garden shears.

Mr Ng who is 69-years-old and a Hakka, held on to the shears menacingly as I introduced myself. He soon let his guard and the shears down and started telling me the history of the village.

The former rubber plantation land was owned by a wealthy Sikh named Bota Singh. In fact, many of the land around here are owned by Sikhs, according to Mr Ng. He and his family bought the land from the now deceased Bota Singh.

I noticed an old-fashioned kitchen cupboard in a messy garage (behind him). You know the type grandma used with four water bowls on its legs to prevent ants from crawling to the cooked food stored inside?

Told him to hang on to it as someday a stranger will come and offer him at least RM 100 for it. The collector will take it back, restore it and some hipsters will gladly pay a thousand ringgit to own one.

He was bemused and flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to explain ‘hipster’ in Hakka or Cantonese. Unadulterated Hakka dialect is quite funny with the standard expletives thrown in. Is quite hard translating it to clean English. Nevertheless, I will try:

Me: Is true, some city people will pay a thousand bucks for it.

Mr Ng: Smelly worn-out birth canal opening, are there really such fools in the city?

Me: There are. We call them “hipsters” in English.

Mr Ng: Hip makai male reproductive organ people! Copulate! Ptui!

Me: Hahaha. You are a jolly man, sir.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 250, f4, 1/60 sec.

Happy People Of Kampung Bilal

Wawa,11, and her friend Mia, 10, riding alongside my car. Love her very contagious smile. Kampung Bilal is a tiny village off Federal Route 1 in Hulu Bernam.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f4, 1/60 sec.

Standing On Two States

A slim river, named the Bernam River, formed a natural border that separates the states of Selangor and Perak. In the 1700s, a Bugis settlement was established on the riverbank of Sungai Bernam.

Facing the river for this photograph, my left leg was on Tanjung Malim (Perak side) and my right leg on Ulu Bernam (Selangor side).

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f11, 1/800 sec.

The Forerunner Of Waze, Malaysian-Style

Driving on this section from Kuala Kubu Bharu to Tanjung Malim brought back some scary childhood memories. The many winding sections of Federal Route 1 saw some of the most horrific head-on crashes.

When it was the only major road to the north or south, the narrow and mostly two-lane road was also the only route for heavy vehicles. The slow, overloaded trucks and buses used to frustrate many a driver following from behind. Many impatient and weary motorists will either tailgate or overtake dangerously.

Some drivers overtook on blind corners and ended up colliding with another reckless (or innocent vehicle) coming from around a sharp bend.

There were police ‘double-line’ traps to deter such overtaking and speeding. Malaysian motorists on Federal Route 1 devised their own warning system. It started with flashing of headlights to warn vehicles on the opposite direction of a forward police operation.

The more vehicles you see flashing, the more reliable is the warning. The more intense or rapid the flicker of high beams, the nearer the cops. Some of you may say, unlike Waze, the system doesn’t identify the cause of the traffic jam in front. It could, surprisingly.

I remember traveling as a kid in my uncle’s car. There was a very long traffic jam and we had no idea of the cause and were slow crawling cluelessly.

My uncle rolled down his window when he saw a door-less timber lorry snail-crawling up the slope from the opposite direction.

Uncle: Flipped two hands and shrugged shoulders [meaning: what is going on?]

Truck driver: Knocked his two fists together twice [meaning: head-on collision]

Uncle: Curled index finger into a hook and shrugged shoulders [meaning: anyone died?].

Truck driver: Curled finger into hook followed by three fingers [meaning: 3 people died]

There you have it. A rudimentary but effective crowd-sourced social traffic information network, ahead of its time.

Olympus OM-D, ISO 1600, f7.1, 1/1600 sec.