Kaki Lima

The five-foot-way or ‘kaki lima’ is a colonial legacy from the time when front of shops were required by law to have a 5-foot wide walkway. The practical and functional architectural design element lives on in the old shops of Tanjung Malim and many other places.

According to Wikipedia, the requirement was first specified in the Stamford Raffles Town Act of 1822 for Singapore. It applied also to Malaya and Brunei .

I think is quite a brilliant design as the overhanging top floor acts as a shelter or shade for window shoppers. Together with classic columns and arches, the shady walkways appear like a long tunnel or corridor to the camera.

Saw this girl gulping milk on the five-foot-way from afar. When I got near, I found out her parents are trading in one of the shops. I asked her father if it is normal to drink milk so fast and furious. He said is normal. Gulps.

Anyway, I like how she multi-tasked by posing, smiling and drinking at the same time.

Happy Mother’s Day, all.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 200, f4, 1/250 sec.

War And Peace

The Larut War of the early tin mining years took place during the second half of the 19th century. Running battles between the Cantonese-dominated Ghee Hin clan and the Hakka-dominated Hai San clan continued until the Pangkor Treaty in 1874.

Near the end of the protracted war, some Hokkiens fled central Perak and settled in more peaceful Tanjung Malim. In the early 1900s, they built two rows of shop houses that formed what is the old town today. A few of these ancient buildings still stand.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f6.3, 1/250 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.

Kaya In History

During the few days I spent at Kuala Kubu Bharu, I asked the town folk as to which is the most famous institution. Famous, as in well-known to stopover visitors, tourists and outsiders.

The answer, invariably, is always Teng Wun the Hainanese cake shop. Cakes are not the main magnet of the shop, though. It is their kaya (coconut egg jam) puffs; allegedly the world’s most awesome. The world here, means the handful of countries that sell this unique pastry.

Since I’m leaving town, I went there to buy some kaya puffs as edible souvenirs. Before stepping in, I was already enthralled by the facade. The shop front looks like the painted backdrop hanging on a Chinese opera stage. Except for that damn bicycle, of course.

The classic design is similar to that of many shops from days of old. Brutal but quick tooth-extraction shops, photo studios, gents tailors and traditional hemorrhoids (piles or buasir) busters; to name a few. I have seen the remains of similar shop-front designs at many other small towns.

Some were modernised beyond recognition while many others were left abandoned to become decaying relics from a bygone era. This one not only looks pristine but smells nice too.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 800, f9, 1/60 sec.

Ampang Pecah

From Kerling, I turned east on Federal Route 1 to head for Kuala Kubu Bharu town. Although KKB is rich in history and its route to the east is geographically significant, the town is known more for its colonial charm and surrounding greenery.

Hipsters flocked there for different reasons, though. The Hainanese bread shop that used to beguile them is now closed. Not to worry: they now lie on the middle of the road for a selfie. They pretend the modern interlocking tiles are ancient cobblestones.

KKB is also a stopover town for those traveling to Fraser’s Hill. Oddly, few visitors wonder about the logical existence or location of an older town.

Indeed, there was a Kuala Kubu without the fancy suffix or hip abbreviation. Tragedy struck the original town in 1883 when a nearby dam broke. It flooded and destroyed the entire town, killing a few dozen residents.

The then British colonial government built a replacement town a few kilometers away and it was named Kuala Kubu Bharu. Duh.

The annihilated town was subsequently renamed Ampang Pecah to mean Broken Dam in Malay.

This landscape was photographed in the Ampang Pecah area. With over a century to heal, it has recovered from site of mass destruction to become a serene and idyllic suburb of KKB. Few outsiders ever step foot here or know about its stormy past.

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