At the moment, I really miss living in Penang. Although I owned a car, most of the time, I prefered travelling by bus. I don’t actually enjoy driving, I would much rather look out the window and see what there is to be seen. The other thing is, that I enjoy people watching – just a bit.
I have mixed feelings about sneek pictures, but I really liked the look of his hand – which looked huge and worn. So I took it.
Years ago, I lived in Penang. On a Wednesday afternoon after work, I used to walk from Island Plaza into George Town – where I would usually have my dinner. At the time, I believed that this was a fair way, but looking back, I can see it was only a few miles. I used to love this view across the bay to Straites Quay and on this occasion, I think the clouds look quite impressive. On other occasions, there were huge storm clouds which warned of bad weather ahead.
I know that this view has gone now – the beach has been drained and the land reclaimed for building. One day, I hope to see what it is like now.
I have mixed feeling posting this picture and referencing Earth Day. It is after all a photograph from an airliner of a tranquil landscape. Although most things look tranquil if you view them from far enough away. But it is a view from above. There is something movingly beautiful about the Earth viewed from space. Many astronauts (and cosomonauts) have spoken about how beautiful the Earth looked from their spacecraft windows. I believe the first Earth Day was in 1970, I wonder if people being able to see the Earth from space made them want to celebrate and care more about it.
“Crash!”, it was the middle of the night and my bedroom ceiling was lit up as if it was day time. And when the thunder sounded, it shook you as lay there. My adult brain knew I was safe, but there is a difference between knowing something and feeling it.
I used to live here, with a view of the sea. In good weather, the sea had a green/blue tinge to it. When there was a storm, it was dark green. I lived near the top of a high block of flats with a front row view whenever a storm came in.
In Malaysia, they have big tropical storms, with finger sized drops of rain and thunder which you can feel, even from a long way off. As I remember it, I was woken up by the lightning first, which lit up my bedroom. Then, I think my wife and I went into the livingroom to watch the light show.
I put my camera on a tripod and kept taking long exposures (several seconds each time) until the lightning flashed. I tweaked the photo to be a little darker, because the brightness looked too unreal.
Penang Hill is really a group of hills which overlook the rest of Penang and parts of the Malaysian mainland.
Before the invention of air conditioning, it was popular with expatriates, because in the height of the Malaysian summer, it was always appreciably cooler than in George Town (where many businesses had offices). So a number of houses, hotels and a school (Uplands) were built there (you can see the remains in you go there, slowly being overgrown.
The Bellevue Hotel is a remnant of this era and if I were visiting Penang, I might be tempted to spend a couple of nights there, with its lovely view and cooler temperature. Like much of Penang, it evokes another era – perhaps 100 years ago.
There are a number of ways to get to the top of Penang Hill, the most popular is via the funicular railway (state-of-the-art, air conditioned glass carriages fairly rapidly ascending a steep hill. Vehicles must travel up a very steep road called the jeep track (transmissons screaming as they go). But, if you are feeling brave, you could try following one of the many trails which lead to the peak. If you are going to do this, remember it will take 4 or 5 hours walking and scambling through jungle. Leeches.
Once you are at the top, there are various fair type attractions (having your photo taken with a snake or an owl) and food stalls. For people with slightly deeper pockets, there is a restaurant called “Browns”, where they serve a very nice afternoon tea with scones, jam and clotted cream. Again, something which is remeniscent of another time.
I know this photo looks rather fake and “dramatised”, but really the scene did look rather like this.
Penang is a curious place. Despite being a small island off the Malaysian peninsula, the weather could vary widely, even if you were only a couple of miles away. Here you can see a tropical storm brewing, presumably about to descend on Straits Quay. Sudden storms, with very heavy rain are a feature of Penang life.
Once upon a time, Penang was a hub beween the UK and Hong Kong. During the war, various battles were fought in the Straits of Malacca and later it was a submarine base for the Japanese. These days, the harbour mostly handles cruiseships and ferries carrying holidaymakers to Langkawi (which I will probably write about another time).
When I lived there, once a week, I would try to walk from my home to the ferry terrinal. Some days, it would be fiercely bright, making the sea look a light blue and on other occasions, thick clouds would appear and the sea would take on a greener hue (like here).
Sometimes, when you take a picture you are recording history without knowing it.
In this case, the seafront by Gurney Drive has been drained for development.
When I first came to Penang, walking along Gurney Drive into Georgetown was a favourite Saturday morning thing to do. Early on, it was cool and quiet and I would often see other people starting their day.
I always try to keep a camera with me, so that I can take pictures of things I see everyday. In this case, I was riding the bus into town, when a man sat down infront of me. And he held onto the seat handle in an unusual way, which made me notice his hand. It is what it is. So I took a quick picture.
For me, photography is a way of talking about the world. I know it is different for other people.
This picture reminds me of a trip to a few countries in Southeast Asia – in this case to Laos. I has caught an early flight from Kuala Lumpur (perhaps 6.00am) and this was the view out my window a little later. I remember in school learning about meanders in a river, but I don’t think I ever appreciated how lovely they can look in the morning sun.