On 14 and 15 June a few d'NAers took to the sleepy town of Kuala Pilah for a bit of a retreat.
It was fun returning to Seremban (the interchange point between KL and Kuala Pilah) as it was where we all started out in December 2003. Terminal One is still there, and so are the bus station and KTM station. We had no idea the KTM station was so near the Terminal One bus station; there is now an underpass connecting the two.
In many ways the retreat was much more like our early d'NA reunions, rather than the d'NA trips of late. Less adventure and more quiet moments. And, and Alissa puts it, long walks to nowhere. Like along the paddy fields of Alor Star in late 2005, and by the coast of Malacca in early 2006.
Having checked into Desa Inn (great place to stay if you're in Kuala Pilah), we popped over to the Hai Nam restaurant for lunch. My chicken chop was unlike anything I'd ever tasted; the chop itself is wrapped in an egg batter, somewhere in between nasi pattaya and wat tan hor.
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On the afternoon of day one, we paid a visit to the old royal state capital of Sri Menanti. More information here.
I shot black-and-white there, trying out Ilford's HP5 Plus film. It was a tremendous success, and I fell in love with the film the moment I saw the negative on the light table; the tonal range is quite impressive!
Here's an idea: when shooting in uninspiring light (especially in the afternoon), shoot in black-and-white. It does well for old stuff and that 'classic' look, and I thought it would capture the spirit of the Sri Menanti palace well.
We found a bat under the awning of the first floor.
Looking at the garden, out the balcony on the third floor.
Yen at the balcony door. We played around with tones on the computer.
(I think Ilford films generally have a bluish cast; the original is the rightmost picture.)
Royal bed. We went through some gymnastics to remove the 'do not sit' sign for this picture.
An ancient photocopy machine beneath the building adjoining the main palace.
Alissa and the jackfruit tree. I've never seen the fruit touch the ground.
A view of the Minangkabau-style palace from the garden.
David. Joan. Alissa. Yen. Teeming. My take on the Abbey Road concept.
The little island in the park outside the palace grounds. The 'Christmas' lights dangle from the tree as though they were the branches of a willow.
Even the bus stop is Minangkabau-inspired.
We saw sheep along the way.
Back in Kuala Pilah, we had dinner at the pasar malam before taking a walk around town. Apart from the pasar malam, the rest of the town was practically dead.
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Kuala Pilah is a very colourful (and clean) town. So I decided to use Fuji's Velvia 50, widely considered the most saturated slide film. It was my first attempt at Velvia 50, though I'd shot Velvia 100F last year in Penang.
I was out just after sunrise and returned to Desa Inn just as the others were waking. Wanted the morning light and didn't want my photography to interrupt the group's morning activities.
It's still Parti Keadilan Nasional here, it seems; officially it is now Parti Keadilan Rakyat. And colour-wise there is a stunning resemblance to a certain other party.
White window on blue wall.
White wall. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a clean white wall in Kuala Lumpur?
Lots of swifts in town.
They actually heed such signboards in Kuala Pilah. Just look at the street!
Blue window on pink-ish wall.
1927. The year my late kung kung was born.
Bike with umbrella. One of the back alleys in Kuala Pilah.
Do not urinate.
Even the UMNO building in town is Minangkabau-inspired.
Three generations of British Petroleum logos, from the early BP (background), to the BP of the recent past (foreground), and the present-day BHP.
Stained glass windows... in the bathrooms at Desa Inn!
We had lunch on day two at a coffee shop on the outskirts of the main town area. Can't remember what it was called, but it had the word 'Garden' somewhere in its name. We found this 'suicide duck' there.
Group photo, taken opposite the main entrance of Desa Inn.
One of the many jump shots that kept us busy for 45 minutes after we checked out. After a photo-free morning, we went berserk in our final moments at Kuala Pilah.
I like how Yen captions the jumps here, from left: long jump, straight As jump, kung fu kick, diving jump, flying fox. Teeming couldn't jump due to her leg injury.
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When Melody saw the photos from the trip, she said my pictures tend to evoke certain emotions, or that there is some emotion to my pictures; something to that effect.
I can't recall, but I think she said that while looking at that picture of the bicycle with the colourful umbrella.
All in all, it was a good trip. The sharing and prayer session we had at night really brought us back to those old d'NA reu days. It was a time of taking stock of what had been going on in our lives, and looking ahead at some of the things we saw lying before us.
And I don't suppose there was a better place to do all of that than in a small town where, for all the development going on in the regions surrounding it, time seems to have stood still.