It was the shortest d'NA trip to date, due perhaps above all to its proximity to Christmas.
Friday, 18 December, was a public holiday, but SooT, Shern and Tien were to attend Shi-Hsia's wedding on Saturday. And then Joan had work on Monday. Determined to meet up, we did the near-impossible and squeezed out little more than a day together.
Joan and I travelled north on Saturday morning, checking into the Peking Hotel by mid-afternoon. We managed to explore the town quite a bit, paid the Burmese Pools a visit as the sun was setting, and had dinner at La Promise, formerly (and more popularly) known as the Piano Café.
The rest of company, including Shern's significant other, Florence, joined us after dinner, having hurried over by bus from Penang after the wedding.
The night was spent at the famous Taiping Zoo, with some supper and chit-chat in the room thereafter.
Sunday started with a late hawker breakfast, and a rather full (mis)-adventure on Bukit Larut (a.k.a. Maxwell Hill, the oldest hill station in Malaysia), before winding down to a rather hurried dinner at the Piano again, and SooT's hasty departure.
The rest of us had a little more time to catch our breaths before heading off to the station to catch the train. It was nearly a full hour late, but by around midnight we were off on our way back south.
* * *
Burmese Pools at sundown.
La Promise, a.k.a. the Piano Café.
Joan and I were seated at table U2, which most probably stood for 'upstairs 2'.
Birds on a tree by the water, Taiping Zoo.
Upstairs hall, Peking Hotel.
Outside it's Taiping, the Town of Everlasting Peace.
Breakfast at a nearby hawker centre.
Taiping is probably one of the few places on this side of the country where food is still really good and really cheap. Everything in town is practically within walking distance.
How many bamboo rivers are there in Malaysia?
At the foot of Bukit Larut.
Tea break halfway up the hill; we were generously hosted by the local weekend hiking community.
Something like this bunch of people on Penang Hill.
At some point we hopped on a Land Rover and reached the first hill lodge in no time.
And then there was that lame joke told by the driver;
"Bila naik bukit, kalau kamu nyanyi tak akan rasa pening. Tapi ada satu lagu kamu tak boleh nyanyi."
"Negaraku. Sebab saya kena berdiri."
We had lunch at the Cendana Lodge and Nursery.
SooT, two-layered tea and our gear. SooT brought his Soviet-made Zenit-19 SLR. Looks like we're going the way of manual film photography!
Ferns on moss.
Reminds me somewhat of the towers at Little Genting, the Kuching Wetlands and Bukit Gasing.
"A soldier of the war, known unto God," at the Allied War Cemetery.
We may not know the names of many of those who fought for our country, but we can be sure there is One who does.
The cross and palm trees.
Reminds me of the resemblance in sound between the Chinese words for 'Jesus' and 'palm tree'.
Shern and Flo.
KL Station at the break of dawn, and we are home once again.
Many thanks to Ann Gie, who helped a lot with transport and getting cheap (Taiping resident) tickets to the zoo.
But most of all, for being incomparably great company and an excellent host!
* * *
Two days later, some of us met up with Kim Cheng for dinner.
Not in picture: Jon, who had yet to arrive, and Yen, who left early.
And then Jon, Tien, Steph, Joan and I headed to Jalan Alor for some supper.
* * *
All colour pictures were taken on Joan's iPhone.
Black-and-white pictures up to the ferns were shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400, while those from the tower onwards were shot on Ilford FP4 Plus 125.
The 105mm f/2.5 AI-s Nikkor lens. Purchased for RM370 at J-One.
Ken Rockwell wrote,
The 105 has been a benchmark professional lens for decades and is built to the highest mechanical standard Nikon has ever attained... This is a great lens and therefore has no flaws to write about.
I dropped it while getting out of the Land Rover, causing a dent in the front of the lens. While attaching filters is now a bit of a problem, the lens is otherwise in tip-top shape.
In those days they made real metal lenses meant to last a lifetime.
On this trip I only brought the 28mm and 105mm, marking a departure from my nine-month near-exclusive usage of the 50mm since starting with the manual FM-10 camera.
The 50mm is still perhaps my favourite lens, but the 28mm is good for general use and some landscapes, and the 105mm is practically flawless for portraits.