Photography trip to Kuala Kurau

In early September 2017, I joined a photography trip to Kuala Kurau, Perak organised by the Selangor Branch Photogroup of the Malaysian Nature Society. I then wrote an article about it, and it was published in the October issue of the Pencinta Alam, which was the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Here is the article published in the newsletter:

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Here is the article text in plain HTML format:

Photographing Fishing Villages, Paddy Fields and Wildlife
By Khor Hui Min

The last time I joined a photography trip organised by the MNS Selangor Branch Photogroup was many years ago. We took photos for Dr. Ruth Kiew’s plant book in 2010. At that time, I did not have a DSLR camera yet, and the coordinator Alex Foong was wondering aloud when I was going to get one.

Then, in early 2017, I bumped into Alex Foong in Ikea, of all places. He asked me if I had sent in photos to be considered for the first-ever Photogroup exhibition at WhiteBox, Publika in June 2017. I said that even though I had put it into the Pencinta Alam while editing it, I had forgotten about the deadline. I asked him when the deadline was, and he said the deadline had already passed, but the committee was still looking for more photos to add to the pool for consideration. Please send by tomorrow, he said. So, I went home and looked inside the folders of my hard disk and managed to find a few to submit. Three were selected for the exhibition and the rest was history.

The natural progression of things led me to join a photography trip to Kuala Kurau (8-10 Sept), organised by KK, George and Alex. The trip had about 24 participants, mostly with assorted DSLRs.  Our trip started with a visit to the Taiping Zoo and Lake Gardens.  Although it rained at the zoo, I was lucky enough to get a few good shots of the beautiful animals, before the rain became too heavy. My favourites for the day were the Baby Hippo, Crowned Crane, Flamingos, African Spoonbill, Milky Stork, Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Lions, Axis Deer, Bawean Deer and Sambar Deer.

After we all arrived at the meeting point, we proceeded to Kurau Inn Homestay, which was about an hour’s drive from Lake Gardens. It was a lovely place to stay in the middle of a traditional village and surrounded by paddy fields. My room upstairs was spacious and had nice comfortable beds, fans, air-con, as well as a little pantry with electric kettle, mugs, forks and spoons, mini fridge, small dining table and chairs. The common area upstairs was big and airy, and our trip participants would gather for evening chit-chat after dinner there.

The next day, we drove out at 6.15am to set up our tripods for a sunrise photo shoot at the nearby bridge. In fact, we set up on both mornings there, but since it was the rainy season, there was thick cloud cover that blocked most of the sunrise. It was nice on the bridge, and I particularly enjoyed the blue hour before the sunrise. Besides setting up to snap photos of the sunrise, we also busied ourselves taking photos of the fishing village lining the river on both sides of the bridge, the fishing boats and the fish cages floating in the middle of the river.

On the first evening, we went to the seaside to take photos of the sunset. Instead, we took photos of dark thunderstorm clouds rolling in and flashes of lightning. In the waning light of the setting sun, I thought the landscape was really dramatic, accentuated by the strong winds. I loved it.

Other highlights of the trip included snapping photos of smelly salted fish as they dried in the sun along the road, and salted eggs in the Joo Hong Chan salted egg factory.

On the last day, we visited a small cockle processing plant beside a river in Kuala Gula, but since it was Sunday, it was closed. I entertained myself by snapping photos of the docked boats and makeshift jetties, while most of the group had a discussion with the boss of the cockle processing plant.

Last but not least, it would not be a great Photogroup trip without endless varieties of food, to which we owe KK our thanks. We sampled the hawker food of Kuala Kurau for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed delicious pre-ordered seafood dinners beside the river.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive photo trip, with great company and wonderful food. I shall look forward to future Photogroup trips.

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Kuala Sepetang, Perak

In December 2016, I went to Kuala Sepetang with my dad, mum and brother. I did not select the fishing village photos till a few weeks ago for uploading. For this series, I chose to have the village and boat photos in black and white.

My dad loves to draw watercolour paintings of fishing villages, which is why we visit various fishing villages throughout Malaysia quite often, and you can see some of his paintings at his blog, Colours of Heritage.

Kuala Sepetang  is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. It was formerly known as Port Weld, named after a former governor, Frederick Weld. It is located approximately 72 km to the north-west of Ipoh city, the capital of Perak state.

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Part of the Larut, Matang and Selama Districts, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving fishing village, and the place where you can board a boat to Pulau Sangga, and visit the fish cage culture sites, which float on the river. There is a thriving Chinese fishing community at the river mouth which specializes in fish farming in cages.

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Historically, Kuala Sepetang was well-known because it was part of the first railway line of Malaya. The railway line was 12.8km long and was mainly used to carry tin from mines from Taiping to Kuala Sepetang, so that they could be transported overseas through the port.

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The old Taiping railway station was built at the location where the King Edward VII Primary School is presently located, while the Kuala Sepetang railway station was constructed in Port Weld. The railway was launched in 1885 and served for 70 years before being terminated and dismantled by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). To read more about the history and legends of the railway, click here.

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The Port Weld railway station was located at the centre of town. Now, only the ticketing booth and the Port Weld railway signboard remain to remind us of the golden age of tin mining in the little town.

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Today, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving tourist attraction. In fact, it is one of must-visit places in Perak. There are lots of things to do and see, and they can be summarised as follows:

  • Visit Khay Hor Charcoal Factory
  • Visit the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, the largest mangrove forest reserve in Malaysia
  • Visit the 131-year-old train station sign
  • Eat prawn noodles
  • Eat curry noodles
  • Eat seafood
  • Take a boat ride
  • Visit Pulau Sangga
  • Visit a fish farm
  • Go eagle watching
  • Go dolphin watching
  • See the fireflies
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Assam laksa sold in the yard of one of the small houses in the fishing village across the bridge
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Hawker deep-frying nian gao sandwiched with slices of yam and sweet potato, and various other snacks in the town
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Traditional tau sah pea biscuits on sale in the town

Although Kuala Sepetang is no longer the important port town where tin was transported from Taiping via the first railway, and then shipped overseas, it thrives today because of its various cottage industries, fish farming and tourism. I hope the place will maintain its old fishing village charm for many decades to come. 🙂

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❤ Kuala Sepetang ❤ – view from the bridge

 

Ulu Tupai Waterfalls

I went to the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping last weekend, 20-21 May 2017. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall.

I spent the time dunking myself in the waterfall, and chasing after dragonflies and butterflies with my camera. I took only macro shots on this trip.

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Close-up shot of a torch ginger bloom in the early morning

I decided to let my phone die and went off the grid. No phone. No Internet. It was the best way to chill out, de-stress and relax, while catching up with old friends and making new ones.

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Wildflower seeds, ready to flutter away on the breeze

It was awesome to just dunk myself in the freezing cold water at the waterfall for 2 days. A bit of yoga practice was a welcome treat. I also did grounding meditation to align my energies with the earth’s energies. I like it because I am close to nature, and it helps to give a calming, refreshed and peaceful effect.

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Seeds of plants next to the waterfall

We went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo for the first time and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

While others went for a late night herping hike after returning from the zoo, I decided to catch up on my sleep, right next to the window. I drifted off lulled by the therapeutic sound of the waterfall. Luckily, I did not go herping, because people came back with five or six leech bites. :-O

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My favourite shot of a large metallic green dragonfly. It took me quite some time to actually snap some photos of it in focus and in the frame!

Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay is accessible only via 4WD, because of the condition of the roads. Perhaps because of the difficult accessibility, the waterfalls remains pristine and unpolluted.

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Red beauty finally posed for me, after I sat down on the rocks for some time

The flow of water is not too strong, making it ideal for visitors to dip in the shallow pools. Beautiful rocks frame the waterfall, making it an attractive place for photography. All in all, a visit to the waterfalls is a pleasant experience.

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Dark blue dragonfly on the rocks

I spent hours taking photos of dragonflies, butterflies and water striders (pond skaters). When I arrived at the rocks, the dragonflies and butterflies all sped off. I had to sit down and wait for them to get used to me. I wanted to become another piece of the landscape. Then, after a while, the dragonflies started to come closer, and finally landed in front of me.

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A brown and a red butterfly landed in front of me for a few seconds, and I only managed to take four shots before they flew off.
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Taking a photo of this water strider was not easy, especially when I did not have a tripod.

The water striders a.k.a. pond skaters were not easy either. When I inched closer, they would move faster. Back and forth, like clockwork. Their speed increased with my increase in proximity.

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Tiny little butterfly on my left arm

On the other hand, a tiny little brown butterfly perched on my arm for a long time. It would not leave even when I prodded it gently with a finger. So, I just left it there and snapped photos of it from time to time, holding the camera in my right hand and steadying the lens on my left upper arm.

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Seed pod in the shape of a flower, fallen from a tree beside the waterfalls

I was glad I joined the VAD trip to Ulu Tupai. It was an awesome experience in a beautiful place, and I test out the theory that I did not have to do EVERYTHING and be busy all the time in order to be happy (first brought up by Low last year). It was true. Just relaxing surrounded by nature, taking photos, swimming in the natural waterfall pool, enjoying chit-chat with fellow volunteers in nature made my weekend a fantastic getaway from the city. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

 

 

#atozchallenge: Seen Hock Yeen Confucius Temple, Chemor

Hidden in the quiet town of Chemor, Perak is a gem of a temple. Set up by a schoolteacher, the Confucius Temple of Seen Hock Yeen is well-known for bringing luck to students who are going to sit for exams. However, it is also a place for one to dispel bad luck in other areas of life, as well as to make wishes.

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The entrance seems commonplace among temples, until you go into the temple grounds hidden inside. The pond, bridges and temple buildings all come together to create a most serene and beautiful landscape.

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I would like to point out that this is the only temple where my photos turned out more beautiful than the view that my eyes feasted upon, and that is unusual indeed.

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First-time visitors should come to the temple on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, because that is when the tour groups from Perak, Selangor, and even as far north as Kedah and Perlis come to visit the blessed temple. When the tour groups visit, there will be guided tours led by the temple volunteers, with detailed explanations provided about the temple’s history.

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If you are in luck, as we were, the founder of the temple herself will provide the opening introduction about the temple’s background and lead the first prayers for your personal well-being and that of your loved ones as well.

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Visitors will be led to each deity or temple building, and guided on how to perform their prayers or share their wishes with their favourite deity, step by step. Confucius, being a famous sage who was highly respected in China, has been elevated to the status of a prominent deity here. Visitors also pay homage to the Goddess of Mercy and Buddha.

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Goddess of Mercy

At one point, there is a bridge to cross to dispel calamities, where one must remain quiet, and only look to the left. Of course, one should not look back or turn around too!

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The special bridge

The temple also collects donations for the needy all year around, especially single mothers who have to take care of their young children. This was the first temple I have come across that focused on helping single mothers, which is very good of the founder and volunteers.

The twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac are also featured here, in the form of twelve golden statues, and people were encouraged to pet their corresponding Zodiac animal, from head to tail, for good luck. 😉

There was even a bunch of cute little puppies, and the children were delighted to see them.

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The highlight of the visit to the temple was the sudden appearance of a pretty rainbow near the pond, and I had the good fortune of taking multiple photos of it. In the warm light of the period before sunset, it was the most lovely view I have seen in Malaysia in 2016. 😀

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The rainbow we saw right before leaving the temple
How to get there (according to Blog with Yan)
Coming from Penang:
  1. After passing through the Kuala Kangsar and Changkat Jering tunnel, you will come to the former Jelapang toll gate.
  2. Here, turn left towards Chemor.
  3. Go straight for about 10 km until you reach Chemor town.
  4. Turn left and drive for about 0.5 km until you come to the first traffic light.
  5. Turn left. When you reach the KTM overhead bridge, immediately turn left after the KTM overhead bridge.
  6. Go straight for about 3 km. You will see the temple on your right.

Coming from Ipoh: 

  1. Heading to Sg Siput, when you reach Chemor town, turn right when you see a railway bridge in front of you.
  2. Drive for about 2 km.

The address
Kuil Seen Hock Yeen
1 1/2 km, Railway Station Road,
Kampung Cik Zainal Tambahan 1,
31200 Chemor,
Perak, Malaysia

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The sunset we witnessed right before boarding our tour bus to depart for dinner

I think the temple is a lovely place, and I will be back! 🙂

#atozchallenge: One day at the market

Happy Labour Day! 🙂

This morning, I engaged in a bit of street photography at the SPPK Market in Ipoh. I did a walkabout and snapped photos fast to capture the essence of the moment in the peak hours of the market’s operations, which was a bit hard to do because my bulky camera was sort of obvious and people tend to notice it.

My favourite stall of the day was the dumpling stall, because the dumplings were photogenic. 😉

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Dumpling stall
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The dumplings were made fresh at the stall, with sengkuang filling
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Dumplings with sengkuang filling, waiting to be steamed

Here are some snapshots from the other market stalls:

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Cake stall
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Noodle stall
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Glutinous rice dumpling and nyonya kuih stall
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Potato stall
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Fruit stall
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Vegetable stall
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Stall selling dried condiments and other dried foodstuff
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Vegetable stall
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Stall selling buns and snacks
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Fruit stall
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Three types of mangoes
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Beancurd stall
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Dried seafood stall, selling dried anchovies and cuttlefish
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Vegetable stall
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Lady selling fishballs right outside the market entrance
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Man promoting a kitchen appliance – a sort of chopper device
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At a stall selling floor mats outside the market
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At a vegetable stall
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At a fish stall. The man asked me why I did not take his photo. 😉
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IMG_0474a At a plant stall outside the market

 

#atozchallenge: New short story published

I am delighted to announce that the third short story I have ever written, entitled LOST AND FOUND, was selected for publication in the May 2016 issue of Eastlit. Interestingly, my short story was categorised as creative non-fiction. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Eastlit May 2016 Cover Picture: Apocalypse by Graham Lawrence. Cover design by Graham Lawrence. Copyright photographer, Eastlit and Graham Lawrence.

Launched on October 26th 2012, Eastlit is an electronic English Literature Journal focused on creative writing, English literature and art specifically from or connected to East and South East Asia.

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You can read my short story by clicking here. You can also click on the following screenshot to read it:

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Once upon a time in Ipoh

The capital of Perak State, Ipoh, is the third largest city in Malaysia, with an estimated population of 710,000. Ipoh is known for many things, but historically, it was instrumental in the tin mining industry, which led to an economic boom in the region around the turn of the 19th century. Some people remembered the city fondly as the town built on tin, and even the city of millionaires – which alludes to the riches excavated from the mines of Kinta Valley. Ipoh is also known as Paloh, which refers to the gigantic mining pumps used in the process of tin ore extraction in the early days. On 27 May 1988, Ipoh town was granted city status by the much-loved Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah.

At the pinnacle of production, 75% of the world’s supply of tin came from Malaya where the mines were open cast and excavated by monitor pumps. However, as with most finite resources extracted from the earth, the mines eventually ran out of the precious metal everybody wanted. The machines and implements used for tin mining were slowly but surely reduced to relics of the good old days.

Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.
Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.

It is quite hard these days to find an actual tin mining dredge in good condition, as most had been in disuse and eventually fell into disrepair. However, there is one such dredge in Chendrong, which can be seen along the Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang Road. The dredge has now been hailed as a heritage icon and proposed to be turned into a museum. It is managed by Osborne & Chapel, and visitors may enter the place to view the dredge during opening hours.

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak
The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (side view)

It is undeniable that the mining dredge is a very impressive and gigantic structure, easily visible to the casual onlooker from the main road. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw it from afar was that it reminded me of a huge steam ship. But that’s just me. 🙂

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak
The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (front view)

Some people have found creative ways to utilise the mining equipment. For example, in 1997, the artist Yeoh Jin Leng built a sculpture called ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’ that stands over 30 feet high. She used dredge steel buckets, a drive wheel and steel girds to depict the closure of the tin-mining industry in the Kinta Valley.

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Here’s the side view of the sculpture:

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Side view of the sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’.

The plaque in front of the sculpture:

Plaque in front of a sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Plaque in front of the sculpture.

Dredge steel buckets have also been converted into decorative objects. They weigh over a ton each, so the decorators probably needed a crane of some sort to move them around.

Dredge steel buckets used as decoration at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Dredge steel buckets used as decorations at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.
A dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.

When I looked at this raincoat in the Heritage House @ Gopeng Museum (see below), I envisioned the workers in the tin mine wearing this type of raincoat when they worked in the rain.

Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.
Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.

To see old black and white photos from the days of the tin mines, visit the Kinta Tin Mining page.

To read more about the last dredge in Chendrong, Perak, see the Ipoh Echo article on ‘Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges‘.

To find out more about Ipoh, visit the Ipoh Tourism Board page and the Ipoh page on Wikipedia.