Friday, August 24, 2012

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur at sunset, photo taken from KL Tower (through glass) during one of the moody storms
 
This post is dedicated to Robin Wong, a Malaysian photographer whom I first knew about from Kirk Tuck's post about the BERISH 3.0 Malaysian Protests.
 
You see, I have traveled to Kuala Lumpur once and enjoyed my trip there immensely, and I really wish to go back there. I am also quite interested in Olympus M4/3 system, so when I saw Robin's blog, I enjoyed looking at his photos (especially the sharpness and the B&W treatment) and started back reading lots of his older posts that I missed, I have since been subscribed to his blog, and I enjoy reading everyone of his posts. More after the break.
Several of Robin's posts featured the Westin hotel (where I stayed), the KL Bird Park and Bukit Bintang, it all felt very nostalgic, especially that Malaysia is the only East Asian country that I ever visited, so I decided to post about my trip to Malaysia.
 
Downtown KL, shot from the KL Tower
 
I traveled to Kuala Lumpur (I'll call it KL for the rest of the post) on a business trip for 4 days, I arrived at noon one day before my conference started, and stayed for one more day afterwards, this gave me two opportunities to see KL in daylight.
 
Malaysia has tropical weather, during my stay there it was hot and very humid. The sky can be clear and shiny one second, and then suddenly there's a heavy rain shower which suddenly stops again, one of the essential things that I brought with me was an umbrella (we never use those in Egypt, but I had bought one during my trip to Sweden).
 
GEAR TALK:
 
One day before leaving for Malaysia, I sold my Canon 550D and kit lens, I had called a camera store in Malaysia and had them book a Canon 60D for me to pick it up upon my arrival, and I only took my lenses with me. This was a bit risky because if I didn't get/find the camera I would miss shooting everything during my trip. Little did I know, KL turned out to be a camera/DSLR heaven, and I bought way more things than I originally planned from there. I picked up my 60D on my first day of arrival just after I unpacked my bags at the hotel, you can read my initial impressions here.
 
Before I start talking about my trip, I would like to talk about the lenses I chose to take with me, I wanted to travel light, so initially I planned to take the Canon EF-S 15-85mm zoom for all-round shooting, and the Canon EF 35mm f/2 for night shooting, but I knew I'd be visiting the famous KL Bird Park, so I took the Canon EF-S 55-250mm along just for that reason, and actually I didn't use it anywhere else. I had my Lowepro Top Loader Zoom 55AW with me (it has a rain cover that I actually used).
 
I bought the following things during my trip: Canon 60D, Canon 580EX II speedlite, BlackRapid RS-5 strap, Lowepro Top Loader Zoom 45AW and a few small accessories.
 
THE TRIP:
 
I didn't get to shoot a lot on my first day, I arrived at noon, unpacked my bags and went to buy the 60D, the weather was great when I arrived, and a few minutes before I left the hotel, a rainy storm suddenly started, oh well, an umbrella and a Taxi it is. I was staying at the Westin hotel, where we also had our 2-day conference, below are some photos taken at the hotel, and the parking lot outside.
 
Candles at the hotel entrance
 
Desk lamp in my room, I like the pattern it makes on the wall
 
A very cozy dining area
 
Strange ceiling decor
 
Lamborghini Murceilago, lots of nice cars in KL
 
After we finished our first conference day, we were invited to a Thai restaurant for dinner, outside of KL. We took a couple of buses and went there, I took my 60D and 35mm f/2, light inside the restaurant was too dim, I had to shoot wide-open at f/2, ISO 3200 and even then shutter speed was around 1/10th and 1/15th risking motion-blur, it was the first time for me to use ISO 3200 and like the results, I limited myself to ISO 1600 with the 550D.
 
Rain and heavy traffic, KL traffic is incredibly jammed almost all time
Rain bokeh blobs
 
Restaurant entrance, dim, red lights everywhere
 
I don't know half of the things I ate there
 
Guava juice, in Egypt the juice is usually white and thick, not greenish and translucent
 
Japanese friend, see the phone light on his face?
 
The bus driver that took us back to the hotel
 
My Swedish friend Mats, took this photo when we returned to the hotel
 
Next day after the conference I went shooting & shopping until night around Bukit Bintang and the Pavilion mall, I usually don't do any street shooting in Egypt, culturally this is not a normal practice, even carrying a camera in the street will get you lots of hard stares, however, in KL I was very relieved to see 90% of the people carrying cameras and shooting every thing.
 
Pavilion Mall from inside
 
Saw this sign on one of Robin's picture, that's why it's here
 
McDonald's
 
On my way to one of the camera malls
 
Next day was my final day in KL, conference was over and I decided to go to the KL Bird Park, I was up and ready from 7 am, I finished my breakfast quickly and asked the hotel on the best way to go to the park, only to discover that the park didn't open until 10 am, drat, I had to wait for tw hours in my room since nothing else opened earlier.
 
I took the 60D with the 55-250 and my black rapid strap, I also took my Lowepro bag (in case it rained) and the 35mm f/2. I am very fond of the quality the 55-250 exhibited for such a budget lens, sharpness was great, bokeh was round and nice, and actually I dig the look a telephoto lens has, the background compression just looks creamy to me.
 
This bird usually stayed at high places, it looked like a park guardian
 
Colorful beak and eye ring, look how smooth the color transitions are
 
Luxurious duck, if it were a person, it would be a rich man wearing expensive suits
 
Colorful duck, although more humble than the one above
 
Eagles, they look scary, especially that close, all eagle shots were taken through the cage
 
Same eagle, the telephoto lens makes the cage magically disappear
 
Intimidating, here you can see traces of the cage on the right part of the picture
 
Solemn
 
This bird was everywhere in the park
 
It was their mating season and I was fortunate to see this view
 
Artificial frogs, I like how the moulds look
 
Slippery stairs
 
Green everywhere, see that net on the left side? The whole park is covered with it!
 
Red parrot
 
Colorful parrot
 
School trip to the park
 
Despite enjoying the park, I had to leave to catch a view of KL from the top
 
I went back to the hotel around 3 pm, and only had a couple of hours before sunset, and it hasn't rained once since morning, so I decided to ditch my camera bag, and only left with the 60D and the 15-85 hanging at my side with the black rapid strap, no weather protection at all.
 
I wanted to see KL from above, and there were two options, either the famous skywalk on the KLCC twin towers, or the KL TV tower, I wanted to go to the former, but I learned there are long queues and lots of waiting. One of the Malaysian participants in the conference advised me to go to the TV tower instead as it has a better view, so that's where I went, and he was correct, the skywalk on the KLCC was a path connecting between two buildings with a limited view to the sides only, the KL tower has a 360 degrees view and much higher (~280 meters).
 
This is the view from my hotel room, and it shows the KL Tower in the middle
 
I assumed that I'd find an open air observation deck or something, but it was all covered with glass that is not clean and has lots of reflections and glare that reduced the contrast, however I was able to get some good photos.
 
High in the sky
 
One of the benefits of the 360 view, I can see everywhere
 
Pool on the roof
 
Zoom was quite decent with the 15-85
 
I decided to leave and do a bit of shopping before my plane was set to leave, but a funny thing happened, a sudden thunder storm, and a strong one at that, I saw lightning strike buildings around us, and I was worried at the beginning, but the attitude of the others around me told me that there is nothing to worrying about, however, there was another problem, rain and cameras are not friends, I didn't have my umbrella or my Lowepro camera bag, so I was stuck at the tower until rain stopped, but I'm glad I waited because of this picture you see below taken after sunset, one of my favorites.
 
KL from the top
 
Rain didn't stop and I had to leave, so I asked about a way to get a taxi and ride it without having to walk in the rain, turned out there was a covered place below the tower where taxis took passengers, now I was back to the hotel with my camera safe and sound.
 
I finished the remaining of my shopping, exchanged the remaining Malaysian money to USD and went back to the hotel to pack my bags. My plane was set to leave at dawn, and I was quite surprised at how empty the airport was from inside at that time, it was as if I will be the only passenger.
 
Ghost airport
 
I hope you've enjoyed this post, and if you're interested in traveling to Malaysia, I urge you to go, it's a great tourist destination with lots of things to see, and I wish I had enough time to visit all the different places outside of KL.
 
See that plane? There was another one at the right side as well, is this normal?