Old school asian grit. Pre millennium standards all over the place, guys probably way younger than me looks and behaves like little uncles and/or pimps straight out from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s B-movies. A motley crew of Chinese, Indians, Malay dominates the streets, few westerners. Sorry if offending you people from Penang city/Georgetown who reads this, but the standard action movie Cut-throat "look" lingers in my mind when I will describe my first (!) impression of my fellow street minglers here. Second look and I can say that I had nothing but friendliness and politeness in my way as the days rolled on. Dress code-wise I see people (men) over here having the same taste as my dad did (memories imprinted from the burned family album…long story) when back in the mid 70's. Pretty funky, I saw a pair of heavily permed Chinese ladies in tight leopard dresses dancing some kind of synchronized Mao-ballet to a guy on synthesizer doing country&western hits (Kenny Rodgers is big here, he even have restaurant chain here), all while some western backpackers and Indian families were cheering them on…on a Tuesday night, where else do you see that kind of stuff nowadays…in a restaurant serving noodle soup!?
Dirty, worn, unkempt and just plain old are the words that comes to mind after a long day tramping the streets in this multi-cultural, history-ridden island in North western Malaysia, not far from the Thai border. I Love It! What a nice break from life in Southern Thailand.
The view most Malaysian want the rest of the world to have of the nation with it’s F1 pride and oil money bringing in style and “western” standard couldn’t be further from it here in Georgetown. Change seems to be a thing that is not welcome with the same open arms you see in many other South East Asian cities in the region. You still have the old barefoot rickshaw guys pulling their load, the old ladies swapping gossip on the streets in front of their family business/homes, most adult men just doing the good old kafe hang-out all day and it doesn’t look to me like they have the need or will to bother with anything else either. Should menation it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The images below is from the 5 days I recently spent in the city. It has been a while since I traveled like this and as always, the camera just makes it worthwhile and for me gives the whole idea of exploring a purpose…I need a purpose. I have never been a people person in photography (many of you might not know this, but people in general kinda bothers me in a way) and the street photography I was drawn towards was just the plain details and building/architecture that carries so much history and culture within, just scenes from the street that caught my attention. I can not describe why I in photography rather keep “people” out of the picture. Some people are cool, but never as cool as a forgotten, well balanced, well lit concrete wall in need of whitewash.
I just read a book where one of the characters mention that a city as well as a person can and should be described with one word. The word for Penang is “Past” (as opposite to future), and I hope it stays that way. The word I would like for me is still “Curious” with a giant Q, I hope it stays that way too.
About 20 years ago I traveled trough S.E.A with a buddy for the first time. I remember all the bedbug ridden little shitholes we stayed in as well as my friends on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road near death encounter on a rented moped just outside the city of Georgetown. Now being able to explore the place once again with older but even more open eyes I can see a place I have somewhat erase from my memory. Just like a ghost sliding through the everyday, with a small camera you will go on unnoticed and with a steady phase no one has the time to pay you any attention, smooth. You could argue that places change and they do, but I have the feeling/hope that Georgetown is not one of those.
P.S All shot with Canon G9