Memories of Penang

IT’S A LAZY SATURDAY, and waiting for “something to develop positively” has bored me; I sense it’s time to mind my blog, which I had left for a while (because of other important concerns).

In July 2016, I made a trip to Penang, Malaysia to finally count for myself what’s in the place that I had discovered and read so much about in online travel magazines.

To be specific, two things attracted me to Penang: street food and street art.

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OLD LADY SELLING SUSU SOYA ASLI AND SEGAR: Capturing the feel of Penang’s daily life by buying susu soya (soy milk) from this charming perempuan tua (old lady) hawker in Gat Lebuh Chulia, between Victoria Street and Pengkalan Weld.

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CHILDREN PLAYING BASKETBALL: How to play basketball in George Town, Penang, by simply standing and waiting for the game to happen. This art piece is in front of the Grand Swiss Hotel on Chulia Street.

Not so long ago, Penang was a doddering cultural and culinary backwater in the federal constitutional monarchy Malaysia. No one ever conceived that the listing of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would set its heartbeat fast on development.

It has come out (if it hasn’t already) as an important island territory that is known the world over not only as a bona fide gastronomic hot spot, but a multi-cultural trading region with all the global tourism industry’s bright prospects.

It’s the cradle of true Malaysian street food, they say, because sold everywhere are Char Kway Teow, the famed stir-fried rice cake strips, a national favorite that has been passed through generations; Assam Laksa, a proud signature fish-based recipe that is rich and spicy; the iced sweet dessert Cendol with red adzuki beans; Roti Canai, the classic flaky breakfast (and its other variations); slow-cooked dry curry Beef Rendang, etcetera.

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CENDOL TO COOL: This Cendol had me at hello. It’s like the Philippines’ all season halo-halo (mixed fruit dessert with a heaving spoonful of ube) favorite.

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CHAR KWAY TEOW, the poor man’s dish, tops the list of the most-loved Malaysian foods. Stir-fried over very high heat, its main ingredients (aside from the flat noodles) are dark soy sauce, bean sprouts, shrimps, Chinese chives, and eggs. Mix your serving with chili, and you’re good to go.

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FOR THE LOVE OF ASSAM LAKSA: This dish is really the headliner of my palate journey in Penang. I had it for breakfast inside an offbeat roadside food shack in Batu Ferringhi northwest of George Town.

If you’re a history or architecture junkie, George Town is the place that will surely keep you entertained during your holiday as it is where you will find British colonial buildings that have been kept up due to their cultural heritage value.

Any place that embraces modernity while retaining its colonial traditions — for the island state, 171 years of British rule — is worth traveling to.

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OLD TOWN FEELS: Don’t you just feel like you’re inside a pre-colonial movie set? George Town, Penang made me feel just that — being in an elaborate civilization in the past… and it’s quite romantic.

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I, on the other hand, looked forward to managing the “Walking Trail” of Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic‘s murals, and sitting to be served Malaysian dishes in Lorong Baru.

Okay, so here it goes. And, please, pardon memory fails and slips (just in case I mix up street names, spellings, and all) because this trip was done last year; I may have a hard time remembering.

HOW TO GET TO PENANG FROM KUALA LUMPUR

Penang is really an easy tourist destination in Malaysia, and every sort of transport is available. If you’re not traveling on a budget, you can buy a plane ticket for a 55-minute flight to the island state from Kuala Lumpur. Or hire a cab to get you there within 5-6 hours.

Bus schedules to help you figure out your travel are the following I’ve managed to get:

  • 12:40 p.m.-8:38 p.m. from Pudu Sentral (Puduraya)
  • 12:40 p.m.-10:05 p.m. from Bus Terminal Perkililing
  • 5:25 p.m.-12:53 a.m. from Pudu Sentral (Puduraya)

Bus fares range from MYR 38.00 to MYR 42.00 (USD 9.05560 to USD 10.0088/PHP 461.185 to PHP 509.731) for standard VIP, which means just an air-conditioned seat; and coaches at MYR 74.00 (USD 17.6346/PHP 898.098) to MYR 103.00 (USD 24.5454/PHP 1,250.06) with personal TV, meals, and wi-fi.

The inexpensive transport mode is, well, taking the bus, or the ferry boat. If you don’t have a problem with road trips, then the best and most fun way is to hire a car (if you don’t have one) for you to also enjoy the scenic attractions along the way.

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Culled from Google Maps

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Our group of six traveled to Penang by using my friend Lolit Whorlow’s car. If my memory is still serving me correctly, we popped out our journey via the Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan/E1, the fastest route under usual traffic from the Kuala Lumpur federal territory.

Under this course, normal travel is more than three hours. However, if you make stops like we did, then your arrival time would increase by over an hour and a half to maybe around 5 or 6. The stops we made were for sightseeing, comfort room breaks, and snacks.

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PENANG BRIDGE at night (courtesy of Google)

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PURPLE SUNSET: Caught the starting time (at around 7:00 p.m.) of purple sunset over the UNESCO World Heritage Site George Town, Penang. Just look at the color — very charming and hard to forget because you don’t see purple sunsets everyday. Check slide show below this.

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The road travel was highlighted for me by the Penang Bridge, which is a symbol of pride and the source of deep pleasure for the Malaysians. In the 50’s, when Penang’s traffic condition started to congest because of its booming economy, the idea of the bridge came up along with suggestions to build an underwater tunnel road and extending the ferry service (the only transport that connects the island to the mainland).

Among the three, it’s the mega-scale bridge that stood out only to be laughed at for failing to happen. But in 1981, former Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad pushed for the project despite negative criticisms and other obstacles. By 1982, he sank the first pile of cement in the land between Seberang Perai and Penang Island.

I genuinely wanted to take a long-exposure photography of the Penang Bridge with its huge flashes of light glowing brightly at night; sadly, TIME IS THE ENEMY. It was also difficult to look for an area where to set up our gears, and it was constantly raining.

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NEW LANE HAWKER CENTER: The New Lane Hawker Center located in Lorong Baru, George Town, is where we had our first meal in Penang.

FOOD PATH

What unsettles me when it comes to traveling is TIME IS THE ENEMY. I’ve been writing the line all caps to emphasize that no matter how much you want to stay and do all things possible, you simply couldn’t because time is a limited source.

Indeed, it is our most important and most limited source.

There are at least 5 listed BEST EAT CENTERS in the island state that I found and wanted to try, and they’re not all necessarily in malls or hotels. They’re largely found in hawker stalls and in open air venues.

These are New Lane Hawker Center, Gurney Drive Hawker Center, Presgrave Street Hawker Center, Long Beach Food Court, and Just Food, which is inside a shopping mall.

We arrived in Penang at about 3:00 p.m., just in time for the daily opening of the hawker center in Lorong Baru. We headed there soon after depositing our bags in Sri Sayang Resort Service Apartment in Batu Ferringhi.

Batu Ferringhi is the next most visited destination after George Town for water sports and seafood eateries. It’s where I experienced my first-ever Assam Laksa (see picture above), served by a smiling restaurant owner on a rainy morning.

You know you’ve reached New Lane Hawker Center in Lorong Baru, George Town the moment the comforting aroma of garlic and onions frying together hits your snoot, and you don’t want to do anything except look for the nearest wok where it is straying from.

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Koay Teow Th’ng

What I had in this food center was not Char Kway Teow despite hearing about it over and over from my friends. They ordered that, and since the serving was large enough for all six of us, we decided to share and moved on to order other Malay dishes.

What I got was a steaming bowl of Koay Teow Th’ng cooked by a grinning peddler, who was too happy to hold his first customer of the day.

The flat rice noodle dish was served in clear soup broth, topped with fish balls, slices of boiled pork intestine, chicken, golden brown garlic bits and chopped scallions. A condiment of red chili sauce accompanied it.

You will be disappointed if you expect the fish balls in your soup to be stiff and bouncy. In Penang, they are made fresh to be softer in texture and to feed the travelers the soothing comfort they need after a long journey.

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POPIAH is another Malaysian street food favorite that’s like spring roll or lumpia. It’s made of grated turnip, jicama, French beans, bean sprouts, and bean curd in a sweet bean sauce wrapped in a paper-thin crepe made from wheat flour.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE CHICKEN WINGS? Roasted chicken wings in honeyed marinade.

There’s always a spot in my heart (especially my tummy) for fragrant-smelling roasted wings coated in honeyed marinade to give it a glazed sweet touch. The burst of flavors in your mouth — smoky, tangy, sugared — leads you to nothing but absolute delight.

A plate of Char Kway Teow would cost around MYR 6.50 or USD 1.54886 or PHP 78.8809, which is really cheap as they’re served in large portions. Koay Teow Th’ng made me pay MYR 5.00 or USD 1.19143, which is around PHP 60.00 in Philippine money.

STREET ART TRAIL

Zacharevic’s walking trail starts at Penang Road with the The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler that we didn’t see because we got down our walk on a different trail. In fact, we didn’t follow any footpath, we merely walked around looking for any artwork because George Town is really full of them.

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LITTLE CHILDREN ON A BICYCLE by Ernest Zacharevic in Armenian Street, George Town. It’s a mural on the wall of a shop house of two children riding their bicycle joy clearly evident on their faces. It was easy to spot, actually. We saw it just in front of a small Cendol store in Armenian.

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LITTLE GIRL IN BLUE by Ernest Zacharevic Muntri Street, George Town, Penang. 

From Penang Road, there is a turn one has to make to Muntri Street, George Town, to see the giant wall painting of the Little Girl in Blue balancing herself on two windows. Standing in front of it closely made me think it was rather chilling. But then it was really the shadow of the hair cutting through her eyes.

I was recounted that in the original photo of the little girl, she was smiling so, it beats me why the artist would render her that way on the wall.

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THE BASKET GIRL AND I: Just near Lorong Baru, George Town, while parking our car before getting something to eat, we met this little girl on the window with her basket hanging down and her father looking up. 

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REACHING UP: This little boy with his right arm reaching up for something on the small window can be found at Cannon Street.

On Cannon Street, if you’re curious enough to look at the walls, you’ll see the mural of a little boy standing on a chair with his right arm reaching the low window. It’s hard to spot it at night so, be really eager to check out each and every wall in the street area.

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LANG HOOSE, on the corner of Beach Street and Lorong Toh Aka, George Town, is a little Penangite girl wearing a blue cheongsam.

LANG HOOSE may not be a well-known mural in George Town, but it’s one of my favorites because its full of energy, exhilaration, and sunshine. I don’t know, the healthy flush in her cheeks, no matter the stain in the artwork, gives her an atmosphere of innocence that is infectious.

Below are other interesting art pieces and murals I found in Penang, which made the walking trail a blast for me. Please check slideshow below.

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I SEE YOU.

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BUNS TRANSPORT: Transferring giant buns. Found this artwork on the wall of a building with bakery and jewelry shops.

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Standing outside the door of colonial past.

The cultural scene in Penang really evokes interest in a powerfully irresistible way, and I wish that one day soon, Puerto Princesa would also be as colorful and creative if not equally.

We have a lot of local creative people, and they can certainly make their murals build a sense of community respect and camaraderie.

TRAVEL HINTS AND TIPS

Before the tips, did you know that Jimmy Choo, who is noted for co-founding Jimmy Choo Ltd (where your expensive handmade pairs of shoes are from), was born in Penang, Malaysia, into a family of shoemakers?

I didn’t know this trivia until I went there. That Choo guy is based in London now, but he regularly visits Penang to see his family members.

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Waiting for my roti canai to cook in a street food place in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia.

Here is a list of 10 useful tips if you’re considering Penang as your next travel destination:

  1. Your Penang trip will never be complete without trying the ubiquitous Assam Laksa.
  2. Read before exploring the heritage sites, and follow rules by not throwing your trash anywhere you fancy.
  3. It was a mistake to walk looking for Zacharevic’s murals. The best thing to do is hire bicycles or ride the trishaw.
  4. Ditch staying at Sri Sayang Resort Service Apartment because thought it’s cheaply-priced, it’s really bad accommodation.
  5. Don’t miss Penang’s flat round bread cooked on a griddle. It’s called roti (chapati is its other name), and it has a lot of delightful variations.
  6. Don’t forget the sunsets and sunrises.
  7. July is a rainy month in Penang so, bring umbrella to help you still explore.
  8. Valuables should never be on show because snatching is also common there like in other big cities.
  9. Your travel documents should always be with you because you never know when you’ll need it.
  10. No public display of affection, please, if you’re traveling as a couple — that would be heavily frowned upon.

Just because Penang is a popular tourist destination does not mean you’re free to wear your beach attire while touring. Beachwear is for the beach area, not the commercial districts.

Majority of the settlers of Penang are said to be Chinese, and they’re over 50% of the population. Two of the well-known Penangites are Choo and former Malaysia deputy prime minister and opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

Staying in the place for 2 nights/3 days weren’t enough for us to get to know any resident, but I could say that they’re helpful and friendly.

Don’t be offended if you hear some of them addressing you “auntie” and “uncle,” as that is one way of making you feel their hospitality.

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Selfie shot taken in front the George Town heritage site building office with Venice, one of my travel buddies.

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FROM LEFT: Venice, myself, ate Lolit, Ed, Eewoj, and ate Maria.

To date, I’ve already visited two heritage cities in Malaysia — Penang and Malacca (Melaka).

Cheers lah 🙂

 

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Old Habit & Singapore (Part II)

THERE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER in Singapore, whose LE photography works are really outstanding. His name is Thomas Leong.

Check his Flickr account, and you too, will be amazed by how much passion, how much love he gave to his creative photos. https://www.flickr.com/photos/soulfly7/

It’s actually embarrassing to bring his link here, knowing that you can all note the dissimilarities between our LE works. Nonetheless, it’s saying to get better in what we want to do, we have to feed our curiosity; we have to look for someone who can influence us, inspire us to do something about our own creativity.

That’s Mr. Leong to me. Who knows, I might meet him next time?

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LIGHT SHOW from the Sky Park at the Marina Bay Sands.

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In one photo. The SINGAPORE FLYER, the Lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM, and the MARINA BAY SANDS from across the bay.

There are a few basic tips that I take with me every time I journey into the photography genre.

  • A sturdy tripod is very, very important, especially if you’re on a really slow shutter speed and it is windy around you. Make sure it is standing on an even and solid ground. A tiny shake of the apparatus can make a whole lot of difference in your desired result.
  • Wide angle lens with the smallest aperture need.
  • You may also opt to use a cable release or remote
  • Use INFINITY focus.
  • Bulb or Manual on the mode dial.
  • 5-30 seconds shutter speed.

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Composition is the most important thing in any genre of photography. Don’t just shoot your camera, look for a new concept of the same view in front of you. You’ve got to do it. Otherwise, what sets your photo apart from the others, who have stood in front of that view with their cameras?

At the end of the day, what will always matter is if you’re able to provide your viewer with a different perspective. Did your photo give them a new POV? Did it invite interest or curiosity?

That’s what matters.

The deadliest deadline I gave myself to learn long-exposure photography was three years ago. I’m starting all over again, I hate long breaks. But when this is all done, what I will do is to look back and think once in a while about how long it took me to really learn.

That way, I’d have a habit loop.

 

Old Habit & Singapore (Part I)

GOOD OLD HABITS never die.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’ve been telling myself now that I’ve started to mind my blog site again. So, thank you L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant and Pho 88 for kicking out the blogger in me that had slowed down and hibernated for a period of time.

I’ve long ago considered that blogging is a freedom channel for me to be opinionated once in a while. There are a lot of things happening in my environment, lots of places I’ve visited, and it’s a struggle to keep quiet and not write about how I experienced them.

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE. Sharing an old photo of myself taken in Cambodia. I posted this because it’s one of the few, where I’m carrying my old reliable camera on my neck.

Keeping quiet is not something my profession would welcome, anyway. No, I’m not blogging about politics. Too many bloggers already doing that, I’m not about to join the bandwagon.

There is a need to be careful because, who would want another libel case in court that would take years to resolve? I’ve had two in the past, and it took around 10 years for them to be sorted out.

That’s another story.

What I want to do, really, is to share photos from my recent Singapore trip. My return there is something I will never forget since I was able to win back my love and passion (two words) for photography. Yes, even my photography had to take a back seat for a while; had to occupy an inferior position in my priorities because more pressing life matters took control.

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The MARINA BAY SANDS 5 star luxury resort hotel, “the world’s most expensive stand alone casino property” in Singapore.

The following photos you’ll see are called long-exposure (LE) shots. Long-exposure photography is a genre that I find very interesting as it always has the potential to produce amazing luminescent results if one knows how to shoot right.

If you want to hit the mark when you’re firing a gun, you should know what you’re doing so you won’t miss it. It’s the same fundamental truth in LE.

I don’t have the LE mastery yet. But I will get there eventually. And soon. Please.

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Singapore’s CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT at night with the imposing lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM on the left side from where I was standing across. The museum is located in the integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands in the Downtown Core.

In the Lion City, when photographers want to take long-exposure shots of the Marina Bay Sands (and the other futuristic building structures there), their best opportunity can start happening the moment the blue hour (La hora azul) sets in around 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.

Time zones are bizarre old things, aren’t they? In the Philippines, we sometimes see the sunset early. In other places, like Singapore, they see it late.

Same time zone with the Philippines; different sunset time.

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THE SHOPPES MARINA BAY SANDS’s reflection on the pond water after long exposure shot.

TO BE CONTINUED. I’ve got to go for now. More photos to share later 🙂

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa

For more photos (you may also like the page): https://www.facebook.com/PalawenyaTravelerbyTengRFormoso/

Princesa Garden Islands Resort & Spa in Palawan redefines luxury living

Are you looking for a place where you can completely escape the city life that lacks excitement and variety?

Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa, this city’s newest hotel resort, might just have the all-embracing period of recreation you’re looking for.

Located in Barangay Bancao-Bancao, right in the heart of Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa City, the only five star island hotel resort and spa offers you and ardent holidaymakers a “slice of paradise” and an extraordinary break from the monotony of work in the country’s “Last Frontier.”

Marketing Communications Associate Kareen Gonzales said as “the only five star resort in this city,” Princesa Garden Island offers potential clients “a wide array of amenities and services that are guaranteed to make anyone’s stay unforgettable.”

“Our place is Asian-themed. You can see in the details how we built the hotel resort following the contemporary Balinese style which is a well-liked Asian tropical architecture, by combining it with natural materials and craftsmanship of the local people that can be found in abundance here in Puerto Princesa,” she said.

Princesa Garden Island offers 78 luxurious rooms that include an exclusive stand-alone assemblage of water cabanas overlooking the picturesque city bay and the grandiosity of the coastal scenery.

Gonzales said the water cabanas are a first of its kind in Puerto Princesa that feature spacious wooden decks with daybeds that have canopies for sunbathing, separate outdoor jet pools, exclusive in-ocean reception areas, and a cloistered lounge where guests can take it easy with light snacks and cool thirst quenchers.

Other room accommodations are located at the three-storey main hotel called the Harbor Wing. Here, each has a wide veranda, or roofed platform that offers a breathtaking view of the infinity pool and turquoise ocean. Several high-end room accommodations also have open-air Jacuzzis on the sundeck.

Guests who wish to stay on the ground floor rooms, on the other hand, have direct access to Princesa Garden Island’s six opulent infinity pools.

For those looking for outdoor activities, the resort will eventually offer a mangrove tour on a kayak, snorkeling and other water sport activities. The sand and sky glisten in the area, and anyone wishing to just commune quietly with nature can do so.

They can also indulge on international cuisines served at three restaurants in the resort: the Golden Elephant Seafood Village that serves Asian food, the Tomato and Basil near the pools for gastronomic Italian dishes, and the Rice Restaurant that serves popular Oriental dishes and various International carte du jour.

When the hotel resort finally and fully opens before the end of the year, it will also have a Floating Bar near a sandbar, where guests can unwind and enjoy as the day unwinds with a glorious sunset over the bay.

Travelers, who can’t do away with their relaxing reflexologies and rubdowns, will be pampered by Princesa Garden Island’s Hilot Spa Village, managed by its friendly masseuse.

With the opening of this new hotel resort in Puerto Princesa, it now has the capacity to offer tourists and guests the opportunity to escape completely, and collect wonderful memories.

Earth Hour Celebration in Puerto Princesa

Imagine my disappointment after turning on the television, it’s one of those depressing Filipino films… and the high temperature is killing me.

March 29 was unforgettable. These photos were taken from my city’s commemoration of the Earth Hour at the People’s Amphitheater in Mendoza Park. At exactly 8:30 p.m., power in my city was turned off because of the celebration, and these fire dancers took over the darkness beautifully.

From nearly a hundred long exposure shots, I succeeded with only over 20 good ones. The rest of the photos, sigh… waste of effort. But I’m happy with what I have.

Sharing the shots! Good night 🙂

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Petronas Twin Towers

Petronas Twin Towers

I just came from a trip to several places in Malaysia; one of them Kuala Lumpur. My particular interest in the place was to chase the blue hour. The last time I was in KL, we arrived late and the lights on the twin towers were already off.

In this recent visit however, I had a stroke of luck. Caught it just at the right time with my party of 3 other photographers, a stylist and her daughter.

The twin towers look elegant during this particular time of day. Love it.

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Harbor Square Long Exposed

Harbor Square Long Exposed

I was with my World ShutterZ Avenue https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorldShutterZAvenue.WSZA/ co-administrators/friends from April 24-29, 2013 in Manila, and I must say it was one of the best travels I’ve made so far this year.

For someone who is literally a neophyte in photography, it is heart-warming to be surrounded by friends who are willing to share knowledge without asking for anything in return except real and genuine friendship.

Thank God, I have a lot of that 🙂

Harbor Square is located near the Cultural Center of the Philippines, bordered on one side by the Manila Yacht Club. It’s a little community of dining places so lucky to offer people who love to promenade the bay with a great view of the urban Manila skyline — well, a part of it, at least — specially at night.

I’m not a great fan of Manila at daytime, but at night, this little territory just shimmers with a soft tremulous of light that can incite the desire to do long exposure photography. No wonder it is a “postcard-worthy” location for them.

Of course, my trip to Manila would not be complete without taking my own share of why it is what it is 🙂 Here’s a long exposure shot of what’s on the other side of the Harbor Square.

My focal length in taking this long exposure was 22mm; ISO 100; Exposure 25.0 seconds at F9.0 with my Canon EOS 7D. To eliminate the blur that can make this indistinctly perceived, I used a tripod.