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The 60s meets the future; Kek Lok Si, Penang, Malaysia.

October 6, 2012

When my Dad was just knee-high to a Hobbit he lived in Singapore with his family since my Grandfather was posted there with the army. We have a pretty cool collection of photographs  of Malaysia and Singapore circa 1962 and I decided that I would try to find all of those retro locations and photograph them as they are now, partly for fun and partly to give my wanderings some sense of focus. The first location of my grandparents photographs that I managed to identify was Kek Lok Si temple, the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, located on the island of Penang, Malaysia. It seems that much of it has remained relatively unchanged.

This picture is my grandfather (with some very dashing socks), my father and my aunt Laura (in baby form). It’s a bit of a hike to get to but as you can see its relatively unchanged.

I figured these gardens would be fairly easily identifiable from my high vantage point but, despite showing my photographs to every fairly elderly looking guide at the site no-one had the slightest clue.

 Eventually I managed to establish that these botanical gardens were demolished to make room for extensions to the monastery. You can see how much the surrounding landscape has changed also.

Never in a million years did I expect to be able to find this obscure artifact but there it was, not moved in 50 years:

Lastly, my Dad will be pleased to learn that the turtles are still there and conditions have improved somewhat for them, although optimum sunbathing spots are still at a premium.

So far, my little self-imposed challenge has proved entertaining (and a little frustrating) as well as pretty tiring since apparently they couldn’t always go to nice easy places! What its been best for however has been for meeting locals. All I need do is show a few pictures to an old dear on the bus or about town and all of a sudden I have a gaggle of them herded about me exclaiming in delight and ‘i-remember-whening’ till the cows come home; trying to work out where they all are now for me. The best so far was an older gent who worked at Roommates hostel on Penang (which is brilliant by the way). He looked through them over and over again, shaking his head and smiling and identifying photos right down to the street names. He marked all the ones he knew on my map and then kept asking to looking through them some more, murmuring nostalgically about the good old days. The rest will follow suit shortly.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. sarah morgan-jones permalink
    October 6, 2012 4:54 pm

    Wow. Well done eira. Can’t wait for dad to see these. Glad you are having fun. X

  2. October 6, 2012 6:14 pm

    Well done Eira. I love your efforts and pictures. I am particularly moved by the idea that our old family pictures should be of such interest and give so much pleasure to the locals. Are you showing them edited highlights or just letting them lose on the set I put up on Facebook? Possibly some of the pictures of Singapore will not be relevant to a hunt around Penang, but I bet some of the older folk would enjoy the pictures anyway. Have you found the funicular railway going up the side of the hill? I have no memory of what was at the top. I found that it has been recently upgraded, with a Google search, and the views from the top are supposed to seriously show off Penang in its setting as “the Pearl of the Orient”.
    Keep up the good work and I hope that your searching will continue to give pleasure to many.

    • October 7, 2012 2:35 am

      I picked out a select bunch from the ones you posted (I’d need 6 months to find them all) and got them developed and now I carry them with me in a little mini-album wherever I go so that I can whip them out for people. I’ve managed to identify the locations of 90% now. 🙂

      The guy at the hostel identified Penang hill for me but I have to go back there at the end of the month to get the picures. You’ll be pleased to know that the Singaporeans are just as tickled by them and have identified most for me – it’s harder here though since Singapore is probably one of the most changed places in the world from 50 years ago! I’m getting there. x

  3. May 22, 2013 6:50 pm

    This is an amazing series! I hope that I can leave a trail like this for my future grandkids to follow one day. I love it!

    • May 22, 2013 7:19 pm

      Thanks! It was really fun to do and I did wonder about what it might look like in another 50 years if my grandkids did it too!

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