Last night I had an urge. Given my age, it was an urge to go out and shoot with my Leica O replica. With no events of note happening, other than the prospect of getting soaked in various parts of town; I headed for Love Art Pattaya to shoot some breasts and other body parts.
I arrived at the massive, empty car park, which is now sprouting weeds, and headed for the ticket office. Eventually the window slid open and a child looked at me in amazement before announcing I had to pay 50 baht. Cheaper than last time, so I extracted my wallet and offered a 500 baht note. A flustered adult arrived and chastised the child, saying something along the lines that I was a filthy foreigner and must be charged 500 baht which could be reduced to 250 baht because I had a Thai driving licence. So that was welcoming.
She went away to get my change and while I was waiting a procession of grubby urchins stared at me from the ticket office. After some minutes she returned, not with my change but with a request for my licence so she could copy it. More urchin staring and eventually I received my licence back and my change. No wonder they don’t get many visitors.
After that I spent and hour or so alone in the park, pointing the Leica at body parts; as you do. Took some digital shots too.
Our itinerary included several temples, because she who must be obeyed likes to visit them, and they are usually good spots for a few photographs.
Although the deities were similar, they were different to Thai temples. There was no shortage of Chinese-style temple bling; but there was less noise than the aural assault in a Thai temple, and there was an atmosphere of reverence and solemnity that is missing from the merit making, cash generating establishments back home. People could be found sitting quietly in meditation or reading. You won’t find people reading in a temple (or anywhere else) in Thailand.
My favourite place was a Confucian temple which was very pretty and very quiet.
Just a shame it was on a flight path:
Some shots from other temples:
Or as it will soon be called: a national center for facing history, recognizing agony, and respecting human rights; because the government doesn’t want to recognise him any more (apart from the agony bit). Whatever they call it, it’s a good place to visit on a sunny mid-week day. Monumental erections, wide open spaces, and not too many people.
We entered through the Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness; which leads into a large, tiled, promenade.
Keep walking and you arrive at the memorial.
There are eighty nine steps to climb, which in my weakened state after climbing a mountain required a couple of stops along the way.
Inside, a statue of the man himself dominates the room; guarded by a couple of soldiers who manage to remain motionless for an hour which is more than I could do.
On the hour, the crowds are cleared to the sides for the changing of the guards. I elbowed my way into a central position as three soldiers emerged from a side door.
We were then treated to ten minutes of guard changing and general marching about, conducted with absolute precision. I am not usually impressed by such nonsense; but these guys were good. Presumably they will be out of a job once the statue has been removed as part of the history, agony, human rights initiative bollocks; go see them while you can.
Taipei has an excellent MRT, train and bus network, all accessed with a single card; making journeys around the city really easy. But with Google Maps on our phones; it was tempting to find our next location and decide it would be easier to walk than to head for the nearest underground station. So we did. A lot. In total we covered more than 60 kilometres during our four day stay.
If this had all been on the flat, I could have coped well enough; but hidden away on she who must be obeyed’s itinerary on the second day was a late afternoon walk along the Nangang District Hiking Trail, which comprises several hundred steps up a mountain; allowing “magnificent views of the city” from the top.
If I wanted a magnificent view of a city I would buy a postcard; what I would not do is knacker myself clambering up a mountain. But I love my wife and it’s what she wanted, so up we went. My lungs are not of the best, so I required several rest stops along the way. As I wheezed and sweated, sat on a stump, a young man came past with an older chap. “This is my father, he’s 84”, he proudly proclaimed; clearly having a go at me. I tried to snarl a response but all I managed was a croak.
Some time later, about half way up, we passed the old codger looking the worse for wear. I managed a condescending glance which I hoped encapsulated my wish that the octogenarian would require medical evacuation off the mountain. Whatever, we never saw him again.
Eventually we reached what looked like the top, but wasn’t; and then followed several paths before finding one of many vantage points. It was an hour before sunset and already the DSLR brigade were camped out with their tripods. My wife suggested I might like to claim a spot to take a photo once the sun finally set; but instead I opted for a comfy bench. If I wanted a photo of a magnificent city view, I’d buy a postcard.
The sun set. The cameras clicked, I had had a good rest and was ready to go home for dinner. On the way past the tripods I stuck the RX100 on rail and took a shot before heading down. Saved me the cost of buying a postcard.
On the streets of Taipei on our first day, and it was no time at all before she who must be obeyed disappeared into a shop for some crucial shopping; leaving me hanging around outside as usual. Fortunately I found my myself next to an interesting little lane. So I took a photo of it with the Leica:
Then, with my wife still missing, I took out the RX100 and took a digital image. It was only later that I discovered that I had set it to some obscure filter. Silly twat.
My film of choice is called XP2. Recommended by my guru, Rick@Knees, it is very forgiving as to exposure and it scans well. It’s a black and white film but unusually it is processed as a colour film using what is called C41 processing. The end result of the processing is a slightly purple tinge to the negative; and some very finely grained black and white images.
The processing requirements are clearly stated on the film canister.
But just to be sure, I always reconfirm in my instructions to the lab. So when I sent five films to Air Lab in Bangkok last week, I wrote:
Enclosed 5 rolls of XP2
Return to me via EMS
The results came back yesterday and were disappointing. Here is a shot taken when I was in the UK:
And here is a shot from the latest output, same camera and both with XP2:
The second shot lacks the clarity of the first, and zoomed in there is a load more grain.
Had a meeting with my guru this morning to discuss what might have gone wrong, and we realised that the negatives were not sporting their normal purple hue.
I contacted Air Lab and told them I was unhappy with the grainy images and that it appeared they had used B&W processing rather than C41. Their response was emphatic; they had used C41.
Back home and I looked out two previous films processed by Air Lab and put a strip from each with a strip from the latest batch.
Fairly obvious which is the latest…
I have sent it to Air Lab but they have not yet responded. Whatever they say, if anything, never using them again.
All this is by way of introduction to say that the Taiwan film shots that I will be publishing look a bit shit. I will pretend I was going for the arty grainy, muddy crappy look.
My first flirtations with the internet occurred when I was living in Brunei more than twenty years ago. It was not, and probably still isn’t, the most technically progressive of nations; but the embryonic wide wide world of web could be accessed via a dial-up service which was memorable for never working on the first attempt and often failing after a minute or so; but it was better than nothing.
Forward to more recently and the internet service in my previous accommodation was not exactly speedy at 2Mbps; and even after several years it did not seem possible to improve it. It also failed on a regular basis, and the breakdown was always “due to a failure in your condo” according to the service centre, although it never was. The cost of this feeble service was in excess of two thousand baht a month.
Things looked up when we moved to our current house where 10Mbps was promised for 900 baht a month; but after installation this jumped to 17Mbps; and it has been rock solid at that speed for the last two years.
But you always want more, especially when Netflix likes 25Mbps to stream 4K video; so when we found out about the 3BB VDSL service; we went down to the local office.
The new service was 200 baht cheaper than the old one, but if we wanted the international feed to not go via the Thailand service, then that would be an extra 200 baht, bringing us up to the same cost as before, except now we would get 50Mbps/20Mbps.
We also had to buy a new modem which the saleslady configured for us. “Take it home and plug it in, in will start working half an hour later”.
I didn’t expect that to be a reliable statement; and indeed it wasn’t; because the service was available the moment I plugged it in. Well done 3BB. A quick worldwide speed test revealed 45/19, which I can live with; especially as it was raining at the time and the soaked bits of frayed cable that carry the signal were probably not at their best.
Wonderful. All I had left to do was sign into the modem to make some changes to accommodate our house alarm system feed. “The access password is on the quick start leaflet”, indicated the documentation. It wasn’t. After much mucking about, she who must be obeyed called the salesgirl who initially advised that it was all set up so we didn’t need to log into the modem. Having had it explained that Mr. Spike was a bit of whizz at these things, and if he wasn’t his son was, it was revealed that the user name was admin and the password was the last four characters of the MAC code printed on the box. Bloody obvious really.
As usual, whenever something seems like it is going well, something always comes along and ruins the experience. Never mind, all good now and I am off to binge on anything in 4K on Netflix.