Thursday, 23 July 2015

"BACKGROUND ACTION"!! - More Malaysia, with a touch of Singapore

As many will know by now (hopefully our friends aren't sick of us banging on about it!), we were in Penang to obtain some more work as extras on the second series of the BBC series Indian Summers, having enjoyed the short spell we did last year.

We weren't allowed to upload any photos last year, with the "hush hush" approach to the then new series, so here's a few highlights from then......

We'll never look this elegant again!!

Rich with leading lady Julie Walters

Looking glamorous (not!!) in between takes

It was amusing when we saw the finished series, that all that preparation, work and time ended up as a few seconds of us in the background, hardly seen! Well, lucky we're doing it for the money, not the fame!!

This time around we had put aside the next 6 months as a break from traveling to earn a bit of extra money for our (hopefully) big trip next year to UK/Europe, so we were keen to get going. But the "movie" business being what it is, we were in for a bit of a wait while the filming schedule was sorted out. Finally things got going, and we thoroughly enjoyed the work, and although it wasn't quite as much as we'd hoped for (the odd days here and there over several months), it was enough to serve it's purpose of topping up the coffers, with the added bonus of meeting loads of new and interesting people- fellow extras and crew included.

The Clubhouse, Penang Hill

A dapper (and hairy!) British gentleman!

A lot of waiting around on set

In our evening wear

Sal given a 1930's length haircut care of Indian Summers!

Staying in one place did become a bit tedious, as lovely as Georgetown (and our room) is- we do tend to get itchy feet very quickly these days! But because there's always so much going on in Penang, we were able to keep reasonably busy with various activities- the International Dragon Boat meet, with teams from as far away as China and Dubai competing in the races; the usual art exhibitions and movies; the stunning Botanic Gardens (we are such suckers for a good garden!); a trip to Balik Pulau on the other side of Penang during the famous (and smelly!) durian season; and were also lucky enough to have several good friends visiting from other places while we were there.

Dragon Boat Races, Teluk Bahang Dam, Penang

Street art, Georgetown, Penang

Cafe sign, Georgetown, Penang

Posing dragonfly, Botanic Gardens, Penang

Guesthouse, Georgetown, Penang

Reflective Rich on lovely wall, Georgetown, Penang

We also had a surprise offer of a day as extras on a Singaporean crime show- Mata Mata- a hilariously casual experience for us after the meticulous, slow and repetitive production of Indian Summers. The friendly Singapore team were on a rather small budget, and we raced around the streets of Georgetown, filming about 10 scenes in 5 hours! We were encouraged to say whatever we wanted ("We all just ad lib"!) and wore our own clothes! We felt lucky to basically be playing ourselves (we were identified as "middle aged tourists" on the call sheet!), as a friend working as an extra the following day played a corpse who was set alight!!

When the "European" extras weren't needed on Indian Summers we managed to get away on a few short trips.We used some of the the time to do a visa run, and thought it was high time we visited our long time friend, Claire, who is living in Singapore. We met Claire and her then boyfriend Dan, while traveling in the Philippines 10 years ago, and although we have been in contact since, we've never met up again. She's an amazing documentary filmmaker now, shooting the unexpectedly prolific wildlife (especially otters) around Singapore island. (Claire's profile)

We were lucky to stay in Claire's roomy apartment with a pool and the fastest internet on earth, and take advantage of cooking in a kitchen (always a treat!). We walked the nearby Singapore River walk and marveled at how the other half live (Singapore's huge expat and Chinese communities seem to have a lot of money to burn on entertainment, bars, cafes etc), and to the close by and outstanding Botanic Gardens. Evenings were spent cruising the river to Marina Bay, an eye poppingly over the top flashy area full of bars, restaurants, street art, iconic buildings, parks and lights everywhere; meeting Claire's many expat and local friends and getting a small taste of their very active and drama filled lifestyles; attending an evening on a rooftop watching excellent documentaries about the uniqueness of Singapore; and combining a visit to historic Fort Caning with some unbelievably delicious cake at Claire's friend's cafe. I have to mention the expense here- we knew Singapore would be pricey after so long in other South East Asia countries, but the high costs for everything rival Melbourne- especially in the alcohol department. At a minimum of S$10 (roughly the same as the Aussie dollar) for a  beer, we abstained from grog until our return to Malaysia!

Enjoying the frangipani swing in Botanic Gardens, Singapore

Supertree Grove, Marina Bay, Singapore

REALLY good cake!

Pinacotheque de Paris Museum, Fort Canning, Singapore

After Singapore (and so long in Penang) arriving back in Kuala Lumpur was a blast in the face of dirt, rubbish, poverty, migrant workers and noise. We found our reaction interesting as usually, upon arriving back from India or Indonesia, we find the city a calm and clean haven!! It's all about perspective! We'd decided to spend the extremely busy period of Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan) in KL, and avoid the traffic jams, price hikes and crowds elsewhere, although the amount of people (mainly migrant workers) milling around on the KL streets was enough to see us hanging out inside at the hostel for a couple of days for some peace.

Another change of scene was our train trip to Taiping, only a couple of hours from Penang. A relatively quiet and understated town, Taiping had enough eroding old colonial and Chinese heritage buildings (plus the absolutely gorgeous Lake Gardens) to warrant a stop over for a couple of days. It's famous for being a wet place, which for us meant waiting out a morning under cover, then enjoying the incredibly green and lush gardens for the day. The suitably decrepit, but full of character Peking Hotel was the place to stay, and the hawker center around the corner was one of the biggest we've seen- the choice was huge!

Busy lunchtime at the Taiping hawker center

A lot of Chinese influence around town, Taiping

A seedy beauty, Taiping

Tile detail, hotel, Taiping
Don't jump! Taiping Lake Gardens

Wonderfully lush gardens, Taiping

And so, back to Penang, to filming, and to see what will happen next........

Happy, Penang National Park