We hadn’t been in a large city since New Zealand back in July, so walking the streets of Kuala Lumpur felt a bit like a homecoming for this New Yorker. We spent our first night at the Nova hotel on Jalan Alor, a street famous for its blend of SE Asia food stalls and street eatin. As you walk up the road, people working at the various food stalls call out to you and try to convince you to eat there. It’s overwhelming to begin with but it was also our first moments in a new city. Not knowing what would make one food stall better than another (similar prices and crowds) we stopped at a Thai stall and a women speaking perfect English warmly greeted us, so we sat down. "Restoran Lim Kee" turned out to be a family business and our "hostess" was the owner, her husband the chef. While taking our order she helped us make final selections and we crossed our fingers. The food began coming out of the “kitchen” (everything is basically outdoors) as it was ready, my Thai Tofu Salad was heavenly and we had the best fried salt and pepper squid EVER. We were blown away by one of the most delicious meals we’ve had on our trip.
The next day we decided to leave the depressing Nova hotel (despite the amazing food at our doorstep) and move over to the Explorers Guesthouse a well reviewed hostel near Chinatown. That afternoon at the hostel we were catching up with the blog and found ourselves sitting at a table with another couple, each of us on a MAC laptop. James mentioned our MAC party and this got us talking about why we were all visiting KL. Turns out Adriana and Gustavo from Brazil are also traveling around the world but came specifically to Kuala Lumpur for an annual base-jumping festival off of the KL Tower. This sounded like a unique opportunity for James to get some cool footage of jumpers with the high speed camera.
The next day as we headed towards the KL Tower we could see people jumping off the top, their parachutes opening a few seconds later and then they’d swirl down, landing in a park just below the tower. The festival, KL Tower International Jump Malaysia 2013, last 3 days and the 120 international participants jump as much as they want from the tower throughout the day and in the evenings. The KL Tower is 1000 ft tall, located on top of a hill, positioning it high above the rest of the city skyline. James took shots of the jumpers coming down from various angles around the Tower. When we finally reached the tower the jumpers were on a lunch break. We sat down at a café to rehydrate and a man walking by stopped to ask James about his high speed camera which was on the tripod next to us. The man was a French AP journalist who was covering the base-jumping festival and lives in KL. He happily introduced James and I to the festival Press Manager, who said it was fine for us to film jumpers from the top of the tower for our blog. We managed to find Adriana who would also be on the roof filming Gustavo’s jumps.
After the lunch break we were brought to the top of the KL Tower where they put harnesses on both us, as well as the cameras, then led us out to the press area ON THE OUTER LEDGE OF THE TOWER. Literally most photographers let their legs dangle off the side and leaned forward to get better shots of the jumpers who were casually running, walking, flipping, diving, or being thrown (!) off the side of the Tower. Once we were attached to the safety wire, it took a few minutes to get our bearings: How do I position myself? Am I going to fall off? How high are we? How to capture the jump on camera? How to keep the jumper in the frame? Am I going to drop the camera? All of this was going through my mind and at the same time, the view overlooking the city was incredible and unbelievable! I quickly stopped worrying about the height (which is normally a problem) because were so ridiculously high that it didn’t feel real. James not only had to deal with the logistical and mental stress but also figure out the best way to capture this very particular action footage with the temperamental high speed camera. This was a whole new level of cinematic challenges! After our allotted time was up (press rotated in 1.5 hour shifts), we went down to the landing spot directly beneath the building, where James continued to shoot.
It was an unbelievable experience to see the world of base-jumping up close and as close to their perspective as I'm going to get. The talent of the jumpers truly left me in awe. They were completely calm and collected as they performed death defying jumps. I definitely had a whole new level of respect for the sport. It was awesome to stumble into this unexpected (and free) experience.