Exploring Pak Peng

I have always been fascinated by old buildings that are still perfectly functional, maintaining decades old interiors and retaining the same overall atmosphere. The Pak Peng Building is a shopping mall that’s nearly half a century old and is now half vacant with a few traditional businesses still occupying the building. Back in the 60s and 70s, the Pak Peng building and surrounding establishments on Madras Lane were one of the hottest spots in town for entertainment. This remnant of the past was intriguing to explore, and I took the opportunity to create a mini photo series documenting scenes inside Pak Peng.

For this series, I used the Olympus PEN E-P5 over two visits. I used the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens and 17mm F1.8 lens for each visit. There’s minimal post-processing on the images and I retained the original color profile to maintain the mood. The blend of nostalgia from the fading posters, unflattering fluorescent lights and unkept old ceilings create a unique mood to the images. I had to patiently wait for human subjects to enter my frame, adding juxtaposition to a location seemingly devoid of people.

The Pak Peng building is situated right in the middle of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. The building is a little out of place now considering the newer buildings surrounding the area. Nonetheless, I find it to be full of charm and character. I guess this was the much needed break from my usual colorful, bright and expressive street photography images!


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  1. nice mirror image 🙂

  2. Your photos were really well seen and captured the mood of the place exactly as you described it. Well done.

  3. Great project to start and continue Robin! There are many, once iconic shopping malls and buildings all over Malaysia and Singapore where time has passed and the patina of age has set in. My favourite haunt used to be Ampang Complex. Before I realised the significance, it was gone and I will not be able to make one last visit. Also on old Klang Road, there is one still there but all traders moved out that I remember of the past 7 years, with my mum and sis whenever I returned for a visit with them. There’s even no need to add insta or Art filters or new fangled LUTs – the age and condition of the interiors is nostalgia enough

  4. stephenjohndawson says:

    Excellent atmospheric images – like being there!

  5. Viewing google maps and street view I’d anticipated seeing this “old” building surrounded by new building developments, judging by what you said in your narrative, Robin. So, you may imagine my surprise at what I saw. To say that the whole street is looking a tad rundown may seem harsh, looking at it with a Westerner’s eyes, but I intend to mean that the street as a whole seems no better or worse than the building itself, so it set me wondering why it has been left to decay the way it has? Higher rents being demanded (this is something major department stores here in the UK have faced + high business rates, and which have prompted many store closures as the companies rationalise their business models in the face of internet shopping) or less footfall because of the interior design?

    There seems an abundance of street stalls and I wonder how many of these would have formerly been located in the building? Or has this always been the case? It would seem a more vibrant shopping experience than traipsing around those soulless corridors.

    You were right to leave the colour palette alone as the “gloominess” of the interior comes across well your images.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Terry, Malaysia isn’t that old of a country, the oldest building I know and have been to is shy of around 200 years old. However, for a functioning shopping mall, Pak Peng is one of the oldest, if not the oldest one in Kuala Lumpur (the oldest mall has just been recently demolished).
      You are right, there are just too many shopping malls in KL at the moment, and these older malls were left for “decay”. Quite an unfortunate sight, but a great opportunity for photography!

  6. Nice ambiance, iq and colors, almost too good of a quality to transmit nostalgia. And a question about other camera, what’s wrong with yellows and greens of the Hasselblad?They’re almost always way oversaturated.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Oh dear, I do not have enough experience with any Hasselblad to be able to answer you that. Maybe MT can chime in and help.

      • Thanks Robin for the reply. Sorry, you’re right, Ming is the Hassy guy.I’ll ask him. As I said, clean and elegant pics, good job!

  7. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    EEK!!! 50 years is an “old” building in KL? I’m more used to that adjective to describe things in Europe that are one or two thousand years old!

    Love the shot of the mannequin through the window, Robin.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Hah,I always forget how young Malaysia is. But, for a shopping mall, just looking at shopping malls alone, this is one old, yet still functioning mall.

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