After almost six months of travelling, I still manage to find myself in new countries and in new situations that I never even imagined when I got on board that plane to Mumbai back on October 1st 2012. Malaysia was not on my list. A little more expensive than the other SE Asian countries I’d been to and most people at home told me to avoid it. Now I’ve been and conquered, I have no idea why anyone would say that. During my travels around SE Asia, many a backpacker would rave about the rich jungles, the beautiful beaches and the tremendous food. However, the real reason why I came started back in India. Naked Rob, Accident Prone Tim and Guyability all discovered that the Ozzie fest, Future Music Festival, was going to have a party in KL, Malaysia. The word spread. The team got tickets. I got a ticket. Friends of friends got tickets. Their friends got tickets. More joined. Before we knew it, a facebook conversation had grown to over twenty strong. The team had been assembled. The scene was set. Destination KL. To top it off, F1 was at the Sepang circuit the weekend after. Bonus.
I didn’t know as I landed on the tarmac of KL that this was going to one of the most exciting and damn right fun parts of my journey so far, but on a totally different scale. No poverty, no bamboo huts, no ‘no speak English’ and no random encounters with the crazed locals. Danielle, a legend of a friend from back in the UK, had liked the idea of raving to Prodigy in KL and had booked a flight over. In fact, as she is a travel agent, she booked plush hotels all the way and asked if yours truly was up for staying in a string of four star accommodations for a week. It would be rude to say no. We both touched down on March 13th 2013.
As my plane touched down and taxied to the terminal, ‘Let it snow’ played softly in the background, hardly suited to the 33C humid heat that hit me as I stepped off the plane. Ouch. Malaysia is near the equator. Tropical weather is on the cards. Hot humid weather plus a short daily downpour is the norm. The airport was immaculate. Western brand names screaming out at me. KFC, Starbucks, Maccy Bloody D’s… I’d been in North Laos for almost 4 weeks so I munched on a KFC. The chicken was greasy and I’m not ashamed to say it tasted lovely. I felt like shit afterwards but for that brief moment, when the fatty chicken dribbled down my chin, I enjoyed the trappings of money grabbing western fast food companies.
My debit card didn’t work in the cash machine. Great. Luckily for me I still have a few dollars to change up. Banks, for security reasons, like to block your card when you are abroad, which is fair play when some thieving little #@$^ is clearing out your savings but bloody annoying when it’s me. I get a bus from LCCT to the KLIA and wait for Danielle to arrive whilst sipping on a lovely mug of hot chocolate in the air con luxury of KLIA’s Starbucks, using their free wi-fi.
When Danielle said she had booked a hotel I had no idea where, or what it would be like. Furama Bukit Bintang is a four star luxury hotel that towers over most of KL. It was plush. Really bloody plush. Standing in the foyer, I felt a little out of place in my stained brown t-shirt, baggy denim shorts and rotten flip flops. Some dude took my bag. I went to grab it. Always keep on guard, backpacker stories are full of people who lost all their goods. However, this time, it was the butler fella, that’s right, a bloody butler, taking my bag up to the room. I hate slavery. I can carry it. Watching someone else carry a bag that I am fully capable of carrying seems ridiculous. Either way, it was something I had to get used to over the next few days. No dorms, no dirty toilets and no dirty backpackers. Thanks Danielle. You’re a legend. Never did I think I would be ticking the ‘stay in luxury accommodation’ box on my travels.
The room was outrageously lavish. I’ve been in nice hotels before, not many times but it’s been achieved occasionally in my short and youthful life. This however, especially after 6 months of hard core backpacking in the cheapest hostels across SE Asia, was another level. The bed was heaven, the toilet and shower was heaven, we had a TV in every room, a desk, a window with a view of KL and a sofa. A bloody sofa. Asia doesn’t really do sofas so it was pleasure to sit on one. And just in case we ran out of loo roll, the toilet had a telephone next to it. With this hotel room you are really spoiling us…
Thrust back into backpacker mode, we meet the gang on top of the legendary backpacker party hostel, The Reggae Mansion, for a night of expensive drinks, laughter, shishas and hugs. The team had reunited. New faces introduced. The team had grown. The vibe was strong.
A little hung over, I woke up to the finest breakfast buffet I had ever had the pleasure of attempting to completely destroy. I had three plates, full of food that I wouldn’t really consider to call breaky. Curry, dahl, rice, pancakes, fruit, pastries, chicken sausages, eggs of all varieties, salads, fresh juices, roti, paratha, wedges, chips and peanuts. The hotel was truly international and catered from everyone. Even me. A poor back packer, eating with the wealthy. It was a strange experience. I hadn’t been in western society for so long. My shirt and skinny tie, smart trousers and winkle pickers seemed like a distant memory.
Meeting the team at KL Sentral Bus Station, we were to board the bus to Sepang for the first day of Future Music Festival. It was to be headlined by Armin Van Burren’s, ‘State of Trance’. Before we could get on the bus, us backpackers needed a little magic for the one hour bus ride. Although Malaysia is a Muslim country, this doesn’t mean that alcohol is not accessible. The ticket man, called Boy, heard our pleas and offered to take me to the booze shop before the bus left. I jumped on the back of his scooter and he took me to his pals shop close by. I loaded up as many beers and bottles of rum, vodka and whisky as I could. I returned to a round of applause as I got onto the bus seconds before it departed. The scene was set. The Malaysian faithful were quiet and genuinely shocked by our banter. The party started at that very moment. The drink flowed and the vibe was good. It took me back to my raving days.
The air-conditioned bus spat us out into the humid heat at the legendary Sepang Circuit and the party was starting outside. The doors to the festival hadn’t opened yet so the drinking started outside the venue. There was a mix of Malaysians and foreigners. Everyone was in a good mood. The foreigners displayed their usual drunken anarchy, while the Malaysians looked on in disgust.
I can’t tell you what happened over the next few days. I had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun. I was with some Grade A lunatics. My new adopted Dysfunctional Family. Team Fritzel. Kuala Lumpur almost killed me. I made three visits overall with a couple of trips out to see the beaches and the jungle of mainland Malaysia. Each day started to blur into the other.
Here are some flashbacks, in no particular order… Future Music Festival, no haggling, 7Eleven, Starbuck’s hot chocolate, Prodigy, Indian food, Subways, trance music, lots of buses, Sepang F1 Circuit, ear plugs, eating shepherd’s, learning how to insert ear plugs correctly, Formula 1, plush hotels, a free Backstreet Boys concert, St. Paddy’s Day, comfy buses, Chinese food, expensive beer, FRITZEL, a Reggae Mansion, shishas, Petronas Towers, De La Soul, Ferrari chicks, dunk the dude in the pool game, Mohammed the taxi driver, VIP blaggers, Gangnam Style, Guyability, piano stairs, roller coasters in malls, ice cream men on bikes, Nando’s, bright lights, Ben dribbling, purchasing a laptop off a dude with two inch long nails, that naked man Rob and finally, with a little help from my ‘friend’ I bagged my Chinese tourist visa.
KL: City Snaps
KL is like Bangkok without the twatty tourists, without the hassle, without the ping pong. It’s like Bangkok but with a bit more class.
Formula 1: Sepang Circuit, KL
The weather was hot, the beer was cold and the food was crap. The cars were fast, their noise was LOUD and we had no idea that Hamilton had gone into the wrong pit.
Time to exit KL. Beijing, I’m coming to get you.