Just go, they’ll work around you

On my first day here, I walked from KLCC to Bukit Bintang using the roads and pavements. And I mean literally, roads and pavements, because it seems they don’t differentiate between who can use what?

The cars are generally pretty good at going where they’re told, but if a building site pops then appears in the middle of a busy shopping area, they just push the traffic over to the left a bit, onto the pavement (it’s ok, most of the slaps are missing or wobbly anyway).

But the motorbikes are not catered for at all. Why would they be? They just go wherever they like anyway! Roads (with or against the general flow of traffic), pavements (but don’t worry, just keep walking and they’ll find their way around you), stairs (I kid you not, it’s like Kick Start in some places!) Up the steps, across the grass, down the rubble bank, over a couple of old tyres and back onto the road the other side, slipping into the traffic (going at 90 degrees to the cars to get across to where they want to be)

For pedestrians, they might build you a walkway (which could take you round three shopping malls and a subway, bringing you out two blocks from where you thought you’d be). 

But it all just seems to work. It’s like the epitome of a non-bureaucratic traffic system – there’s structure, of sorts, in places, but they just go where there’s space. 

Zebra crossings are merely decoration

Seriously, they have absolutely no purpose whatsoever! I discovered this after spending ten minutes strategically positioned in a Hagen Daas shop surveying how it all works (tactical move of course, nothing to do with mango sorbet).

Eventually, on realising my two scoops have gone, I make my move. I start logically at the crossing. There’s a huge round button (with no signage or instructions) so I press it. Nite, I didn’t spot anyone else trying this whilst consuming my choc n mint, but few people in London do either, they just wait for the lights to change) but I’m taking no chances. I give it a couple of minutes, then the red man opposite goes green and I hear what sounds like a peacock stuck in the lamppost beside me, so I start to cross. But the cars and bikes don’t stop for the light, or for me? Erm, ok!

By Saturday night, after a day exploring the city, I think I’ve got it covered. As I emerge from the hotel, I’m surrounded by a myriad of shoppers, tourists and locals, all waiting patiently for the lights to change. To my right a see a local-looking chap make a run for it and descend into the traffic. Right, I’m up for this… let’s just take it a lane at a time… I start slowly (so the cars know I’m going for it) and start to walk out as I see a gap behind the oncoming car. As the red/white taxi goes past (and I chuckle at the ‘no haggling’ sign on his door) I step up a gear and quicken my pace to the relative safety (?) of the white line between lanes… I slow a little until the bikes have played cat & mouse with me, before subtly (trying desperately to look like I do this every day) making a final dash towards Prada.

So general rule of thumb: just go where you like and they work around you – fun fun!

Bxx

Birthday bubbles with friends old and new

Friday night. And after a long day’s exploring, trying to cram in everything I wanted to see, I decide it’s time I arranged something to do later. Thanking the hotel for complimentary wifi, I contact the pitlane to see who’s out and about tonight; an iMessage to Organised Esq (who’s already sent me his number in KL) an email to the Snowman (as I’ve no number for him) and a FB message to Mr Useless (notoriously rubbish and unlikely to even look at his phone before Tuesday, except to share the latest HuffPost on Facebook).

Organised comes up trumps – general plan is to aim for food in KLCC about 8. I suggest Marini’s? Yep, should be able to find that. Desperado’s out too, so we’ll see you then. Cool.

Next-up, I WhatsApp Tina to see what he and Alej are up to. They live out here and his brother is a mate of mine in London. I haven’t seen him since a very drunken hockey night out at the Olympics, and I’ve yet to meet his fiancé, Alejandra. So v much looking forward to that, although slightly unsure whether calling him ‘Tina’ may be a tad dangerous in SEAsia?!

Unfortunately for the pitlane boys, who are staying out of the city closer to the track, no taxis are prepared to come into town! Organised and Desperado are at different hotels but both having the same issue. They call to see if I can go further out? Being me, and always up for exploring and adventure, I give it a go. But because I’ve arranged to meet Tina and Alej at 11, I’ll need to get a cab back no later than 10:30… By this point it’s close to 9 and if I don’t find a cab in the next 15, it’s hardly gonna be worth it! Unfortunately for the pitlane, the city taxis are as cooperative as Nico was with Lewis, and no-one wants to go anywhere! I make a decision – it’s now 9:30, do I really fancy spending my birthday Saturday night in KL in a taxi? I head over to Marini’s and up to #57.

…where there appears to be a party going on! I know no-one in the building and have no idea what to expect, but I jump in the lift with 5 Aussie blokes and up we go. One of the Aussies (who bears a vague resemblance to Russell Crowe, but slightly less rugged and with curlier hair), turns round and asks “you’re going up to the party too?” To which I respond “certainly looks that way!” I have no idea where this sudden burst of cockiness comes from?! And given my utter lack of insight into where the lift is taking us or even who’s party it is, I can only assume it’s a defence mechanism for the fact that I’m actually on my tod and just want a glass of bubbles in the best bar in the city! Luckily Russell doesn’t take offence and, in fact, buys me a glass of said bubbles for my birthday :) 

Meanwhile, we reach #57 and as the doors open, the music gets louder, the lights get darker and the party presents itself. To be honest, I’ve still no idea who’s party it is, but Mr Petronas suggested that Mercedes had a party here last year (it is right beside their sponsor’s HQ so I wouldn’t be surprised, although I saw no-one looking remotely F1ish in the place). 

Having looked at the view and said “wow” more times than I probably should (there goes that illusion of looking like a regular), meeting a bunch of really friendly Malaysians, accepting a glass of birthday bubbles from Russell Crowe chappie (who turns out to be called Anthony) and chatting with his mates (who turn out to be called Antonio, Tony and Brian) and deciding it’ll be simpler to just call everyone Tony (except for Brian – not at all confusing), I finally hop in a cab and head down to the Havana bar to meet Tina and Alej.

On arrival, it appears half the Aussies who left before me, had a similar idea. We reconvene and play continues. By this point, we’re on our fifth bottle of bubbles and I’m wondering where Tina’s got to… Just as I pull out my phone, I hear a familiar voice behind me saying “don’t text, we’re here!” Lots of squeals, big hugs and more bubbles – awesome :)

#brilliantbigbirthday

Bxx

Smells like Saha

First thoughts of KL

The smell. Some places have their own smells, don’t they? And I’m not talking about your local kebab shop or curry house. My best mate once pointed out to me that driving through London at night smelt really distinctive, and she was right, and I now recognise it. 

When I landed at the airport, all I smelt was duty free, and on the KLIA Ekspres all I smelt was damp public transport (welcome to hot wet SE Asia!) But when I got off at KL Sentral to find the monorail, I got a hit of individuality. It’s not unpleasant, not overpowering, not a spoil, just defining. It’s like humidity and street food with a dabble of incense thrown in for good measure. It’s great! And having packed and been out to explore on my first night here, it’s actually a good representation of the mixture of culture I’ve seen in the past three hours. 

I like it. I shall name it Saha. 

AN: I’ve no idea what that means, so if it’s anything naughty, I apologise?! It’s actually the name of the chap who’s just served me my drink!

#sahawelcomesyoutoKL

The joys of alternative signage

You don’t realise how accustomed you’ve become to your surroundings, until you go somewhere else, right? I mean things like signs and directions. At home, you know what to look for; the fonts, colours, positioning etc. you just know where to look for motorway signs, or street names, or underground maps don’t you?

So am I starting to get ambivalent now? Either that or the signage here is clear and I’m getting too clever for my own good! Let me explain.

I arrive in KL having never been here before, and manage to walk (confidently, as in, what Staffs would call ‘the strut’) straight through the airport to the shuttle train without so much as glancing at a sign (well of course I looked, I just did it subtly, without getting out my guidebook, or asking at the information desk, which I managed to clock en route, just in case…) I then fail terribly, and in full view of a family of three. 

Having considered the need for coins for the monorail in town, found an ATM, got out some Rans, found a shop and bought water (tick, mum!) to get change, found the KLIA Ekspres ticket machine, purchased my ticket into town, and spotted the (brightly coloured in purple) lift down to the platform; I was feeling suitably smug at how unlike a novice I must have looked! But schoolgirl error to follow… 

I clock that the Ekspres platform is on level 1, and whilst everyone else waits by the purple lift, I slip across to the empty one across the hall and press button #1 ;) I’m soon joined by mum, dad and their daughter, Gap Yar, who claims she knows where she’s going… In silence, we all descend to L1, only to emerge into a car park? Hang on, this isn’t right? I think back to how there’s a fifty-lane road separating L1 departures from L1 car hire at San Jose airport… Ok so back up, back across the hall, and back down in the purple lift (where everyone else who’s clearly NOT a novice was waiting ten minutes ago), and follow the signs.

#stoptryingtobeclever

Fortunately for me, the people waiting there ten minutes earlier are already safely on their way and not around to see my faux pas. In fact, the only people who are still around are mum, dad and Gap Yar who’ve made exactly the same mistake as me! We nod in acknowledgement, exchange libel about the ‘poor signage’ and enough is said… 

Now where’s that Ekspres?

#beenheremillionsoftimes

In flight entertainment

Last time I blogged about in-flight entertainment, I was referring to the AV system. But I’m back to my old tricks and this time I’m inspired by my fellow passengers.

Not long after sitting down, I’m in conversation with the chap beside me – Jazz. He’s in Marketing, lives in Twickenham, spent two years in India and a year in New York, has travelled extensively with his work, rocking up over 300,000 air miles, and is addicted to Alaskan survival documentaries. Surprising what you learn about someone in a few minutes’ in a confined space! But whilst the conversation is interesting, my attention is soon distracted by the passengers in the row in front of us. 

So Walter is by the aisle. From behind, I can’t see what he looks like, but I envisage a resemblance to the chap next door from the Good Life (not Richard Briers, the other one, the tall one). Walter is greying, going a bit thin on top, but still making an effort with his appearance (he’s wearing Prada specs). Beside him is Gloria; also greying a little, and somewhat shorter than Walter, but I suspect she also tries to make an effort, as her thinning hair shows multiple shades of red and blonde, suggesting to me that she has (or used to) dye it to cover the grey. 

AN: I’m not consciously trying to judge poor Wallie and Glors based on the state of their hair – it’s just that, from the seat behind them, I have little more on which to base my assessment!

Anyway, They don’t seem to chat much (well, not compared to Jazz and I anyway, we haven’t shut up since we took off?!) Perhaps they’re tired (we did have a slight delay on take off)? Or perhaps they’re reading or something? But I soon draw a new conclusion – it’s actually in Wallie’s best interests to say nothing. I come to this conclusion having just witnessed our first food service of the flight.

I’m not actually sure if Glors is vegetarian, has a nut allergy, or is simply accustomed to complaining? But it begins when the choice offered on today’s menu turns out not to be a choice any longer – they’ve run out of beef (we are on the back row of our cabin, so I’m not entirely surprised; like Glors herself, maybe everyone in front of her fancied the beef (I know I did), but clearly Glors isn’t happy with this. She doesn’t want the chicken. In fact, it sounds like she actually pre-ordered caviar, but for some reason, in this seat (we’re in Premium Economy) that particular blend is not readily available. 

Wallie keeps quiet.

When our polite crew member (Elaine) suggests she could try the veggie option (pasta) instead of the chicken, Glors argues her case. That’s not what she wanted (the fact that there is nothing else available, is irrelevant). Diplomatically, and I suspect to show how important they consider Glors’ satisfaction to be, Elaine suggests she speaks to her cabin supervisor to see what could be done… She disappears.

Wallie says nothing.

A few minutes later, as I’m tucking into my chicken, Elaine returns with her cabin supervisor, Shane. Shane begins by showing he has been brought up to speed by Elaine, and relays back to Glors what he understands the issue to be. But Glors is getting hungry. She’s been on this plane for nearly 90 minutes now, and still she’s had nothing to eat.

AN: I actually saw her eat the pretzels they brought round a while ago but, like Wallie, I’m saying nothing, this is far too entertaining…

Before Shane can get a word in edgeways, Glors is guiding his vocabulary with comments like ‘is there no sorry in there?’ for which Shane naturally apologies, as Wallie gently slides an inch down in his seat.

By this point, Glors’ argument is still not entirely clear to me – she’s taking up time in making them run around after her, without actually helping them find her a suitable solution? Instead of accepting that the Beluga she was expecting had not actually been loaded at Heathrow, and as we are now 29,000 feet up somewhere over Scandinavia, it’s unlikely to appear anytime soon; instead of telling the cabin crew (who are trying to help her) that she is hungry, that they should apologise, and that she is not happy; if she gave them a second to propose an alternative, the situation could potentially be resolved?

A third crew member soon approaches, and Jane has a far more businesslike look on her face. Wallie slides an inch lower, and says nothing.

Jane clearly has no need to demonstrate authority, understanding, or anything else. From the look on her face, you know she knows her stuff, and will be able to diffuse the situation, even if it means Glors going down the emergency exit slide.

Jane apologises (tick) for Madam’s hunger (tick) and for the misunderstanding which has caused this. She has now come downstairs from First Class, and has brought their menu with her. If there’s anything on there which Madam might like, they can arrange that. Clearly, as food in First is cooked to order, she may have to wait a few minutes – Glors opens her mouth to complain (I’m guessing that waiting is unacceptable?) – but Sally gets there first, saying that beyond that, there are no other options as we are now 39,000 feet up and not landing any time soon.

Glors is finally in her place. She orders the fish. Wallie gives her hand a little squeeze of approval – god help him if he actually spoke – and Jane disappears, job done.

I am stifling a grin, typing away, suitably entertained. Jazz clocks me writing and hands me his business card, saying “please can I read it when it’s published?”

#whatnocaviar

At least I didn’t pack a ball gown

When I jet off on my adventures, I tend to plan my packing (I plan everything in my life!) So last week, I check the weather forecast, look online at photos of what people wear in KL, and read a couple of travel attire blogs to make sure I was packing the right stuff. I then spend weekend (not the one just gone, but ten days ago) pulling out my summer clothes suitcase from beneath my bed, and deciding what clothes to take. I restock my mini travel toiletries and check the hotel website to see what they already provide. I check my chargers are working, review my KL rough guide and plan my itinerary. Once I’ve decided what to take, this is all piled up neatly in the corner of my room (not in my suitcase yet, unnecessary excessive creasing, obvs) and I set a task in my phone for Tuesday night to ‘pack’. I also set reminders to leave the office on time so I’m not late home, and cook enough dinner at the weekend (freezing individual portions) so I don’t have to worry about that on Tuesday night. All good, no?

I then get a call from Tabs, saying its Wills’ birthday, and am I coming out for dinner. Clearly, the logical thing in my plan is to say “No mate, I have heaps to sort tonight as I’m away tomorrow”. Unfortunately, is comes out as “Where are you? I’ll come but not a big one.” So I get home at eleven, get over-excited by birthday cards and presents, and start pulling out random clothes from my wardrobe and towing them into the mix, completely creasing all my clothes in the process.

I then sleep through my alarm and wake this morning reverting to plan A; I stuff things into my case, close my case, re-open my case, remove two t-shirts my cargo pants and a hairdryer, reclose my case, and am about to head for the door when my phone goes. It’s Tina in KL.

The conversation goes something like this:

Tina – Alejandra might have a spare ticket for Paddock Club, interested?
Me – Omg, are you serious?
Tina – yeah, let me check but should be good… You’re in. Marlborough Club with Ferrari. Ping me your email address…

At this point, I realise that the one outfit I had no trouble selecting (the standard issue teal and silver Mercedes team kit) may not go down too well with Kimi and Seb? Case open, stuff out…

After a quick decision not to sport my usual Mercedes attire, whilst not completely defecting to the opposition by buying Ferrari stash, I decide Black is the safe option, and repack accordingly.

By the time I get to work, I’ve had full details through from Tina, explaining that the dress code is ‘casual – must wear red’… Fugger. Rethink.

#ferrarifriends
#caniwearmercedesunderwear
#letsgoracing

Big birthday trip

I started my last post by saying I’d been planning, and it’s all about travel, and the F1 season has started again… Then continued by writing about my weekend? Slight sidetrack? Nothing new there then! So what is the planning all about?

Well, I’m a wee bit excited. And I’m smiling at the thought. And it’s nothing to do with being on a tube out west listening to Taylor Swift (guilty pleasure). It’s because I’m going on another crazy trip and I’m excited about it!

This time three years ago, I felt a bit like this. I was heading off to Hong Kong on my first solo long haul, into the unknown, not sure what to expect, and blogging about everything from in-flight entertainment, to getting lost in Kowloon, to two Aussies hurling projectiles on a train in Sydney.

Since then, have I become a bit complacent? Or have I just got used to traveling? I’m not really sure. I don’t get as excited about the little things as I used to, maybe because I now know what to expect. But one thing has not changed – the sense of appreciation. Most of my friends don’t have the freedom I do, to just pack a bag and go (their jobs don’t let them, they have young families, or other responsibilities etc). I recognise that and that’s part of the reason I blog about it – some of them say they feel they’re there with me, experiencing it with me. I truly hope so, as it can get lonely traveling alone! Writing my blog feels like I’m telling my best mate about it, the only difference being the blog doesn’t get a round in…

I’m going off on one again, aren’t I? Right, focus Boxy; where are you going with this?

  

Kuala Lumpur. In three days’ time, I’ll be hopping on a big bird to South East Asia! It’s my birthday on Friday and I wanted to do something different for it this year, rather than just drinks in the pub. Also, BA are changing their Avios points system, meaning that after April, the points I’ve been accumulating over the past year or two will buy me just a third of what they do now. So if I’m going to get the most from them, I need to spend them now. The Malaysian Grand Prix falls on my birthday weekend and it’s one I’ve never been to. This all had ‘why the hell not’ written all over it – so I just did it!

With a little persuasion from the F1 paddock (it doesn’t take much), who were testing in Jerez at the time, tickets were booked, a rough guide purchased, and that smile which finds its way onto my face whenever I’m planning my next trip, managed to find its way onto my face. So over the next week or so, I’ll post a few updates from my big birthday trip. (That’s a big ‘birthday trip’ as opposed to a ‘big birthday’ trip, just to clarify, I’m not into my forties just yet…!) I’ll try to make them interesting and will be my usual shameless self – if I walk into a lamppost you’ll hear about it, don’t worry!

#bigbirthdaytrip

#letsgoracing

Bxx