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Published: April 8th 2012
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur I take the bus into town and after wandering up the same street in China Town several times eventually find my backpackers hostel, tucked away down some dingy alleyway lined in fried food stalls. My room consists of a bed, a fan and a light switch that is conveniently placed on the outside of the room, down the hall. But I don't mind, I'm only sleeping here, the people are nice & friendly and it's in the heart of the hustle & bustle, markets & food stalls of China Town - not too hectic, but with the vibrant smells, sights, sounds and colours there's an exciting vibe here.
I meet Mark, my ex, who I've remained friends with and with whom I share a passion for Formula One, and we have a couple of beers on the roof terrace, catching up over the past few months before exploring the city and sampling some of the yummy local food in the market stalls. It's nice to see a familiar face and also to have a bit of a "break" from travelling... A break from the typical backpacker loop and backpacker talk. It's nice to hear stories from
back home for a change, of what friends are up to, a little piece of normality. As we are eating, a beggar walks past and asks if he can have our soup (it came free with our Pan Mee noodles and I don't like the look of it, so I say yes)... Then he asks for the other one... I say "Sure, take it"... Then he comes back a third time and asks for some pork...taking the piss a bit now! No chance mate!!... Never come between a girl and her pork!
Then it's the day of the Grand Prix! I'm excited, even more so by the fact my top 3 drivers are in positions 1,2 & 3 on the grid...Lewis Hamilton on pole, Button & Schumacher...Brilliant! It's gonna be a good race! We arrive early at the circuit and get our spot on the hillside over looking the track. The tickets only cost £30 here and the view is amazing - you can literally see half the track! The sun is beating down and it gets hotter & hotter - we bear it for as long as we can, (Mark is especially keen to go back with a
tan since he is only away for 5 days, I on the other hand actually have one for once in my life!) but it gets too much so we dive for the shade joining all the local Muslims, sensibly avoiding the midday sun.
The race begins, I have my Union Jack flag ready, which I wave like crazy everytime Hamilton speeds past while shouting "Come on Lewis" at the top of my voice... I'm sure he can see my flag and I'm sure it's making him go at least 0.2 seconds faster per lap! It's raining but he's got off to good start, slowly easing out from Button... A few nasty forks of lightning slice through the dark storm clouds up above and the safety car is brought out. I'm still not sure on the reasoning of this as surely lightning is just as likely to strike a car going 60mph as it is 200mph... But then when you're actually at a Grand Prix it's hard to tell what's going on all the time especially as you don't hear the radio commentary. Then before we know it, the race has been stopped - the reason being, from what we
can gather, that there's too much rain... Except there isn't! It's raining, sure but it's not terrential, in fact it's no heavier than a typical bit of drizzle over the Yorkshire Dales, but Charlie Whiting, man of no balls, has decided to stop the race. Surely that's what wet weather tyres are for?? And I don't know what Bernie is thinking having the Malaysian Grand Prix start at 4pm when it rains here at approximately 4pm everyday... sure if it's to make it more exciting but for god's sake let them race! Of course we all know what Bernie's thinking, what he's always thinking about - that big fat wedge in his pocket.
So the race is stopped for a while and it isn't long before the crowd gets restless...Mexican waves go on for literally half way round the circuit, the spirits are high, helped along by free flowing Tiger beer and guys run up and down with their homemade patriotic flags to the cheering crowd, my favourite reading "KIMI - Race, Sleep, Party".... I've loved those Finnish Fans ever since we met a load at the Budapest Grand Prix a couple of years back... They were there in
their droves with dozens & dozens of flags, dressed as Vikings and repeatedly singing "Ki-mi Raik-o-nen... Kimi Raikonen" at the tops of their voices... Even though Kimi Raikonen wasn't racing that year! You've gotta admire their loyalty!
Finally the race gets underway again, but due to McLaren messing up not one but two
of Hamilton's pit stops he finishes a disappointing third, my other two guys Button & Schumacher nowhere to be seen. And to add insult to injury my most hated driver since Damon Hill (sorry I was never a fan!) Alonso takes the chequered flag. We leave the track a bit deflated and board the shuttle bus back into KL. We know the traffic's notoriously bad at any Grand Prix but it isn't until after an hour of chatting away to some other British fans on the bus that we realise it's taken an hour just to get out of the car park!
We eventually arrive back in town about 11pm, tired & hungry but we've arranged to meet a guy we met at the Budapest Grand Prix 2 years ago for a few drinks as it turns out he's here too. This guy's name is
Johnny and he's one of those guys you can only describe as a true legend! As soon as we greet him and exchange big hugs, our mood has gone from being a bit withered & weary back to being full
on excited & ready for a party! Johnny is nearly 50 but has the energy of 21 year old. Always lively & excited, he fills us in on the 10 Grands Prix he went to last year, showing photos of his son with half the paddock, including one pic with Michael Schumacher making me very jealous! He manages to blag his way in everywhere, and I can see why! You can't help but like this guy!... He can't say a sentence without a "Woo!" or a "Boom!" in there, with his Burnley accent, but even if you were at you're lowest this guy would bring a smile to your face.
So after re-fuelling on curry & wine he suggests going to the "Beach Bar" - a place that's full of "stunning" Malaysian women that chat you up, then you realise they're prostitutes... But by this time the guy's already sold and takes her home anyway...Apparently. Sounds entertaining so we
go along for the crack... And indeed it is
full of stunning women hitting on guys... And hitting their pockets too. We observe and have a giggle at some of the sights then get bored of it and go for a good old boogie in the club, Johnny the first on stage, singing out to the crowd, loud & proud!
Around 3am we call it a night, go to get a good night sleep and have a long much needed lie in!
Needless to say my last day in KL is spent with slightly bleary eyes and a bit of a sore head, but we do manage to make it over to the Petronas towers to get that elusive photo! I see a guy lift his 3 year old daughter up onto a pillar to take her photo in front of them and I think "Yeah good idea, that's a good shot" so I ask Mark to give me a leg up, which he does, though I have to half scramble to lift myself up, half flashing my bum at the passing traffic as I ungracefully manage to manouvre myself on top. Mark takes a photo, then I
hear a shout and see a security guard running towards me, blowing his whistle. "Quick!" I pass Mark my camera "take one with mine too!"... He does so just in time as the securty guard gets to us, orders me down and shakes his head at me as I try, again ungracefully to get myself down from the high wall. We scamper out of there, but at least I got my photo!
Later on we meet Jacqui & Lewis, our two Kiwi friends we lived with in Brixton, in the good old Chantrey Road days, who have since moved back to New Zealand but are on their way to India to do a sponsored Tuk tuk race. They have a few nights in KL beforehand so we meet for some yummy street food and yet another good old catch up! It's been great seeing old friends & familiar faces in the midst of my world travels and the next stop holds yet more to come! My whole family in Singapore - what better Birthday present? (Ok, yes, a Ferarri would be nice, but it's the next best thing 😉
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