There’s no Thursday on purpose since I didn’t experience any of it. At the end of my 13 hour flight to Taipei, it was Friday morning. I’d managed to get a decent amount of sleep making the flight go relatively quickly and the dinner and breakfast they served up was enough to tide me over until landing. When I couldn’t sleep any more I watched a couple of movies, the first called “Runner, Runner” which wasn’t really worth it but the second, “Eddie the Eagle” was absolutely brilliant and had me in tears at the end thanks to all the elation.
When I landed in Taipei, I was feeling only a little second hand but better once I went to the bathroom for a good tooth brushing and face wash. From there, I went through security and took my place at my next gate. It was packed with people getting on a plane to Beijing, but it soon emptied until my boarding time came around and it filled again. Using the airport’s Wifi, I did some more blogging, then managed to catch Kevin at a good time and have a good talk to him. It was awesome to catch up after so long and it was great for him to keep me company as I waited. As we hung up, it was about boarding time, running about half an hour late. I stayed seated until the last minute, managing to get almost up to date with the blogs on my website. I was lucky to get an aisle seat again on this flight and I hoped the 4.5 hour trip to Kuala Lumpur would go quickly. I was excited to see my Dad.
I tried falling asleep to a podcast after we took off, but I soon gave up on that and switched back to blogging until we were served lunch. I carried on writing until the end of the flight, watching a movie in silence as we came in to land. KL looked smoggy as ever from the air and when we touched down I was happy to be done with flying (for the next few days at least). I was over-excited leaving the plane, thinking that I’d see Dad any minute, but I soon remembered that there was immigration, customs and baggage collection between now and the end of my journey. Still, I walked quickly with the crowd hoping to minimise my time in queues and I picked the fourth line for immigration. Queue was faster, but by the time I got through half an hour later, my bags weren’t yet on the carousel so no matter.
I was sending Dad updates on my progress as I went through the motions, he was eagerly waiting in the arrivals hall. I didn’t have to wait long for my two bags and nicely they were right next to each other on the conveyor belt. Now I was nervous about Scottie. It was her first international flight and I wanted to make sure she’s survived ok. Despite the signs above the carousel that said oversized luggage would be delivered to the carousel, I wandered around the collection area with my bags on a trolley looking for a hint of where she might be. I found the oversize conveyor easily enough and just as I sent a message to Dad saying I was becoming concerned, there she was. There wasn’t a single hole or dent in the box which was extremely encouraging. With a big smile on my face, I stacked her onto the trolley with the rest of my shit and made my way out to customs. Apart from a question by a guard of “what’s that?” “A bicycle.” I was straight through. Now I could start looking for Dad.
The arrivals hall was busy and Dad was right on the back wall, giving me a big wave when he saw me. Unlike everyone else, we got out of the way before I got the first hug from my Daddy in over a year. Now I felt like I was nearly home. We didn’t have anywhere to be in a hurry since we were to stay in the terminal and wait for my Uncle (Dad’s brother) Rob and his wife Joylene. They were flying in an hour after me so we figured we would have another hour to wait. We stationed my trolley in a corner and stood around chatting while we waited. After an hour and a half, Dad found himself a stool to sit down on and shortly after that, we scavenged another chair so we could both have a sit down.
In the time we were waiting, I found an ATM to get some ringgits like Dad had and similarly to my bank account situation in America, I wasn’t able to withdraw the 600RG (about $200 AUD) like Dad had. Denied. Then I tried credit instead of savings like I should have. Denied. Balance enquiry? I could take out 380 RG. Thanks very much! I emptied that account and went back to Dad, pretty well moneyless!
It was two hours before we saw Rob and Joylene walking through the hall and even then they were moving away from us. Dad had already received a call from our bus driver who was waiting for us outside, so after a few quick hellos and how are yous, we were outside and waiting for our transport. Dad waved down our driver and in the chaos of cars and people around us, we loaded everything into the bus and piled in. The travel wasn’t over yet, it was an hour’s drive to the city but it was filled with catching up between the four of us.
The road into to KL was familiar from when I’d been here two years before for the same race. When we pulled up at Berjaya Times Square I was excited that I’d finally get a cold beer in my hand. I’d felt like one ever since we reached the humid heat of the city right near the equator. Phil and Emma, a British couple that were part of the contingent, were already in the lobby so I hung out with them while Dad checked us into our room. Most of the our 26-strong contingent had already arrived so we quickly made plans to meet in the lobby in twenty minutes after a quick freshen up.
In our room, we were happy to find two single beds, a happy coincidence because I was not supposed to be there. On top of that, we also got two tickets for breakfast. I had a much needed hot shower, then as Dad did the same, got a call from Rob inviting us to join them in the Club Lounge for complimentary drinks and nibblies included with their premium suite. Thanks very much! Ten minutes later we met them on the fourteenth floor and waltzed in to the lounge. They had plenty of nice food which we all got plates of and I got myself a Carlsberg out of an ice bucket. The first sip was bliss and the rest just as good.
Done with our freebies, we walked out of the hotel and took the usual route over the main road via the overpass, then down a couple of dodgy alleyways to get to a shopping strip, then into an arcade to a sports bar lit up in all different colours. This was our usual hang out spot and dinner was on the market street just behind. Most of the contingent were at the coloured bar and they’d been drinking a good while. There were plenty of familiar faces, but some new ones too as always. After greeting everyone we found out from Geoff, a prominent member of the contingent, that this was their second bar for the evening. They’d moved having drunk the first bar out of cold beer and they’d just done the same at the coloured bar! This all despite Dad’s messages to Geoff to save some beer for us latecomers.
I was handed an unwanted Mojito and sipped on it as I talked with Tony, a first timer to the Malaysian GP who’d come with his wife and son. He works in the tech industry so we talked a bit about Tesla and his work in aerospace. We didn’t stay long though since there was nothing much to drink and everyone was getting hungry. There’d already been an advance party to market street where someone alerted Michael that a twenty-strong group of people was about to show up.
We were soon sitting down at a large table with cold Tiger beers in hand and the smoke of chilli in the air. Behind us was the open kitchen with flames shooting up three feet high when a wok wasn’t over the top of them. In front were hundreds of people walking the strip searching for food and souvenirs. It wasn’t all tourists though, most of the faces in the crowd were Asian and every now and then we’d see a Formula 1 shirt. Buskers walked through the crowd selling (or trying to sell) their cheap wares, musicians were at the edge of the mob of people trying to earn a few ringgit and the owner of an ice cream stand was incessantly ringing a bell to draw attention. We eventually asked Michael, our server and owner of the restaurant to shut him up and he kindly did so.
Sitting next to Phil, Emma and the young Leon, drinks flowed, some red wine came out and soon enough we had plates of food rotating around the table. It was a bloody delicious spread of honey chicken, marmite pork, fried rice, spicy beans, black pepper beef and clams. I was happy to get some non-airplane food in my tummy as was everyone else. I was soon near-drunk and very tired but remaining seated, managed to keep things civilised. Everyone was excited about what was to come over the next couple of days. This was the only grand prix attended by everyone each year so it was our annual F1 fix.
The first presentation of the evening was by Geoff, welcoming everyone to the city of KL and the contingent. He then handed things over to Phil who had been the clock wearer on the last day of racing last year and so had kept the clock in safe storage over the last year but now was his time to pass the legacy on. There were a few candidates for the honour but in the end, it went to Pete who had bought duty-free wine as instructed before entering KL but had left it on the plane, despite warnings from his Mandy that he’d left something behind. The wine was recovered but it meant Pete had to shamefully walk through oncoming traffic to make his way back to the plane and retrieve his reds. And so it begins…
The party started splitting off around 10pm with the young blokes going off to party somewhere but I stayed with group of people who remained at dinner then on the way back to the hotel we stopped in at the cigar bar next to the coloured bar for a cleansing ale in the form of a tower of Tiger beer. Here I chatted more with Geoff, Phil and Emma. In her first evening as chief financial officer, Mandy managed well to collect funds from everyone and pay the bill at each establishment.
I was happy to get back to our rooms at around 11pm. I was thoroughly tired since it was 7am in San Francisco where I’d been lost of hours ago and I was happy to have made it this far. Me and Dad were straight to bed and I had a solid sleep.