Kuala Lumpur and The Acid House

Down from the Cameron Highlands we raced, Kuala Lumpur was waiting, and we’d stayed too long again.  The road was gnarly and fun, it was good to be moving.  Buses whizzed past.  

Stilt-huts by the roadside belonged to the indigenous people of Malaysia, and we passed a whole makeshift village, all on stilts, bizarrely incongruous with the rest of the place.  We congratulated ourselves on seeing a ‘real’ Orang Asli settlement, instead of the ones set up solely for tourist contributions, where elders sit like performing seals and play with blowpipes.  

At a tea shack by a waterfall the shop owner came to chat and grin at us with his giant gold teeth.  A Kuala Lumpur taxi driver rocked up and gave us Nasi Lemak, a Malaysian breakfast wrapped in a little banana leaf box. He was driving some Arabian tourists across Malaysia for the day.  It seemed a long trip. 

He gave us  jackfruit in breadcrumbs (it tasted a lot like apple crumble, comfortingly) and we merrily meandered on.  


an old timber Malay building in the jungle

painted timber Chinese buildings, taken from the bike (hence rubbish...)

The road took it upon itself to fork. We picked fairly arbitrarily- the map didn’t have any roads on it.  

It got narrower and far less road-like, until it was a little dirt track leading to someone’s garden in a palm plantation.  We’d arrived in a far-flung Orang Asli settlement, this time with smart concrete houses that the government had built, but still with bamboo sticks holding up the porches the inhabitants had stuck on since.  

The kids on the path looked at us with huge wide eyes, and hesitated before breaking into big grins and waving.  An old guy looked up at us and seriously thought about fainting.   

We had to turn back.  The person whose garden it was just grinned.  


A few hours of dull motorway driving to the city followed.  This is hard work on the back of a motorbike, and you have to try really hard not to fall asleep, usually by singing songs to yourself.   

Our arrival was pretty spectacular though, with two hours of total confusion on the massive ring-roads and one way systems.  I was very nearly in tears, and sorely considered ripping up the stupid map.  The skyline was incredible, and the twin towers were impressive even from the road, but we were Seriously Lost. 

It felt like we’d arrived in the future.  There were sky trains overhead, and big shiny buildings.  There were Starbucks and McDonalds, KFC and Burger King, Borders bookshops, Topshop and Accessorize.


We finally reached Chinatown just as a huge thunderstorm struck, and rain started flooding the porches.  The bike fitted neatly into a tiny corner of a dilapidated corridor, after a lot of maneuvering, and we fitted ourselves into an equally tiny room in a very strange hotel.   

Our hotel entrance is reminiscent of a particularly lowly crack house, but the hotel lobby is more like the Acid House.  It has Chinese lanterns and millions of fake flowers clambering up pointless trellises.  A giant stone waterfall lurks in the background.  

There are snake-necked turtles with sharp teeth in tiny tanks, and fish in cases so small they look like they have been stuffed, unable to even turn around.  

The owner came to greet us.  He was a middle-aged Malay man with shoulder-length orange hair, a giant belly, nine gold hoops in each ear (I did actually count), including one attached on a chain to somewhere else..  He carries a pet monkey called Jojo who wears a nappy and follows him around.   His wife is a transvestite with enormous feet and a penchant for loudly patterned kaftans, who controls the money with a grimace.  In the corridor an old Indian gentleman with a long ponytail sits cross-legged, looking wise. 

On Christmas Eve we spent the night eating a great free buffet on the rooftop, talking to an old Dutch man with big bottle-end glasses that magnified his gloopy eyes.  He was an ex gambling addict, and got drunk as he told us how he’d lost EU 150,000 on Texas Hold’Em.  The young Swedish couple we were sitting with looked petrified and we haven’t seen them since.   

There are tiny cameras everywhere, and the room next to ours is full of monitors which the man carefully keeps locked away...  

Adam on the rooftop, looking sheepish with Jojo.  Jojo sports a fetching 'I Love Daddy' T-shirt. He was allegedly rescued from a Chinese eatery, where they put live monkeys into specially prepared holes in the restaurant tables so they can easily cut around the top of the skull to then eat the brain raw at the table.  
Monkey brain is very good for rheumatism... 

Christmas Day saw us on top of the highest tower in Asia, (‘Highest Tower in the World Situated In a Forest Within a City‘- Malaysians love their world records…). It was stupidly high, and we ran round it, spying on all the passers-by with binoculars.

We wandered round the huge Twin Tower shopping centres with their thousands of Christmas baubles, watching Malaysians of every race and creed shop in Cartier and Prada for a holiday they didn’t have. 

Christmas dinner was Dunkin’ Donuts and a Coke in a bar with a live shark above the liquer bottles.  

We wandered about under the Petronas Twin Towers, and jumped off things.  I tried to find a Christmas hat, but failed.

On Boxing Day a large Dutch girl marched us to see the Skybridge, in an atrocious thunderstorm with lightening striking the conductors on the roof of the building opposite.

To get onto the Petronas Skybridge you are first herded into a 3d cinema screening on the wonders of the Malaysian petrochemical industries.   We photographed ourselves in the daft 3d glasses.  It is possible we sometimes fail to take our cultural touristing seriously enough…

a particularly attractive look...

In between we looked at things.  Mosques, old buildings, the first flag of independence, the old colonial cricket ground and Independence square… 


It was all a bit clean and bland.  Chinatown suited us better with its strange lanterns, fake goods and smoking roast chestnut stands.

This is Chinatown.  You can't see much as I am apparently unable to keep my hands from shaking.  Sorry.

We met up with a British guy we had met for much drinking in Laos.  It led to an impromptu session of messiness, with tequila shots and daft dancing, that eventually ended with our friend slicing impressively into his finger whilst trying to open a vodka bottle to drink in the crack house stairwell with Arly the hotel guy. 

We took the bus to Batu Caves.  The orange-haired monkey man had told us to.  It was a Hindu cave temple, bang in the middle of a huge industrial estate, on a roundabout. It wasn’t quite what we had pictured, but we dutifully climbed the 272 steps.

...after 272 steps there was very little chance anyway

It was peculiarly Indian, with concrete on everything, and bright pastel-colored plaster cast deities.  The monkeys were pretty good though.  They didn’t seem too keen on old Krishna, and had set out to desecrate the area. They knocked over donation urns, clambered up the curtains, upturned chairs, and found a devotional scarf to fight over.  They had managed to dig through tightly-locked old wooden doors into the inner chamber of the temple, and were sneaking in and out.  

Personally I am fairly sure it was all down to sugar.  They had a fairly normal modern diet of Coke and biscuits, left lying around the whole area by compassionate tourists.  One monkey got very angry when he ran out of Diet Coke, and threw the can across the courtyard.  I can understand.  Its hard to get that stuff round here.

monkey see, monkey do

On the way back we went past a ‘McCurry’ restaurant and sniggered.

We got a new tyre for the bike, and spent a happy hour chatting to the guy at Sunny Motorcycles, who had met loads of fools like us.  (He was very good, and cheap too, his details are here for any tyre seekers. )   

We went to the National Aquarium, (‘Reputedly the Largest Aquarium in the World’) and wandered through the shark tunnel. The tanks there were depressingly small in many cases, and we felt guilty for paying for it.  It was the National Aquarium, we thought they would at least have decent-sized tanks.  I found a miserable snapper turtle with no room to snap.

a miserable snapper turtle

piranhas, with festive gold glitter that I'm hoping is natural...


underneath a tiger shark is a scary place to be

A sign in the aquarium which reminds everyone how lucky Malaysia is to have such amazingly diverse rainforests.  And then tells us how much the wood would be worth if they were all chopped down.  There are some very different attitudes around...

New Years Eve saw us on the rooftop, chatting rubbish to a big bunch of foreigners who’d rocked up out of nowhere.  There were Germans, Swedish, Dutch, Australians and Irish.  The Irish were friendly but emphatically the most unintelligible of the lot!  

 Next to the police riot vans.

A few of us marched across town to the Twin Towers with sneaky bottles of spiked Coke and the drunken guesthouse guy.  Just before midnight we lost everyone apart from Arly, who by this time was sweating profusely and leering drunkenly at the young Malay girls. The city was packed with people, and our lot had all somehow disappeared into the throngs in different directions.  We watched some spectacular fireworks nonetheless, and wandered back through the streets shouting things at people (good things, not bad things..).

fireworks in Kuala Lumpur outside the twin towers

The night ended strangely with my finding Adam in the Irish lads room, telling them all about how he had just had his toe bitten by an African man.  I never did get to the bottom of it, but his toe was bleeding. 

So that was New Year, and now it is 2010 and we are all in the future.   

Happy New Year!


  1. Hey its Brock. Since i met you both in Pakistan ive thought a lot about doing a motorcycle trip. Following this blog is motivation enough. Im back in Australia right now getting a licence. Nicky, great writing; youve got some great anecdotes. And Adam, keep pushing that bike wherever you can get it. Keep up the great work guys. If you need any help in Australia, let me know. Brock.

  2. Great stories! Thanks for the update. Sure hope Adam's toe heals ok.


  3. Hello Friends,I have sent you an email.Please check your account and response me.Have a nice moment.Your friend Shahidul.

  4. Hi splendid photos and a great read as per usuall ,makes the long way round look like a trip to asda! s and s x


Say hello. It makes us happy. Ta, Nicky. x

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