As most of you know, the ship ferrying our cars from Australia to Singapore arrived a week late, so we were forced to find something to occupy our time for a few days. We decided to cross over into Malaysia and take a taxi up to Mersing which is the departure point for Palau Tioman (Tioman Island). Tioman is a beautiful island in the South China Sea where many local Malaysians go to escape city life for the weekend and relax.
On the evening of our second day on Tioman, a lively group of individuals invited us to a barbecue they were throwing on the beach. The group was from Kuala Lumpur or "KL" and were vacationing on Tioman for a few days. We graciously accepted their invitation and were treated to one of the biggest and best barbecues any of us have ever experienced. The deliciously marinated chicken, lamb, crab, barracuda and stingray meat was carefully tended to by Eszkandar who also managed to mix up some drinks in-between flipping the feast before us. It also helped that he is a part-time bartender at some of the hot spots in KL.
Eszkandar’s wife Ruby managed the tunes on a laptop, complete with huge floor speakers, and "DJ Rubes" kept the music flowing all night long. The whole extravaganza was orchestrated by a guy named Wan Kamal. It wasn’t long before we realized that Wan and his crew knew how to have a good time. Now you might think that it is a pretty normal occurrence for people on vacation to throw a barbecue and have a few drinks, but the hospitality shown to us by Wan and his friends was far from anything most of us had ever experienced. We were treated to a never ending supply of meat and refreshments and when we wanted to return the favor, Wan refused saying that we were guests in his country and it was his duty to ensure we have a good time.
After spending a few more nights on Tioman and once again being the recipients of Wan’s hospitality, we returned to Singapore to fetch the cars. We told Wan we would be going through KL in a few days to drop Caki off at the airport and get some work done and with that, he gave us his number and told us he would show us around town when we arrived.
As promised, we met back up with Wan for Caki’s last night with TWBR and is was a night to remember. Wan, Eszkandar and DJ Rubes picked us up and took us to Planet Hollywood. (Don’t judge… it was a good time and warrants another blog entry) Eszkandar used to bartend at Planet Hollywood and Wan knew the managers very well and as such we were treated very well. After eating, we went to one of the hot clubs, Aloft, and we soon realized that Wan had a lot more friends. With Wan leading the way, the TWBR entourage breezed right into the club, avoiding a sizable line filled with people who had just parked their Ferrari’s and we walked straight into the VIP section. Upon finding the VIP section full, Wan spoke with the owner of the club, another close friend, and before we knew it, some other people were forced to give up their table. It was then we realized that we had met up with the unofficial mayor of KL.
We went out with Wan a few more times in KL and he assisted us in doing everything from investigating CB radios for the trucks to providing contacts of potential expedition sponsors. When we told him that we were headed to Subang to meet with a guide outfit we hoped would lead us through some of the national parks here in Malaysia, Wan insisted that we stay at a resort where he could give us the "corporate discount." It just so happens that Wan’s jurisdiction extends beyond KL and as a result, we are getting some work done for $40US per night at a 5 star resort.
From the beginning, we wanted to get off the beaten path as we drove around the world. KL is pretty much right in the middle of the beaten path, however, the trip is also about meeting local people and we definitely lucked out. Thanks to Wan, our time in Malaysia has been much more memorable, we have some great stories and experiences to share and we have done so for practically nothing. We have heard some rumors from people who have seen us out with Wan that he is somehow a member of one of the Sultanates. Whatever the case may be, Wan has treated us like royalty and we look forward to returning the favor when he comes to visit after we return to the states.