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What’s your beef? BA to KL

This feels wrong. Why aren’t I writing about our journey back from Helsinki in early September? Leaving that whole trip unfinished makes me feel uneasy, but obviously not so much that I’ve actually done anything about it. No, instead, I’ve gone on holiday again with Helen and I’m typing this from Kuala Lumpur airport.

Tuesday, that’s when we left the UK. I’m close to losing track already. Did a half day at work then went home to do a bunch of chores – feeding the cat, feeding the birds and squirrels, taking out the rubbish, etc etc – before my cab to Heathrow turned up a full 15 minutes early. Helen left work a similar time to when I got in the car, but communication was limited as I was kept busy the entire drive by stories of drug runners and people beating up someone they’d recently talked down from suicide and goodness knows what else. At the end of the journey the driver tried to refuse my tip, which was weird. A rainbow was forming over the airport. Weird start, this.

Helen arrived a bit after me. I told her I was waiting by where the tube kicks out. She texted to say nope, she’d got the escalator and went out to the smoking bit... on the arrivals level. Huh. Well OK, I’m directly above that, as I proved with a photo matching the one she sent me, just from a different elevation.

Rather than making it easier to meet up, this somehow made things harder. She said hang on, she’d get the lift... and didn’t get either of the 5 lifts right next to where she was. Instead, she walked halfway along the terminal and then upon reaching the departures level had the temerity to ask where I was. Bah!

Anyway. Fine. We’re together and it’s just over 3 hours ‘til the flight. Heading into the First Wing and a counter to drop our bag off, we realise it’s not locked and we’re not 100% sure how to lock it – it is this suitcase’s debut trip. But she manages it, and away we go into the lounge. Despite assiduously emptying my pockets of everything except a tenner, I set off the first x-ray scanner, and then the second, but after swabbing me nothing is found and we’re allowed to continue on.

Striding through the lounge and up to the Elemis Spa to ask if any treatments are available, it takes an incongruously long time to be told “no”. So, back into the lounge and we perch up by the buffet food.

Since each dish complements the other so well, I go for the tried and tested combination of rice, smoky meatballs, cauliflower dhansak, fishcake, and parmentier potatoes. It’s actually really very nice I’ll have you know.

Being less hungry than me, Helen goes to fetch a couple glasses of champagne and I’m in wrestling meme mode instantly, courtesy of Chris Jericho recently “popularising” the phrase “A little bit o’the bubbly”. I repeat this phrase at regular intervals for the next few hours, unwisely.

Once we’ve finished eating we go sit in the dedicated champagne-y bit, walking past a whole bunch of dinky warm pies. Pies! We didn’t know about pies! Accordingly, pie is had as well as more o’the bubbly, and before long I’m already really quite drunk.

Our gate is announced as C61, pretty much the furthest gate in the furthest satellite. The monorail is prompt and quick, but even so by the time we reach the gate all the monitors are saying “CLOSING”. Uh-oh! But we sneak past the remaining queue into the Group 1 bit and are shown to 7A/B. I mean, “shown to” is a bit much: we’re told to turn left, and they’re the first seats we come to.

This flight, BA33 London to Kuala Lumpur, is a Boeing 787-900. I’ve flown the 787 numerous times with Qatar Airways but this is the first time in BA’s business class on this bird. First impressions are pretty good for both of us, and being a bit merry we have way too much fun playing with the divider between the seats – which are themselves a bit narrow, but with plenty of legroom. The cabin is full meaning the woman in 6A might need to jump over my legs if she wants to get out, but in 7A Helen need neither jump nor be jumped over. That’s the only real benefit here, since with a 9.10pm takeoff having a window is no use.

There’s a big sealed bag with a blanket and mattress-y thing in it, but no amenity kit. In fact, no amenity kits are passed out at any point in the flight - and the loo doesn’t have toothbrushes or razors or whatever. Other airlines have all of this stuff and more (e.g. pyjamas). C’mon BA, what’s happened to you?

Anyway, pre-flight champagne arrives and we’re still feeling pretty smug while consulting the food menu.

As it happens, both of us pre-ordered our main meal so the menu doesn’t mean much. But it’s quite fancy and makes things sound appetising. We’re also given a little card to fill out regarding whether we want breakfast or not 90 minutes before landing, and if so what to drink with it.

Before we’re even airborne I’ve dozed off, to the extent that I don’t even get a hot towel. Damn it! Wake me for the hot towel, everyone!

Once I’m awake and the seatbelt signs are off, the senior member of cabin crew comes to give me a personal greeting thanking me for flying BA again and stuff. It’s a fairly nice gesture, but ends up being basically the best bit of the service. It isn’t that the drinks and food service to come were awful, just ... perfunctory. No proactive drinks refills. Not much beyond plonking stuff down in front of you then collecting it a bit later.

Pre-dinner, there was more champagne and some decidedly cold nuts. The nuts tasted weird. Like, they weren’t room temperature, they were cold.

The starter I chose was this salmon thing. It were alright. The salad weren’t all that.

For main, I had this pasta thing. It tasted decent, for a pasta thing. Hard to get it wrong really. Truth told, I don’t remember much of it as I was busy at the time commiserating Helen: she’d pre-ordered a beef dish and it was inedible tough and rubbish. The lady across the aisle from me seemed to come to the same conclusion. Terrible, worst-ever main onboard. Woe!

A dessert of cheese and biscuits and stuff came and went in short order. No port though.

For entertainment before, throughout, and after the meal I’d been watching the Maradonna documentary and learning a lot about how much Napoli were hated, and hated teams back. He taught his kid to sing about Juventus.

Helen was playing a multiplayer quiz game and periodically showing me how she had all of the top 10 scores onboard. Her attempts at urging me to join in fell on deaf ears. Eventually she gave up and went to sleep, but not before I’d passed out without putting my seat in the bed position and before the film had even finished.

When I woke up, an hour or so later (I guess?), there was the remains of a bottle of water and glass of champagne on my table. I put Maradonna back on, fast forwarded to 20 minutes to go, and then fell asleep instantly. This happened around 3 times, until finally I managed to get to the end of the damn film.

I browse the entertainment system looking for interesting stuff and discover a whole Brewdog channel. huh? But I opt for The Edge, a documentary about the England test cricket team’s resurgence under Andy Flower starting in 2009.. and then how it all fell apart mentally for most of the squad.

By now, all that champagne was having a seriously unpleasant effect on my innards - I felt horrendously bloated. Not that it was going to stop me from having breakfast, of course (though I really couldn’t finish it).

The fruit, yoghurt, and green tea were all pretty mediocre. The spicy omelette was spicy enough that hiccups threatened.

With lights on and window shades off, the first officer came over the tannoy to say we’d been making good time and there’s 40 minutes to go, loos will be locked in 20 minutes so go now, all that jazz. I finally agreed to play Helen at the quiz game for a bit.. and then he comes back on and says “Oh, we’ve been offered a shortcut, we’re now landing in 20 minutes”. Cue pandemonium in the cabin as the crew suddenly have to get everything sorted, passengers don’t have time to go to the loo and get as ready as they wanted, etc etc.

We land about half hour earlier than scheduled. There’s no queue at immigration, but an 11 minute wait until the first bags come out and ours appears about 5 minutes after that. Customs is deserted and hey presto, welcome to Malaysia! First things first, down to the ekspres train station to buy tickets into the city, then straight back up to go out and find a smoking area so Helen can vape.

Quite a nice view from the smoking area, tbh. Tell you what though, a bit warm innit? Forecast says it won’t drop below 23ºc at any time of day or night the whole time we’re in Malaysia.

Back down and on the train, which is mostly empty and takes (we are told, repeatedly) 28 minutes to reach KL Sentral. I can’t vividly recall my way around from my only previous visit back in 2019, I just know that I found everything so damn easy.

And so it happens again. We come out of the KLIA Ekspres into the main concourse and spot a sign to our hotel - we’re staying at one of the 3 which are almost part of the station itself. Reaching ours, the Aloft, is moderately confusing but not in an almost-getting-lost way, rather a why-design-it-like-this way.

First, go up the escalator to the entrance to the Nu Sentral shopping mall. Then go right, around the corridor towards Nook Cafe. Then take a lift down one floor to the hotel reception. It’s not obvious why there isn’t just a route from the ground floor of the station to the ground floor of the hotel, but whatever.

We’re checked in quickly and given room 609, disappointingly low considering it goes up to floor 25. I love the sign which is a companion to the one saying no smoking.

Once we’ve dumped our bags and stuff, we go immediately up to the roof terrace pool and bar to have a look around.

The view is pretty great! Though as well as being hot, it’s now raining and threatening to rain harder. Also neither of us are feeling at our steadiest after the journey; Helen doesn’t want to sit out by the glass sides on the roof when smoking when we know there’s an outdoor bar on the ground as well. So, 25 floors back down and we go to W XYZ.

Sitting outside under a big umbrella, it rapidly gets dark and the rain gets way, way, way harder. It is properly pouring down, but still warm so we’re fine sitting outside. It’s happy hour, meaning the Kronenbourg Blanc is only £8 a pint HOLY WHAT ON EARTH. It’s a tenner at normal pricing! Oof. OOF.

We’re there for a bit, with table service rendering any hint of decision making moot. But eventually we go inside under the big TV, and on the tables in here there are buzzers you’re meant to press to get one of the staff’s attention. I am not comfortable using that at all, feels like some bell for a butler or something!

We wonder whether to eat or not – but none of the menu looks nice. So we head up to Nook on the first floor, and our food is delayed despite there only being about 6 other customers. Helen has some kind of lamb dish and I’m on the nasi lemak, which is nicer and larger than anticipated.

When we finish eating it’s gone 10pm, which means (we hope) that jet lag has been successfully averted. One last trip to the ground floor first, where our eyes water at the idea of paying £7 for a 330ml bottle of Heineken... so we don’t. No nightcap for us! Nope, back to the room and I put the TV on, barely able to stay awake, so it goes off almost immediately. Phones are plugged in, a 6.30am alarm is set, and lights go out and we sleep. (Wait, what? 6.30am alarm?)

Created By
Darren Foreman
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