You’re running solo in an unexplored foreign land, with roughly 24 hours of free time sandwiched between a wicked-busy schedule and your flight home – what do you do?
This was precisely the predicament I found myself in after wrapping up a massive weekend at Malaysia’s 2019 Art of Speed festival. Jet lagged, sleep deprived, and possibly still slightly intoxicated from the previous night out, I did what I’d like to imagine many of you would’ve done in the same situation: I dusted myself off, recharged my camera gear, and refuelled at the breakfast buffet before setting off early to explore.
After all, if I could push through today, I’d have a nine-hour flight back to Australia to catch up on sleep tomorrow.
The entire weekend had seen me surrounded by literally tens of thousands of people, so spending the morning by myself seemed like a good thing to do.
I meandered across Kuala Lumpur with no plan, no foresight, and no idea of where I was going.
Each street was completely unknown and every intersection presented another opportunity for a random decision. Eventually, I made my way to the outskirts of the city centre and to what I was later told was the final remaining traditional village within the city boundaries.
Less than a mile away from Petronas Towers, the architectural jewel of Malaysia, people barbequed street food and ran simple errands.
Here, the streets are lined with small homes, their simplicity exaggerated by the lavish skyscrapers clawing up off the horizon in all directions. The strange looks I was given by a good percentage of locals told me this wasn’t your traditional tourist hotspot, but honestly, the perspective offered by just a short glimpse of ‘real life’ in a foreign land can be profoundly eye-opening.
The next half of the day would require wheels, and I made it back to the hotel in time for my taxi’s arrival.
An online buddy and friend of Dino-san had offered to drive me around KL and to get me Art Of Speed’s unofficial after-party – The Linc Meetup, as hosted by the ‘Back Wheel Bitches’ and ‘Front Wheel Bastards’. No, I’m not making these names up.
After some time cruising the city and stopping to watch the sun set behind the Petronas Towers, we made our way to the venue and arrived ahead of the scheduled meet for dinner at the same venue. The car park was underwhelmingly empty when we arrived.
But when we re-entered the carpark after one of the greatest Indian feasts I’ve ever consumed, the lot had transformed into a scene from The Fast and the Furious:
Tokyo Kuala Lumpur Drift.
My nostrils flared at the smell excessive gasoline that goes hand-in-hand with vintage motoring; my ears were bombarded with a mix of exhaustless cars lapping, bikes limiter-bashing, and tunes pumping from audio systems that may have out-valued their host vehicles.
In a single word, it was great.
Art of Speed was amazing, but it was a completely controlled environment. You can only see how a scene really operates when you’re out in the wild, and it was reassuring to me that same wide, all-encompassing and eclectic mix of cars that co-existed within the confines of the show space was genuinely how locals run on the streets, too.
And that’s exactly what we did next. Pretty cars parked in pretty places may look pretty cool, but ultimately it’s a one-dimensional show. The real show kicked off when the majority of punters fired up their engines and rolled out en-mass, taking our party to the streets of KL.
At this stage of the night, I had no idea where the convoy was heading beyond being told that we’d be hitting some of the city’s tunnel network.
Normally I’d like to have a little more say in a photoshoot location, but I’d earlier resigned to the fact that my local knowledge was non-existent. Wherever we ended up was guaranteed to be all new, and heading there with a convoy of 100 or so modified cars was guaranteed to be fun.
Even better, a local video team was kind enough to offer me a seat in their van for the rest of the night.
Coming from such a draconian nanny state, I was blown away by the level of freedom afforded to the good people of KL without authorities swooping in to benevolently protect us from ourselves.
Just a static gathering of such highly modified cars in a public place would be enough to raise unwanted attention back home in Australia, so the thought of taking that same massive group out for a few laps of the city would almost certainly end up with defects and the gathering being broken up by the strong arm of the law. Not here, though.
Kuala Lumpur and other regions with the same freedoms, enjoy these nights as if they’re your last. I mean, there may not be an end to these nights in the foreseeable future, but coming from a corner of the world that disallows this sort of thing to happen so freely, trust me when I say it needs to be appreciated.
The rest of the night was as simple as friends driving around making a bit of noise and having a great time. Despite being quite the spectacle and great fun to be a part of it, I doubt it needs any further explanation, so from this point forward I’ll let the images do the talking.
Malaysia, thank you for the hospitality (and great food.) Hopefully we can play again together soon.