There are a few things I believe in when it comes to traveling:
- Return visits to places must always tell a different story.
- Research, research, research. Time cannot be wasted on the wrong kind of getting lost.
- Capture everything possible.
Last Tuesday, 12 July 2011, I embarked on what was probably one of the best trips I’ve ever had—a trip to Kuala Lumpur to see Arsenal and Liverpool take on the Malaysian national team. To try and sum it all up seems to be a tad difficult for now, so let me just try to recapture everything that was.
12 July 2011
The Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to KL, not at an ungodly hour of 10 a.m., was surprisingly smooth. Never mind the fact that the person seated in front of me was snoring loudly. Then again, that’s why I got an iPod and a Kindle.
After figuring out my way around LCCT and settling in my hotel, including an overpriced Subway lunch, I made my way to Bukit Jalil Stadium. Somehow, I figured out I needed to take two trains from my hotel and that it would take me nearly an hour to get there.
(Here’s the thing: I love taking trains. I think it’s an interesting way to immerse oneself in a cosmopolitan city. I was in KL several years back and wasn’t able to experience that part of their public transport system. Now that I had all the time in my hands, I could explore the city in a more efficient manner at a lesser cost.)
By the time I got to Hang Tuah station, I noticed that there was a group of people in their Arsenal shirts. I told myself that I must be going the right direction then. Just follow the (dominantly) red, white, and yellow shirts.
Let me tell you something about Bukit Jalil Stadium. When I stepped out of the train, there was a bevy of flags and tents leading to the entrance, where stalls sold shirts, the local street fare, several interesting drinks, and a smorgasbord of souvenir items of Arsenal and the Malaysian team. Of course, the downside of being alone is not being able to squeal with delight at this sight.
It was past 5 p.m., so I headed straight to the ticket counters to claim my Arsenal and Liverpool tickets, which had training passes to boot. After submitting my passport and other papers, I headed straight inside the stadium to get a good seat, as the Malaysian team was already nearing the end of their training. (I did have a bit of a scare, though, when I realized my departure card, which was tucked in my passport, was missing. I rushed back to the ticket counter, and thank god the girl who gave me my tickets set it aside. Whew, that was a close call.)
After settling at a seat with a much better view, I was silently psyching myself up that I would see Arsenal in a few minutes. Lo and behold, my friend Migs walks down the stairs. Apparently, he’d been looking for some other person when he saw me—of all places, at a packed portion of the stadium. Well, at least it’s better to know someone in the crowd.
Arsene Wenger and his assistants were the first to come out, followed by the goalkeepers, and one by one, the team started entering the pitch. Allow me to have a fangirl moment and say that I wanted to scream and squeal and jump like a lunatic when Samir Nasri came into view. If my favorite Gunner can’t make it (Cesc Fabregas, I’m looking at you—don’t you dare move to Barcelona yet), then my second favorite will do. The team did their laps around the pitch, some ball work, a practice match (where my favorite young French-Algerian impressed with his speed), and shooting practice (where the woodwork beat Robin van Persie big time).
Ah, the first live encounter with an EPL team—it’s seems all too surreal. Post-training, I joined some Gooners from the Philippines (Migs, Gab, Janina, and Jerome) for some grub at Lot 10.
This trip sure is off to a great start.
13 July 2011
The first day of a trip can always set the tone for the rest of the days. The adventure continued when I met Mich and Icang at Suria KLCC, where we had a good, spicy lunch at Signatures (yes, cheapskates love mall food courts). Since the match between Malaysia and Arsenal would start at 8:45 p.m., we could afford to look around—the highlights of which were posing with store displays at Adidas (with Steven Gerrard) and Nike (with Cesc Fabregas).
Since the two girls had to go back and check in their hotel at 2 p.m., we parted ways to get ready for the match. We met up at 4 p.m., with me donning a Cesc Fabregas shirt (yes, Cesc, like I said, don’t leave Arsenal just yet) and Monica rushing to get a ticket to her first-ever football game.
Gunnersaurus Rex joined the trip to Asia and greeted the crowd shortly before kick-off. Thomas Vermaelen wore the captain’s armband, starting together with Szczesny (god, I can never get the spelling of his name right), Miyaichi, Ramsey, Chamakh, Gibbs, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Song, and Walcott.
Early into the game, Aaron Ramsey (god bless his leg and the St. Michael tattoo on it) scored a penalty for Arsenal, after Jack Wilshere was tripped in the penalty area. Azza also assisted in Theo Walcott’s goal to bring the score 2-0 at the half. The energy of the crowd somewhat dropped in the second half, but that all changed when Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna, and Andrey Arshavin were brought in. Nasri showed flashes of brilliance (shut up, I’m not biased—Samir, don’t effin’ go to ManUtd, OK?), while Carlos Vela scored Arsenal’s third goal and Tomas Rosicky the fourth.
We also waited for Arsenal’s bus to come out of the stadium, and the short of it is that I saw Arsene Wenger and Bacary Sagna wave at us.
As the match ended pretty late, we made a mad dash to the train to catch the last trip. That was quite an experience being packed in a sea of… sweat. Capped the night with an A&W root beer float. I deserve it.