I walked up a hill, following a road, till I reached the summit. The Sarawak Club, established in 1883, looked appetizing.
The guard eyed me up. I didn’t arrive by a BMW or a Mercedes. The guard even eyed me up more as I dashed over the drain pipe and navigated a patch of grass.
It’s not the way you enter the Sarawak Club, is it?
I’d need to do some smooth talking to win the security guy around who had a name tag on him that said he was Paris.
‘Very cosmopolitan name,’ I say. I was wearing a T-shirt a few sizes too small, that shopping mall has a lot to answer for not stocking XXL, and I was dripping in perspiration. A Chinese gay couple walked past me, stinking of high-end shopping mall perfume.
I was drawing a crowd and was close to passing out. Dehydration was kicking in and all Paris could ask was if I was a member.
Listen here, Paris, who told me he left the army in 2007, without the Australian army, you’d either be communist or Indonesian by now.
Cars dropped off wealthy members, mostly Chinese.
Paris was basically a glorified parking attendant.
‘You have other guests other than Chinese?’ I asked.
‘Yes we do,’ said Paris.
Well you should be letting me in for free and making me an honorary guest. I pointed to the cemetery next door. There’s a plaque there that even thanks Australian troops for sacrificing their lives. You see the Japs even killed our diggers during World War II. There are cemeteries all over Malaysia with dead soldiers who died at the hands of the Japanese.
‘We know,’ says Paris, ‘haven’t you noticed there aren’t many Jap tourists in Malaysia. We are still smarting after their little romp around Asia. Only the White Raja can pull off shit like that. Death to the yellow skins who dare tell our Sultans how to run our country.’
I really needed to rehydrate.
I wasn’t going to cough up 20 000 Ringiti for a membership so I guess a light refreshment was out of the question.
Then Paris asked me if I was a soldier.
Oh hell yeah, I’ll tell them what they want to hear. I get it often enough.
‘Served in Afganisan,’ I said, ‘in signals.’
Signals? he asked.
Yes, you know, cheerleading, pom poms. Someone had to volunteer and it was the least I could do.
That membership was looking less likely the more my words spewed out of my potty mouth.
Opposite the Club was the Planetarium Sultan Iskandar, a ten-story tower.
It’s been closed down for three years now, says Paris.
I asked why the viewing platform was shut down.
‘Too many Chinese were jumping from the top.’
Not everyone can afford membership.
And I couldn’t jump if I even wanted too.
I was working myself into a brave traveler mode, prepared to take the elevator up the top. But it was shut down.
Sarawak, get your act together. Open up the fucking viewing platform and get real.
It’s a real money spinner but it’s idling and decaying because three Chinese jumped from the top.
See, I was breaking Paris in.
He left to attend to parking and I took out my camera and took a few shots of the exclusive club.
All wasn’t lost, was it?
But I was waiting for a hand to pull me by the scruff and tell me to scam.
Paris was still attending to parking.
I was grateful for that. It could have got nasty.
Paris was a big guy.
Unlike me, he was a real soldier.
And I could tell he appreciated the brief military history lesson I gave him.
He really wanted me to dine in the club.
But alas, the days of the White Rajah are long behind us. It’s only the Chinese who can afford such luxuries.