Don Kavanagh: Quite puffed out

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Old habits catch up with Don Kavanagh as he does the rounds in Kuala Lumpur.

James Goggin races against time to make his cocktail. Photo / Natalie Slade
James Goggin races against time to make his cocktail. Photo / Natalie Slade

Ooh it's been a busy week, but one that has been packed with memorable drinking experiences. I was lucky enough to be invited to Kuala Lumpur for the Asia-Pacific final of the Monin Cup, where the lovely Japanese competitor Miyuki Hongo outperformed 14 others and will represent the region at the world final in Paris.

A Kiwi was there, too, well, kind of. James "Sugarfoot" Goggin, a transplanted Irishman, represented New Zealand, but his fantastic cocktail, featuring butter-washed tequila, didn't tweak the judges' taste buds enough to win.

Kuala Lumpur has a thriving bar scene and some amazing bars, including Q-ba at the Westin Hotel, where the final was held. Architecturally, it looks like something out of Cuba about 10 minutes before Castro's rebels came storming into Havana to have a few stern words with Senor Batista about the redistribution of wealth. One of the local Monin guys - and a former Suite bartender - took us to Sky Bar, a cracking spot on the 35th floor of the Traders Hotel, with the sort of views that realtors invariably describe as stunning. But in this case, it would be true, as one side of the bar offers heart-stopping views over the city centre to the architectural symphony that is the Petronas Towers.

Oh, and the bar has a 25m lap pool in the middle of it - which would encourage sensible drinking, I'd imagine.

But the main point of this yarn is not to boast about my travels or even to sing the deserved praises of Kuala Lumpur - it's to make an admission.

As one of those social lepers known as smokers, I was more than a tad miffed when smoking was banned in bars here. But, amazingly, I came to accept and even appreciate the idea. So confronted with the ability to light up in a bar I was strangely conflicted.

Even the bog-standard bars in KL are good spots to visit and I spent a happy hour in one (La Bodega) reading a book, enjoying two-for-one pints of Conner's Stout and, um, smoking. But it was too much for me.

I tapped my fag halfway through and retired to the outside tables, my face burning with shame.

It seems you can take the lad out of New Zealand but ...

- Herald on Sunday

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