Honda Civic Hybrid road trip: mystery machine


Well, the idea for this road trip was solely mine and it started out quite innocently, I assure you. Here’s the concept: To look not for food but something different, something that isn’t very ordinary. Well, haunted places aren’t very ordinary, isn’t it? Malaysia is simply filled with these kind of places, thanks partly to our superstitious upbringing.

So there we were, in the dead of night, snugged within the cabin of the Civic Hybrid, which nose was pointing uphill, with its headlamps on high beam, throwing illumination at the road ahead. Failed. The darkness that had descended upon the War Museum in Penang doesn’t feel natural, as if there was an oppressive force that had cupped this area with its hands.

No, technology wasn’t going to penetrate this. We had driven up as high as our courage would let us, which was the first pill box you see as you near the museum. Which, when you think about it, wasn’t that high at all.


The War Museum has built up a reputation for itself. Before it was reclaimed from the jungle, the War Museum served as an outpost for the British army, and then a POW camp for the invading Japanese Army during the Second World War. Needless to say, prisoners were tortured and executed here, although there are no exacting records to back up the claims.

Yet, something unnatural must have lingered from the day and then manifested itself when the transformation from abandoned prison camp to museum took place. The workers claimed that they saw a towering figure, with fangs for a face and large red orbs as eyes. There are also those who have experienced – especially at night – unnatural coldness, the feeling that they are being watched by the spirits that haunts the hill.

“Paul, I didn’t sign up for this,” cried Sherman as he prepared to go outside. He checked his camera settings one last time, took a deep breath, then stepped out. I looked to the rear view mirror as Sherman walked down to position himself for the picture. He disappeared from view as the darkness swallowed him.


I am left alone in the car with the soft glow of the digital instrument cluster as my only company. It was all quiet, the Civic Hybrid auto start/stop system had kicked in to save fuel; typical of a car of this nature. The car lights remained turned on.

I looked outside to the thick brush that looked like its moving closer to the car. Did I just see two orbs lit up within the bush? What have I gotten myself into, indeed.

This so-called haunted road trip started out easy. A quick drive from Kuala Lumpur and up the mountain is Genting Highlands, an all too familiar place when it comes to encountering the supernatural, albeit the rarity of the experience. Yet, if you pick any hotel, there is bound to be a story tacked to them.


Although none more than the infamous First World Hotel where a friend witness another person being possessed by a spirit that was demanding justice. While another saw a game of mahjong being played at the foot of her bed. Not quite a hotel but still has its share of the scary pie is the Ria Apartment. Tales of murder and suicide that happened within the walls of this two-block apartment have quickly descended into stories of apparitions of unrested spirits that still roam the hallways.

Another hotel infamous for the supernatural is the E&O Hotel in Penang, a long way from Kuala Lumpur but the fuel-efficient nature of the Civic Hybrid meant that there was enough in the tank to get there, and then some.

This hotel is old, established in the late 1800s by the Sarkies Brothers, who is said to still roam the halls of the hotel. True or not, the only chilling thing that I have experienced in my personal stays here was the air conditioning. However, I can imagine that the old architecture and the colonial-esque décor coupled with long lonely halls with too many blind corners could give birth to a haunted impression.


I was brought back to the present when the silence inside the Civic Hybrid broke to the sound of Sherman prying open the car door and dropped himself into the passenger seat. “Go, go,” were his only words.

I did not need to be told twice. Excellent turning radius of the car made short work of the three-point-turn. As we shot down hill, a shade shot past the windscreen. Bird? Bat? I hoped it is one of the two and nothing more.

A new day brought us to a new place – Kellie’s Castle in Batu Gajah, Perak. The mansion began construction in the early 1900s but was never completed. The owner, William Kellie Smith passed on due to pneumonia, before construction could complete. He left behind a devastated wife, who them moved back to Scotland after selling the property. It is said that Smith still walks the halls of his unfinished house while other tales add that his daughter can be seen playing in one of the rooms.


However, the timing wasn’t right as we arrived near dusk, thinking that we could go into the castle at the right time. The attraction closes its gates at six – we only manage a few interior pictures when the hour hand swept past six.

I turned the Civic Hybrid back to Kuala Lumpur for the final leg of the journey. By now, we’d have already clocked over 900km and our last refuel was in Penang. With just under a quarter of fuel left, we head to our final three more spots, sort of, I consider the two schools as one as they are side by side. The backyard of the primary school near Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Hulu Klang is said to be the haunting ground of a female-figured ghost although it is the secondary school across the river that bears the more chilling tale.

This one comes from an ex-student there who says that there is a spirit, with long-hair no less, that roams the school as well as the roads that surrounds the school. Frequent occurrences of sightings at night and hysteria following supernatural possessions made the school authorities sought the services of a local shaman.


The shaman, after uttering some words, released chickens into the school yard. The following day, they found the chickens dead in the most unusual way – the chickens were whole yet completely drained of blood, as if something had sucked it out of the fowls although there were no telling cuts or marks as proof. Freaky.

Our final destination saw us pulling over in front of a house in an otherwise pleasant neighbourhood called Zooview. As its name suggests, this place is near the National Zoo, if you are interested. In any case, we stepped out of the car and looked into the dilapidated house. It is broken, sad and looked forbidding. The plants that were once well-trimmed in the garden now grow wild.

Sherman moved to the other side of the road, so he could setup the camera. I ventured to the front gates, peeked in but it was too dark to see anything other than that of my imagination. I took another step in. The top floor, which is the parking area, is littered with debris and things that I can’t describe due to the lack of light. Yet, I could see an outline of steps that led down to the house proper but the path to there is quite blocked. Just then, a loud shrill pierced the air as I recalled the story to this place.


It was once owned by a professor that had gone mad. In his moment of insanity, he brutally murdered his family and then finally turned on himself. Residents in the area claimed that the angry spirits still reside within the house and it always sends a chill down the spine every time they pass the house. Even the staunchest of unbelievers would bend the other way for this house.

The leaves on the trees started to violently rustle, as if a strong wind had unsettled them. Except that it wasn’t windy. Then we heard the rustling that had started at the tree tops began to inch closer. We knew that we overstayed our welcome, even if it was from the outside. We packed up and jumped into the Civic Hybrid and squeezed everything the engine could muster. The assisted acceleration was good enough to get us to the foot of the hill in mere seconds. Good, we wanted to put as much distance between us and house.

With that, we were somewhat glad that this little insane road trip ended. It had its spine chilling moments peppered by things that make you go hmm. Nevertheless, the trip was fun although we don’t think we’ll go on one again in the near future.

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Chris Ng

Chris Ng believes that all cars are made equal, and each one has its own unique story to tell. As such, the ex-advertising man is here doing what he truly loves, which is authoring the allegories and anecdotes of automobiles. Having served time in a motoring mag, he believes there's nothing more sublime than keeping the pedal floored and things burbling in top gear.



  • Daniel on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Do you sense the grinding noise when you press the brake paddle occasionally? All Civic Hybrid cars have that, and it was confirmed by Honda M’sia as known and acceptable behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6
    • proness san on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Energy recovery laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0
    • alamdamai1 on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      actually it is not a grinding noise but a faint humming due to the car electric motor kicking into its energy recovery mode…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Petrolhead (Member) on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Must be some gruesome experience roaming around places like this at night especially in a hybrid car. When everything’s so calm and quiet on road then suddenly BANG!!! (A fruit just fell onto the hood)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1
  • heybadigol on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Why roadtrip with a Civic Hybrid? Not exactly fun to drive, nor fast (to run away from strange apparitions). Though admittedly, it is fuel efficient. But great pictures. Didnt you guys try going to Mimaland?

    Anyways, a suggestion for future road trips: why not try visiting abandoned places or urbex, as its commonly known. Would be a great spot for photography as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10
  • Redman on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Just to move a bit from the topic, any update on the launch of the new Honda City.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
  • JeremyNg on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    This article is from the driven magazine !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  • Denaihati on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    so brave went this place at night…here. but i’m sure it is a fun experience.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
  • I somehow find the Civic Hybrid to be a bit noisy (still a quiet car nonetheless) compared to a Prius or a Prius c.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4
  • Steven on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Guys! If you do intend to have the next paranormal tour in Penang, let me know so that I can guide you to the least known but equally or even more supernatural sites!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
  • Unknown on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Love reading this ! Pls do more ! Should try doing car comperision this way for a change . Could be interesting

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  • jolly_idiot (Member) on Mar 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    The title may give a misleading quote as misery machine rather than mystery machine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
  • How about the FC?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
  • Daniel on Mar 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Is not humming sound though, is high pitch “e.eeeee….” sound, the Honda technician said is due to the hydraulic brake, nothing to do with energy recovery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
  • Obviously (Member) on Mar 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I learned less about the Honda Civic Hybrid than about the various “haunted” locations of the Peninsular. Odd for a motoring website. Don’t take this personally, guys (Chris and Sherman), but this post didn’t sit well with me. While I’m sure these might be exciting and eerie places to visit but I’d have to say that I’m less interested with the locations and more interested about the car and how it drives. It’s the skew of the post’s contents.

    My 2 cents. No hard feelings, aye!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3
  • gdntsk (Member) on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Chris, was this photo ( taken at SMK Hulu Klang or the War Museum in Penang?

    It’s strange to see that person (real or not?) roaming in a pair of stilettos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

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