In the blink of an eye, this trip is coming to an end. We leave in the next 24 hours. As always, this is the time when I'm torn; part of me is looking forward to returning home- after all the USA is my real home now- and getting settled back into the rhythm of things. And to be rid of this dang balmy heat.
But part of me obviously is saddened to be leaving so much behind. The first is obviously family- my parents, who look a bit more frail every time I see them, and it fills me with so much guilt that I am not able to spend more time with them, my siblings, dear friends, schoolmates from 2-3 decades ago, people who know your deepest darkest secrets and love you despite it all. Leaving behind the food and culture that is familiar to you, the local accent and how it in a strange way relaxes me to be able to speak in Manglish, in our politically-incorrect way.
That all being said, this was probably one of the more special trips back to Malaysia for me. For one, I really wanted my kids and wife to experience the Chinese New Year festivities, with all the noise and in-your-face family chaos. And this they did, from eating the CNY cuisine, my girls playing with fireworks (to my wife's chagrin) and learning to say Kong Hey Fatt Choy. Eating the numerous cookies- the little one loves the 'cupcakes' (kuih bahulu- she would wolf down 5 at a sitting), or learning to appreciate Milo ais (despite the high sugar content!). Simply seeing what their daddy experienced when he was a little kid.
A bonus to coming back this time of the year, is the balik kampung phenomenon; I randomly ran into so many schoolmates in town. That, and the planned CNY reunions we had- I saw people I have not seen for 25 years! How we all have aged- I was embarrassed that I did not recognize a few lads.
It was particularly heartwarming just sitting back and watching the kids interact. How, despite a lapse of several years, my girls just started playing with their cousins from here and Australia, as though they just saw each other yesterday. And watching little Ava hold Ah Ma's hand when I told her she had a bad knee and had trouble walking.
We did make some excursions away too. A short trip to PD- a place I frequented a lot in my youth, and my first trip to Langkawi. This was certainly a different experience from the other islands we've been to: Perhentian, Redang, Tioman, Pangkor. In contrast, this was a huge island- never appreciated the size until now, and a lot more commercialized. The cable car ride and the sky bridge were particularly breathtaking, and despite the complaints I've read about the long queue, we went early in the morning and the lines were quick- definitely the highlight of our trip.
We leave on our ANA (All Nippon Airways) flight tomorrow. We enjoyed the flight in, though in retrospect, compared to our previous flights on Korean, Cathay, Malaysian, Qantas, I felt that this wasn't good value for money. The service was impeccable- but we paid for premium economy seats expecting more perks like lounge access, priority checkin- stuff that we didn't get to experience because of some technical issue- so I'd recommend skipping the premium prices and just diong economy, or trying some other airline. Perhaps better luck next time. I imagine our next trip back won't be for another 2 or more years..... so till the next time, Malaysia, Selamat Tinggal. I shall always hold a part of you close to my heart.