The Moran Clan Comes to Malaysia for Chinese New Year!
Chinese New Year.
Time to go - gathering the clan.
I had always wanted to bring my kids to meet their Malaysian relatives, but the logistics were too complicated. When they were young and in school, there wasn't enough money for that huge trip. Later, when they'd finished school, they had social schedules that did not fit mine.
And then, still later, the family flew to all corners of the world. At least, one married a beautiful Japanese girl and went to live in Japan, and the youngest preferred to live in England where he had gone through school. One married daughter went off with her husband and 1 year old to live in Rhode Island, the eldest son moved to New Jersey, and only the second daughter stayed in New York.
Then one day, I decided IT WAS TIME! There was enough money. Before everybody got too old to care about relatives or enjoying quality time with extended family, we had to go. So I called all around and said, 'Pack your bags. We're going to Malaysia!' That was that, the matriarchal directive. We were going for Chinese New Year, 2009, which would be Monday, January 26th.
Arrivals at Kuala Lumpur
We all arrived. The elder daughter, Jasmine, with husband Leo and 1 year old Ronan, arrived from England, where they had gone to spend Christmas. They came early, Jan. 9th., to have a few days in romantic Pulau Langkawi, an island north of Penang, while waiting for the rest of us.
The two from Japan, Vincent and Remi, came next, 3 days later, and joined the ones in Langkawi for two days. Then came little brother Danny from London, who could not leave at the same time as Jasmine and Leo.
Next came the three from JFK, Jan. 14th.: myself with Ben and Tara; miraculously we bumped into Danny at the airport. We had known he was arriving on the same day, but not at the same time nor on the same airline, so we did not know what terminal he was supposed to have landed at. We three were discussing where to go when up popped Danny, looking lost. Talk about a reunion! We had not seen him since Christmas 2007. Danny will always be the little brother.
My sister had booked a van to pick us up from the airport, so it was a comfortable ride from Subang to Kuala Lumpur, where she had rented an apartment for eight adults and a child for 17 days. Getting that apartment was serendipitous. She had not known where to put so many of us. We had a lot of family, but not one could take eight adults and a child! We would have had to be separated into several lots, which would have made us very unhappy..
Intrepid frontierswoman that she was, she walked up to the guardhouse of an apartment block and asked if anybody was renting out an apartment. It so happened somebody was looking for a short term tenant. Done deal! The owner hurriedly filled the apartment with the requisite number of mattresses (there were already two double beds) a few kitchen utensils and a washing machine. The aunts and uncles supplied the rest - pillows, bed linen, crockery, cutlery.
All Together Again.
Well , the contingent from Pulau Langkawi arrived back in Kuala Lumpur and found their way to their aunt's house, from whence they were transported to our apartment. Another grand joyful reunion. We had not seen Vincent and Remi in a couple of years. Ronan was petted and passed around, basking in the attention. And there were pictures of Langkawi to show.
No time for jet lag.
Our flight from New York had taken nearly 30 hours, and Danny's, half that. The Langkawi returnees had had a few days to adapt their clocks. Nobody had time to examine their jet-lag. We were not meeting the relatives till the next day, so off we went, out of the apartment compound, to the rows of eating shops next door. We were like a class of boarding school kids let loose from supervision. Here we are, in the photos to the right. We are in an Indian coffee shop-restaurant where we ordered roti canai, lime juice and teh tarik. Danny ordered satellite-launching hot dishes. We watched him melt from the heat of them.
Ronan loved being in the apartment where he could play with his favorite toy, a soccer ball. He's completely into cars now.
After our dinner, we one by one succumbed to jet-lag, with no more strength to ignore it. Having sorted out the sleeping arrangements, we showered, dropped, and passed out and slept the sleep of the just.
Danny's life-long ambition was to see a real live coconut tree and hold a whole coconut in his hand. So, the next morning, after a scrumptious breakfast of various Indian and Chinese dishes in the shops next door, Tai-Yee (Eldest Aunt, my sister) came with her van and driver and whisked us off to a coconut plantation, and Danny's dream came true.
Meeting the Cousins.
The cousins took to one another at first sight. It was as if they'd know one another all their lives. There were 3 cousins missing - one in Singapore, his sister in Chicago (my younger sister's children) and another had recently been home and had gone back to Queensland. That left six Wong cousins and five Morans. Then there were Leo, Jasmine's husband, and Remi, Vincent's wife. .All instant good friends. It warmed my and my siblings' hearts.
We met with the Wongs frequently, for lunch, dinner, short trips and in between. I was very happy to be home, of course, and my kids were absolutely enamoured of the country and its people, especially their relatives
It was wonderful that my younger brother's two children were home from Australia for Chinese New Year. My second brother's second son, Kevin, had gone back there. My youngest brother's son was home from West Australia for the celebrations. The other children live and work in Kuala Lumpur, so there was a lot of bonding going on to make up for lost time. And Ronan, the only child among us, lapped up all the attention.
Downtime in Pulau Tioman.
It was inevitable, with us being on vacation and the relatives not, that we would be off on our own sometimes. My younger sister came up from Singapore a few days before Chinese New Year, and we three sisters went off to the casino in Genting Highland. The kids were not about to.
Jasmine and Leo had been once to the island of Tioman off the east coast of Malaysia and had fallen in love with it. So that was where the kids went off to, flying in the little shuttle plane from Kuala Lumpur. The flight time was 30 minutes. The ferry crossing in the South China Sea would have taken over two hours, with everybody getting sicker than a dog. I have yet to experience a rougher stretch of water.
The kids unwound in the island, swimming, snorkeling, exploring the jungle trails and just lazing. They got over their hectic previous days' schedules and came back 3 days later fully rested.
The following pictures are of Pulau (Island) Tioman.
Ever shopped in Kuala Lumpur?
Nobody could visit the East and come home empty-handed. So it was there were days of shopping in the labyrinthine alleys of Kuala Lumpur. The amount and variety of goods and the quality of workmanship are hard to beat. The favorite hunting ground of tourists is the Central Market, the Pasar Sentral. It is a wonderland, an Aladdin's cave, the rich imaginings of an artist. There are also enough restaurants within that world to satisfy the most fastidious and the most adventurous tastes.
Off on our own again
Were we doing the touristy thing? Yes and no. We did not follow the crowds, just wherever Tai Yee thought we might like to experience. Off to the Bird Park we went, in two taxis, with no clear meeting point. The taxis set us down in two different locations since the traffic had separated us on the way. The Park has several entrances.
The Bird Park is a huge compound with paths and gardens in all directions. So how would we find the other lot? There was only one cell phone between us all, that Tai Yee had given us to communicate with her or the rest of the family.
There is a small bus that traverses the Park, setting you down at whatever point you want. Up we went, hoping to get some sighting of the lot from the other cab. Twice around the Park, and no sight of them. We decided to get down at the ticketing booth, and there, walking towards us and looking anxiously around, was the rest of them! There is always so much fun and noise when the Morans meet! Explanations, gesticulations, jollity, laughter.
Happy New Year!
The big day finally came, everybody was home who should be home. The day started with a wonderful Malaysian breakfast as usual, then the married people had to give 'ang pows' to the unmarried ones. They are little red packets containing any amount of money as gifts for the New Year. My elder sister being unmarried, received a big one from me. Ronan got RM 5, equivalent to about $2.
We spent the day in various happy pursuits - the boys played soccer with the village boys, Remi and Tara swam in the apartment pool, and I read. My sister and brother came at 5pm to fetch us for our reunion dinner in a swank restaurant.
They had ordered multiple dishes for two tables; the oldies at one, and the youngsters, another. How do I describe the dishes? I can't. Just fabulous. And the company was electric.
After a dinner of numerous courses (the waiters would keep replacing the emptied dishes with new ones) we packed into several cars and went to my younger brother's (Eldest Uncle, since he is the eldest son) apartment for the rest of the evening. My sister-in-law, Karen, had laid on a lot of Chinese cakes that they all knew I loved. So do my kids. We did justice to her hospitality through the next few hours, snacking and reminiscing, reliving the past, telling stories the kids loved to listen to. And there were also more 'ang pows' for distribution!
No visit to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without one to the Batu Caves, some 8 miles north. During the second World War, it was an anti-Japanese Communist guerilla hide-out. Later it became a Hindu sacred place which see thousands of devotees on festivals like Thaipusam. There are 272 concrete steps up to the main entrance .But before the steps were made, Hindu devotees, as a sign of repentance for past sins, had to carry heavy burdens call 'kavadi' on their bodies and scale the steep jagged cliffs to the shrine in the topmost grotto.
There are many caves within that network of limestone mountains, some of which are unsafe and closed off to the public.
At the Batu Caves
Jemput Lagi, Au Revoir, Malaysia.
All good things have to make way for reality, and our life in other parts of the world called us back. We left my siblings and families and returned to the US, UK and Japan. Jasmine and family left two days after Chinese New Year, and the rest of us, two days after, on Jan. 30th. My children carried away with them indelible memories of where their mother came from and what helped form her and I came away with the conviction that my family is well and happy and intact and that nothing can shake our unity.
Here are some more images we like of Malaysia.