Kirkby Reunion Batch 60-61, 17-20 June 2013
1. Report by Kee Lee Chang 2. Photos 3. STAR news report 4. Post Reunion lunches
A REPORT OF THE BATCH 60-61 (52ND ANNIVERSARY KIRKBY REUNION)
4D3N at RAINBOW PARADISE BEACH RESORT, PENANG AND BAYVIEW HOTEL, KUAH, LANGKAWI
17-20 JUNE 2013
Report by Kee Lee Chang
Here we go again! The insatiable appetite for trips and reunions doesn’t seem to abate among us Kirkbyites! In 2010, we had a reunion in Penang. This was followed by the Cameron Highlands trip in 2011. And just last year, 2012, there was this get-together in Port Dickson.
June 17th to 20th, 2013, saw another gathering of Kirkbyites at Penang and Pulau Langkawi. However, mainly because of logistic reasons, this trip to Pulau Langkawi from Penang Island had to be confined to the last batch of Kirkbyites and their spouses. It was rather disappointing that some of our friends like Sobri, Susan, Doreen, Pek Foo, Cynthia and Lam Hua could not join us this time for various personal reasons. Another disappointment cropped up in mid-May when Phee Chye and Poh Geok had to opt out because the former had a medical problem which required urgent attention.
Nevertheless, it was hoped that the whole chain gang which now consisted of about 43 participants would enjoy the trip and camaraderie as there was a more controllable smaller number of participants who also knew one another well.
However, before I dwell on the proper report of this reunion, please allow me to give a brief background as to how this trip materialized. That this reunion became a reality was itself a demonstration of the organisational ability of one man. Holding only two short informal meetings over lunch (hosted by the ever concerned and ever generous Mr. K Arumugam, the spouse of Ah Bee, at the Penang Swimming Club), the Organising Secretary, Jee Hor, had practically by himself made this reunion possible.
From Sitiawan itself he had done a lot of research and more or less finalised all the arrangements which, among other things, included the booking of hotel rooms and transportation in both Penang Island and Pulau Langkawi, meals at numerous places and sight-seeing tours. All this, of course, required much planning and constant communication and haggling with the various agencies involved, not to mention the headaches, frustrations, own personal expenses and driving trips all the way from Sitiawan to Penang and back again.
At the second and final meeting, the Organising Secretary stressed that as this could be the last reunion he would organise, he hoped that it would be a successful one in that the participants would be happy and satisfied when everything was over.
As practically all the arrangements had been more or less finalised, Jee Hor encouraged the committee members to thrash out any doubts they might have before he made the final announcement to all the participants.
A number of things were brought up for discussion, including the inevitable issue of some of us senior citizens having the urgency to ‘let go’ at stretches of the highway where vehicles were prohibited by law from stopping over. The Organising Secretary said not to worry as plastic bags and bottles would be available! A very concerned ‘Penang Gangster’ broached the possibility that the mouths of the bottle might be a bit too small to serve the purpose for the men. However, his fears were allayed when the secretary assured him that bottles with big mouths would be supplied to accommodate anybody, and the last row of vacant seats in the coach would function as an ‘emergency let-go’ area (I’m telling you again that this fellow was not leaving anything to chance). Okay, now for the report proper:-
In the early evening of the 17th of June, some Kirkbyites of the 1960-61 batch began trickling into the foyer of the Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort Tanjung Bunga. Some, specifically those from overseas, had actually arrived a few days earlier to enjoy their own itinerary before the reunion. By 7.30pm, everyone who had signed up for the Langkawi tour were seated at 4 tables in the Laguna Ballroom for a seven-course dinner.
The MC, Lim Sui Loong, gave a short welcoming speech and later invited Magdalene Yeoh to give an account of her very harrowing experience the night before: Imagine 4 men and 2 ladies knocking at her hotel room at 2.30 am desperately begging her to take them in for the night as their cars were holed up by a fallen tree in the middle of the road for hours while they were on their way to Fook Wah’s Miami Green condominium! As all of them, especially the men, were over 70 years old, each ‘intruder’ had to go to the toilet at least 4 times that early morning which made it about 24 times in all for the toilet to be flushed (not counting the times Maggie herself had made). This really irked the guests below Maggie’s room who made a complaint to the hotel management that the occupants above their room were making a huge ruckus in the early hours of the morning. There could have been an orgy or they might have been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome! Maggie had to tolerate her desperate friends, who included Fook Wah and Phee Eng, until late morning. Poor Maggie didn’t sleep a wink as she was keeping an eye on Phee Eng who seemed to be squirming his way nearer and nearer to her on the bed (This could have been the cause of the dark rings in Maggie’s sunken eyes the next morning).
Cheah Phee Eng, as Chairman, then took over the mike to say something before Jee Hor, as Organising Secretary, lamented the problems he had to face in organising the Langkawi trip. Phee Eng took over the mike again to remind the participants to make sure they had brought along their medication such as diabetic tablets, high blood pressure pills and Viagra for those who needed the booster.
In between the dinner courses, Jee Hor, Joyce Ching and husband, Toong Siong, Maggie and Maria took turns to give and demonstrate useful health tips to elevate the pains in certain parts of the body. Then Beng Hong taught us some elementary line-dancing which was rather interesting and exhilarating.
The next morning the participants assembled near the air-con coach at 9.15 after having had breakfast on their own. The coach moved precisely at 9.30 am for Kuala Perlis, during which Lim Sui Loong (aka Penang Gangster), acting as our tourist guide, had the participants in stitches with his bawdy but witty jokes. Of course, Phee Eng and Jee Hor also had their share of fooling around in the coach. We had a brief stop-over at the Gurun Interchange to prevent any burst pipes and leakages before proceeding to the Kuala Perlis jetty.
On the way, we stopped for about an hour or so at the Kedah Rice Museum. This little known structure was actually an eye-opener to most of us. Besides the innumerable kinds of instruments used in rice planting and harvesting throughout the ages, what impressed us most was the 360 degree panoramic scenery in a big air-conditioned hall. It was as if we were in the middle of a huge paddy field replete with farmers in action, animals, houses, mosques, a limestone outcrop and even an aeroplane in the sky. Had it not been for the stationary human figures, animals and aeroplane, we would have been totally conned into believing that we were in a slowly rotating platform right in the middle of a really huge paddy field. The gigantic painting was so realistic that we could not discern where the real ground blended with the painting. The effect was simply awesome.
Soon we were again on our way to Kuala Perlis for the boat trip to Pulau Langkawi. Luckily, the weather was good and we had a smooth ride till the Kuah jetty. It took us some time to reach the Bayview Hotel because of a long walk to the coach which ferried us to the hotel. There we were greeted by Shanta Fernandez, Raymond Jude and Mahaya and her husband, Menon. The four of them had flown in earlier on their own to join us.
Dinner was served at 7.30pm at the Oye Restaurant where Mahaya gave and demonstrated some health tips for us. The dinner was again one hilarious affair as the usual clowns (Jee Hor and Phee Eng and Sui Loong) started to strut their stuff the moment their butts landed on the chairs. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep to prepare for the next day’s tour.
The actual tour of Pulau Langkawi started today on the 19th. Our English-speaking tour guide from the SK Holidays Bus Company introduced himself as Jack Khoo which some wise guy repeated as Jack Ku-ku much to our amusement. Jack took the ribbing very sportingly and, after listening to what began as innocent observation and comments being twisted into bawdy jokes, he began to loosen up and confessed that he was at first very stressed and apprehensive at the prospect of being a guide to what he had assumed to be a group of serious and grouchy 70 year old farts (What more when Jee Hor had asked for a wheelchair?). Acknowledging that we were quite jovial and ‘young minded’ for our age, he began to contribute some jokes himself and commented that it was really a pleasant experience to be our guide and that all the fright and stress he had been experiencing the previous night had practically dissipated.
(By the way, for the information of those participants who were not aware of it, the Metro section of the Star newspaper (19th June, pg. 5) published two snapshots of our reunion and a number of interviews with some of our participants. This came about when Mr. Suthakar assigned Mr. George ad Mr. Jeremy to cover the occasion on the 17th June at the Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort. Incidentally, Mr. Suthakar is one of the Penang Star editors and a very close friend of Aru. Mr. George had also made a disc of the goings-on in the Laguna Ballroom and every participant would be given a disc).
Our first stop was the Underwater World, which featured about 5,000 types of aquatic life in more than 100 tanks of different sizes. There was a huge tank which housed many large marine species such as stingrays, turtles, sharks and moray eels. There were also feathered creatures like flamingoes, cockatoos, silver-tailed peacocks and even two types of penguins on display in their air-con enclosure. In another big tank, some seals were showing off their skills by jumping in and out of the water and diving precariously near rocky edges.
After some time in the Underwater World, we had lunch in another restaurant before proceeding to the Oriental Village in Burau Bay for a cable car ride up to the top of Gunung Mat Chincang. With a 919.5 m length, this cable car is recognised as the longest free span single rope cable car by the Malaysian Book of Records. It also has one of the steepest gradients in the world at 42 degrees. Unfortunately, the weather was rather gloomy at the time and we couldn’t see anything at the top because of the thick mist. This prompted James Van Dort to refer to me and himself as two gorillas in the mist! If it had been a clear and sunny day, we would have got a fantastic view of the island’s canopy of treetops and the numerous smaller islands in Burau Bay.
After the cable car ride, we were transported to the Harbour Club where there were some handsome yatchs parked in a beautiful marina. Some of us ventured into the small bakery shop owned by a Japanese in partnership with a former Prime Minister of Malaysia. The shop was nothing to shout about really.
It was about 4pm when we arrived at the legendary Mahsuri’s tomb. The whole set-up was called Kota Mahsuri and it was erected in honour of Mahsuri, a fair maiden who had been unjustly accused of adultery and executed. Legend has it that before she died while bleeding white blood as a sign of her innocence, she put a curse on the island that it would remain barren for 7 generations. By now, these seven generations have gone by and thus Pulau Langkawi is currently a flourishing tourist spot. Mahsuri must have been a very beautiful lady as evidenced by one of her seventh generation descendent’s photographs on display in the vicinity.
Our next destination was the Eagle Square or Dataran Lang, Pulau Langkawi’s most prominent landmark. The main attraction of the square is, of course, the magnificent statue of an eagle with a wing span of 21 metres and a height of 13.5 metres. Folklore has it that the name of the island itself was a combination of ‘helang’ and the old Malay word ‘kawi’, which means ‘reddish brown’. The name Langkawi therefore means ‘reddish brown eagle’. No fewer than fifteen Kirkbyites gave Jack their digital cameras to snap a group photo in front of the eagle statue. Poor Jack had to kneel, squat and sit on the floor to oblige us.
After the Eagle Square, we were taken to the Weng Fung Restaurant for dinner. It was free and easy time after the dinner. Many of us retired to our rooms after a tiring day of walking and sight-seeing, But some 18 Kirkbyites went to the Woodpecker Lounge of the Bayview Hotel to dance to the music and songs of two young lady singers and one man guitarist until 1 o’clock.
The next morning we had a buffet breakfast as usual before checking out at 11.30 am for the coach to take us to a shopping centre nearby for any last minute shopping at the duty free shops.
Lunch was on our own at a still very quiet glutton square in the same complex. Then it was the trip back to Kuala Perlis. The coach took us to the Kuah jetty where Jack guided us through the customs checkpoint. No problem. At the jetty we said goodbye to our affable guide and boarded the ferry. It took us exactly one hour to reach the Kuala Perlis jetty. The sea trip was again a very smooth one.
Another coach was already waiting for us some distance from the Kuala Perlis jetty. There was another 10 minute break at the Gurun Interchange before we proceeded to the Khun Thai Restaurant in Butterworth for dinner. As the name of the restaurant implies, we had a typical Thai dinner, including tomyam and all things Thai.
After dinner we crossed the Penang bridge and headed for the Paradise Resort. Along the way, we dropped Mr. and Mrs. Ajmer Singh and Mr. and Mrs. Lye Yuen Chew at the Sg. Nibong Bus Terminal. We reached the hotel at about 8 pm where again all the goodbyes and well-wishes were said.
It was another successful and enjoyable outing. Fortunately, there were no ‘let-go’ emergencies. The general opinion was that this trip was as enjoyable as, if not more enjoyable than, the last one we had at the Cameron Highlands. As usual, there was never a dull moment from Day One, especially in the coach where everyone was in high spirits and laughing all the way from one destination to another. In this short holiday, nobody could have asked for more in terms of fun, laughter and fraternity. There were jokes, sing-song sessions led by ‘Father’ Leo Turner and quizzes conducted by James with prizes galore for the lucky ones.
Actually, there are many more places we can visit in Pulau Langkawi. But because of time constraints we had to concentrate on the more well-known spots. On this occasion there was hardly any time for dancing, otherwise Aru would have been glad to show off his Mexican shuffle again.
Incidentally, Jee Hor had to put his ‘retirement’ from organising trips on hold as there was some brain storming during the trip for dinner at the Khun Thai Restaurant. Many places were suggested for the next reunion in November 2014. These included Singapore, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Vietnam, Myanmar and Macau as potential destinations. Eventually it was decided that the next reunion destination would be Macau. A show of hands indicated that more than 20 participants were interested. So Jee Hor and Phee Eng, I’m afraid you have to postpone your ‘retirement’ after all, to organize the next trip.
Yes, the Kirkby spirit, especially among those in the last batch, is still there, if not even stronger. Distance is no problem. It was great to see again people like James Van Dort, Marina, Ajmer Singh and Kalwant, Fook Wah, Sau San, Prof. Lee Sing, Angeline Chang, Wong Heng, Josephine, Mimi, Dr. Tan Yaw Kuang, and of course, the ever supportive Singapore group of Brigid, Danny, Yuen Chew, Siew Lian and the one and only Magdalene Yeoh. It was very nice also to see again Beng Hong, Shanta Fernandez, Raymond Jude and Cheah Swee Jin. In fact, there are far too many Kirkbyites to mention, including those in Malaysia. Also, because of previous engagements and personal problems, there are those who couldn’t make it this time, but we hope they’ll join us in future.
In closing, on behalf of all participants, I would like to record our sincere thanks and appreciation particularly to Jee Hor for almost single-handedly making this Pulau Langkawi trip a success. Of course, we won’t forget the contributions of Aru and Ah Bee. Aru never fails to supply presents for dances and quizzes. This time the presents were in the form of tidbits, English soap and caps which Sui Loong insisted were made in France. I’m sure many of us would like to have more reunions and trips of this nature in the future. Do take good care of your health and, God willing, we shall meet again!
The Report can also be accessed through Kirkbyites.net website
24 June 2013
Group Photo at Eagle Square
Reunion Dinner in Penang
GeoPark and Cable Car
Kuah Hotel and Dinner