Week 7: Part 3: Day 45 to 48
26th – 29th January, 2017
In the morning our couchsurfing host Massimo kindly offered us a lift to the airport, so with the car packed we set off to the nearby cafe to buy some snacks for the plane and have our last Italian coffee together. Our host was about to kindly order for us but Graham said he would try. He managed to successfully achieve it in Italian, including his order of a long expresso, much to our host’s amazement.
So it was that we finally ended our grand railway adventure across Europe. We had travelled a route of about 2500km by rail with only six small backpacks (averaging less than 7kg each) – six people inc three children under 12 and a senior. It had been the kind of journey that had challenged us, surprised us and brought us closer together as a family. It was a great honour to share it with three generations. Intergenerational travel ROCKS! We would remember this for a life-time.
Diving into Asia, again
Originally, We had fantasised about cushioning the end of our trip with a lux hotel stay. Maybe cocktails by the pool? But we had gotten a call from a couchsurfing friend Jiann. We had hosted him in Perth, he had met us previously in Singapore and had written to us with a kind invitation to join his family for a traditional Chinese New Year plus to take us to his mothers ancestral home. How could we pass up such a kind unique genuine opportunity? So being the adventurers we are, we gratefully accepted.
Unlike flights out of Australia, we find that the major airlines offer fantastic prices to Australia from Europe. So it was that we were thrilled to board our Emirates full service flight via Dubai to Bangkok, then catch an Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur. The bit of a hop at the end was the cheapest option.
There we were picked up by our host Jiann and very privileged to be transported to his grandparents home in the Klang Valley and be suddenly embraced by his warm loving family.
Shortly after entering his grandparents home our boys were helping making Chinese New Year delicacies and not long after, we were soon seated in the kitchen, around a table crowded with amazing scrumptious food of every description until we could literally eat no more – yet the dishes kept coming. We were so hugely honoured and overwhelmed with the generosity of Jiann and his family towards our little band of travellers.
Jiann’s grandparents are 5th generation Chinese Malaysians. Chinese Malays make up about 21% of the population and even today suffer a degree of racism and negative discrimination due to the idea of”Malay Supremacy” that lingers. Jiann’s family live in a concentrated Chinese Malay area called Batu 11 Cheras, which was once historically one of the many “New Villages” in the Klang Valley area. Around the 1950’s Chinese Malays were forced to live in these “New Villages” under the Briggs Plan. The history of their family and that of many Chinese Malaysians in KL has been a turbulent one.
The Briggs’ Plan was a military plan devised by British General Sir Harold Briggs shortly after his appointment in 1950 as Director of Operations in the anti-communist war in Malaya. The plan aimed to defeat the Malayan communists, who were operating out of rural areas as a guerrilla army, primarily by cutting them off from their sources of support amongst the population. To this end, a massive program of forced resettlement of Malayan peasantry was undertaken, under which about 500,000 people (roughly ten percent of Malaya’s population) were eventually removed from the land and interned in guarded camps called “New Villages”…
Previously, the Chinese had been spread out geographically, but the Briggs Plan would now bring together rural Chinese from all over the country and concentrate them in the New Villages. There was significant resentment towards the programme both among the Chinese and Malays. The Chinese frequently suffered from collective punishment, preventive detention and summary deportation aimed at weeding out communist supporters, while the Malays were incensed at the infrastructure provided for the New Villages as their own settlements remained undeveloped. – Wiki
After dinner came the New Year fireworks. Outside many homes there was a private display of crackers and rockets. The deafening noise, colours and the smell of black powder filled the night air. Once the New Year had arrived, we walked to the local temple, stunning in the glow of red lanterns to give gratitude and thanks.
After a peaceful night in Jiann’s parent’s home we set out early to catch the ferry at Port Klang. We were excited to be visiting the ancestral home of Jiann’s mother, Palau Ketam, known locally as Crab Island for the abundant crustacean harvested from the rich mangroves. Once there we were again welcomed by Jiann’s aunty and his extended family.
It was such an amazing experience to wander the narrow laneways of this stilted island, be thrilled by the scurry of its mudflat inhabitants below us, eat in one of its numerous restaurants and be a part of this local place so remote from the frantic life of the big city.
…And so to home
The next morning we were collected in the dark for the journey to KLIA, the vast airport complex west of the capital. There we boarded our flight home, back from the Winter Weg of Europe, via the tropical colour of Chinese New Year, to the warm and longed-for summer of our beloved Perth.