Sunday, December 27, 2020


Tis was not the Tour de Langkawi but the Tua de Langkawi.  "Tua" in Bahasa Malaysia means old. And aptly so, as everyone was well over 60 years! It started as a class reunion for Sahoca College, Class of 73 in Kedah. It was at least 40+ years since the group were in school together. I was invited to join although I did not study with them.

We were happily relaxing in the resort when some robust able-bodies declared, "Hey, we have bicycles here, why don't we just cycle  to the Beach." I could instantaneously feel the rush of …NOT adrenaline...but trepidation surging through the group. But did we admit that the most strenuous exercise some of us do was hanging up the laundry or changing a light bulb. NOOO, our pride got in the way, and everyone gave a resounding, "What a great idea!" Not all joined in the Tua de Langkawi. But I am never one to decline a challenge, although I had never been on a bicycle seat for well over 30 years. 

So Tua de Langkawi had an official wave off for 14 of us into the paddy fields for a warm up. A significant start as the Tour de France originated primarily from a field in France. Then came the real deal up the hills of Langkawi. I had to get off and push my bike. Oh, my weak pathetic lungs, my bronchioles were over worked. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide was not going as well as expected.
    To add more pain to my already tormented body, the fitter bodies breezed passed me ringing their bells and giving the thumbs up. They were peddling like they were doing a Sunday ride, laughing and ribbing each other. These athletes frequently participate in cycling expeditions around the world. I was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf trying to blow the straw house down. But, I remained strong. With rests at many bus stops and coconut water quenchers by the road side stall, I peddled on with a smile, albeit a strained one.
When I saw the scenery change from coconut tress to casuarina, I knew the end was near. I puffed up by chest (or breasts to be more precise), put on a victory smile and rang my bell as I cycled into the cheers and whistles. Then, when no one was looking, I struggled, staggered and collapsed onto the beach. Thankfully not beneath my bike. 
A buffet picnic on “menkuang” (screw pine leaves) mats was already laid out for us. 
Tour de France is a 3,500 km race over 23 days. Tua de Langkawi was gruelling, 30km in one morning. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020



DON’T SPOIL CHRISTMAS 🎄 PLEASEAHHH, after 9 months of having life turned topsy turvy, I just want a PLAIN OLD FASHION Christmas.

I DEMAND for the return of Santa Claus is coming to town, NOT THIS sanitizer stuff. My hands are already dried and cracked from overuse. Don't remind me anymore.
GOOD OLE' Frosty with his carrot 🥕 nose.NOT THIS.

My favourite carol is “Little Drummer Boy.”  I learnt this when I was about 10-years old. during caroling practice. Iwas so excited, but I caught a bad flu. “Mie” banned me from going caroling. 

C’mas is always during the monsoon season and a bit chilly (240 C, haha.. it is chilly for us). I was so angry I hid in the kitchen when the carolers came. It took a lot of coaxing to get me out to see them sing. Father Florimond convinced my “Mie” to let me join them for the last two houses. Thus, whilst every girl was in her C’mas dress, I was in my pyjamas with my blanket. But I was so HAPPY. A REAL story – my first and last caroling experience.

CHRISTMAS in Prof. Elizabeth's home,
subtle, but the decorations are up.
Christmas in Malaysian malls
Christmas Nails!
My very first decorations. We didn't have the means to buy a Christmas tree,  my uncle visited when I was four-years old with a tree and boxes of decorations. This bell and bear has followed me for 59 years.


Thursday, December 17, 2020


  My friend Skippy has been an Australian PR for over 30 years. I think he will NOT become a citizen until his parents who are 90+ years and living on their own in Malaysia, have moved on. He was here in November 2019 to settle care giver issues for them. 

The coronavirus emerged and Skippy stuck it out here to ensure his parents were safe. Last Friday Dec 11, he touched down in Tullamarine airport, Melbourne, after being away for 13 months.

Trauma of booking a flight HOME

     On 3.12 when flights were still limited, Skippy booked the first available SIA flight to Perth via Singapore (leaving on 15.12), and a connecting flight with Virgin Australia to Melbourne (A$408) after a mandatory quarantine in Perth. The SIA ticket alone cost A$3,500 since only business class was offered and he was desperate. Like many thousands of Aussies stranded overseas, Skippy was concerned the borders would close again, so he continued scanning for earlier direct flights to Melbourne. Thankfully, he received an email from DFAT informing him that Malaysia Airlines had a direct flight on 11.12. Skippy patiently spent days checking the MH website but nothing was listed until 9.12. Without hesitation, he filled in the necessary forms only to be told the seat was already taken. Not prepared to give up, he called Customer Helpline and managed to get his name on the waiting list. On 10.12, he noticed there was availability so he tried again. Lady Luck smiled on him and he got his ticket to Melbourne for A$2,300. Skippy had just 24 hours to pack and say goodbye. With so much uncertainty, he did not dare cancel his original ticket to Perth until he was waiting to board on 11.12. Will he get a refund? Who knows 🤷‍♂️? The cancellation fee alone for SIA was $800+ with no refund for airport charges. Going home has never been so expensive!

Surprisingly, according to the MH steward, his flight was only allocated 25 passengers. This may be due to a cap placed by respective state governments in Australia based on quarantine capacity where each airline is allocated only a number of seats. In addition, most airlines have also grounded their flights except for few flights to keep their cargo division afloat, so adding on passengers aboard is a bonus. 

With 5 passengers in Business class, the 20 economy class passengers were squashed in the front 5 rows. 
It didn’t make sense as the entire back seats were empty.
The airline should have distributed passengers into alternate rows for social distancing. He received a packet of masks and lunch. 
Seriously, for A$2,300 the airline should have given designer face masks!


     Skippy arrived at his hotel via the back entrance. Sorry, with the pandemic, there was no grand front entrance with beaming door man and welcome drink. Instead, he was greeted by a team of Health Dept. staff, doctors, nurses, police and army personnel all in PPE. Scary like out of the movies. 

Mandatory quarantine meant no visitors in the room. Guests were allowed outside 3 times daily only to collect meals. No wandering around the corridor and fraternising. Guests have to wait 15-20 seconds after hotel staff knocks, open door, pick up food and shut door. Something akin to solitary confinement in prison! Ahh, no room service available! So each room was provided with cleaning products, rubbish bags, towels, tissues and toilet paper. 

Wahh, wail, sob, this NEW NORM is so sorrowful -  Skippy has to pay so much (A$3,000 for the 14 days) and have to clean his own room.

Lucky Skippy got a corner room with a view. 

Managed to crank open a window by 4 inches for fresh air, keep-fit Skippy 
got his resistance bands, skipping rope and yoga mat unloaded. 
Online orders for healthy food 
were on his priority to do list. Quarantine meals 
arrived in takeaway boxes 
with a different daily cuisine - 
tortellini and cake,
brown rice with coconut, almonds, chia, capsicum and falafel meal and other surprises.

By day 6, Skippy had settled into a routine of hopping, oops I mean jogging in his room.

    He 🤦‍♂️ actually made the effort to create a decent indoor jogging track by rearranging the bed and tables 🤦‍♀️. 

Come back Skippy, where you running off to? Remember, fraternising is NOT allowed.
He also discovered better spots to use his resistance bands. Skipping was a disaster as he churned up too much dust from the carpet! In Skippy's own words, “Wonder what some do in quarantine? Well, I have rearranged the furniture in the room to get my sanity back, jogging to increase immunity from the lurking virus.” Know what I WILL do during quarantine? HELLO, Coach Potato!  


Australia has mandatory SOPs - hotels hosting overseas returnees must have a medical team and an enforcement personnel station to check daily on guests’ welfare. Skippy informed them that he had hay fever and meds were delivered to his room free of charge. 

He asked for a nail clipper and it was delivered in 30mins 

Asked for body lotion, and 4 tubes magically arrived. My my, Skippy you are gonna be as smooth as a baby after 14 days.
At 6,364 km away from his parents, Skippy continued to monitor their care and well-being through a chat group with the care givers and CCTV via phone.

Returning home has never been more difficult. Skippy is concerned about the thousands of stranded Australians that will NOT be HOME this Christmas 

either due to Australia’s International arrival caps or simply because they cannot afford the exorbitant air fares and quarantine costs. 

But for those of you who have secured tickets home, Skippy suggests that you:

😍 check with the airline you are travelling with for any declaration that needs to be completed online to expedite your check-in procedure.

🤩 complete the online Federation and State declarations.


Grateful acknowledgement to Skippy, the ghost writer for this post, for his invaluable contribution and pictures.