all the months of planning, it was finally time to get the "Grand
Wedding Tour" underway - Rob & Jas achieved miracles by getting
about 40 family and friends from all over the world to gather in Singapore
& Malaysia to celebrate their multi-national wedding.
was Keith's first visit to Singapore and we both really enjoyed walking
the city - so many different districts - Indian, Chinese, Malay, colonial
- the architecture is a real mix of old and new. We thought the street
sculptures delightful and the streets so clean and tidy. We met up with
Rob & Jas at the Raffles Hotel for a celebratory drink before heading
out to enjoy dinner - a feat of endurance as they had just landed after
the long flight from London!
Jas' father, Alaga, originally hailed from Singapore and the family still has many relatives and friends living there so they hosted the first of several wonderful wedding events at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. The venue was glorious and we enjoyed exploring the Gardens before the crowd gathered. It was lovely to see Keith's three kids all together again - Emily & Jon had flown in from Perth, Australia, Charlotte & Kayleigh flew from London with Keith's ex and Robert & Jas. The evening included a Chinese Tea Ceremony for those relatives who were unable to travel to Malaysia. It was interesting to get a pre-view as to what the tea ceremony involved as we were to partake on the wedding day in Penang. Apparently there is a very strict etiquette involved as to the order of the guests
event was 5 days away in Kuala Lumpur, so we decided to take a 4½-hour
coach across the bridge from Singapore to Melaka (aka Malacca), a World
Heritage Site - granted for the living cultural heritage values. When
the Chinese started exporting the spices from this region back to China,
they inter-married with the local Malay women and the result is Peranakan
culture - the best of each world. Since then the region has also been
influenced by the Portuguese and Dutch as Melaka was a busy spice port.
Today the river mouth has nearly silted up and Singapore has taken over
the role of main shipping port - leaving Melaka largely untouched for
centuries. We stayed in a lovely converted former warehouse right on the
river and enjoyed walking the town.
Peranakan townhouse takes you back to a time when women hid behind elaborate
partitions when guests dropped by - and every social situation had its
specific location within the house. The Baba-Nonya Heritage Museum is
arranged to look like a typical 19th-century residence and showcases furniture
of Chinese hardwoods fashioned in a mixture of Chinese, Victorian and
Dutch designs with intricate mother-of-pearl inlay. The Peranakan women
wear long, straight sarongs with kebaya - long-sleeved tops covered
with ornate embroidery and cut-work. Christine decided it would be fun
to honour Jas' maternal Peranakan links by wearing one of these outfits
- including the beautiful beaded shoes - to one of the wedding events.
So, of course, Keith also needed to suit the mood and we managed to get
him a Chinese jacket/shirt. The Nonya cuisine is also justly famous and
we had some delightful meals!
was Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. KL is a hilly city about 50km from
the coast and now a bustling 21st century city and home to the Petronas
Towers. Once again we set off on foot to explore - just as well we are
more-or-less acclimatised to Darwin's hot, humid weather - we're still
in the tropics here, and felt sympathy for the other wedding guests from
colder climes! We met Rob for lunch at the "stuck-in-time" colonial-era
Coliseum Café where Keith tucked into one of their legendary sizzling
Jas were staying with Jas' parents who live in KL and we enjoyed a visit
to their home and afternoon tea. It was interesting to see inside one
of the houses - sensibly designed for the climate - and Swee Lee has a
magnificent garden with lots of tropical plants flourishing in the heat
and humidity of KL. Once again, Alaga & Swee Lee hosted a reception
for their KL relatives, friends and work colleagues. An impressive Chinese
Banquet was held at the Grand Imperial restaurant and we all stayed at
the adjoining hotel for the night.
we caught a 5-hour coach to Butterworth then hopped on a local ferry to
get to Georgetown, capital of Penang Island. We had originally hoped to
do some train travel up into the Cameron Highlands, but unfortunately
the itinerary didn't work out - however at least we got to see some of
the countryside instead of airports! The geology was really surprising
- jungle-clad limestone hills jut out spectacularly from the valleys planted
all over with palm-oil trees. The hills are riddled with caves that locals
believe to be a source of great spiritual power, and over the years meditation
grottoes became large-scale temples carved into the hillsides. Malaysia
is the world's largest exporter of palm oil and you can see why - the
palm plantations are everywhere.
hails back to the 18th century when the British East India Company set
up shop here because Penang was strategically located in the Straits of
Melaka. Today Penang is one of the Malaysia's hottest tourist destinations.
Rob & Jas had fully booked the magnificent blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
for the wedding guests and, although open to the public for daily tours,
it was amazing to have the opportunity to explore at our leisure. Built
in the 1880s, the house was commissioned by Cheong Fatt Tze, a Hakka merchant-trader
who left China as a penniless teenager and eventually established a vast
financial empire throughout east Asia, earning himself the dual sobriquets
"Rockefeller of the East" and the "last Mandarin".
The mansion blends Eastern and Western designs, with louvred windows,
art nouveau stained glass, beautiful floor tiles and surrounds an open
courtyard with cooling verandahs. It is a rare surviving example of the
eclectic architectural style preferred by wealthy Straits Chinese of the
Jas organized a walking tour of Georgetown which took in Chinese and Indian
temples and assembly halls - the architecture and carved details are amazing. In the courtyard
of the Khoo Kongsi a Chinese family clanhouse, a film crew were making an advert for Korean food - the Asian film crew got all excited
at the prospect of including some Westerners in their ads - and (from
left) Rob, his mother, Yngve (Jas' Norwegian brother-in-law) and Jas are
now famous in Korea!
Jas' family culture (and to have some fun!), the wedding day was loosely
based on the traditional Chinese wedding. The groom is supposed to arrive
at the bride's family home to begin "bargaining" for his bride.
Since Rob had been staying at the hotel, he and all the other young males
took a ride around town in beautifully decorated trishaws. Meantime the
bride and her girlfriends set up challenges that the groom must meet before
they will let him get to his bride. The challenges included eating hot,
HOT chillies, the best man having a leg wax, guessing which lipstick kiss
was Jas', and many others. We all thoroughly enjoyed watching this process
- and the guys had to hand over an appropriate amount of money in little
red envelopes to the girlfriends. They had no idea how much was acceptable
and the decisions took quite a lot of negotiating! Eventually Rob was
successful and the couple (and entourage) graduated to the garden to enjoy
a visit by the lion dancers. On a more serious note, the Tea Ceremony
was an exercise in exemplary diplomacy - Rob & Jas must have slaved
over the correct order and got it exactly right. Keith and I were honoured
to receive tea from them - and took the opportunity to give them the Welsh
Love Spoon we had commissioned to be carved especially - the handle incorporates
a Chinese Phoenix and a Welsh Dragon - very appropriate as Rob's heritage
is Welsh through Keith. And, according to tradition, the youngest sibling
serves tea to the happy couple - and Keith's younger daughter Charlotte,
joined by Kayleigh, made a lovely job of serving Rob & Jas.
moment was here - Keith's other daughter Emily acted as celebrant to take
Rob & Jas through their vows to each other. Jas arrived on her proud
father's arm looking stunning in her bridal dress carrying a bouquet of
orchids. The ceremony was simple but moving and we are delighted to welcome
Jas into the family.
reception was held in the inner courtyard of the Blue Mansion and the
next day we all moved to the modern Lone Pine Resort on the north coast
of the island for a few days of well-earned rest and relaxation! Our room
even had a spa bath on the balcony which was a real treat for us yachties!
After lazing around the pool during the day we all enjoyed eating at the
local "hawker" stalls - particularly when we discovered a genuine
tandoori oven! The food was wonderful
In a gesture of appreciation for all the generosity we had received, Keith and his ex-wife hosted a guided walking tour of the famous Penang Spice Gardens followed by lunch in one of the pavilions - it was a lovely way to end the two week holiday before everyone flew back to their home countries. Rob & Jas are London based - Rob is working for Goldman Sachs and Jas is a doctor currently studying to become a consultant. Emily & Jon are both working in Perth, Em as a physiotherapist at a private practice; Charlotte is nursing in Reading in the UK. They have all done really well and we are very proud of them. We had a great time and thank Rob & Jas and their family and friends for inviting us to share their very special wedding.