3.25 … 4.05 … 5 am
Yes.. it's the excitement of a maiden trip with Silver Horizon Tour Cooperative (SH). Apparently for quite a number of us as new members in our group of seventeen, it is our first time travelling with SH.
As a new kid on the block, I was impressed right from the beginning. Way before the meeting time at 7.30 am, several eager beavers with luggage in tow, sunglasses, sun hats, ready-to-click mobile cameras; all tourist-proved to explore Bentong. We were greeted with warm introductions and sincere faces when we boarded the pretty-comfortable and spacious coach with more-than-enough seats to accommodate all 17 of us. I was sure it will be a memorable trip; I even met my long-time-no-see friend as we exchanged warm hugs, ready to re-bond again from where we last met decades ago.
Needless to say, it would be FOOD FOOD and GLORIOUS FOOD!! I'm sure everyone would agree that we were extremely well-fed for virtually all 7 meals (excluding breakfast at the hotel and resort). This is evident from all the spontaneous chorus of "Ooos" and "waahs" that presided over the serving of each dish at every meal. Unequivocally a gastronomical experience.
And of course, there's the touted MSW (Mao Shan Wang) durians!! Tour agents Francis (from Malaysia) and Jimmy (Singapore) did not let us down. They delivered what they promised as they enticed, teased and lured us all the way from Singapore to devour the coveted king of fruits. If anyone was salivating, we wouldn't have noticed as we were each too captivated and intoxicated by the king's irresistible aroma. We couldn't even utter a word as I looked around noticing the spellbound and dazed faces. Hurry up.. some appeared to be pleading as Jimmy took pride and delight in detailing the background and history of the fruit, the farm, the farmer; as if to prolong our pain and test our patience he went on and on to demonstrate how the king should be inspected, selected, the correct way to open it, the true hue of the pulp, the texture, ad infinitum. As the tantalizing continued, I think my wife was already screaming 'stop stop.. get on with it; we wanna eat!" Verdict: heavenly thick creamy, velvety smooth texture, bitter and sweet at the same time. Stronger verdict? Delightful burps upon burps, upon burps…
Francis left no detail out – he completed the satisfying experience with clear instructions on how to use salt to wash our fingers and avoid incurring a nasty sore throat. Apparently the sky was the limit as he confidently told us to eat as much as we wanted; and by George – we feasted on 40kg of MSW!! Good thing none of us passed out. The only damage sustained were slight tummy discomfort from indigestion or having eaten too much, all of which were forgotten by the next morning.
TRULY INVALUABLE MOMENTS
Ok.. allow me to qualify myself less anyone concludes that this entire trip was nothing but gastronomical indulgence (which may be misinterpreted as shallow and meaningless). Far from it, there were certainly greater significance and takeaways.
To name a few, I enjoyed and appreciate both Jimmy's and Francis' endless narratives on the places we visited. Buildings, terrains, rivers, shophouses etc. were brought alive with their informative sharing; remarkably even plants and trees had unique significance as a result of their sharing. They didn't come across as "just doing their job" but exuded sincerity and passion. In fact, we even had a personal heartfelt rendition from Francis as he bidded us farewell with a good ol' favourite from Marie Osmond.
Several members affirmed that this was a rather relaxing and non-stressful trip (unlike some other tour groups that we've heard about) "Slow pace, no rush" "this is the type of holiday I've always wanted".
But top on my list would be the numerous friendships forged. I always believe that one can plan for trips and itinerary, but we can never plan for how people meet and connect. It is travellers like you and me that write precious stories in our hearts. I think this maiden trip presented an amazing blend of people – solo travellers, friends, couples and even a two-generational family. We enjoyed each other's company, laughed, ate, teased and shared countless interesting conversations; meaningful bonds were fostered. Hence, we found ourselves cajoling Jimmy and Shirley for more trips: when is the next one? what's the plan for…? count me in for… tell us more about…
So, do look out for SHTC's news on the several "akan datangs" and book early. To all my new friends – hope to see you again and to the other members – hope to meet you on one of SH's trip. Au Revoir!!