The balik kampung (returning to hometown) journey is an annual affair for my family, and is something I look forward to during the festive season.

As a child, balik kampung meant it was an opportunity to eat lots of yummy treats, visit many relatives, and get lots of ang pow.

As I grew up, the balik kampung trips served as an avenue to spend time with my grandparents and catch up with relatives, some of whom I only saw once a year.

Back in the day when there were no highways, the trips were quite long as we used coastal roads that sometimes only had one lane on each side of the road.

Traversing coastal roads meant that we would meander through villages and towns, make pit stops at roadside shops and petrol stations, and know when to overtake if sandwiched between heavy- or slow-moving vehicles on narrow roads.

A one-way drive to Penang to visit my paternal relatives would take about six to seven hours, while a one-way journey to Kelantan to catch up with my maternal relatives would require some nine to 10 hours of travel!

There were plenty of ways to while away the time — admiring the scenic views, playing with my siblings, napping or reading.

I cannot imagine how taxing the long drive would have been for my father, who was usually the designated driver, although my mother would take over when he got too tired.

Despite the construction of highways that shortened the journeys, these trips have become more tiring in recent years with the increasing number of vehicles on the road.

It feels like going back in time as the travel time during the peak balik kampung season now is equal to the time when there were no highways.

If anything, the trips now are more painful as the highways are chock-a-block with vehicles on all lanes and most of the R&R stops are packed with people taking short breaks.

My family has been spared that torture for the past couple of years, as the demise of my paternal grandparents meant that we no longer head...

Similar Essays