I have been on media trips before.
But never have I received such personalised, VIP treatment as the one I received from, jointly, Jetstar Asia, Tourism Malaysia and Sarawak Tourism Board, on my four-day media trip to Kuching.
I didn’t even realise that our luggages had been tagged “VIP PTY” (which, I assume, stands for VIP Party) until during our return flight, while we were checking in our luggages.
It explained the shock I received when we first landed in Kuching.
Before I go into that, though, I want to properly chronicle my journey by showing you some random photos I took while on the plane.
Snapping a photo of a Jetstar jet while seated on a Jetstar jet:
Yeah! I got a window seat!
I also sort of secretly took a photo of my media compatriots, all seated in a row beside me. But I’m not going to risk my life and post it up because it shows them in varying states of consciousness, it being a crazily early hour on a Sunday morning when we left Singapore.
So here’s one very awake me, instead:
I was very much looking forward to whatever was in store for us.
This trip commemorated Jetstar Asia’s inaugural flight to Kuching (from Singapore). Yes! We were on the very first Jetstar plane flying to Kuching.
Onboard with us was Datuk Michael Manyin, the Minister for Tourism for Sarawak. We boarded the flight together after being introduced to him at Changi Airport.
Our VIP treatment at Kuching International Airport was probably thanks to him. The moment we stepped off the plane and traversed a ridiculously short connecting tube, we were greeted by flashing lights from a mob of photographers. And garlands.
Yes, we were garlanded. *lol* Here’s mine:
I thought they were there just to welcome the Datuk. But they were there to welcome us, too!
While I followed the VIP procession past the mob of photographers and garlanders, I suddenly heard a voice call out, “Sheylara!”
I thought it was one of the organisers about to tell me that I had forgotten something or some other.
But then I turned around and saw a very familiar face, instead, beaming at me.
It took a second for me to register the face because my brain had been momentarily stupefied by the flashing lights and garland. And because the face had had a hair cut since we last met.
Then I went “OMG” and bounded to him.
It was Kenny Sia, Malaysia’s most famous and popular blogger.
We both said, almost at the same time, “What are you doing here?!”
He didn’t know that I was part of the media group he would be taking around Kuching later in the afternoon.
I didn’t know that we had priority clearance, and that we didn’t have to go through customs, so was wondering how the heck Kenny had managed to sneak into the… well, inside.
Anyway, we were then ushered into a nearby room where a press conference was about to begin.
The front-row seats were reserved for us.
It was all quite formal.
But no less friendly.
Our Sarawakian hosts were very, very hospitable. We even got to meet several tribal people wearing tribal costumes. I guess that was our first introduction to Sarawakian culture.
Army of photographers:
At the end of the conference, some of us received interview requests. That was quite weird and amusing. Media interviewing media!
RTM (a state-owned Malaysian broadcast station), interviewed me on my thoughts of Kuching.
I remember vaguely blabbing about Sawarak laksa and Kuching kolo mee.
That was quite trippy, if you must know.
And then there was mingling, and introductions, and refreshments.
Kenny being introduced to Leong Wai Kit (NTUC Media):
Javad Namazie (Gadget3) and Nicholas Sarasta (Tourism Malaysia) pretending to be cool:
Okay, fine. They are actually quite cool blokes.
And then we were off! In our little van! Away to our hotel!
Only five of us in the photo are actually from the media. The others are, um, assorted related people. Okay, I will be talking more about them in the next entries to come, so we’ll leave it at that for now.
Time for adventure!
But to be continued in the next post, okay?