Access to affordable books at BookXcess

“Yay! We can finally have access to affordable, quality English books at the BookXcess bookstore in Johor Baru!”

BookXcess Sunway Big Box is now open in Johor Baru;
Co-founder, Andrew Yap [3rd from Left] and CEO Sunway
Malls & Theme Parks, H C Chan [3rd from Right] with
special guests at the official opening event. 
This is the sentiment shared by booklovers and readers who welcomed the opening of the largest bookstore in the Southern region that occupies 32,000 sq ft of Level One at Sunway Big Box hybrid retail park at Sunway Iskandar in Iskandar Puteri.

Johoreans have become familiar with the best book bargains found at the Big Bad Wolf book festivals that visited JB from time to time and their deep longing for the much-anticipated opening of their sister brand, BookXcess bookstore in JB this February, cannot be overstated.

The proof of this was seen in the crowd of shoppers who had gathered at the bookstore entrance way before opening time…

Created with a design concept dubbed, The Box of Knowledge, the centerpiece of the ninth BookXcess bookstore in Malaysia is the towering 7.5-meter tall bookshelves in the shape of a box that cleverly conceal an exciting Children’s Cave within.

The Adult Fiction section within a sunken cavern
In addition to this Box-within-a-Box concept, the wide and roomy layout of the bookstore within a warehouse-like space allows shoppers to explore the store to browse and select their picks from the collection of thousands of brand-new books.

Books are displayed wall-to-wall as well as on islands of bookshelves and be prepared to walk up and down steps into caverns and alcoves.

Inside the Adult Fiction section, look out for a small circle of glass on its floor that allows shoppers to see through into the section below. Fair warning is given to those short wearing skirts, not to linger nearby or to stand on this glass circle…

Besides Café Wolf, their in-store café which serves snacks and beverages for shoppers to enjoy a refreshment break from their browsing, there are comfortable seats and reading corners to rest, relax and read.

Inside the Children's Cave
Thirteen years ago, when co-founder of BookXcess Andrew Yap and his wife, Jacqueline, opened their first store in a tiny space in Amcorp Mall, Kuala Lumpur, they never anticipated how the business would develop to what it is now.

They received such tremendous response in that 500 sq ft bookstore that after only six months, they were ready to move into a larger space that measured 3,000 sq ft to continue with their mission to encourage the reading habit by making available quality books at affordable prices.

Since that humble start in 2007, now BookXcess have retail outlets at The Starling, Fahrenheit88 and SS15 Courtyard in KL.

A view of a section of the shopfloor from upstairs
In May 2018, BookXcess opened the nation’s largest and only 24-hour bookstore at Tamarind Mall and in 2019, they opened in Sunsuria Forum @ 7th Avenue and their first store outside of Kuala Lumpur in Gurney Paragon Mall, Penang, followed by BookXcess Kong Heng in Ipoh.

At the opening of BookXcess Sunway Big Box, Andrew said that his wife was travelling abroad on a regular buying trip to source for new stock of a wide range of books from publishers around the world.

“BookXcess is on a mission to bring back the love for reading and we are rallying allies everywhere we go, especially the parents’ community.

Take a refreshment break at Cafe Wolf, their in-store cafe
We believe parents are the best people to nurture the reading habit among children,” said Andrew who encouraged parents to instill the reading habit by increasing the number of books at home and exposing their children to a wide variety of books.

“Reading increases knowledge, builds character, improves one’s thinking process and widens your awareness of social, economic and environmental issues,” he added.

Chief Executive Officer of Sunway Malls and Theme Parks, H C Chan, commended Andrew as a visionary leader who has made quality books available and affordable.

Orderly queues at the cashier counters 
Chan, who believes that reading is a human right, and that everyone has the right to an education, was pleased with the partnership with BookXcess Sunway Big Box which opened, well stocked with the latest collection of books.

At the opening event, Chan borrowed a popular quote and proudly declared, “Now everyone can read!”

Parents of young children will be delighted to discover a range of Magical Books that should be enjoyed using Augmented Reality (AR) technology, exclusively available at BookXcess.

Books for sale to donate under the Red Readerhood CSR arm
Reading these Magical AR Books through an app on the smartphone or tablet would make the story come alive with animation for the kids to enjoy an immersive and interactive reading experience.

Take advantage of a special promotion for Magical Books from now till 31 March 2020 where shoppers can buy two Magical Books and get one Magical Book for Free OR buy three Magical Books and get two Magical Books for Free.

BookExcess also introduced their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm dubbed, Red Readerhood where brand new English books are collected and donated to the underprivileged through a local organization in support of their cause.

Standing on the see-through glass circle
in the Adult Fiction section
To kick-off their CSR effort in JB, BookXcess Sunway Big Box will match the number of books sold on it opening day to be donated to a charity of their choice.

Shoppers may choose from a selection of books to buy and donate from the shelves marked Red Readerhood in the bookstore.

For the opening weekend, from now till March 1, shoppers can enjoy 20% off titles on top of the discounted books.

Shoppers may also sign up for Free BookXcess membership, purchase selected items for RM1 only, get a RM20 BookXcess cash voucher for every RM150 spent and even enjoy 50% off coffee or tea at Café Wolf.

For more info and ongoing contests, visit BookXcess on Facebook and Instagram or website:

BookXcess Sunway Big Box is located at FF-01, Level One of Sunway Big Box, Sunway Iskandar, Johor. Open daily from 10am to 10pm.

So fun to feel good at Amari JB

What better way for a girls’ time-out together than to be pampered from top to toe at the spa and top off the treatment by indulging in a leisurely High Tea of light bites?

The reception counter in Breeze Spa, Amari Johor Baru
When my friend and I agreed to treat ourselves to some me-time, that’s what we did
at the Amari Johor Baru recently.

With reservations made with Breeze Spa, we arrived some 15 to 20 minutes before our 11am appointment, ready to leave the city behind and indulge in our little escapade.

Parking within the building is convenient and a smooth elevator ride took us to Level Six, the lobby level of the hotel.

I’m familiar with Breeze Spa, which is located on the same level, tucked away at the end of the corridor next to the Reception counter.

Entrance to Breeze Spa on the lobby level of Amari JB
When I saw the welcoming shades of turquoise and mustard against a backdrop of grey and white mosaic tiles in the décor, I recalled my first experience here last year while I was in the hotel to autograph my books that were placed in selected suites.

The spa manager and therapists warmly welcomed us and invited us to relax on the comfortable sofa while cups of chilled blue pea flower tea were served.

While we sipped our tea, we studied the Spa Menu of treatments and considered which to pick from a choice of Breeze Signature massages and scrubs.

Chilled blue pea flower tea was served before our treatment
Under the section for Mood Massages, the list included choices that will revive and rejuvenate our bodies to feel Dreamy, Serene, Rejuvenated, Invigorated or Energised.

It was easy to pick a massage treatment designed to remove the stress and strains from my tired body and get the required rejuvenation so that I would be ready to face the world again…

I appreciate that we were each given a Consultation Form to complete and to declare if we had any recent surgery or injury, or any health condition or was pregnant.

On its reverse page, there was an illustration of the human body with instructions to mark an ‘X’ at the specific places on the body where we do not want any attention and to mark with an ‘O’ at the specific spots where the therapist should focus on.

A professional touch with a Consultation Form
for clients to complete before the treatment
I liked how the therapist also discussed our personal preference of touch pressure so that we would get the most (satisfaction/relieve/relaxation) out of the treatments.

With the forms submitted and our blue pea flower tea sipped away, we were ready.
Then the therapists escorted us to our therapy rooms – single rooms with bathroom-shower-changing room attached. 

I waved ‘Bye to my friend as she disappeared into her room and I went into my own therapy room, feeling more than ready to be pampered, revived and rejuvenated.

I stepped into the familiar bathroom-changing room with my therapist who politely requested me to change into the robe provided along with the disposable underwear.

Inside the bathroom-changing room
The robe was monogrammed with Breeze Spa on the top left breast and when I removed their pair of slippers from the tray to wear, I saw they were also labelled Breeze.

My therapist then pointed to the bell – it looked like pewterware – and told me to give it a ring as a signal that I was ready for her to come in again.

She must have been waiting outside the room door, so I gave the bell a gentle tinkle once I was ready.

In the first part of the treatment, I was invited to sit on the chair to soak my feet in a basin of water. After washing my feet and wiping them dry, she pampered them with a squirt of lemongrass spray.

It was only after I laid down on the therapy table that I could finally surrender myself to the skillful hands of my therapist.

The last thing I saw when I laid face-down, was that bowl of water with floating blossoms of flowers. I shut my eyes to the world and allowed myself to float away to the mesmerizing beat of the mood music in the background.

My feet got the attention first!
No, I did not fall asleep but was fully aware of how my therapist was working her magic with her strong fingers, knuckles, palms, elbows and forearms, drawing whorls and patterns on my back, neck and shoulders to lift out all the toxins and relieve me of the physical stress of sitting for hours, writing/typing.

When the therapist asked me to turn over and lie on my back, I vaguely remembered where I was while I kept my eyes shut. 

I was ready to have my eyes covered by an eye-pillow, but I did not expect it to feel cool. I smelled a strong fragrance that hinted of coffee and when I asked, my therapist told me that the eye-pillow was filled with lavender seeds.

She continued to gently massage my arms, palms and fingers – no, I don’t need to be pummeled – and finally she worked on my neck and face, right to the top of my head.

When the therapist gently tapped me on my shoulder to tell me that my treatment was done, the thought that crossed my mind was, “Eh? I could get used to this.”

A wonderful pampering retreat for the tired body here!
Aware that I was still floating in massage heaven, she gently whispered that she was going to prepare tea and that I should come out when I was ready.

I must have grunted a reply because I soon realized that she had quietly left the room.

After the top to toe treatment, I took a few moments to stretch and relax, and I know it wasn’t my active imagination because I could really feel the blood pumping through my veins again.

When I was ready to face the world again, I joined my friend at the sofa where we sipped warm English tea with a hint of ginger to round off our relaxing and rejuvenating spa experience.

Afternoon Tea Set at Amaya Cafe in Amari JB
It was time for lunch but as neither of us wanted a big meal, we decided on some light bites.

I don’t know about my friend, but I felt as light as a breeze as we took a slow walk from the spa to the Amaya Café for the next part of our girls’ time-out together.

Instead of a full meal at the Amaya Food Gallery, we opted to linger over a leisurely Afternoon Tea Set served with quality TWG tea.

Priced at just RM68 nett per set for two persons, the TWG Three-Tier Afternoon Tea Set served from 12pm to 6pm at the Amaya Café, was our preferred choice to continue our chillout time after the spa pampering experience.

As the waitress introduced us to the choice of TWG teas, we were spoilt for choice just listening to the range of interesting blends in fruity flavours.

While she retreated into the pantry to prepare our Tea for Two, we looked at the menu and agreed that the sandwiches, savoury items, sweet treats and the essential item – scones – would be just right for us.

Chocolate sauce drizzled over the Brownie and ice-cream
When the waitress served our pot of tea, she asked if we would like their signature Sizzling Brownie to be served now or later.

The word “Sizzling” gave me a clue and I replied, “Yes, please serve it first.”

This specialty has earned a reputation for its sensational sizzle when chocolate sauce was drizzled on the warm brownie topped with a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream.

Every item on the menu was served in double portions except for this Sizzling Brownie – which was fine with us – because this single portion was easily cut into half for us to share.

With the ice-cream slowly melting on the warm Brownie, it was wise for us to savour this first before taking our time to enjoy the sweet and savoury treats on the three-tier set serving.

I remembered the small print on the menu that reminded us that it was an indicative menu with the items subject to change.

Nonetheless, the bruschetta, sandwiches, scones and sweet items presented on the three-tier set along with a separate platter of Beef Sliders, Prawn Kataifi with Mango Puree and Portuguese Egg Tarts, were more than enough for us to nibble and feel comfortably full.

The Afternoon Tea set was a fitting end to our time-out together
Chef Louis Heng, the pastry chef, did well in preparing delicate pastries like Mango Cheese Cake, Macarons and mini Madeleines.

The elegant serving of English scones baked with dried fruit added a nice touch to the traditional recipe, and I liked how they were served with Chantilly Cream, Strawberry Jam and a choice of Salted and Unsalted Butter.

When the Beef Sliders topped with caramelized onions and melted cheese quickly disappeared from the platter, it was clear that both of us found it very agreeable.

By this time, we had almost finished our meal and I had lost count of the times the waitress came to help top up our teapot.

As we relaxed over our leisurely Afternoon Tea at the Amaya Café, it not only felt good but also guilt-free to nibble these light bites after our pampering spa treatment.

Read on for an EXCLUSIVE OFFER to My Johor Stories:

An exclusive offer, limited to 10 readers and friends to experience a Free 30-minute Head or Shoulders Massage worth RM128 nett at Breeze Spa, valid in March 2020 with advance booking using my Promo Code.

OR a Buy-One-get-One-Free special deal for Signature Breeze Spa massage and body treatments [Please select from the Spa Menu!] on weekdays only from Monday to Thursday.

The above comes with a complimentary 24-month Breeze Spa membership card worth RM68nett to enjoy being pampered by regular Breeze Spa treatments (for two years!) at reduced rates for spa treatments, especially on your birthday month, and discounts for retail products and at all Food & Beverage outlets.

So dear girls, what are you waiting for? Get your girlfriends together and make your reservations before March 30, 2020 with the Promo Code, MJSFEB.

Just quote this Promo Code when you make your reservation, Tel: +6016 415 9272 or Email:

Breeze Spa and Amaya Café are at Level Six, the Lobby Level of Amari Johor Baru, located at No. 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru. Tel: +607 – 266 8888.

For more info, visit webpage:

What went down at the Townhall meeting...

The much anticipated Townhall Roadshow meeting hosted by Tourism Malaysia’s Tourism Recovery Action Committee (TRAC) in Johor Baru was well attended by industry players here.

The Townhall Meeting participants stood in solidarity with
China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak
After visiting Kota Kinabalu and Penang, the Townhall Roadshow arrived in Johor Baru, another important entry-point into the country, to meet with concerned groups in the travel, accommodation, food & beverage sectors and related players in the tourism industry.

This Townhall Roadshow was an initiative by the Government to meet and hear from the industry players and provide feedback to the Recovery Action Committee in order to roll out an economic stimulus package of measures to support the struggling tourism industry.

The Townhall Meeting organised with Tourism
industry players in Johor was well attended
Representatives from theme-parks, hotels and resorts, tourist destinations as well as tour and travel operators, and a large group of media members assembled in the hall, patiently waiting for the meeting to start.

Visitor arrivals in Johor have been severely affected by the novel coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak and the entry restrictions enforced by neighbouring Singapore towards travelers from China and other affected nations, where visitors often planned tours and stays in Johor.

Malaysia and Singapore share a common border and the two nations have agreed to share information and work together to exercise and enforce measures in tandem to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Jayanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division
of the Johor Health Department sharing info in the meeting
In addition to zero tour group arrivals from these affected nations, regular visitors from Singapore have also refrained from coming across the causeway into Johor.

The clusters of infections happening in Singapore have caused regulars to be extra cautious in travelling to JB and avoid risk of any possible infection.

All who are involved in the tourism sector including restaurants, cafés and even food courts here are going through lean times and finding it a serious challenge to sustain their businesses.

The mood was tense as they awaited the arrival of panel members made up of Mohd Zamri Mat Zain, Deputy Secretary (Tourism) from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Jeyanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division of the Johor Health Department, Datuk Musa Haji Yusof, Director General of Tourism Malaysia and YB Liow Cai Tung, State Tourism, Women Development, Family and Community Committee Chairman.

Dr Jeyanthini did well to alleviate fears with her
knowledge and information from the Health Department
While staying hopeful that this meeting would provide them with some solutions to their problems, an atmosphere of anxiety prevailed among the industry players as they discussed their common issues.

Upon arrival of the panel members, the event kicked off with an opening address by Mohd Zamri Mat Zain, Deputy Secretary (Tourism) from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

He expressed his concern towards the prevailing situation and said that his Ministry was aware of the cancelled trips from foreign visitors into Johor and its adverse effects on the tourism and related sectors.

In response to this, the Tourism Recovery Action Committee or TRAC was established on Feb 4 and have since been working with the relevant parties to create an Action Plan to mitigate the situation.

Datuk Musa HajiYusof, Director General of Tourism
Malaysia, discussing the Objectives of GAMELAN
Among the proposed solutions was to consider alternative markets and to create attractive packages catered to the domestic market and embark on it along with the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign.

Aware that the general public may be ignorant about the Covid-19 threat on themselves and their families, Dr Jeyanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division of the Johor Health Department, gave a comprehensive presentation to alleviate their fears.

While the situation about the virus was evolving, Dr Jeyanthini explained that she was sharing information about “what’s out there” and it was up to individuals to respond intelligently and not to become paranoid or paralyzed by fear.

Question from Henry Chua, a tour
and travel operator in Johor
She emphasized that the public must seek accurate information, verify information and ensure it was properly clarified before sharing the info because it would serve no purpose but only to spread fear and rumours.

Dr Jeyanthini was pleased that the Johor Health Department responded proactively to the situation that was happening globally and had activated the Crisis Preparedness & Response Centre (CPRC) in Johor since Jan 5.

As such, the Johor Health Department was prepared to deal with the eight cases that were tested positive when they subsequently occurred in Johor.

It was reassuring to learn that all the eight, who were imported patients, were treated, recovered and then discharged from hospital.

Her presentation included helpful and educational details about the Covid-19 virus, its characteristics, the risks, how it spreads and the prevention of its spread.

Dr Jeyanthini also encouraged everyone to be vigilant and to exercise social responsibility.

If anyone experienced flu symptoms, they should wear a mask and not hesitate to consult a doctor, then obey the doctor’s orders and stay at home to rest and recover.

A question by Henry Goh from Desaru Fruit Farm
She did not advocate people who were not sick to wear a mask because there was a shortage and the limited stocks of masks were required by those working in the frontlines or dealing with Persons Under Investigation (PUI).

She explained that the travel ban imposed by Singapore to travelers arriving from countries like China, had helped to control the situation and reduced the number of visitor arrivals into Johor.

In addition, a Notice was also issued to the public to cancel any non-essential travel to China and other affected nations since Feb 4.

With these steps in place, the virus spread has been under control and it posed no threat to the public who wished to travel within the country.

Datuk Musa Hj Yusof, replying to a question from the floor
Datuk Musa Hj Yusof, Director General of Tourism Malaysia, reassured the industry players that the knowledge garnered from the SARS virus experience (2002 – 2004) was helping the nation to respond better to the Covid-19 situation and the crisis recovery measures put in place then were being reactivated now.

Staying positive, Datuk Musa said the prevailing situation was an opportunity to spur domestic travel and he encouraged industry players to consider holding virtual travel fairs to offer strategic promotions for both medium and short haul trips.

He discussed the Tactical Plan for a Quick Recovery, with steps and actions to reduce economic damage to the tourism industry, that included aggressive domestic promotions.

Dr Jeyanthini replying to a question from the floor
Datuk Musa also encouraged the industry players to consider applying for financial support in the form of a reimbursable grant dubbed, GAMELAN, the short-from for Galakan Melancong Malaysia, Malay for Incentives to Visit Malaysia.

In the much-awaited Question and Answer session, pertinent questions from the floor were asked by hoteliers, resort owners as well as a tour and transport operator.

While the questions reflected their real experiences, there were in fact, no pat answers to these questions from industry players who were feeling the pinch from the challenges arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.

They were however, encouraged to persevere in the circumstances because all their feedback would be considered before the Government will announce the details of the economic stimulus package, (initially) planned for Feb 27. [This has since been changed to a later date.]

YB Liow Cai Tung responding to a question
In her closing address, YB Liow Cai Tung, State Tourism, Women Development, Family and Community Committee Chairman, thanked Datuk Musa for the initiative by Tourism Malaysia TRAC, in organizing the Townhall Roadshow meeting in JB.

YB Liow expressed her concern for the hardship experienced by the tourism industry that was not only happening here but also worldwide.

She urged the industry players to stand united and stay focused, and not to lose momentum in their promotions for the Visit Johor 2020 campaign.

“Every crisis is an opportunity,” said YB Liow as she encouraged them to change their strategy and move forward with their domestic tourism ideas.

“Together we can get through this!” she added.

The Townhall Roadshow meeting ended on a high note with words of encouragement
to China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
In a show of solidarity with China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, everyone at the Townhall meeting stood together – holding up placards emblazoned with Tourism Malaysia logos and taglines – to record a brief video that will be broadcast on social media.

In one voice, they chanted an encouraging phrase, “China, we are with you, Jia Yew!”

Gracie, Gracie, Married Lady*

Last November, I was chatting with Grace Chiam about my dinner reservation planned with my family for Christmas Day at the hotel restaurant and she assured me that everything was arranged as required.

Their wedding bands
With her excellent Marketing-Communications skills, Grace had the privilege to work with International brand hotels like the Hard Rock Hotel Penang, before she moved to Johor Baru to join the DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru (DTHJB).

Her career in Johor had taken her to various job opportunities and I had the pleasure of working with her again and again even while she was with the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast and recently, when she joined the Amari Johor Baru.

I met Grace when she first arrived in JB to join the team in DTHJB in 2014.

The then hotel General Manager, Simon McGrath, had invited me to have a hotel stay experience and provide them with the necessary feedback for improvement before the hotel opened its doors to the public.

The table setting with wedding door gift
In fact, during the construction stage he had given me a back-of-the-house tour because I have a special interest with what was happening at Jalan Ngee Heng, a familiar place where I grew up in our grandfather’s house opposite, at No. 154.

That day in June 2014, Simon introduced me to Grace, who had arrived in JB from Penang and was already busy with the numerous tasks in a hotel’s preopening stage.

It was lovely to meet with Grace, a young lady who had never been to JB and was about to start her career with the hotel here.

Then I learnt that she had hardly stepped out of the hotel since her arrival, so she knew very little about her surroundings, let alone JB city.

Aware that she was a newcomer who was totally alien to our city, I did not hesitate to offer to take her on my famous Fifty-Sen Tour, if she was interested and if she had the time to spare.

Grace at Warung Saga, a stopover in part of my
famous Fifty-Sen Tour with her in June 2014
When she graciously accepted my offer, I took Grace on a drive to show her the layout of our city to get a better perspective of the DTHJB and its location in her new neighbourhood.

After enjoying an overview of our city which was rapidly expanding from the old town to the new developments in Iskandar Puteri, Grace settled in beautifully into JB and her job with the hotel.

I didn’t know it then, but she told me later that, I was her first friend in JB. #FFIJB

Going back to my chat with Grace last November, we continued discussing various subjects until she sent me a photograph of a set of two rings with the caption, “Just bought our wedding bands!”

The pretty place card on the table with the classic Grace touch
I was delighted with this happy announcement and this suddenly brought our chit-chat to a whole new level.

She happily told me that she was going to grow roots in JB – because her Prince Charming is from JB – and they had everything for the wedding all planned out.

We chatted on about her wedding arrangements and Grace declared that her wedding celebration will not be a traditional grand banquet but instead will be 10 small celebrations planned to happen in 2020!

Grace, the beautiful bride, with [seated Left to Right]
Hari and his wife, Sharon, me and Cynthia
On December 29, I received Grace’s invitation to her wedding day planned for February 22, 2020 with the Registration ceremony scheduled at 12 noon.

“We are having a simple lunch and ROM ceremony with family and a handful of close friends in JB,” said her message.

“My most special day with my most special friends!” she added.

“I will always remember your kindness when I first arrived in JB,” Grace continued.

She told me that it was going to be a small and simple celebration with family members and only 10 other guests were invited.

Mr & Mrs Ng Kang Wei
I felt deeply honoured to be counted among the privileged 10 and quickly accepted her kind invitation. 

In the following days, we stayed in touch and had fun doing the countdown to her wedding day.

Grace reiterated, “You will always be my first friend in JB. It was significant for me, during my first few days in JB.”

Then I reminded her that I only did the first bit and she did well to find her own way around, made many good friends and even found herself a husband!

A day before her special day, Grace sent me a message with the seating plan which listed who I would be seated with at the wedding lunch.

They were Grace’s former colleagues, Hari (DTHJB) and his wife Sharon (former DTHJB), and Cynthia (Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast).

In a classic Grace-organised-event, she did not leave out any detail in that beautifully decorated banquet room, complete with a place card with the guests’ name on each table and of course, pretty ribbons and bows tied to the individual door gifts.

Signing the documents witnessed by their mothers
Bunches of hydrangeas in shades of mauve stylishly spilled over from tabletops to the floor and tall candelabras (Cynthia said it reminded her of Beauty & the Beast!) with lighted candles at various heights, adorned the center of each banquet table.

Standing graceful and tall in a matching mauve gown, Grace looked the radiant bride as she warmly welcomed family members and guests to the wedding lunch, hosted in a Chinese restaurant.

Earlier on Grace and I had discussed about her married name – Mrs Ng (Teochew) a Chinese surname which was also known as Hwang (Mandarin) and Wong (Cantonese) – and we concluded that she would share the same surname as my mum because my Teochew grandfather or Ah Kong was also named Ng!

Solemnly reciting her vows
Seated comfortably at the place assigned to me, I couldn’t help overhearing Grace speaking to her relatives at the next table, explaining in Mandarin – my command of this language has vastly improved (ahem!) – that I was her first friend in JB!

I guessed the relatives were just curious to know who these odd-persons-out-from-the-family were, and they couldn’t help asking Grace, to satisfy their curiosity.

When I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Grace and her husband – Ng Kang Wei – I too had a question for them.

I asked Grace if he was the reason for her to move to JB – and he was a very good reason indeed – but she quickly clarified saying, No, they only met after she came to JB.

Grace with her mother, sister and brother
Well, this Johor young man was the reason for Grace to settle down here!

Then it was time for the wedding solemnization, so Grace and Kang Wei stood before the official from the Registrar of Marriages with the couple’s mothers to sign as witnesses on the legal documents.

It was a simple but solemn ceremony where the couple made their vows in the presence of relatives and friends before they signed the documents and exchanged rings as a token of their commitment to each other.

As I observed the proceedings, my thoughts flashed back to 15 July 2017 – a very special day for me – at the launch of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, held in the DTHJB and witnessed by relatives and friends, including Grace.

A precious and proud moment for Mrs Chiam, Grace's mother, as she witnessed the wedding solemnization
While I should be bursting with joy, I was overcome by a bittersweet feeling because that one person whom I dearly wished could be present to witness this precious moment, was not there.

Kang Wei introducing his bride to younger family
members before presenting them with Red Packets
As Grace solemnly recited her vows and signed those documents, I believed that this was a similar bittersweet moment for her too.

Then it was time to kiss the bride!

Then lunch was served. It was a lavish spread that provided more than enough for us to eat because some of the youngsters seated with us, did not do justice to the food.

Hari, who observes a vegetarian diet, had his meal served separately so there was an extra share in the dishes served to our table.

While the lunch was going on, the family conducted a traditional tea ceremony where the newly weds served tea to their mothers and senior members of the family.

The newly weds with their younger relatives 
Then Grace and Kang Wei sat down for the junior members of their family to serve tea to them.

I have been involved with the tea ceremonies for my nephews’ weddings, so I’ve learnt that this tradition is a good way to introduce family members to the new addition to the family and vise-versa.

Finally, it was the younger relatives’ turn to meet the newly weds and receive a Red Packet from their new family member.

I could not hear what Kang Wei said in Mandarin to introduce his wife to the youngsters, but it was good to see that he was maintaining tradition and teaching the younger generation to address his wife with her proper honorific.

Wedding Blessings to dear Grace and Kang Wei! #FFIJB
With the official part of the wedding ceremony officially over, the bride and bridegroom relaxed and had fun posing for numerous photographs to capture special mementoes of their first celebration in the series of wedding parties planned for later in the year.

“Thanks for letting me part of your celebration today,” I messaged Grace when I sent her photos that I had taken of her with her family.

And she replied, “Thanks for being part of my life.”

Wedding Blessings and Congratulations to dear Grace and Kang Wei!

May you have a wonderful next chapter of your lives together.

*Inspired by the song, Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady, performed by Barbara Streisand in the 1968 musical-comedy, Funny Girl.