Thankful for an eventful 2023


It was apt that my 2023 closed with a Heritage Walk on December 27, specially arranged with a group of foreign students and members of their host families here.


The wet and cloudy weather did not deter this
group of foreign students and their host family
members from enjoying a Heritage Walk with me

This happened because Tan Bee Lian, a volunteer with Antarabudaya Malaysia, a student exchange programme formerly known as the American Field Service (AFS), read online about my Heritage Walks and reached out to me to arrange for a Walk.


The foreign students were in Johor Baru over the year-end holidays and from what she read about the Heritage Walks with Book Reading sessions under the My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru project, she thought that such a Walk would be an ideal experience for her group.


On one Saturday each month from January to April, the activities for my Downtown Johor Baru project were to escort groups on Heritage Walks based on My Johor Stories in the morning, followed by a Book Reading session in a downtown hotel in the afternoon. This project was successfully accomplished with the support from the team at BrandCulture PR Marketing Communications.


My Johor Stories in Downtown
Johor Baru
brought life back 
into downtown Johor Baru

In January my Heritage Walk featured the Segget Waterway and the Heritage Walk in February featured Heritage Traders, many of them third-generation traders who are still doing the businesses started by their forefathers,


My Heritage Walk in March discovered more about our city’s Teochew Heritage and in April, after we explored Kampong Wong Ah Fook to learn more about the Cantonese Heritage here.


The My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru project was an initiative under the Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Heritage and Culture, a collaboration between Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) and Think City, supported by Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru (MBJB).


Meanwhile the Drum Up JB! drum show was another project under the Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Heritage and Culture, presented in the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House every month from January to June and bi-monthly until the season’s finale in December.


Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the
art of the 24 Festive Drums taking
a we-fie of us with my 2017 MPH
Bestseller that featured his story

The art of the 24 Festive Drums is a proudly Johor brand that I featured among other Johor brands in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the third and final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories books.


In fact, I had already featured Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the art of the 24 Festive Drums, as an exclusive story in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


As all the MPH bookstores in the city had closed after the recent years of uncertainty, I obtained permission from MPH to sell my books at events here. While readers may buy my books from mphonline, I know that many still preferred to touch, see and smell the pages of new books before they decided to buy.


So it was my privilege to partner with the Drum Up JB! shows to set up a pop-up store in the lobby of the Opera House for the sale of My Johor Stories books.


At the Drum Up JB! Coffee Talk event as
Moderator with a panel of three speakers

The best part about this experience was the opportunity to meet with people – that ranged from familiar friends to foreigners and even members of the Johor royal family – who enjoyed reading and were keen to know more about Johor culture and heritage through my books.


Speaking about books, among the participants in my first Heritage Walk in January was Tengku Tarmizi Tengku Aziz, the Librarian at Perpustakaan Sultan Ismail, the City Council’s public library at Jalan Datin Halimah.


After Book Three was launched in December 2022, I was e-introduced to Tengku Tarmizi by Datin Patricia Lim, great-grand-daughter of Johor pioneer, Wong Ah Fook, herself also a published author, who suggested that I should donate a set of my books to Johor Baru’s public library for their Malaysia Collection.


Johor Baru City Mayor received
the trilogy of My Johor Stories
for the city's public library

With the help of Tengku Tarmizi, an appointment was arranged in March for me to meet with the Johor Baru City Mayor or Datuk Bandar, Dato’ Haji Mohd Noorazam Dato Haji Osman, who accepted the trilogy of My Johor Stories on behalf of the City Council’s public library.


To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the 24 Festive Drums, a number of activities were planned for the celebration weekend of June 17 & 18, and it included two sessions of Drum Up JB Coffee Talk, separately hosted in Mandarin and English, held at YSpace on Sunday, June 18.


As I was familiar with the journey of the 24 Festive Drums and its co-founder, I was invited to participate as the Moderator for the English session of the Coffee Talk that featured a panel of three distinguished speakers.


They were co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums, Tan Chai Puan, Indian classical dance virtuoso in the art of Bharatanatyam, Ajith Bhaskar of Suvarna Fine Arts, and Mohd Shahril Abd Manan, Programme Manager with Think City Johor Baru.


Incidentally, the stories of both Tan Chai Puan and Ajith Bhaskar were documented under Portraits in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Our Coffee Talk turned out to be a lively and beneficial discussion on how the staging of Drum Up JB! shows had impacted audience members in our multi-cultural community, with ideas shared on ways to develop the cultural scene in our city.


After this event, I thanked the organizer and was pleasantly surprised when I received his reply which read like this: “I am the one who need to thank you for guiding us to a fruitful discussion and brainstorming with the community.”

Tan Mei Ling read My Johor Stories 2: Interesting
Places and Inspirational People, in her room at
the luxurious One & Only Resort, Desaru Coast

Also in June, something extraordinary happened.

Tan Mei Ling, who read My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, that was placed in her room at the luxurious One & Only Resort, Desaru Coast, wrote to seek my help to publish a book as a tribute to her father, Tan Kiah Teck, a retired lawyer who had a practice in Johor Baru.

While she was born in and spent her early years in Johor Baru, Mei Ling and her family now live in Singapore.

When I learnt that her father was terminally ill, we wasted no time in proceeding with her book project and made rapid progress by liaising through email and telephone.

With Tan Mei Ling, holding her book
we worked on as a loving tribute to
her late father, Tan Kiah Teck

Her father, however, passed on in August and did not see the book when it was finally ready.

When Mei Ling came to collect her stock of books, it was the first time we met but I felt strangely familiar with her and her family - she was with her mother, brother, uncle and his wife - because I got to know them while I was working on their book project.

Mei Ling told me that this book - which was for private circulation - will be launched at a Christmas Eve family dinner on December 24. Then on Christmas Day, I received her photographs of their book launch with her family and close friends.

When I received an invitation from Lee Sheah Liang, co-founder of Infinity8, to the grand opening event for their ninth branch at Mid Valley Southkey in August, I expressed my congratulations to him on yet another exciting milestone in their journey to establish quality coworking spaces in Johor Baru, Kuala Lumpur and beyond.


Lee Sheah Liang presented my book
to VIP guests at the official opening
of Infinity8 Mid Valley Southkey

I am familiar with Infinity8 because I had the privilege to document the story of Infinity8 among other proudly Johor brands featured in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now.


The event went on smoothly from the start to the Ribbon-Cutting ceremony, officiated by YB Liew Chin Tong, Deputy Minister of International Trade & Industry, Johor Baru City Mayor, Dato’ Haji Mohd Noorazam Dato’ Haji Osman and Lee.


The highlight of the event – for me personally – must be that among the souvenir items that Lee presented to them was one book each of, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now.


Then in October, I accepted an invitation from Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas to meet with their guests, a group of German-speaking journalists that comprised five media representatives from leading newspapers and magazines based in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.


The trilogy of My Johor Stories was presented to
each of the German-speaking journalists by
Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas

It was a fun My Johor Stories “live” experience presented in a casual and intimate book reading session to share about Johor history through My Johor Stories.


The guests each received a set of the trilogy of My Johor Stories so they turned with me to each book to see the stories and visuals when I made reference to them in my presentation. Personally, I was simply delighted that these guests will take home a bit of Johor in My Johor Stories books.


In November, I had the pleasure to meet award-winning fashion designer, MelindaLooi who collaborated with Sogo Department Store in Mid Valley Southkey.


Her Mell by Melinda Looi line of designs is affordable designer-wear, wearable daily and not too formal or limited to only special occasions.


True to her avant-garde and vintage style, this collection featured colours that ranged from pastel shades to bright and bold neon prints, made in fabrics that are suitable for our tropical climate.


Yvonne Yap explaining her son's sketches to
Tunku Tun Aminah at "Talking to the Stars"

Also in November, I was at the ‘Talking to the Stars’ exhibition that featured drawings by savant autistic artist, Yap Hanzhen, where I met his parents, Yap Yew Peng and Yvonne again.


Over the years, I got to know this family and was pleased to document Hanzhen’s remarkable story in, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


The exhibition was launched by Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Tun Aminah Binti Sultan Ibrahim, and it was my pleasure to present our Johor Princess with the trilogy of My Johor Stories for her reading pleasure.


Then on December 3, I received an email to My Johor Stories which read like this. Quote:

Hi Peggy! This is Casey Volden’s mother, and Tammy Cyngier’s mother-in-law, both teachers living in Johor Baru.


Tammy kindly bought the trilogy of your wonderful (signed) books “My Johor Stories” for me when I came to stay with them in Johor Baru in July and August this year.


I just wanted to tell you that I have finished the final book and absolutely loved them all.


You are such a good writer and held my attention on every page – packed with such interesting, factual, humorous, fascinating history, your loving family (and especially Papa) and information on incredible local people.


I come from a family of journalists and authors and know well about good writing when I see it.


Thank you for entertaining me Peggy – and Tammy, knowing me well enough to put the Trilogy on my bedside table. (My daily journal was happy with added facts and info I did not know about!)


I wish I could hug you but I send salaams and best wishes to you and your family. Janey



With Tammy Cyngier who bought
the trilogy of My Johor Stories
at the Drum Up JB! show

Wow! Just as this eventful year was drawing to a close, receiving Janey’s message – all the way from Canada – was a strong affirmation, the proverbial cherry on top of [the cake] my writing and storytelling pursuits.


Several years ago, I met Tammy Cyngier, at their school’s Book Week event where I shared with students about my journey to My Johor Stories. We met again this year when she was at the Drum Up JB! show and bought my books from my pop-up store.


December continued on a high note when I joined Ajith Bhaskar and Suvarna Fine Arts for their 30th anniversary celebration.


When Ajith reminded me that I have been part of Suvarna’s journey since their first 20 years and should be there for their 30th year celebration, I felt deeply honoured and pleased that I was privileged to document his story under Portraits in, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


My Johor Stories Heritage Walk held at end
December in downtown Johor Baru

Then the year aptly closed with a My Johor Stories Heritage Walk in downtown Johor Baru with the foreign students and members of their host families here.


I am deeply grateful for an eventful year 2023 with the support of hotels and resorts who agree with me that people liked to stay in a place with a story, the readers who appreciate my storytelling style and the many opportunities to share My Johor Stories “live” through various activities.


As I look forward to another exciting and eventful year ahead, here’s wishing you a very Happy and Healthy New Year 2024 with My Johor Stories.

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