Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Too good to be true - but it was:

Julie-Anne Foster and her 250 friends and family ate, danced and sang together - and that was just on the flight over!
By Julie-Anne Foster
Date: November 10 2012
Tags: travel,
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Luna Bar


You can’t imagine what it was like to have over 250 friends and family travelling together, sharing in so many great experiences side by side in our AirAsia ‘Friendsy’ trip to Kuala Lumpur.

When I was told I’d won the trip, it seemed too good to be true. But the experience most certainly lived up to the hype.

It’d be a lie to say I hadn’t been concerned about how it would work out, considering there were so many of us; but I think everyone just wanted to enjoy the experience – and we did! Since we’ve returned home, our friends have commented on how much fun they had and most say they’ll visit Malaysia again very soon with their families.

What a fantastic opportunity to have so many friends and family, eating, partying, sightseeing and shopping together in Kuala Lumpur for three days. Ahead of our holiday, I’d hoped we’d be a travelling circus, a rolling party, moving from one site to the next. And we were every step of the way. Every time I turned around there was somebody I knew standing there behind me. I’d find myself in a yarn with that person, and then turn around again and begin chatting with the next person minutes later. It was such a warm group to be a part of.

I think travelling can sometimes be an anonymous adventure, particularly if you’re on your own or with only a few others. It can sometimes feel as though you’ve hopped into a little bubble and floated overseas. But our trip was the exact opposite. It was almost as though we’d packed up Kuala Lumpur and brought it to our New South Wales north coast home in Lismore, not the other way around.

It all began with our arrival at Sydney airport. The Friendsy crowd had gathered near our check-in gate and erupted in a chorus of clapping and laughter when they saw my family and I approaching with our luggage at the other end of the terminal. It was so amazing to see such a thick, long line of familiar faces, essentially our life in a check-in queue, each with a huge grin from ear to ear. Getting together with small groups of friends and family isn’t such a rare thing, but to be able to bring EVERYONE I KNOW together in such circumstances was just such a unique event.

And the plane ride. Wow! The things you can do when you’ve got your own chartered flight. The AirAsia X crew were so lovely and weren’t afraid of letting us have some fun on the way to KL. Most people were standing and walking around the plane as though it was a bar that just happened to be in the shape of a plane. We even had a conga line going at one stage and a singing competition over the intercoms. The flight really set the stage for what was to come.

It’s all still so fresh in my mind. Today, whilst unpacking, I picked up a t-shirt I’d worn to the Hindu shrines at the Batu Caves on the first day of our tour and got a whiff of the incense that burns all around the sacred limestone cliffs not far from KL. I relived that sense of satisfaction I’d felt after climbing the nearly 300 steps, accompanied by a few families of friendly monkeys, to the shrines hidden high in the hills. Turning around and catching a glimpse of steamy KL in the distance was a sight to behold, with a 42-metre-tall golden statue of the Hindu deity Murugan looming large over the tourist buses below.

I tossed the t-shirt in the dirty clothes basket and picked up a pair of my husband, Darren’s, shorts and stumbled across some shavings of tin from a sample he was given at the famous KL pewter factory. I remembered seeing the fascination on the faces of my children, Jake, Natalie and Keely, as they watched the factory workers turn the tin samples into beautiful vases, cups and ornaments like magicians.

It was so great to spend this time with our children, particularly on the last day of our trip when we visited a fish spa together. The kids had never experienced anything like that before and it was quite funny observing their reactions to having the little fish nibble at their feet. We also did some shopping in Chinatown and the kids learnt how to barter – handy for future trips abroad.

My own tour highlight was probably visiting the rooftop Luna Bar for cocktails. The chance to have such an establishment totally booked for your own group isn’t something you get to experience too often. It gave us all a little taste of the VIP lifestyle, particularly considering Luna Bar is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most exclusive places to eat and drink. It also gave me a great chance to catch up with some of my old school friends whom I hadn’t seen or spoken with in over 20 years – and how did we yarn. It was so amazing to hear of all the things they’ve have been up to since we last saw each other so many moons ago, how many kids they’ve all got, what they do for work. It was truly fantastic.

Our epic lunch at the JW Marriot Hotel was also an incredible experience. Tourism Malaysia kept their plans for the lunch hush-hush and we had no idea it was going to be so grand.

Picture this: the main ballroom at one of Kuala Lumpur’s most extravagant hotels; around 30 round tables, each seating 10 people, laid out with beautiful fine china and glassware; a smorgasbord of Malaysian cuisine off to the side, from hot curries and spicy flat noodles to sago desserts and fruit cocktails; and performance after performance by traditional Malaysian dancers dressed in ceremonial garb – I just didn’t think it would be so momentous and so beautiful. And I felt so privileged to be sitting at the central table with my family.

One very happy consequence of our time away has been the many new friendships that have been forged during and since, especially within the smaller tour groups into which we were divided. It seemed there was a rolling competition for which tour bus could be the craziest, the loudest and sometimes even the rowdiest.

To have so many people that were along for the trip because of me was an incredible thing. I’m not saying the trip was about me. But it was somewhat surreal in a way to be the one common link between all those who were involved, to be the one common thread in an amazing tapestry of fun and friendship.

Everywhere we went, we dominated the scene and brought with us a wave of chitchat, laughter and business for the many shops, bars and restaurants we visited. My voice may still be a bit croaky four days after our return, but it was such a pleasure playing sergeant in arms during our time away.

These memories we’ve created are truly priceless and a gift that will keep on giving as we all go on together. It was truly one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. 

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