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By Badrolhisham Bidin

JUST thinking of the special delicacies such as ketupat and lemang and enjoying them with loved ones in your hometown is enough to give Malaysians the adrenaline rush.

After a two-year absence, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysians are all geared up for a balik kampung exodus and the “race” is expected to begin this Friday.

This culture is not uniquely Malaysian, it happens in major parts of the world during major festivals too. The Indonesians filled the road a few days before Aidil Fitri, the Chinese travel in droves before Chinese New Year and the Westerns would do likewise for Christmas.

But what is unique to Malaysia, every major festival such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Deepavali is an opportunity for Malaysians to return to their hometown.

This year is however special as for two consecutive years (2020 and 2021) Hari Raya celebration was a subdued affair. The Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced to contain the virus then.

But as we are shifting towards the endemic period, it is a free for all, including those who may not have been vaccinated or partially vaccinated as assured by the government.

Bus tickets to every nook and corner of the country are reported to be almost sold out despite reports that prices have gone up for the Raya Balik Kampung this year.

PLUS Expressway Berhad, the largest highway concessionaire has reported that more than two million vehicles will be plying the road during the festive season.

Commercial airlines to Sabah and Sarawak are also reportedly hiking their ticket prices although prices were reduced following intervention from the Transport Ministry.

Congestions that may cause your three-hour journey to go beyond eight or nine during peak hours is not a deterrent. People may complain or voice out their dissatisfaction on social media but going home is a must.

Before I could own a car when I first started working, I used to hitch hike in lorries carrying bundles of newspaper to the South. Just wait outside the Nanyang Siang Pau office in Bangsar and approach the lorry drivers. They would usually more than happy to have you as company.

It was either sleeping on newspaper in the back or sit at the passenger seat. The former would be more comfortable but every stop would jolt you from your slumber as the driver would dutifully take the bundles of newspaper and leave them on the kaki lima of shophouses.

If you are lucky the driver might even reject any payment. He ends up buying you supper along the way.

It was either that or you may have to join a long queue at the Puduraya (now Pudu Sentral) bus station to get tickets.

But now, every typical Malaysian (well almost) owns a car. Check out your next door neighbour’s house, how many cars are parked in the porch and outside?

Cars are parked along the narrow lanes, on both sides, in a typical neighbourhood. Cars are double parked at flats or apartment blocks. Cars for rent that appear in our FB group are all rented out.

Individuals who did not get to purchase bus tickets are ready to go on a motorbike ride. What is important they must make it back home this time. There are no two ways about it.

A friend said he would walk to his hometown in Melaka if he has to. That’s the spirit of balik kampung this time.

However, a word of advice. Please check your vehicles before the long journey. Drive safe as your loved ones are waiting at the other end. Do not let them wait in vain.

Selamat Hari Raya dear readers.

— BebasNews

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