by Lizzy Doebel
The beginning of my summer was very different from most. I traveled over twenty-two hours in a plane to visit the capital of Malaysia. But this trip was not simply a vacation; I was celebrating my sister’s wedding! Roughly a year and a half ago today, my sister met her soon to be husband, Cheng Hsien, at the library on Iowa State’s campus. The two decided, soon after engagement, to celebrate their marriage with their friends and family, both those in the United States and those in Malaysia. Thus, my family journeyed to Malaysia in order to celebrate the first of two weddings with his side of the family.
Our trip to Malaysia spanned a total of three weeks. In those three weeks, I sampled hundreds of dishes, traveled around the country, spent countless hours in malls, played with wild cats and monkeys, learned some Chinese and Malay words, and gained a new appreciation for my brother-in-law. Malaysia is a diverse country with influences from China and India. A lot of the restaurants, buildings, clothes, and history reflects these influences.
It seemed that around every corner there was a restaurant or an outdoor market. Food was a huge part of our trip! At first it was hard to adjust to the difference in spices and tastes, but as we explored and tried new dishes, I found a few that became my favorites. Roti canai and roti boom are Indian Malay dishes that I enjoyed eating for breakfast. Iced Milo, a chocolate drink very similar to Nesquick, became my go to drink and is just as popular in Malaysia as Pepsi and Mountain Dew are in America.
My sister’s fiancé, Cheng Hsien, and his family live in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Most of our time was spent traveling within the city. We went to at least six or seven different malls since they’re a huge deal there. I’m not talking typical American malls; these malls made Mall of America look like a joke. They had parking ramps, ice skating rinks, theatres, and amusement parks, and ranged anywhere from four to twelve stories tall. Besides malls, we also visited a lot of historical landmarks and buildings. We went to the top of the KL Tower, the seventh tallest tower in the world, and ate dinner in their 360 degree revolving restaurant. We also visited the Batu caves where monkeys and roosters roamed free.
The greatest part of the trip for me though had to be the wedding. Cheng Hsien’s ancestors are from China so the wedding had Chinese traditions within it. Before the wedding, it is common for the bride and groom to have an elaborate photo shoot with several dress changes. From 8am until 10pm, they changed four different times with altered hair styles and make-up to go with each dress. They chose four locations to shoot the photos and reviewed the results the following day. I’m sure they felt like professional models during the shoot, because they looked that way to me:
When the day of the wedding arrived, I had no idea what to expect. It started out with Cheng Hsien driving his Ferrari to our place to pick up his bride. However, before he could see his bride, his groomsmen along with himself, had to complete several feats created by the bridesmaids. Once they had successfully completed these, he was allowed to enter the house and search for his bride. Yet before he could officially take her, he had to bargain for her. He had to bribe me with an envelope of money and one for each bridesmaid in order to retrieve his bride. I got paid in exchange for my sister!! Following that, my sister and Cheng Hsien served tea to my parents for the tea ceremony. They then drove to his house and served tea to his parents and their relatives. Afterwards, they handed out red packets of money to all the children. We finished off the ceremony with a buffet. The following day we had the reception and consumed a nine course meal! My sister only changed her dress once during the reception, but it’s not uncommon for the bride to change several times.
Needless to say, the wedding was quite elaborate and very unique. It was great to see what a Chinese-Malaysian wedding looked like and to celebrate with his whole family. In a little over a month we will be celebrating the second of two weddings and his family will get to experience an American wedding. I’m really glad that I was able to spend so much time in Malaysia and learn about the culture. My appreciation and respect for my brother-in-law only increased as I saw him interact with his family and show us the city. I look forward to visiting Malaysia again and maybe even Indonesia and Australia as well!