Bengawan Solo

Posted on by Gwen Brydson

Where do I start? I've been in Asia for 20 days now, with 5 left to go. I've been staying in Singapore for most of it, but have been packing it with little day trips to Pulau Ubin, Sentosa and Johor Bahru. My family also held a wedding reception for myself and hubby and the last week was spent in Malaysia, Kuching [Borneo], Seremban and Kuala Lumpur visiting relatives.

Kuching was particularly special due to the fact that I had 70 people to meet, all immediate and from a range of senior relatives, aunties, uncles and cousins. My grandmother was born there and immigrated to Singapore when she married my grandfather. She lived through the Japanese Occupation and brought up 5 daughters by running her own business. I see where I get the wanderlust from. She told me about the slow boat ride over, how my grandpa refused to ride an airplane and nearly drowned when his ship capsized, while she herself happily skipped onto planes in her fancy sarong kebaya.

So many things touched me on that trip. I got in contact with my long lost cousins just in time, before we were all grown up and too jaded to care. I spent a night going out to 'shake' with them at Paragon, a favorite among locals for bringing their foreign guests. I also visited my uncle's chicken farm where he harvested bird's nest and grew pink dragon fruit indigenous to Borneo itself. Also, for the first time, I appreciated Kuching, the town where my grandma grew up, its murky river and its unique cuisine, heavy on the seafood. There was a hint of just how headstrong she was back in the day to leave her wealthy family for a life rich in travel instead.

Here is an awesome song that almost sums it up. Bengawan Solo, a song originally about the Solo river in Jakarta and one that my grandma loves is also a tune synonymous among Southeast Asians as a reminder of the 60s, World War II, the Japanese occupation and Singapore's independence.

I've already got the outfit for the shoot. All I need is a model.