When AirAsia X team, together with Chief Executive Officer Benyamin Ismail, first visited the Chik Sin Thong Klang and Pantai Old Folks’s Home for the Chinese New Year celebrations earlier this year, little did they realise how much they would impact the lives of 28 residents there. The Chik Sin Thong is the abode for people above the age of 60, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds with no immediate family members to take care of them.
During the visit, the caretakers had one request – that AirAsia X sponsor return tickets for these senior citizens to Penang. While many of them had harboured dreams of flying, the residents unfortunately did not have the funds nor the means to fulfil their dream.
Upon hearing their plight, AirAsia X decided to make their dream come true with round-trip flight tickets to their destination of choice.
All Set to Fly
On 16 July 2019, the 28 residents and their caretakers cheerfully gathered at klia2 in Sepang for their flight. Surprisingly, no one felt nervous about flying for the first time. Adding to the merriment, a cabin crew began serenading the seniors with popular tunes like Country Roads and Perfect at the departure gate.
Then Benyamin, the captain, the first officer as well as the cabin crew for the flight greeted the residents and wished them a pleasant journey. It was a grand send off indeed as the seniors boarded the Airbus A320 aircraft for their inaugural flight.
No Rain Can Stop The Fun
It was cold and wet when the aircraft landed in Penang but this did not affect the mood of the residents thrilled to begin their island adventure. For the first item on their agenda, the golden agers were treated to a sumptuous lunch, which was followed by an extravagant durian buffet at the Hakka Village.
The rain had not let up even after they had finished their afternoon meal so the seniors were driven to Seberang Perai on the mainland. From there, they boarded a ferry back to the island. For many of them, this was a first-time experience. The slight drizzle did not bother the seniors as they happily stepped out of their vans and made their way to the front of the ferry to catch a glimpse of the deep blue waters.
Upon arrival at the terminal back in Penang, it was already time for tea, so the seniors were brought to a popular food court calledNortham Beach Cafe to sample local desserts like ais kacang, ABC (shaved ice desserts) and gwailingou (Chinese herbal jelly).
As the rain continued pouring, the seniors were unable to do any sightseeing so the next best option in Penang was to do more eating. Their final stop for the day was a hillside seafood restaurant overlooking the seas, where they were treated to a lavish seafood dinner.
Sunny Skies for Sightseeing
The next day came with clear skies and this meant the residents could enjoy some much-needed sightseeing. Their first stop was the nutmeg factory in Balik Pulau where they got to see nutmeg trees and sample various nutmeg products – a specialty of the island. Then, they were shuttled to the iconic hilltop Kek Lok Si Temple. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and here, the seniors offered their prayers. After that, they walked around the premise where some of them took photos near the turtle liberation pond.
The Chew Jetty in George Town was their next stop. As one of the most visited clan jetties in Penang, this was a stop not to be missed. It was great to see the seniors walking leisurely through the jetty where they purchased souvenirs to commemorate their trip. At the end of the tour, with the stunning background of the sea, the whole group joyfully posed for photos together. It was an endearing sight indeed.
After half a day of activities, the seniors were famished and it was time to satisfy their hunger pangs at the Keng Kwee Street. Prior to the trip, many of the seniors had expressed their desire to try out the various delicacies the island is famous for – assam laksa, char kuey teow, cendol.
With their bellies full, it was time to bid farewell to Penang. During a quick interview with them at the airport, many of them expressed how grateful they were to have been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. AirAsia X were delighted that all their hard work in organising this trip for the residents had paid off tremendously and that the seniors had a wonderful time exploring Penang.
Check out this video to see more of the senior citizens’ adventures in Penang.