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What I will pack for the trip is a BAJU KURUNG.
For the benefit of my non-Malaysian readers, allow me to explain. You’ve probably heard of the Saree from India, or the Chinese Cheong Sam. Well, here in Malaysia, the Baju Kurung is what Malay women and girls normally wear. It’s a traditional Malay costume, loosely translated as “enclosed dress”, and can be worn as a casual wear, or to the office, or on special occasions like a wedding or a festivity.
The versatile Baju Kurung is a simple loose-fitting cut, consisting of a blouse (the “baju“) and a sarong (or “kain“). The traditional baju is collarless, with long sleeves, and extends down to the knees, whilst the kain is like a full-length skirt with foldings or pleats, on one side. There is also the modern and fancier version, which sees the wearer in a figure-hugging top and a streamline long pencil skirt.
Why I choose a Baju Kurung is as a show of pride of myself as a Malay, and a woman. The Baju Kurung reflects the identity of the Malay woman who is gentle, graceful and modest. There is a saying in Malay, seperti kacang lupakan kulit which refers to someone who easily forgets his ‘roots’. The Baju Kurung would serve as a reminder that I am my mother’s daughter who has been raised to respect our culture and customs. Even though, I must admit, I hardly keep up with the traditions throughout my adulthood, I do my best to preserve some of the ‘practical’ ones – the Baju Kurung is one of them.
Having said that, I probably will not wear it anytime during the journey because, truth be told, I don’t do dresses or skirts or gowns – unless absolutely necessary like having to go to some draggy official function which I can’t talk my way out of. Believe me, I have nothing against a Baju Kurung; I simply don’t like to dress up. Period. If you leave me to my own devices, I’d be more than happy to work, play and die in my jeans and t-shirt! Besides, I’d probably trip and fall over the flow-y kain, being the clumsy clot that I am. So much for graceful and gentle!
There is one other reason I would pack a pair of Baju Kurung for the journey. I think it would make the perfect parting gift to a fellow traveller whom I might meet along the way between Kuala Lumpur and the Rest of the World!
Here’s a picture of me and a friend in traditional style Baju Kurung, once upon a time!