A Kampung Boy’s First Day in Perth

Originally posted November 19, 2008 on a previous web server.

7 February 1979 late night. Our aircraft, a four-engined Malaysian Airline System’s Boeing 707-300 took off from Kuala Lumpur’s Subang International Airport on our way to Perth, Western Australia.

Malaysian Airline System's Boeing 707-300 aircraft

Malaysian Airline System’s Boeing 707-300 aircraft, with registration number 9M-MCS.
On Feb 8, 1979 this aircraft was flight MH02 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth via Jakarta, carrying a kampung boy to his destiny.
This picture was taken 15 months earlier on November 25, 1977, when the aircraft was on final for runway 13 of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak International Airport.

It was quite a stressful night for me. That was the first time ever I left Malaysia. And I was practically alone.

Even though there were 9 other JPA – Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam, Malaysian Public Services Department students on the flight to Perth, none was from the same school as me. We were strangers because we came from different schools.

And we were sent to Perth based only on forecast results of our MCE – Malaysia Certificate of Education, a secondary school year 5 examination. Our other friends needed to wait until the results came out and then only in September onwards would the selected ones be on their way to colleges in the United Kingdom or universities in the USA.

By going in February, we had a 7-month head start compared to our comrades, and with that came the very high expectations from our parents, teachers, sponsors and classmates – that being the supposedly selected few, we would excel when the results came out.

And that placed enormous stress on us, or rather on me, because I did not know what was going on inside my new friends’ minds. But I could do nothing about the future, except pray and hope for the best.

The aircraft landed at Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport about 2 hours later.

At Jakarta International Airport Halim Perdanakusuma

Feb 8, 1979, 3:30 am. A night view of Jakarta International Airport Halim Perdanakusuma from Malaysian Airline System flight MH02 on transit from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. We were stranded here for more than 5 hours due to a mechanical problem on the aircraft.

The stopover was supposed to be a brief one before we continue to Perth and arrive there around 5:00 am, our scheduled arrival time. We were asked to remain on board.

However at 3:30 am we were still inside the aircraft on the apron at Halim Perdanakusuma.

It turned out that the aircraft had developed some mechanical problem, and all of us on the flight were then asked to deplane and go into the terminal to wait for the repairs to be completed.

We waited, and waited, and waited. Some of us could not fight the sleepiness any longer and had to make best use of the transit lounge’s chairs and carpeted floor.

At 8:30 am, weary and hungry, we finally re-boarded the aircraft and was on our way to Perth. We landed in Perth at 1:00 pm.

Off the coast of Western Australia

Feb 8, 1979, mid-morning. Window picture of an atoll somewhere in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.
MCS, part of the 9M-MCS call-sign of our Malaysian Airline System’s Boeing 707-300 aircraft was clearly visible on the wing.

It took us nearly 13 hours to fly from Subang to Perth !!

At Perth airport we were met by officials from the Australian government agency ADAB (Australian Development Assistance Bureau), and 3 senior Malaysian students.

The seniors informed us that many more seniors were waiting for us at 5:00 am, our original arrival time, but left after we never arrived.

After our luggage were collected and accounted for, we were led to the taxi rank outside the terminal.

As soon as the terminal’s sliding doors opened, the summer air, hot and dry, blasted onto my face.

Arrival at Perth Airport

Feb 8, 1979, Around 2:00 pm. At Perth International Airport. 3 senior Malaysian students posing with 8 of 10 JPA students who had just arrived on the delayed flight MH02 from Kuala Lumpur via Jakarta.

And it had a kind of peculiar scent which I later knew came from native eucalyptus trees. Known here as gum trees.

On direction of the ADAB officials, the taxis took us into the city, to a place called Haywin House, an inn located on Irwin Street, between Hay Street and St. George’s Terrace.

That became our lodging for several days before ADAB completed the finding and booking of our apartments near our college in Leederville, a suburb a few kilometers north of the city center.

At Haywin house, I was put into a two-bed room with Nor Azmi Kamaruddin from MCKK, whose hometown was Tapah, Perak.

A wall heater

A wall mounted single bar radiant heater. I did not know what this thing was for, the first time I saw a similar appliance inside an inn room at Haywin House, Perth.

On a wall inside the room there was a strange appliance, about 2 feet long with one glass-like bar running from one end to another, and backed by a silver metal. We did not know what it was.

Later, one of us flicked a wall switch to turn on the room light, but no light came on.

OK. So the electricity in Perth was not that different compared to my hometown in Malaysia, in terms of reliability. That was where the similarity ended, because the wall sockets and plugs here were really really different.

Electrical wall sockets

Electrical wall sockets – Australia vs Malaysia

Maybe the electricity would be turned on when it got darker.

I laid on the bed. And then I noticed that the strange appliance on the wall started glowing red, and redder, and the room became warmer.

Hehe. That was our first encounter with a single-bar radiant wall heater, used to keep a room warm in cold weathers.

The room was just that, a room with two beds. For calls of nature and shower, the bathroom was shared with other rooms, and situated at the end of the corridor.

The first time I went in there to have a shower, I saw there was not one, but two water tap handles on the wall in the shower cubicle.

Electrical plugs

Electrical plugs – Australia vs Malaysia

There was also a white-colored appliance on the wall of the bathroom, outside the cubicle.

I turned on one of the tap handles and a frightening sound, a booooom, came from the direction of the white-colored appliance.

I saw something like a blue fire burning inside the appliance.

Alarmed, and to avoid any untoward incident, I quickly turned off the tap handle and hastily cancelled my shower.

Hehe. Another encounter. This time with a gas-powered water heater.

It was all new experience for me.

Hot and Cold

Twin wall tap handles. Hot and Cold

During the briefing and pre-departure orientation camp for all Australia-bound students at MRSM Seremban back in Malaysia, no one had told us about these small details.

And the day was not yet over. More surprises to come later to this kampung boy…

A gas-fired hot water heater

A gas-fired hot water heater.
Turning on the Hot tap handle would cause the gas-powered water heater to go “booooom”.


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