Laos Part 3: Michael Wong (Wang Guangliang), Dala Malaysia
It was another early start but everyone was up bright and early. Owen and Yen Hau from Sin Chew had joined us the night before. We were checking out of the hotel today, to head down south towards Savannakhet, the second biggest province in Laos.
Before that, however, there was another village to visit, another family to meet. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and raring to go, not least Michael Wong (Guang Liang) who you could tell was quite affected by our visit the day before.
Lucent from 8TV getting some footage while we got ready to leave the hotel.
This post will be dedicated to him, the dala Malaysia (in Lao language – Malaysian superstar). He would be referred as dala several times during the trip, but it was on this third day that I first heard it being used. Of course, we gave him a lot of flak for it, but Michael appeared quite uncomfortable with the term.
This would reflect Michael’s character throughout the trip. He came across as modest and very likable. I’m not only saying this as a fan (interesting enough, his song Yue Ding was the first ever Chinese song I know, one that I had learnt last year when I was trying to supplement my Mandarin lessons) but his humility really shone through.
Right from the moment he stepped into the arrival hall on the first day, I had this impression. Of course, the first day for me was a blur due to being starstruck. He was very obliging to fans asking for autographs, despite the fact that he had been traveling for several hours and had an early start to the day. He pushed his own trolley and when the drivers were loading bags into the vehicles, Michael assisted them.
Some of the many smiley faces that greeted us every where we went.
But what would be the defining moment for me, was on the first day when we arrived at our hotel. We were given about 20 minutes to freshen up before dinner and my roommate for the trip Lucent and I decided to take a quick shower. Naturally, we were late and as we walked down the steps, I saw everyone standing there – Michael included – still in the same clothes they were wearing earlier. No one had showered, they had just dropped their bags and came downstairs. I felt very embarrassed to have made everyone wait, what more a famous personality who obviously (and Joanne would love this) wasn’t as vain as I was.
Then there was the incident on the second day, when we had to climb this wooden make-shift ladder to help us cross a fence. Michael had crossed first, but stayed on the the other side to help some of us cross. Except that I must have mis-stepped and I broke one of the steps, and fell through the ladder. I didn’t hurt myself much, thank goodness, but I felt pretty bad for damaging it but Michael just laughed it off with me, and I felt better.
Throughout the trip, Michael would show his various characteristics except that it didn’t seem like he was trying. He was as genuine as it gets. From his lame jokes (yup, he had tons of those) to his being helpful (he once rushed out of a car to help Soukanya and Lee Bee who were carrying boxes of mineral water), he is a very down-to-earth person.
I remember he told me on the third day: “I’m not like what everyone thinks you know.” And I had to be honest, I had little idea on what the public thought of him as I can’t read Chinese and as such, have not been privy to any gossip surrounding him. Later that day, I sat down with him for an interview and I asked him what he meant by that, and he told me that there is an impression that he is like the characters in his music videos – sentimental and almost perfect, saying and doing the right things.
“But I’m just a normal human being like you, you know?”
With Aour, learning to mine for lead.
Well, at least one with a big heart. At the village we visited, you could see him compassion for Aour and her family. The way he speaks to then, even through a translator, was with the utmost respect, and not pity. He was genuine in wanting to know how their lives are, and what problems they faced, and he really wanted to help.
The village kids were fascinated with our visit, and would sit by the side observing our actions.
At the end of the visit, again, he spent some time with the kids in the village, playing games with them after presenting them with gifts. The looks on the face of the kids said everything – those gifts had brought lots of joy into their lives. But it was also Michael’s warmth.
I hope I don’t come across as gushing, because that is not my intention. Michael really has a heart of gold, and this I think is reflected in the people who work with him and are his friends, like Sam, Suat Ping and Wan Ting, who together, company I enjoyed tremendously.
Michael, Sam, Joanne and Lee Bee showing off the strings from yet another Basi ceremony.
That evening, as we drove towards our new hotel (yes, it was another few hour drive), we came across a beautiful rainbow. And then we noticed there was another one right by it. I don’t know how much I believe these things, but it was Day 3 and everything was still fine. I had reservations before leaving for Laos, knowing so little about the country. But the rainbows seemed to be telling me that everything would be okay.
If you look hard enough, you’ll see another rainbow arching out from the top of the tree on the right.
9.28am Malaysian time (+8 GMT)