These Malaysian music fans travel overseas just to attend concerts

The BTS Love Yourself concert in Bangkok in 2019. — JOEY TAN

Some of us know very well the frustration of having our favourite artiste or band announce a concert in the Asia Pacific region ... but then skipping Malaysia altogether as one of the stops in the tour.

Instead the concerts would be held in neighbouring countries, most likely in Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok) and Indonesia (Jakarta), as well as further away in Hong Kong and Japan.

However, some fans see this as an opportunity for them to go on a “music holiday”, a travel trend in Malaysia that was said to be popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the country did not host as many concerts as it does now. This is usually a one or two nights’ trip, or sometimes extended to three nights, depending on the availability of flights ... and funds.

Yes, a music holiday needs to be meticulously planned so as not to spend more than the expected amount, or worse, miss the concert! After all, you’re probably going to spend quite a bit on the concert tickets, and not forgetting, the exclusive merchandise.

While a music holiday isn’t something that everyone can afford, many who have been on these kinds of trips say that it is a worthwhile experience. We spoke to a few of them about their music holidays.

A true ARMY

Joey Tan, 29, is no stranger to travelling overseas for concerts – she has been doing it since 2012, when she was still in secondary school. Back then, she flew to Singapore for the SHINee World II concert, with her mother in tow.

In 2016, Tan travelled to Bangkok, Thailand all by herself to watch the K-pop band GOT7 for its Fly Tour concert. That was when she caught the music holiday bug.

Some of the cards designed by Tan which he handed out to other ARMYs at BTS concerts. — JOEY TANSome of the cards designed by Tan which he handed out to other ARMYs at BTS concerts. — JOEY TAN

A year later, Tan flew to Bangkok again to watch her favourite K-pop group BTS (for The Wings Tour) in action at the Impact Arena, one of the city’s biggest and most popular concert spaces. In 2018, Tan went for another BTS concert, this time in Seoul, South Korea for the Love Yourself Tour at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.

And then in 2019, for the third time, the loyal ARMY – what BTS fans call themselves – travelled to Bangkok for the group’s final show of the original Love Yourself Tour at the Rajamangala National Stadium (an extension to this tour called BTS World Tour Love Yourself: Speak Yourself was later added; it ended in October 2019).

To make things extra special, Tan, a graphic designer, gave out concert merchandise she designed and made herself to other fans outside the stadium in Bangkok.

“I made stickers and cards of my digital designs and gave them out to other fans. It was something I’ve always wanted to do and I was so happy that I finally got to do it,” she said.

Tan talked about other fun things she did during her trips. “I didn’t really do much in Bangkok and Singapore but I went all out in Seoul! I visited many places that were related to K-pop, especially BTS,” she shared, adding that she was excited to visit the Yoojung Sikdang restaurant, located near the group’s old dormitory.

Apparently, during their “trainee” days, the BTS boys often ate at the restaurant, run by an elderly couple who are also big fans of the group.

Tan brought her own doll to visit the BTS GangnamDol at K-Star Road in Seoul. — JOEY TANTan brought her own doll to visit the BTS GangnamDol at K-Star Road in Seoul. — JOEY TAN

Other places that Tan visited include the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul Tower and K-Star Road in Gangnam where you can find a collection of the GangnamDol. These are teddy bear statues of different K-pop idols. K-Star Road is also the home of entertainment companies like SM and JYP Entertainment.

“I also did a lot of shopping, not just in Seoul but in Bangkok too. It’s something I enjoy,” Tan said, adding that in Bangkok she went to “almost all the shopping malls” and of course, the Chatuchak Weekend Market, a favourite with many tourists.

Tan managed to visit the BTS Brick Live Cafe in 2017 too, a Lego-themed cafe which has since closed.

Although the concert in South Korea was held in Seoul, Tan did not restrict her mini holiday to just the one city. She took a train to Busan to visit Gamcheon-dong, a village by the mountain with brightly-coloured houses.

If you’re thinking of going on a music holiday someday, it is probably wise to start saving specifically for the trip today, as you may not be able to get your flights and accommodation at the lowest price. Tan said airfares and hotel prices for her trips shot up right after the concert dates were announced.

She still recommends booking early, though, and get everything sorted out as soon as you secure your concert tickets. After all, it is pointless to have tickets to a concert overseas when you can’t get flights to get there in the first place.

“At the end of the day, it’s not really the price that matters but whether or not you could actually get a seat on a flight, or a place to stay for your trip,” Tan said.

She added that in order not to overspend, she always plans her itinerary carefully and sets aside a budget for each item. “Fortunately, I’ve never gone over the budget on any of my trips. I also always keep a separate set of cash for emergency use that I don’t touch at all throughout the trip.”

Singapore style

Rachel Anne, 24, really enjoys going for concerts and has seen many artistes perform in Malaysia. But in 2018, she went for her first music holiday with her best friend. It was a Harry Styles concert, and it was held in Singapore.

Rachel went for the Harry Styles concert in Singapore 2018 with her best friend. — RACHEL ANNERachel went for the Harry Styles concert in Singapore 2018 with her best friend. — RACHEL ANNE

Flying to Singapore for the concert was a nerve-wracking experience for Rachel as it was her first time in the neighbouring country, and her first time travelling without her family. It became a little stressful for her in ensuring that everything went according to plan.

As it was quite a short trip, the two friends did not get to do a lot of sightseeing in Singapore, though they did manage to check out the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay. They also did some window shopping on the famous Orchard Road. This actually proved to be a good decision as their favourite band, 5 Seconds Of Summer, was having a meet-and-greet session at a mall there.

“It was all very spontaneous and we were ecstatic that we got to see more than one of our favourite artistes on the trip,” Rachel said.

She added that as they were both still in university at the time, their budget was really tight and they tried their best to keep things affordable. After securing their concert tickets in 2017, they immediately booked their flights and accommodation as they were worried that prices would increase. They made sure that their hotel was close to an MRT station so that they can easily – and cheaply – move around the city.

They also charted out the best route they could follow from their hotel to the concert venue, as well as to the airport.

Ghwee went to Singapore for IU's 10th Anniversary Tour concert in 2018. — ADELYN GHWEEGhwee went to Singapore for IU's 10th Anniversary Tour concert in 2018. — ADELYN GHWEE

Once in Singapore, they scoured around for meals that were within their budget, but because of the high currency exchange rate, they mostly had to rely on instant noodles, sandwiches and snacks from convenience stores.

Because of their good planning, Rachel was able to spend some money on concert merchandise.

“I had the most wonderful time, even though it was a short trip. The fact that I managed to visit a new country without my family and make lots of new friends from different backgrounds, truly made the trip more memorable.

“And on top of that, I got to see one of my favourite artistes live in concert too! It’s an experience I’ll never forget. I highly recommend it, and would do it again myself in the near future,” said Rachel.

Another music fan who shares a similar experience is Donovan Dinesh, 25, who went to Singapore with his brother in 2019 to watch John Mayer live at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. As it was Donovan’s second time in Singapore, he did not really bother doing any sightseeing and instead took the time to meet up with some friends and family members who lived there.

Nevertheless, Donovan said that both he and his brother had a good trip to Singapore. “It was a really beautiful experience. Great concert, good organisers, lovely city, and nice people,” he shared.

He agreed that if you plan to go to a concert overseas, you need to get your accommodation and flights sorted as soon as possible to avoid price hikes. If possible, find a place to stay that’s close to a train or bus station, so that you can easily move around in the place you’re visiting.

This is also the same advice that Adelyn Ghwee, 25, has especially for first-time visitors to Singapore. Ghwee has been travelling to the island city-state since she was little to see family members so it is no surprise that Singapore is her usual destination for a mini music holiday.

Even though Ghwee has been going to Singapore since she was a child, she still finds the time to visit some attractions around the city. — ADELYN GHWEEEven though Ghwee has been going to Singapore since she was a child, she still finds the time to visit some attractions around the city. — ADELYN GHWEE

Some of the events Ghwee has attended in the neighbouring country include the MNet Asian Music Awards in 2011, Beast’s Ordinary Fan Meet in 2015 and IU’s 10th Anniversary Tour Concert in 2018. The latest event was the NCT 127 2nd Tour Neo City: Singapore – The Link concert in July this year.

“I go on these concert trips alone and it allows me to meet new people especially while queuing outside the concert venue. It also allows me to expand my horizons and share with people who have the same interests as me,” Adelyn shared.

An expert solo traveller, Adelyn is lucky when it comes to accommodation in Singapore as she has an uncle who lives there. She also usually takes the bus or train instead of flying there, as this helps her to save a lot of money ... money she prefers to spend on concert merchandise, shopping and food.

One of her favourite things to do there apart from spending time with family and friends, is to visit art museums and checking out Singapore’s bustling cafe scene.

“If you have the means to travel overseas to attend concerts, go for it! There are many ways you can do so without breaking the bank. Plan early and save up for it. You’re also killing two birds with one stone since you get to do so much in a single trip,” she quoted.

Jakarta vibes

Jassmine Roy, 25, is a big fan of Irish rock band The Script, so when it announced in June that it will hold a concert in Indonesia this year, she quickly snapped up a ticket for a show in Jakarta. The concert was held early last month, and Roy travelled to Jakarta on her own as none of her friends were free to join her.

It was her first time to Indonesia, and she was both excited and anxious about the trip. Roy did some research on the city, focusing on the concert venue and its surrounding area just to make sure she knows exactly how to get there from her hotel.

She flew into Jakarta two days prior to the concert so that she would have some time to get used to the city, and to visit a few places of attraction.

“​​I bought my concert tickets in June and the flight tickets a month later. I am unaware if there was a price hike on the flight tickets, as I just chose whichever airline I felt most comfortable with,” she said.

For her accommodation, Roy looked for deals on the booking platform Agoda and focused her search in central Jakarta. In the end, she managed to get a room at a hotel that was only about 3km away from the concert venue. Because of this, she was able to arrive two hours before the concert started so that she knows exactly which gate she needs to queue up to enter the venue.

Roy at The Script concert in Jakarta last month.  — JASSMINE ROYRoy at The Script concert in Jakarta last month. — JASSMINE ROY

“I was nervous going alone, but glad that I was able to make some new Indonesian friends at the concert. I met sisters Aura and Mara while waiting in line to take a picture with the band’s official concert backdrop, and I sat next to Laras and Ibrena who were friends. They both cheered and screamed with me for Danny and Glenn! We exchanged numbers and are still in contact today,” said Roy.

Throughout her trip, Roy constantly updated her close friends and family on her whereabouts as a safety precaution. She also made sure that she had enough cash with her. “I had a credit card as well, but this was only meant to be used for emergency purposes,” she said.

She noted that the currency exchange rate was fair and reasonable, so food and transportation were affordable. However, some items in the malls were really expensive so she steered clear of those.

Overall, Roy stayed within her budget of RM1,000, which was mainly used for food and transportation.

As for experiences, Roy visited the MACAN Art Museum which showcased modern and contemporary art pieces by Indonesian artist Agus Suwage. She also had the joy of making her own printmaking art at the Children’s Art Space. “I passed some time at the Senayan City and Grand Indonesia shopping malls too,” Roy said.

Apart from the concert, Roy also truly enjoyed trying local food. She enjoyed eating delicacies like tahu telur, nasi pecel, nasi goreng dabu dabu, rujak juhi and mee tek tek.

“There were similarities between Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, so conversing with the locals was my most memorable part of the trip. Hearing stories, exchanging insights of our lifestyles, culture, interests and just genuinely getting to know and building a connection with the drivers, the hotel managers, the people on the street and malls is something truly money can’t buy,” said Roy.

“Part of my bucket list is to visit all the countries in South-East Asia; I can now strike off Indonesia. I did not have a specific place in mind visiting Indonesia, but being in Jakarta city, experiencing the culture and the people was really worth it,” she concluded.

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