BEIJING: It was six long months since Lee Heng Peng was last with his family.
The partner of an international accounting firm here had been separated from his wife and two sons.
Lee, 47, returned for work in the Chinese capital in February while his family remained in Malaysia for a holiday, with none expecting both countries to close their borders due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The happy family reunion finally came two months ago when Hoh Pui Yee, 47, and her two sons Nick, 15 and Peter, 11, were among the first few Malaysians allowed to enter China.
It came with a price though.
Lee paid more than 20,000 yuan (RM12,540) for each of the premium economy tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai as there is still no direct flight to the Chinese capital.
The tickets, which were released just two weeks before the departure date, were nearly 10-fold the usual price before the pandemic.
Hoh and their children completed their two-week quarantine in Shanghai before they flew to Beijing.
Recalling their first meeting after a long separation, Lee said he hugged them tightly.
“I was waiting for them at a cafe near the exit but there was no drama because we chatted online every day, ” he said.
Lee said the pandemic had somehow changed him, to be more independent.
“I came from a big family of eight children, so I was always surrounded by people. There was never one time that I had a meal on my own. But for the past few months, I lived alone and ate alone on many occasions.
“I slowly got used to such a life but I did not like it. I felt unwanted, ” Lee said, adding that the pandemic had also brought him and his siblings as well as nephews and nieces closer.
“They are all over Malaysia and some overseas like Singapore and Taiwan. We set up a group chat to check on each other’s well-being once a week, ” he said.
Lee went on a short vacation to visit the Great Wall and a nearby town with his family during China’s week-long national holiday.
Lee and his family are lucky as many Malaysians here are still separated from their loved ones.
With the pandemic very much under control nationwide, China is making preparations in expectation of opening its borders soon.
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