JOHOR BARU: Bali Jalang has only one thing on his mind for when he gets home to his family in Pasir Gudang – holding his baby girl in his arms for the first time.
The 36-year-old Sarawakian said it had been more than a year since he last saw his wife and five children due to the border closure with Singapore.
“The last time I saw them was when my wife was still pregnant with our fifth child,” he said at Larkin Sentral here yesterday.
Bali, who has been working in Singapore for the past 16 years as a technician, was among the first group of Malaysians returning home to their families under the Vaccinated Travel Lane for land crossings (VTL-Land), which started yesterday.
His eyes were teary when he talked about his five-month-old daughter, as he had only seen her through daily video phone calls.
“I have four boys and when my wife gave birth to our daughter, it was mixed emotions for me as I could not be there for my wife, but I was happy that we finally have a girl in our family.
“I bought many dresses for my daughter and other gifts for my boys; it will be a surprise for them because they have no idea that I am coming home,” he added.
Bali said he would be spending a week with his family before returning to the island republic on Dec 5 due to work commitments.
“I will be here only for a short while, so I am going to spend every minute of it with my wife and children,” he added.
He thanked his employers for helping him to apply for the VTL-Land, which enabled him to return home safely.
Operations manager G. Kavin Raj, 24, said he took three months’ leave to surprise his family and friends in Iskandar Puteri.
“The first thing that I want to do is have nasi lemak and a really good teh tarik because that is the best Malaysian food ever,” he said. He last returned home about six months ago.
Kavin also thanked both the Malaysia and Singapore governments for working together and providing opportunities for people to travel between the two countries.
Renee Looi, 29, who holds a Singapore permanent resident status, said she was returning to the island republic to resume work after spending three weeks with her family in Johor Baru.
“I had to spend the first week in quarantine at a hotel as at that time, both countries were still working on the VTL procedures.
“Now that the VTL-Land is in place, I believe more people will apply for it as we do not have to be quarantined in both Malaysia and Singapore, which helps save a lot of time for those wanting to visit their loved ones,” she added.
Travellers allowed to take part in this scheme are Malaysia and Singapore citizens and permanent residents, as well as holders of Malaysia and Singapore long-term passes.
The launch of the VTL-Land coincides with VTL-Air kicking off between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which was announced on Nov 8.
Malaysia and Singapore have vaccinated more than 95% of their adult population and this has offered opportunities for both countries to reopen the land border in a gradual, safe, systematic and sustainable manner.