Overseas trip a treat for the less fortunate
Actress-host Michelle Chia shares her experience of helping others in new travel infotainment programme
For many, travelling and seeking new adventures in far-flung places are not things to think twice about.
The drill is standard: Pick a destination, book the air ticket and start the countdown.
But for those who are not as fortunate, a holiday is a luxury they simply cannot afford.
New travel infotainment programme Let's Go Gai Gai casts the spotlight on 10 families facing challenging circumstances - such as caring for loved ones stricken with illnesses, rebuilding their lives after overcoming hurdles and struggling to make ends meet - and grants them a much-needed vacation and fulfils their dream of spending quality family time overseas.
Hosted by local actress-host Michelle Chia, the 10-episode series airs on Tuesdays at 8pm on Hub E City (StarHub TV Ch 111/825).
Spending time with the families on the show taught Chia, 42, an important lesson.
"It reminds me not to take my family and simple joys for granted. While some of us get to travel, some may never get to experience that in their lifetime," she told The New Paper.
During filming, which took about seven months last year, Chia travelled with the families to various cities including Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Seoul, Hanoi and Bangkok.
She witnessed the bonds shared by the members within each family and experienced many touching moments.
One example was the Lin family, who she accompanied to Bangkok. The overworked father and sole breadwinner earned meagre wages, his wife of 17 years was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer and they had two teenage children to care for.
Chia said: "Because of financial reasons, the kids have not been able to celebrate their parents' birthdays. But they finally saved enough money to buy them gifts during the trip.
“It was hard to say goodbye after every trip, having spent so much time with them, especially the children.
'HAPPY AND SAD'
"When the family was taken to a seafood restaurant to celebrate, I felt both happy and sad when the father said it was the first time they were served so many different dishes in one sitting. The rare chance that they do eat out, they will order a maximum of three dishes to be shared."
In another instance, Chia treated a single mother named Candyto much-needed me-time in Seoul. Her twin boys, Casey and Colin, have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and require full-time care.
"It was meant to help her relax, but it turned out to be 'torture' for her. Even after finding out that her sons had a good time while she was away, she was overwhelmed with guilt," Chia said.
"It even made us feel a little guilty for making the arrangement. I teared when she told us how she felt.
"The biggest challenge was to get myself involved in their lives in such a short time without being intrusive.
"The purpose of the show is to give them a chance to travel and experience new things as a family, so I always try to (draw the line)."
Parting ways was also not an easy affair.
"It was hard to say goodbye after every trip, having spent so much time with them, especially the children," Chia said.
"I miss (the twins) the most, they stole my heart."
Surprisingly, filming Let's Go Gai Gai took Chia to Seoul for the very first time, and the winter season made it extra special.
"I am also a big foodie, so the street food kept me happy," she said.
Work also recently took her to Kuala Lumpur for her upcoming Channel 8 drama Gifted.
Chia said: "I play two characters - a pair of twins. One died from cancer, so there are plenty of flashback scenes, while the other is alive but living in the shadow of her deceased sister."