PEOPLE usually loathe being on board crowded trains; but not the people involved in Keretapi Sarong. For them, it’s a case of the more the merrier.

Inspired by the No-Pants Subway movement which began in 2002 in New York (where people ride the subway sans pants for a day), Keretapi Sarong is an annual event that invites people from all walks of life to board trains clad in the traditional Malaysian sarong, to celebrate Malaysia’s diverse, yet harmonious culture.

This year’s Keretapi Sarong took things to a whole new level, with Malaysian chapters in 12 cities around the world taking part and having their own sarong-clad commutes.

Culture for a cause: The BRATs on the scene at Keretapi Sarong.

Culture for a cause: The BRATs on the scene at Keretapi Sarong.

It all begs an obvious question though – what’s the point of it all?

“We want to promote unity among Malaysians, but in a fun way,” said Lim Feixiang, a member of Random Alphabets, the people behind Keretapi Sarong.

Random Alphabets is a non-profit arts collective which specialises in guerilla and flash mob events.

Its founder, Zain HD, said: “Keretapi Sarong does what Random Alphabet sets out to do, and that is to bring people together through action and experience.”

The event last week was the third instalment of Keretapi Sarong, and it had a slightly new twist. Participants were given instructions on where to go and what to do. But as always, the rules were simple: “buat kawan, jangan la malu” (make friends, don’t be shy), and have fun.

And have fun they did. Throughout the entire event, the participants sang traditional Malaysian songs like Rasa Sayang, and in general, made a whole lot of noise on the trains. There were, of course, a lot of selfies taken, and many with new friends.

Among those who took the ride was Charmaine Sze, who went alone but left with a bunch of new friends.

“I was really blessed to have met some really nice people,” said the 18-year-old student, who was also a volunteer for the event.

And it wasn’t just Malaysians who were celebrating our culture and unity. Many tourists and expats took on the event’s call to #beranisarong (“dare to sarong”), including Matt Ballard from Ohio, who said: “It’s a good chance for everyone to come together and celebrate.”

Props and message boards were passed around throughout the journey on Keretapi Sarong. Many posed for photos holding messages of unity.

Props and message boards were passed around throughout the journey on Keretapi Sarong. Many posed for photos holding messages of unity.

The 12 cities around the world which also took the initiative to organise their own Keretapi Sarong movements on the same day included Tokyo, Dublin and Amsterdam.

Ridzwan Nazari, who led the chapter in London with Rebecca Choong and Ikmal Hazlan, said that with all that the country has gone through over the past couple of months, it was something that Malaysians all over the world needed.

“It’s not just about uniting Malaysians here in Britain, but also to show the world that we are still standing proud for our country,” he said.

After riding the London Underground in their sarongs, the group gathered at Trafalgar Square where they too started singing Rasa Sayang. Two Heritage Wardens gave them a ticking off, but they didn’t let that bring their spirits down. They adjourned to Hyde Park for a picnic with nasi lemak sponsored by Tourism Malaysia, Badan Perhubungan Negara and University College London.

In New York City, the sarong party was led by 29-year-old Natasha Alias, who was moved by the support the event received from Malaysians there.

One of those who supported Keretapi Sarong New York was Cammie Lai, the owner of Rasa, a Malaysian restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood.

“I thought it was a unique and fun way to meet up with fellow Malaysians who are in the New York Metropolitan area,” she said. “At the same time, we were able to introduce some Malaysian culture to New Yorkers.”

Keretapi Sarong in Besançon, France on the other hand, did things slightly differently with #SarongPiknik.

“All the participants wore their sarong from home and walked to the park near the Doubs river, where the picnic was held,” said Fatin Awanis, a 21-year-old student who led the initiative.

“We didn’t have a chance to travel by train or bus because our place is just a small town.”

So clearly, after its humble beginnings in 2012, the Keretapi Sarong train has well and truly left the station. But when asked if Random Alphabets would be organising another one next year, Zain said they were still undecided.

“Random Alphabets is only active three to four times a year, and we may want to use those opportunities for new ideas. In May, we will have Peperangan Bantal (Pillow Fight) and Local Vintage Games, both of which will be happening at Festival Belia 2014.”


Tell us what you think!

Go top