Last May, 20 intrepid club members of USTARFC embarked on an unforgettable journey as members of the 2016 South East Asia Touring Squad. The expedition through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand saw the boys experience a truly diverse set of cultures and customs unique to that corner of the globe.
The adventure began in Singapore just days after many of the boys’ final exams and provided an exposure to one of the cleanest and most thriving city states in the world. While many of the boys’ highlight during our first days away was the all-access tour of Singapore’s Tiger Brewery, the views of a lifetime experienced on top of the Marina Bay Sanda Skypark were ones that will remain engrained in the touring party’s mind for many years to come.
Following our first days of exploration and acclimatisation, we crossed the border into Malaysia, where we were spend the majority of our time abroad. After a brief visit to the smaller city, Melacca, the touring party pushed to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. The time spent in KL was packed with a variety of visits, ranging from the World famous Batu Caves, attended by most, to the KL Tower, where we could appreciate the view of the city from over 400 meters in the air. The large sight seeing voyages were flooded with opportunities to visit many local markets, stores and the occasional temple, revered by Tour Veteran, Jack Patterson.
Our stay in the capital allowed us to prepare for our first rugby outing in drastically different conditions than hallowed Uni Park. Scorching 38 degrees and 95% humidity were the conditions against the Malaysian champions University Putra Angels and despite a slow start, the club emerged as Malaysian Varsity Champions 36-24. After the bruising encounter the tourers moved on to Ipoh for a day on the river. While the ‘rafting excursion’ turned into an afternoon of spear tackling, much fun was had by all as we prepared for our departure to our final Malaysian city, Penang. Penang was one of the most lauded destinations of tour. Whether it was the breathtaking views of Penang Hill, the sobering visit to the War Museum or the bottle flipping epidemic, many touring members brought back fine memories from the city. Our final day in Malaysia, and it’s second largest city, was crowned by a day of mountainous hiking and an afternoon on one of Malaysia’s many tucked away beaches. Well over halfway into the tour, the boys had a chance to reflect on all that had happened during our time abroad, accompanied by some homemade refreshments.
Our day of R&R marked the end of our stay in Malaysia, a country packed with endless memories for the squad, and embark on the final leg of our journey, Bangkok. Whilst perhaps not known as a South East Asian rugby powerhouse, our final fixture of tour, versus the mighty Royal Thai Police Force, aimed to be a true test of the team’s resolve. However, before returning to the sweltering tundra we were able to sample the many opportunities available in the tourist hub.
Having exposed Thai culture to the phenomenon known as ‘the kilt’ we were suitable prepared to take on the formidable Thai Police. In a game of 3 thirds, the squad of 60+ Thai police started strong, however, the troops managed to put together some rather spectacular phases to run out eventual victors against the robust coppers. The end of our final match in Bangkok marked the end of activities for the touring squad and following our farewell meal, we prepped for our journey home.
Truly a tour of a lifetime, all members brought back memories that will stay with us forever. While South East Asia may not have appeared as the most obvious rugby destination, the travelling saints could not have asked to have gone anywhere better.