Gong xi fa cai, or happy new year in Chinese! Sorry we have been lazy lately to update our blog. As most of you know already, we came back home about 2 weeks ago. Getting home was bit of a culture shock, but more of that later. First, we have still some things to tell you. Sasi starts with Chinese!
In the middle of the exotic Malaysian Borneo jungle, we got acquainted with another Malaysian minority which lives in the area: its the Chinese community of Kota kinabalu, at that time they were celebrating the famous Chinese New Year.
Chinese do follow another calendar than the West, the Lunar calendar, where the date of the Chinese New Year matched the dates of our stay in Malaysia. The two weeks celebrations were in the end of January, the actual New Years Day in 26th of Jan this year.
Kota Kinabalu was a very friendly place where more Chinese inhabitant had businesses than Malays, in fact you can see the difference that East Malaysia (i.e. Borneo) was almost dominated by the Chinese while West Malaysia was more majority of Malay.
The celebrations started with the popular Dragon and Lion dances competition in Padang Merdeka Plaza in central KK. This event takes place every year in Sabah province in Borneo with a competition by more than 50 dancing groups from all over the Sabah region. The dancers will form a team of a single color and will be dressed as a lion or dragon. Believe me it´s a hard job!
The teams competed and danced really well, the loud music and drumming, the kids enjoying and the high VIP guests were all impressed, there was lots of fireworks and it seems that the main part that everybody expected was the arrival of Santa (They have a Chinese version of a man in red coming and spreading golden coins or small red envelopes filled with coins that people usually give to children or unmarried adults during the new year festivals. He is supposedly the personification of the God of Fortune or something in Chinese believes.)
Kota Kinabalu gave us the chance to dip into the Chinese culture, even without making it to China. Chinese culture is mostly based about material life, money and what you own is a very big part of life of a person, the more you have and the more you own puts you in a higher level at the afterlife.
Now, this was mostly it from KK, except the jungle trekking and the jungle walking we had and the rain forest climbing. Kota Kinabalu is close to some lovely islands. Only 20 minutes away on a ferry, and we were on some picturesque beaches with azure waters and snorkeling was available but the visibility was not the best due to the rainy season.
Back from Borneo to Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas city, we decided not to stay there for the Happy New Year of Ox celebrations and we took a 2 hours bus ride to Melaka, to old Portugese colony that is nowadays also heavily inhabited by Chinese. The city has kept it charm of the European-Asian mixture.
Melaka was like Venice of the east, with it´s canals running around the city and lovely bridges and cafes serving a mix of Asian/European food. The church in the center was built by the Portugese and it was to me more like a meeting point through the history for all the expats that lived in Malaysia.
Not so far from all this “European” center, you would find the popular Jonker street, a small China Town were you could fill your bags from toys to plastic items to traditional Chinese decoration and it´s the place to try Chinese food specialties like the chicken rice balls, they were just delicious and the place itself the Famosa restaurant located in the middle of the street, which seemed the place to try such a dish had an extraordinary beautiful interior decoration.
The Chinese experience in Malaysia is nothing to regret, I loved it and it gave me a great inside look on tradition, way of thinking and way of doing things in Asia.
As a conclusion, the Chinese new year is a must do on your next year calendar. a real advice from us, go to Borneo and to the Malaysian one because it’s the place to be and it’s just a heaven on earth.
Sasi (with a small hangover)