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Places to Visit During Chinese New Year in Malaysia

Where To Go In Malaysia During Chinese New Year

For tourist visiting during the festive holidays, here are some places to visit during Chinese New Year in Malaysia.

You may or may not know that most general places would be closed as the Lunar Chinese New Year holidays in Malaysia fall on the 8th and 9th of February which is a Monday and Tuesday.

Most Malaysians will head back to their respective hometowns leaving the city empty, thus a fantastic time to explore the cities.

Places to Visit During Chinese New Year in Malaysia

As most of the common tourist locations would be opened, shopping malls, fast food restaurants and cafes will also be opened. The only places that will close during the holidays are the government sectors, Chinese run businesses like coffee shops and restaurants and some tourist spots.

However, the best places to visit during Chinese New Year are always temples as they will come alive during this festive occasion.

The first day of Chinese New Year in Malaysia is also the best time to explore these places, as you will have the opportunity to see the locals attending prayers at the many temples.

Chinese New Year In Kuala Lumpur 

The capital city of Malaysia will be often quiet, as most of the local Malaysian Chinese would have left the city to return back to their hometowns. This is when the city of KL is the least congested, and many businesses will be closed for a few days to a week.

For the traveler visiting Kuala Lumpur during this time, it can be quite exciting and yet interesting. Traffic will be pleasant, while tourist destination will not be too crowded.

Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Thean Hou Temple
Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur decorated with thousands of red lanterns
In Kuala Lumpur city, the best place to experience Chinese New Year would be at the Thean Hou Temple, which is decorated with 10,000 red or yellow lanterns.

The temple has also decorated the place with stone carvings imported from China relaying 24 stories of filial piety, collectively hailed as the Garden of 24 Filial Exemplars.

On the eve, a Chinese New Year countdown is going to be held at Thean Hou Temple to welcome the arrival of Cai Shen which is the God of Prosperity or Wealth at 11.00 pm.

Here, devotees can also pay homage and receive new year blessings until 3.00 am, which is also the Chinese New Year Eve. If you visit the temple on the first day, lucky Ang Pow red packets will be given away to the public during at 11.00 am. Overall, to experience CNY in Kuala Lumpur, this would be the best place to do so. 

How To Go To Thean Hou Temple - You can take a taxi or Grab here, which is about 10 to 15 minutes drive from KL city. From the National Palace (Istana Negara), it is a 20 minute walk and from Petaling Street, it is a 30 minute walk. 

Chan See Shu Yuen Temple in Kuala Lumpur

KL Chan See Shu Yuen Temple
Chan See Shu Yuen Temple in Petaling Street
At the end of Jalan Petaling in Chinatown is the Chan Shu Yuen Temple which is also one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country built around the late 1890s. Originally built as a clan house, the main purpose was to provide help and support for newly arrived immigrants from China. 

Chan Shu Yuen Temple is now a dual purpose temple and becomes lively during the Chinese New Year or other Chinese festivals. A note for this place as you should be discreet when visiting this place and respect the locals here.

The informal name of this place is also the Green Temple, due to the overall green paintwork. There was a rumor that during world war two, there was a secret tunnel that led to this temple, but in the 90's it was cemented up. It would have been a great tourist attraction if this rumor was authentic. 

How To Go To Chan See Shu Yuen Temple  - Walk towards Jalan Stadium from Chinatown (Jalan Petaling), as it is located towards the end of the road. 

Chinatown KL or Petaling Street Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown
The entrance to Petaling Street in KL
What used to be a very attractive place to visit has now changed over the last decade. Chinatown or Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur has become a serious tourist destination with vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs and knock offs while the traditional Chinese traders have also opted to move out. 

Hotels, guest houses and backpacker lodges dominate Chinatown whilst the city council decided to cover the place with a modern style roofing, losing its originality, ut providing a rain-free location, which worked out well for everyone. 

You can still try your luck by visiting Petaling Street during the Chinese New Year holidays, and may even chance upon some local lion dances which can be heard from a distance. Just head for the loud drums and you will witness a traditional Malaysian Lion Dance performance.

When night falls, the Petaling Street night market comes to life, and this is where you can spend a good couple of hours exploring here. The place closes at around 11.00 PM.

How To Go To Petaling Street - From KL Sentral or Bukit Bintang, it is only a 10 minute walk here. Alternatively, you can take Grab, a ride hailing service. There is no more Uber in Malaysia too.

Chinese New Year In Penang Island

After Kuala Lumpur, the next popular destination to witness Chinese New Year is Penang Island. However, you should know that Penang will be extremely crowded, so you really need to book well ahead for your accommodations here.

Penang is a very interesting place to experience Chinese New Year as there are many local Chinese that celebrate the festival on a grand scale. Below are some of the best places to witness Chinese New Year in Penang. 

Penang Kek Lok Si Temple
The beautiful Kek Lok Si Temple photographed by Sam Lim from a distance
Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang

If you are heading to Penang, the Kek Lok Si Temple will be the star attraction of the island as the temple will been transformed into a fairyland of lights for the Chinese New Year.

This unique temple is arguably one of the best temples to visit in Southeast Asia, as it is located on a beautiful hill. The journey to the temple takes you through a maze of souvenir shops at the foot before opening up to the majestic temple. 

On Chinese New Year eve, the 127-year-old monastery will be illuminated all the way up to the Kuan Yin Statue, and this light spectacular will last for a week or two.

Devotees and visitors can join in to add to the number of lights used by donating some money for each Chinese lantern, and also receive the blessings of monks chanting to greet the new year. For photographers, this is one of the most beautiful places in Penang worth visiting. 

How To Go To Kek Lok Si Temple - The best way for travelers is to take a bus from the Komtar area. Buses #201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and 502 all go to Kek Lok Si Temple, but you should double check with the bus driver before boarding.

Price is around RM2.00 one way. Alternatively, take a taxi or Grab, which is a little faster but you should be prepared to pay around RM25 to RM30 one way. Walking here from George Town is not recommended as it is just too far.

Penang Khoo Kongsi
A pair of Lions at Khoo Kongsi, photo from KhooKongsi.com
Khoo Kongsi in Penang

Located in the UNESCO core area of George Town, the Khoo Kongsi is another place to witness Chinese New Year in Penang. This fascinating temple cum clan house is one of the most famous in Penang, and located in Canon Square along Lebuh Aceh and Cannon Street.

The intricate carvings and statues are not to be missed as this is undoubtedly Malaysia's best kept clan house. A price applies to those wanting to enter this clan house too, and the place can get crowded during Chinese New Year.

For photographers, the mornings or sunset hour is one of the best times to visit the Khoo Kongsi, and also on a weekday. 

How To Go To Khoo Kongsi - George Town is best explored by walking and just about anyone can easily walk here safely. If you are coming from out of George Town, you can take any of the main buses, Grab or a taxi into the city center.

Chinese New Year In Melaka

Just two hours south of Kuala Lumpur is the UNESCO world heritage city of Melaka, and this is one of the most historical cities in Malaysia. Many tourist love to make day trips to Melaka, and during the Chinese New Year, it would also be one of the recommended places to visit.

However, Melaka can be extra crowded with locals and also tourist, due to the long holidays, but the great thing is that the place comes alive and there is much to explore for a day trip or even an overnight trip.

Melaka Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the oldest in Malaysia. Photo by FullofTravel.com
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Melaka

If you are planning to visit Melaka or Malacca for the Chinese New Year, you can visit the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia, which is also one of the oldest temples in Southeast Asia.

The Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple was founded in 1645, and it is located near the main tourist site of Jonker Walk. This Chinese temple is also known as Kwan Yin Teng Temple, and is quite impressive. 

In 2003, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple received a UNESCO award for its exceptional state of preservation and the uniqueness of its architecture, evidence of the passage of the oldest Chinese communities in Malacca and Malaysia.

Visit the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple on the eve of Chinese New Year, and also on the first and second day to see how the locals do their prayers here. If you are lucky, you may even catch a few lion dances around the temple area too.  

How To Go To Cheng Hoon Teng Temple - This temple is actually walking distance around Jonker Walk and located along Temple Street. Use Waze or Google Maps to navigate in walking mode. From out of Melaka, you can take a taxi or Grab ride hailing service to get here.

Chinese New Year In Sabah

Over in East Malaysia, the state of Sabah also observes Chinese New Year, but not at a massive scale. However, if you are planning to visit Sabah during the holidays, there are a number of places where you can catch some events going on.

Sabah Puh Toh Tze Temple
Puh Toh Tze Temple in Kota Kinabalu

Puh Toh Tze Temple in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

If you are visiting Kota Kinabalu city, go to the Puh Toh Tze temple, which is a Buddhist temple located off Tuaran Road, and built in 1980. This is also one of the most beautiful temples in Sabah. 

Here, you will find ten large statues of deities and also the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin, standing tall at the main entrance of the temple. The temple is laos a beautiful place to witness Chinese New Year, especially on the first day. 

How To Go To Puh Toh Tze Temple - The temple is located 15 km from Kota Kinabalu city. Taking a taxi will cost RM15.00 to RM20.00 one way and you need to arrange for your return with your taxi driver. You can also take Grab in Kota Kinabalu. 

For public transport, take Bus No.1 or No.4 from the bus station in front of Hotel Shangri-La Kota Kinabalu for RM1.50 per person, and buses run from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm. Do check with the bus driver about the route too.

Sandakan Puu Jih Shih Temple
Puu Jih Shih Temple entrance in Sandakan
Puu Jih Shih Temple in Sandakan, Sabah

If you are planning to head to Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah, then the Puu Jih Shih Temple is the one place you must visit during Chinese New Year. This beautiful temple is located on the top of a hill, and it is about 5 km away from Sandakan town , and has three large statues inside with beautiful Dragon wrapped pillars. 

Built in 1987 and recently underwent through minor renovations, the temple will be the most popular place in Sandakan to witness locals coming here to pray during the festival. The bonus here is that you will also get some breathtaking views of the Sandakan Bay from the temple, as one of the temple entrance faces the sea. 

How To Go To Puu Jih Shih Temple -  It is recommended you take a taxi or Grab here, and the price is around RM8 to RM12 one way. If you take a taxi, make sure you ask the taxi to wait for you. Walking is possible, but it's an uphill walk an may take around 30 minutes from Sandakan City.

Chinese New Year In Sarawak

Sarawak is also home to a number of Chinese people, which is spread well all over the largest state of Malaysia. The capital is Kuching, and here are a number of places where you can witness the Chinese New Year mood and festivals.

If you head up to Sibu or Miri City, there are also many beautiful temples to visit during the festival. However, you should know that many of the local businesses will be closed during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Kuching Hong San Si Temple
Hong San Si Temple in Kuching, one of the most beautiful temples. 
Hong San Si Temple in Kuching, Sarawak

Are you planning to visit Sarawak on Borneo Island? If you are, then Kuching is one city you must visit, and you can find a temple built in 1848, located at the end of Carpenter Street in Kuching.

The Hong San Si Temple is also famous for its traditional and ancient structure which comes with intricate and sophisticated stone carvings.

The unique ornate roof is decorated with many colorful mythical animals and godly figurines making this one of the best looking temples in Borneo.

Siew San Teng Temple Kuching
Tua Pek Kong Temple in Kuching
Siew San Teng Temple (Tua Pek Kong Temple) in Kuching

This is known as the most prominent temple by the Kuching Waterfront, and found at the start of the Kuching Main Bazaar. This is the Siew San Teng Temple, which is known also as the Tua Pek Kong Temple of Kuching.

Anyone visiting Kuching will not miss this place, where the temple is built on a small hill in 1823,  overlooking the Sarawak River. 

This temple tends to attract many tourist, and during Chinese New Year, a lot of devotees will be present to do their prayers. You can witness this on the first and second day of Chinese New Year in Kuching, Sarawak.

How To Go To Tua Pek Kong Temple In Kuching - Basically, this temple is located just next to the Harborview Hotel and the Kuching Hilton, by the Sarawak River. It is walking distance from the main Kuching waterfront area.

Carpenter Street Temple Kuching
Hiang Thian Siang Temple photographed at dusk
Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple in Kuching

Along Carpenter Street, there is the Hiang Thian Siang Temple which the Teochew people built in 1863.

The temple is so small it is sandwiched between shop-houses but easily recognised by the decorations out front.

The carvings on the walls and paintings on the temple doors are quite unique while inside, it is narrow and not east to move around, especially when there are many people here. 

How To Go To Hiang Thian Siang Temple - This temple is located at the starting part of Carpenter Street and is a short walk from any of the major hotels around Kuching city. If you are coming from out of the city area, you can take a Grab, ride hailing  service to get here. 

IMPORTANT NOTE - A very important note to travelers, photographers, Instagrammers, youtubers and videographers - Please, I repeat, please do not interfere or get in the way when people are praying or performing some rituals at the temples.

I have noticed some unethical people who stick their cameras in front of people's faces or move directly in front or around them with their video cameras to so call 'capture the moment'.

You can do so if you get prior permission from the person or persons, otherwise it is very very rude! Respect the culture and the culture will respect you. This applies to wherever you go.


The list above is personally created by me based on my visits to all these temples and places around Malaysia in the last few years.

During  my travels, I will always make it a point to visit the local temples, as I find there is so much to see and learn from this places.

Shopping malls and major attractions will be open during the festive season while there are many more places you can also visit.

Overall, this list lets the traveler experience what locals do when you explore the many places to visit during Chinese New Year in Malaysia. Remember to respect the religious cultures when you visit these places. 


Anonymous said...

The place to visit is Dong Zen Temple in Jenjarom. None of the sites you mention can match the splendor of this temple during CNY.

Malaysia Asia said...

Hi, that is quite true what you said. Reason I didn't list it was because for tourist, it is too hard to get there. But for locals, its highly recommended. Maybe I will edit and include it in. Thanks for your feedback.

Anna said...


saad said...

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