Places to Visit During Chinese New Year in Malaysia


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. 

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. 

Kuala Lumpur - Thean Hou Temple

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 lanterns and for the year of the monkey, 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. 

Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur decorated with thousands of red lanterns
On 7 Feb, 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 9 Feb, lucky Ang Pow red packets will be given away to the public during at 11am. Overall, to experience CNY in Kuala Lumpur, this would be the best place to do so. 

To get here - There will be a free half-hourly shuttle bus service from Hotel Midah in Kg Attap and KL Sentral. Alternatively, you can take a taxi here which is about 10-15 minutes from KL city. From the National Palace (Intana Negara), it is a 20 minute walk and from Petaling Street, it is a 30 minute walk. 

Kuala Lumpur - 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. 

To get here - Walk towards Jalan Stadium from Chinatown. 

Kuala Lumpur - Chinatown aka Petaling Street

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 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 it's originality. 

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. This is best seen during the day as when night falls, the night market comes to life. At the end of Jalan Petaling, there is another Chinese Temple 

Penang - Kek Lok Si Temple

If you are heading to Penang, Kek Lok Si will be the star attraction of the island as for this year, the temple has 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 hill. The journey to the temple takes you through a maze of souvenir shops at the foot before opening up to the majestic temple. The views are breath-taking from the top. 

The beautiful Kek Lok Si Temple photographed by Sam Lim from a distance
On 7 Feb 2016, which is Chinese New Year Eve, the 124-year-old monastery will be illuminated all the way up to the Kuan Yin Statue and Pavilion and this light spectacular will last till 22 Feb. Devotees and visitors can join in to add to the number of lights used by donating RM50.00 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. 

To get here - 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, but you should double check with the bus driver before boarding. Price is around RM2.00 one way. Alternatively, take a taxi, a little faster be prepared to pay around RM25-30 one way and maximum four persons per taxi. Walking here from George Town is not recommended as it is too far. 

Penang  - Khoo Kongsi 

Located in the UNESCO town 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 mot 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 Malaysia's best kept clan house. A price applies to those wanting to enter this clan house too. 

A pair of Lions at Khoo Kongsi, photo from KhooKongsi.com
To get here - George Town is best explored by walking and one can easily walk here. If you are coming out of George Town, you can take any of the main buses or a taxi into the city center. 

Melaka - Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

If you are heading to Melaka or Malacca for the Chinese New Year, you should visit the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia and also one of the oldest temples in Southeast Asia. The Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple was founded in 1645 and it is near the Jonker Walk area. This Chinese temple is also known as Kwan Yin Teng Temple. 

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

To get here - Walking distance around Jonker Walk and located along Temple Street. 

Sabah - Puh Toh Tze Temple, Kota Kinabalu

Puh Toh Tze Temple in Kota Kinabalu
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. 

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. A beautiful place to witness Chinese New Year, especially on the first day. 

To get here - Puh Toh Tze Temple is located 15km from KK city. Taking a taxi will cost RM15.00 one way and you need to arrange for your return with your taxi driver. 

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 6:30am to 8:00pm.

Sabah - Puu Jih Shih Temple, Sandakan

Headed to Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah? Then the Puu Jih Shih temple is the one place you must visit for Chinese New Year. Located on the top of a hill, the temple is about 5km away from Sandakan town and has three large statues inside with beautiful Dragon wrapped pillars. The main arch outside is a great photo spot too. 

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

To get here -  It is recommended you take a taxi there for a price of RM6-8 one way and 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. 

Sarawak - Hong San Si Temple, Kuching

Hong San Si Temple in Kuching
Headed to Sarawak Borneo? There is a temple built in 1848 and 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. 

Sarawak - Siew San Teng Temple (Tua Pek Kong Temple) Kuching

Tua Pek Kong Temple in Kuching
The most prominent temple by the Kuching Waterfront and the start of the Kuching Main Bazaar. Anyone visiting Kuching will not miss this place. 

Also known as the Tua Pek Kong Temple, this beautiful structure stands on a small hill overlooking the Kuching Waterfront and the Sarawak River. The Kuching Hilton and also the Harbourview Hotel is a landmark which is next to the temple. 

Built in 1823, the temple attracts many tourist and during Chinese New Year, a lot of devotees will be present to do their prayers and you can witness this one the first and second day of Chinese New Year in Kuching, Sarawak. 

Sarawak - Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple, 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. 

Hiang Thian Siang Temple photographed at dusk
To get to the three temples in Kuching - A shot walk from any hotels around Kuching city. Landmark is near the Kuching Waterfront and along Carpenter Street.  


IMPORTANT - A very important note to travelers, photographers, youtubers and videographers - Please, I repeat, please do not interfere or get in the way when people are praying or performing some rituals. I have noticed some unethical people who stick their cameras in front of people's faces or move directly 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. 

The list above is personally created by me based on visiting all these temples and places around Malaysia. Shopping malls and major attractions will be open during the festive season while there are many more places but this list lets the traveler experience what locals do when you explore the many places to visit during Chinese New Year in Malaysia. Happy Chinese New Year 2016. 


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