Malaysia. A melting pot of civilizations in one country.
The society of Malaysia has been described as “Asia in miniature”.Malay, Chinese and Indian elements surrounding you in Architecture , customs and the huge food variety! Situated just south of Thailand, Malaysia combines ideally the traditional and the modern!
The main feature of our visit to Malaysia was that we were lucky to catch up with Chinese new year celebrations, some of the most magnificent experiences we have ever lived!
First stop was, George town, the capital of the island of Penang, once an important Straits of Malacca trading hub, the city was colonized by the British in an effort to participate in the control of spice trade. The old town is protected under the Unesco Heritage flag and is preserved into the small neighbourhoods that characterise the origin of its residents.
Most evident and spread is the Chinese culture. The little roads are full of traditional chinese shops and houses, with their beautiful facades and elaborate wooden doors. Walking up and down the narrow streets, you can see tourists and locals alike inside the numerous Chinese Temples and Kongsi. The Chinese people from different origins (clans) belong to different small societies that gather in houses called Kongsi. The Kongsi are associations dealing with clan matters for the welfare of its members.
We also rented a tandem bicycle to explore around the city, even though walking around was really easy and enjoyable!
Penang is also famous worldwide for its cuisine! It is so much different from what we are accustomed to in Europe when it comes to Asian food. The flavours are stronger and the contrast of sweet and sour most prevalent in each dish! However you don’t need to search much for the Famous culinary scene of Penang. Normally there are huge queues in the stalls in just about every corner!
Just walk along the famous Penang road or Chulia streets in George Town and get yourself prepared to be bombarded with scores of shops or restaurant selling delicious and hot Malaysian cuisine delicacies such as the famous char kway teow, the spicy nasi kandar, the sweet ice chendol and the tasty boneless hainanese
chicken rice just to name a few.
Among our favourites were the The kway teow (flat rice-noodles) is stir-fried in a wok together with a bunch of other ingredients such as prawns, bean sprouts, garlic, chili paste some dark soy sauce.
This year is the year of the monkey and celebrations for Penang Chinese New Year were magnificent. There were stalls all around the city -a bit of rain – and lots of acts like dancing and martial arts!
With Chinese comprising about half the population of Penang, it is the perfect place to experience this crazy, colourful, chaotic event. Almost every hotel was fully booked for these day as everyone had come to watch the events!
There were red lanterns adorning every street, and giant sticks of incense burning outside the numerous Chinese temples and clan houses in the area. The Esplanade in Georgetown served as a focal point for much for the festivities, which is apparent from the visuals on display there for the holiday period.
On the street side, hundreds of hand-made paper hot-air balloons hang from the arches of a pretty walkway – they were individually painted and decorated, truly make for an enchanting setting when all lit up after darkness falls.
Feeling charmed by what we have seen already, next stop is the capital, Kuala Lumpur!