Chinese New Year is one of the four main celebrations in Malaysia- the others are Hari Raya, Christmas and Deepavali or Diwali. Even though two public holidays are allocated for Chinese New Year, many people would be extending their holidays. Still, banks, post offices and government offices will open after the public holidays are up.
One thing I love about being a Malaysian is that we get to celebrate all other festivals together- the joyous mood brought by media and TV really make everyone, not only the celebrants look forward to the festival.
If you are a first time visitor to Malaysia, perhaps you may want to take note of the following:
Prior to the CNY:
- Most people will be leaving Kuala Lumpur and going back to their respective hometowns as the CNY approaches.
- About a week prior to Chinese New Year, airlines (especially Air Asia), KTM Intercity Train, express busses leaving/exiting Kuala Lumpur and heading to other cities will be FULLY booked. Avoid planning your travel from KL to other towns like KL to Penang during that time. And even if you can get tickets, they would either be fake tickets (always buy tickets directly from bus counters and not from third parties) or grossly overpriced
- In fact, some people may start taking leave earlier to go back for the preparation- so ticket availability would also be scarce (from KL to other states)
During CNY week:
- KL will be more quieter and the usual traffic crawl would not be happening during peak hours.
- Shopping complexes would be opened as usual and would be quite packed- with crowds similar to the usual weekend crowd- it seems that whoever who remained behind would gather at shopping complexes.
- Most Chinese businesses will be closed. Chinese restaurants that open will charge much more expensive (since the workers would be there serving the customers instead of celebrating the season with their families). You can still find food at mamak, Malay, Indian, Western food easily.
- However, the trend there few years is that some smaller or nucleus families may not go back to hometowns- sometimes their family from outer town come over for a visit- since the houses in KL will be more comfortable, air-con and equipped with cable television to watch.
- Genting Highlands, located near KL will have a lot of people- room occupancy would be almost full, everything will be more expensive, you will need to wait for cable cars and buses- so my advise is avoid visiting Genting that time.
- Smaller and sleepy towns would be alive- you will see houses with decorative lights, and sounds of fireworks all over the place and can hear children playing happily away while the adults chat and watch cable TV (Astro Wah Lei Toi would be on like 24 hours a day). Penang and Ipoh will literally have traffic jam all over (because many people came from Penang and Ipoh to work in KL)
- On the weekend after the festival, the jam may be starting at some major entry points to KL like Sungai Besi toll.
And do avoid planning to travel from other towns back to Kuala Lumpur about a week or two from Chinese New Year because you will be moving with a lots and lots of people who are rushing back to town to work after the CNY.
But it will always be great to visit Malaysia during a major festival season where the festive mood is very much alive. A good place to visit during Cap Goh Mei or last day of Chinese New Year will be to head on to Petaling Street in KL.The place is fully alive and lots of CNY stuff are sold there- cute cards, decorations, dolls, souvenirs- unusual stuff that you can take home with you. You can get to Petaling street via the Pasar Seni or Masjek Jamek Putra LRT stops. STAR and monorail also have stops within walking distance to Petaling Street.
Welcome to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia 🙂