Chinese New Year – A Kampung Experience
Like many people working in the city, it’s not often I get to travel to my hometown (Sitiawan, Perak). The few times that I get to go back are for the festive seasons. For Chinese New Year, we usually travel really early in the morning to avoid all the jam.
Since I come from a small town, I thought I would share some places to visit in Sitiawan. Although it’s a small town, there’s actually a lot to explore and eat (especially for Chinese New Year)
Tua Pek Kong Temple
If you’re travelling here, especially during Chinese festive seasons, you would probably enjoy visiting the Tua Pek Kong temple in Pasir Panjang. The temple itself have existed for over a century, but it is very well maintained, and they continually extend the temple to introduce more dynasty tales.
In the entrance, you’ll be greeted by giant statues, and more smaller statues all around. If you look closely beside the smaller statues, each one tells its own story. I myself can’t read, because I never learnt Chinese growing up, but if you do know how to read, the stories are quite interesting.
My favourite part of the whole temple is the big dragon. Inside the dragon, they have carved murals talking about the 18 layers of hell. Yeah, they have a whole 18 layers of hell. Each layer talks about what sins are committed to put you through that layer.
The main reason I like going to the temple is for the food! They sell all sorts of confectionaries in there, and they serve the famous Chinese red wine chicken mee sua there, too. It’s one of the best things to eat for the New Year (and sometimes even for your birthday).
Kampung Sitiawan Fishing Village
As the title probably suggests, you can fish there, like, you know, a string, with a hook, tied to the end of a rod. I fished quite a bit growing up, but not so much with the fancy fishing equipment (I would not know how to use those), but with a bamboo stick, a string, and a small hook.
We used to go to the back of my grandma’s house (she stays by the river) and fish there. When the tide is high, water would come in and we would have our own little “swimming pool” there, with little fish swimming around.
Celebrating Chinese New Year in our small village is nice, since we don’t have to go far to visit homes, and we can all gather together for a big extended family reunion. Although actually, our biggest celebration is not the New Year itself, but a festival where Hokkiens celebrate called Bai Tian Gong (praying to the Sky Gods).
Each home would have a feast and a big prayer session prepared, and it usually take a whole day, or sometimes even several days, to prepare all the prayer papers. While most families these days opt to go for pre-folded prayer papers, our family would will do it the traditional way. The night starts off with prayers, and usually ends with a big firework spectacular.
Sien Tien San Tee Temple
As many of you may know, Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, where it ends with the Chinese Valentine’s Day. Most temples around the area would have events and food stalls set up specially for that 15-day period. I love going during this time, as they sometimes have food that you can’t normally get.
The lineup of food stalls is similar from temple to temple, but I still love them nonetheless. The usual ones are the tong shui (Chinese soup-based desserts), lo bak (five-spice meat rolls), noodles, porridge, and my personal favourite, the jiu eng chai (cuttlefish and kangkung coated with sweet-spicy sauce).
There will usually be performances in the temples, and visitors can also opt to light up giant dragon joss sticks to carry wishes and blessings up to the Gods.
That concludes my Kampung Chinese New Year experience! I would want to write more about food, but I think that would need its own article. What about you? How do you celebrate your Chinese New Year?