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CNY and a Weekend in KL

Alvin talks about his Chinese New Year celebrations in Southeast Asia.

Alvin talks about his Chinese New Year celebrations in Southeast Asia.


I’d like to extend a happy late Chinese New Year to everyone! I hope the Year of the Rat brings great prosperity to all. While I realize the Lunar New Year was quite a few days ago now, I would like to talk about my experience over the New Year’s period as this was my first time spending Chinese New Year in Asia.

As Singapore has a massive Chinese population (roughly 75% are ethnically Chinese), the Lunar New Year is the biggest event in the country, with giant festivals, grand celebrations, and dazzling light/fireworks displays spanning over a week long period. 

As we had a three-day weekend, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the time off from class and planned a trip to Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia). We were able to get round trip bus tickets for $40 — Kuala Lumpur, or KL for short, is a 6 hour drive — and a nice hotel for $20 a night. Travel around Asia can be pretty cheap, so I’m hoping to do a lot more traveling over the coming months. 

Aside from being able to academically enlighten oneself in a brand new environment, I believe one of the most important things about studying abroad is the opportunity to push past boundaries of perceived comfort and immerse oneself into a brand new culture. And Kuala Lumpur was able to provide just that. In addition to visiting popular destinations such as the Petronas Towers and the Batu Caves, we spent much of our time roaming the local city streets, and KL had much more to offer than the tourist attractions. 

petronas towers
Me in front of the Petronas Towers (former tallest buildings in the world)
tying on fortune chinese new year
Tying on fortunes to a pole to celebrate a prosperous Year of the Rat
night market
Bustling night market filled with local street food
rooftop in kuala lumpur
With friends on top of a helicopter landing pad

To be perfectly honest, I was quite taken aback by the busyness and vibrancy of the city. I don’t believe a picture can accurately capture the charm of Kuala Lumpur, and I highly recommend anyone to add it to their list of destinations! By standing still for just a few seconds in the city, one can be overwhelmed with the sight of hundreds of locals packing the small city roads, different street singing and dancing performances occupying sidewalks, and the aroma of delicious Malaysian street food lingering overhead the sea of life that fills KL with such energy and spirit. While there were tourists in the aforementioned tourist areas, I was very surprised at the apparent lack of tourists elsewhere in the city. I was only in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, but Malaysia turned out to be wonderful and I appreciate the opportunity to experience a little bit of Malaysian culture and their way of life.

I certainly enjoyed my Chinese New Year, and I hope you all did too! I look forward to updating you all again next week.

Alvin is a west coast kid at heart (coming from San Jose, California), but is loving his time in Minnesota. He plays for the soccer team here at Carleton and loves exercise. If he’s not on the soccer field, in the gym, or out on a bike ride during his free time, he can be found in one of the lounges playing Exploding Kittens, or in the music building playing piano. He is a Computer Science major with an interest in Economics and StatisticsMeet the other bloggers!