On a whole, my time in Melaka has been fairly routine. Just like last month in Krabi my goal was to find a pleasant environment with few distractions, letting me settle down for a bit and catch up on work. And this time – unlike in Krabi – I actually did manage to get a lot done!
There were just a few brief exceptions, the most noteworthy of which was the Chinese New Year holiday.
Ordinarily, New Year would’ve been the exact type of event for which I’d specifically plan – but as I’d already experienced it once in China (see here for a video) I figured this time I’d just play it by ear. So after enjoying a fabulous homecooked dinner at Tony’s Guesthouse I grabbed my SLR and headed for Jonker to see what I might find.
By total dumb luck, Melaka turned out to be a perfect place to celebrate – due in no small part to its huge population of Chinese tourists.
(…Really, really huge. Sometimes it felt like 9/10 of the people wandering Melaka were Chinese package-tourists :P)
I was a bit surprised to see how completely different Asia’s most widely-celebrated holiday is here than in China; there are no giant explosions, no bottle rockets, and no roman candles wherever you look. Instead, it felt far more like a Japanese festival: crowds of people crammed into a main central area with live music, stage performances, shopping, and just one *official* fireworks display.
I hung out around Jonker until just after midnight when the crowds started to disperse, making their way to a number of the town’s temples for prayer. It was all quite nice, the ambiance created by glowing red lanterns and billowing clouds of incense really reminding me of exactly where I was.
(As an interesting side note, it’s almost hard to believe that this is the same country as just one week earlier. From being the only white guy among millions of Indians at Thaipusam to being the only white guy among millions of Chinese in Melaka!)
Aside from the main night’s festivities, most of the holiday was characterized by little more than a few fleeting reminders: closed businesses, gridlocked streets, red paper lanterns, and the occasional dragon dance troupe or small family bonfire.
…And of course throughout the whole thing, you’d hear the periodic firecracker going off in the distance. Just enough to keep you up at night – but nothing like the nonstop explosions for 2 straight weeks in Shijiazhuang, China 😉
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Wednesday, February 2nd.