Chinese New Year in Sarawak provides the state with an opportunity to showcase its unique racial and cultural integration. This article highlights the festival in one of Sarawak’s major cities – Miri. Whether you celebrate Chinese New Year or not, being in Miri during Chinese New Year, is truly an extraordinary experience. It is one which exudes warmth, harmony, racial unity and rich traditions shared amongst the diverse local communities.
Here are some reasons why you should celebrate the dawn of the year of the Ox in Miri.
Chinese New Year
Every year, the city of Miri, Sarawak bustles with colourful festivities during the week-long Chinese New Year Bazaar! Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/MiriCitySharing/
This annual bazaar, famously known as Gong Xi Bazaar, starts a week before Chinese New Year and locals unanimously agree that this is a must-visit destination in the build-up to the festive season. Located around the Miri Times Square and Miri High Street, the bazaar features more than 250 stalls selling traditional delicacies, Lunar New year decorative pieces, souvenirs and other festive offerings.
Even if you don’t feel like buying anything, just come for the sole purpose of getting entertained here. There are performances every night, so you can feast your eyes (and feed your ears!) on the lion and dragon dances, Chinese cultural songs and performances as well as traditional shows from other Sarawakian indigenous communities.
The bazaar is open from 6pm – 11pm but starts to get really busy from 7pm onwards as the food vendors start operating. Look out for crowd favourites such as the Dragon’s Beard Candy, Bamboo Charcoal BBQ Ice-Cream and Oyster Omelette!
Dragon’s Beard Candy, anyone? Photo credit: https://www.borneofoodie.com/news-miri-gong-xi-bazaar-2020-has-begun/
Need to do some last-minute shopping? Not to worry. Although a majority of shops and businesses close during the festive season, you can still visit the shopping malls such as the Boulevard Shopping Complex and Bintang Megamall. Click https://sarawaktourism.com/attraction/shopping-malls-in-miri/ for more info on the opening times etc.
Chinese New Year Eve
The eve of Chinese New Year is the busiest time for everyone celebrating the occasion. Families get together to clean their homes and decorate them with beautiful red lanterns, red scrolls and a variety of festive décor.
Usually, shopping will be done until about noon, and thereafter shops and businesses will close as locals head home to prepare for the reunion dinner. The Chinese New Year Eve family reunion dinner is perhaps the most important event of all, as it is the last dinner of the old year in the Chinese calendar and signifies the start of a new Zodiac animal cycle.
Shopping for Chinese New Year decorations at a shop in Miri, Sarawak. Photo credit: https://www.theborneopost.com/2019/01/21/chinese-community-all-ready-to-usher-in-year-of-the-boar/
No expense is spared and tables groan under the weight of delicious traditional delicacies – a bonus if they are home-cooked of course. Family members, young and old, gather around the table, to enjoy the scrumptious meal prepared, while enjoying endless chit chats. This is followed by the tossing of Yee Sang, more eating and talking, while children excitedly anticipate the start of the fireworks. Inquisitive aunties will ask about the love life of the unmarried, while elders look around the table smiling to see the faces of their loved ones gathered together under one roof followed by more eating…well, you get the idea. This is the scenario of a typical Chinese New Year reunion dinner! Filled with joy, warmth and happiness, these precious family bonding opportunity is truly about sharing quality time - a precious commodity today to create moments and memories that will be cherished for years to come.
A beautiful family moment with both the young and old. Photo credit: https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/02/126043/prudent-spending-cny-reunion-dinners
At the end of the meal, family members play cards or ‘mahjong’, or just spend time together chatting and catching up – these activities often go on till the wee hours of the morning.
At the stroke of midnight, the city of Miri will be lit up with a display of fireworks, which sometimes lasts an hour or more!
These days, it can be challenging to gather everyone or host a reunion dinner especially for those with tight working schedules and with family members working across the country or abroad. Hence, some opt to have reunion dinners outside their homes, at hotels and restaurants around Miri, which offer unique reunion dinners packages, special menus and signature dishes for the occasion.
Here is a list of some of the restaurants. However, be sure to call ahead to make a reservation.
- Café Rosita, Dynasty Hotel
Address: Ground Floor, Dynasty Hotel, Lot 683, Block 9, Jalan Pujut-Lutong, 98009, Miri, Sarawak
- Han Palace Restaurant, Grand Palace Hotel
Address: 2nd Floor, Grand Palace Hotel, 2KM, Jalan Miri-Pujut, Pelita Commercial Centre, 98008 Miri, Sarawak
- Imperial Restaurant, Imperial Hotel
Address: Ground Floor, Imperial Hotel, Lot 827, Jalan Pos, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Pullman Kitchen, Pullman Miri Waterfront Hotel
Address: Ground Floor, Pullman Miri Waterfront Hotel, Lot 1347, Miri Waterfront, Commercial Centre, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- The Fortune Modern Chinese Restaurant, Meritz Hotel
Address: 7th Floor, Meritz Hotel, 1657, Jalan Miri Pujut, Bintang Jaya, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- A-bui & Chin Restaurant
Address: Boulevard Commercial Centre, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Hilltop Little Kitchen
Address: Lot 505, Q290, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Ming Garden Restaurant
Address: Jalan Jee Foh Utama, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- New Food Heaven Seafood Restaurant
Address: Bandar Baru Permyjaya, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Rainforest Café
Address: (located in Pacific Orient Hotel), 49, Jalan Brooke, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Seng Kee Miri Food Centre
Address: Lot 266-267, Beautiful Jade Centre, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Tanjong Lobang Seafood Restaurant
Address: No. 1, Jalan Kubu Brighton, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- The Little Chef
Address: 2424, Jalan Boulevard 2d, Boulevard Commercial Centre, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- The Superb Cuisine
Address: Lot.1946 & 1947, Marina Square Phase 2, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
- Chinese New Year
The celebration continues for up to 15 days, and during this time there will be social visits and open houses where children and single youths look forward to receiving ‘Ang Pows’ or red packets with money inside! Some homes even have lion or dragon dances, and this all adds up to the merriment of the festivity. Devotees will also visit temples with their offerings and prayers every 1st and 15th day of the Lunar month. Miri has many beautiful temples and these temples and their surrounding areas are transformed during Chinese New Year, bustling with noise, colour and energy. Here a list of the most visited temples in Miri during Chinese New Year:
- San Ching Tian
Address: Jalan Krokop 9, 98000 Miri, Sarawak- One of the largest Taoist temples in South East Asia, this temple is also one of the most visited, especially during the Lunar month.
- Tua Pek Kong
Address: Jalan Bendahara, 98000 Miri, Sarawak. Built in 1913, this fascinating structure is Miri’s oldest temple.
- Hai Long Si Temple
Address: Lot 2595, Lorong 9, Krokop, 98000 Miri, Sarawak- The temple looks magnificent because of its colourful appearance and huge dragons at the temple’s entrance.
Devotees at the Tua Pek Kong, Miri Sarawak temple during the Chap Goh Mei celebration. Photo credit: https://www.theborneopost.com/2017/02/13/century-old-chinese-temple-offers-great-tourism-potential-lee/
Undeniably, Miri is one the best places to be at during the Chinese New Year festivities, not just for the ambience of the joyous Lunar New Year celebration, but to experience the Chinese culture, tradition and values in this beautiful city. Check out here for other things to do at Miri this festive season.As with all the festivities, Chinese New Year is the time to get together with loved ones, to share stories of how everyone has been getting on with their lives, and above all, to enjoy each other’s company and to create more beautiful memories. Have you ever been in Miri during the Chinese New Year celebration? Did you explore the Gong Xi Bazaar, or visit any of the temples during the festive season? Tell us your story on STB’s social media, and share some of your photos taken during the celebration!
Effective 4 October 2020, Malaysians and foreign citizens need to apply for permission to enter Sarawak and submit an e-health declaration form at least 12 hours before entry (https://sarawakdisastermc.com/). 14-days at a quarantine centre is mandatory and Covid-19 tests will be done on the 2nd and 10th day (all costs are self-borne). Different rules apply for Sarawakians returning home. Click here for further updates.