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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Malaysia - 15 February, 2003:

Celebrating Chap Goh Mei in Kuala Lumpur


Weather: Cloudy, occasional rain, hot.



Chap Goh Mei marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.  It falls about 15 days after the eve of the new year and is when the full moon emerges.  It is customary to hold a gathering and celebrate on this day, so we decide to invite over Jacqui's close relatives and some friends.  Most of the day is spent getting ready for the party.  We are buying and cooking some food and some are being supplied by one of Jacqui's aunts.


Guests start to arrive at around 6:30 PM and our house is soon full.  The food is laid out buffet-style on a long table in the open area in front of the courtyard.  We have all kinds of dishes to eat, including some home made lasagna made by Lars and his mother, some satay we went out and got from a food court, curry chicken capitan, salad, rice and other Chinese home made dishes.  We all have our fill, but before we can finish the meal we have to have the one traditional dish - Yue Sang.


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The ingredients in this dish include: salmon, a colorful variety of radish, plum sauce, oil, and crackers. All the ingredients are stored separately and only when you are ready to have the dish do you get ready to serve them up.  A large plate is placed on the table and then all the ingredients poured onto that plate.  Everyone leans over the plate with their chopsticks at the ready and, upon a cry, leaps in and vigorously mixes the ingredients by lifting them into the air as high a possible.  Everyone is reaching in and doing the same thing, so it can get a bit messy.  Then we dig in and eat the freshly mixed Yue Sang.


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After making a big mess of the tables lifting all the ingredients high up in the air, we clean up and every one spreads out having coffee or drinks or just chatting.  During this lull, out come the fireworks.  While they are illegal, one of the uncles has been able to source some.  We get a couple of bottles and set them up to shoot the bottle rockets up into the sky.  We have two types - one is clearly much better than the other.  It whooshes skyward with a loud whistle and then explodes in a thunderous bang.  We send off quite a few, but then stop while we are ahead.  No need to attract the police (even though we could deal with it by the distribution of  a few ang pows - or red packets with some money).


Once back inside, the card games (and gambling) begin.  Two groups get going - one around the dining room table and the other around the living room coffee table.  For some reason, it seems to be the older generation on the former and the younger generation on the latter.  But the coffee table group is having so much fun, that eventually the dining table group migrates over.  We are playing some silly card game that has no real skill, but everyone is having a ball.  While we only have to ante up $1 at a time, the pot can build up fast to some decent amounts.


The festivities and gambling go on until about 3 AM.


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