Warisan Square’s Chinese New Year Celebrations

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, Warisan Square is leading the malls of KK with intricate and elaborate decorations. A taste of things to come when 1 Borneo opens perhaps?

On our way to watching American Ganster last night, we had some time to kill after dinner. For the second night in the row we watched a midnight, or near midnight show – not sure why we do this to ourselves. Anyway, now being used to going to bed at 3am, it’s not that terrible, as the movies finish at about 2am.

The Flea Market is crowded, but features more stalls and operators than visitors and buyers.

So, while we waited for them movie at Growball Cinema in Centrepoint to start, we whiled away the time at Warisan Square. They had a flea market going with what could have been a nice atmosphere if there had been more people. The effect of being crowded was an illusion created by the very claustrophobic arrangement of the flea market stalls, so in fact, while it seemed crowded, there were only a few people about – come on Warisan, spread things about a bit!

Electric Cherry Blossoms - intricate Chinese New Year decorations at Warisan Square, Kota Kinabalu.

What was quite striking was the exterior Chinese New Year decorations. Trees made entirely of tubing and lights lit up the centre part of the market and a dragon adorned what could be regarded as the main entrance. These Chinese New Year decorations fell in place exactly where the Christmas decorations have been, without a pause for breath. I guess this is considered pretty last minute in Christmas-shopping standards, because Chinese New Year is next month, whilst Christmas decorations appear 3 or 4 months ahead of Christmas already.

Although Chinese New Year doesn’t have the commercial buy-buy-buy attitude that Christmas have because of the gift giving, Chinese New Year is an important retail marker, as the amount of food that will be bought and consumed over the Chinese New Year eclipses any other time of the year. It’s also the time of year when it’s out with the old and in with the new, and that you can interpret in which ever way makes you happy. New clothes, new furniture, new house, new car, new wife/husband? Huge potential for retail, except for the last one – unless you run a brides-from-russia/china outfit.

Of course, Chinese New Year decorations are not new to KK. It has been done for as long as shopping malls have been around. What Warisan does differently though is the amount of money they spend on the decorations – quite unique. Other malls tend to decorate with fairly straight forward strands of this and prints of that, but Warisan Square seems to go the whole 9 yards and decorates as if there’s no tomorrow. Kudos to them. 1 Borneo, as it’s the same owners slash management company, can only wow us.

Huang Poh Lo - Indian Chinese Calligrapher at work.Huang Poh Lo a.k.a. N. Poolohgasingam concentrating on his art.

Whilst I we were gawking at the decorations and meandering through the flea market which needs work (it’s new to KK, we’ll give them a break), I happened upon a stall where Huang Poh Lo was sitting doing Chinese calligraphy. Nothing immediately strange about that, except that Huang Poh Lo is an Indian. “The man below the win”, says his marketing pamphlet, leaning on Sabah’s reputation as The Land below the Wind.

The pamphlet also touts Huang Poh Lo as “showcasing the highest form of art in Chinese and Arabic Culture”. According to the pamphlet, Huang Poh Lo embodies the true, multi-racial Malaysian and claims to be the only known Indian doing Chinese Calligraphy in the world. His Calligraphy, continues the pamphlet, was self-taught without formal education in either art or the Chinese Language and has been practicing since 1995.

So during the lunar month, the month in which the Chinese New Year takes place, Huang Poh Lo appears at flea markets and other locations, and does Chinese Calligraphy. From what I saw at his stall, there is no price on his artworks, which takes about 3 to 4 minutes to create, but people donate according to how much they value what he creates. This varies from people stuffing RM4 into his bowl, to the generous ones who drop RM10 and RM20 in at a time.

The pamphlet states that “his skills raise funds as a charity drive for Chinese schools”. His trading name, or is it perhaps his charity organisation or company (I can’t tell), is called Huang Dynastay and says is established in 1950. I only gawked and didn’t take the opportunity to have my name written in Chinese.

Perhaps I’ll go back and have 1 Earth done in Chinese Calligraphy. The flea market, if I remember correctly, will run every Friday and Saturday on the Waterfront side of Warisan Square, and I suspect it will continue until Chinese New Year.

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