Kek Lok Si temple in Penang, MalaysiaA few years ago, I got the chance to spend part of the Lunar New Year in Asia, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  It didn’t start out so well – after a mechanical problem delayed my flight from Dallas to Tokyo, I ended up spending the night in Tokyo, but arrived too late to go do anything.  Fortunately, I had a hotel room and my luggage, but unexpected delays are never fun, and the flights were all packed due to New Year’s traffic.  However, the airline got me to my destination the next day – with a stop in Bangkok instead of Singapore, but ending up in Penang, Malaysia just the same.

After a few days working in Penang, I went sightseeing with my friends there on Saturday.  I’ve written about my tea adventures that day, but one of the best parts of the day came at the end.  It was the last day of the Lunar New Year, and the only time of the year that they light up the Kek Lok Si temple at night with beautiful Chinese lanterns.  The temple sits on one of the highest hills in Penang, so you can see it for miles around.  It was a breathtaking sight – completely outlined in lights and lanterns.  I was so excited to get up there.

Kek Lok Si temple in Penang, MalaysiaOnce we parked the car and joined the crowds, it was one breathtaking view after another – lots of red lanterns for good luck, everything beautifully decorated.  I was so honored to be a part of the celebration with my friends.  I’m not sure I really learned much about New Year’s traditions, although I do remember my friends telling me I needed to clean my house well before the New Year to clear out all the bad luck.  But I was completely entranced by the lights and the spirit of festivity that I’ll always treasure the memory.

So now, back in the U.S. and with the Lunar New Year upon us, I’m drinking some tea to remember my trip and my friends.  Normally, I’d pull out some oolong, because that’s what we drank most often in Malaysia, but this morning I was drinking a beautiful tea called Golden Bi Luo from Chicago Tea Garden.  It is a very interesting black tea from the Yunnan province in China, with a creamy, almost yeasty flavor.  It complemented my memories with its sweet taste and smooth finish, and made me look forward to the next time I get a chance to go to Asia.  My next trip I definitely plan to visit some tea gardens!