THE old section of Malacca city was lighted up with hundreds of red lanterns and coloured bulbs crisscrossing the streets, signifying the start of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Besides the lanterns, the main tourist throughfare, Jonker Walk, has several arches and billboards with Chinese New Year messages.
MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and his wife Datin Seri Wendy Ong accompanied by state MCA chairman Datuk Wira Fong Chan Onn, Jonker Walk Committee adviser Datuk Wira Gan Boon Leong, state executive councillor Datuk Koh Nai Kwong, Kota Melaka MP Wong Nai Chee, Duyong assemblyman Gan Tian Loo and other Chinese community leaders lit the lanterns to usher in the Year of the Rat.
Earlier, several lion dance troupes, cultural troupes, line dancers and the Sekolah Menengah St Francis school band put up performances to entertain guests and members of the public.
In his speech, Ong praised the Malacca Chinese for their resourcefulness and hard work in ensuring prosperity for the state.
He urged them to have the wisdom to put their faith in the MCA and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to bring about a better future for the state and the country.
He said that MCA had several young leaders like Wong Nai Chee (Kota Melaka MP), Gan Tian Loo (Duyong assemblyman) and Datuk Koh Nai Kwong ( Kesidang assemblyman) to work for the people.
Give them a chance to serve the people and extend your support so that they can bring about more development and good things for the people of Malacca, he said.
He also launched a Chinese New Year billboard put up by the Tourism Ministry in Jalan Kubu and witnessed the entry of the biggest plate of Yong Ann's bird nest yee sang into the Malaysia Book of Records.
Among the 18 ingredients in the 10m round yee sang were papaya, cucumber, shredded white ginger, shredded red ginger, slices of pickled leek, lettuce, Bo Chui crackers, fried green yam, fried red yam, ground peanuts, chicken floss, carrot, raddish, powder of five spices, pepper, plum sauce and Yong Anns birds nest.
A total of 50 personnel worked for four hours to make the yee sang which was estimated to weigh 1,000kg and cost RM20,000.
Ong reminded the people that Tun Tan Cheng Lock started out from Malacca and that Malaysian Chinese politics was led by a Malacca Chinese who was respected until today.
He said the decoration of Jonker Street was a joint effort of all Chinese associations with the assistance of the Malacca government.
Jonker Street has become a very successful tourist spot, and according to tourism figures, 35% of tourists in Malacca visited areas like Jonker Street and nearby historical areas, he said.
Among the other streets decorated with lanterns and lights were Jalan Hang Kasturi, Jalan Kampung Pantai, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Jalan Kubu and Jalan Bunga Raya.
Wong said the decorations at Jonker Walk would remain a permanent attraction after the festive period.
With these lanterns, lights and decorations, the Malacca state and Jonker Walk residents need not fork out a huge sum of money each year to beautify the street, he said.
The Chinese New Year Decoration Carnival has been an annual attraction in Malacca's tourism calendar for many years and has received accolades from local and foreign visitors for the unique festive atmosphere.
One tourist, Marcus Tiharti, 34, from Finland, said he was surprised with the colourful atmosphere at Jonker Walk.
I never expected such a beautiful sight. It made my trip to Malacca worthwhile, he said.