CNY firecrackers and fireworks roundup – a Chap Goh Meh special

chap goh meh 06

Chap Goh Meh marks the end of the Lunar New Year. Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days and Chap Goh Meh literally means (the) 15th night. Firecrackers and fireworks are usually let off liberally to mark the end of Chinese New Year. There is a wide variety of firecrackers and fireworks available in Malaysia and the large self-contained box type is the most popular ones.


Download: Chinese New Year 2006 []

I’m a big fan of firecrackers and fireworks (and everything else that goes “boom”) and it seems that the trend in 2006 shifts markedly to industrial grade fireworks. The market in Sibu and Kuching is flooded with display shells – the catch-all term for the 3″, 5″ and 8″ shell that shoots up before exploding in fascinating pyrotechnics.



This is an example of a “consumer grade” display shell fireworks. Shellshock comes in a box containing 12 pieces of “double break shells”. It’s made in China, that’s where firecrackers and fireworks in Malaysia is sourced (read: smuggled) from.

shellshock open

The Shellshock box opens up to reveal a foot long tube launcher embedded into the package with 6 shells lining each side of the box. The shells are inserted one at a time into the launch tube with the flat end (base) making contact with the bottom of the launcher tube.

shellshock shells

The 1.5″ shells is shaped like a gourd and there is a long conventional green fuse bound intricately around the shell and held in place by a colored string on the top indicating the color of the display shell when it is…well, displayed.

shellshock double

Here is a closer look at this consumer grade firework. There are double spheres in the shells – this is a double report, double flare display shell. The shells have a flat base and a visible fuse starter. This firecracker requires the launcher tube to launch the shells into the air and the long fuse is to accommodate for the launcher length.

shellshock launcher

The Shellshock ones come in a disposable cardboard and plastic launcher.

shellshock insert

The display shell type fireworks (regardless of grade) should always be used in conjunction with a launcher tube to guide the shell upwards. I’m sure everyone has tried not using a launcher tube at least once in their lives (at least I did, with a 3″ shell) and the results are not pretty.

shellshock fire
The Shellshock launcher tube does the job well enough…

It’s pretty dangerous since the shell just explodes on the ground, sending out burning debris over a wide area. Notice how large the dispersal area is when it’s airborne? That’s the coverage you can expect when it goes off on the ground. Most residential areas cannot accommodate for this kind explosive power.

shellshock topple
…though it topples after each launch…and the cardboard burns.

The one time I did it resulted in a cracked glass door (with an industrial grade shell), flaming explosions all over the front of the house and shocked family and neighbors. Oh, and I set the lawn of the neighbor on fire too. In my defense, it was dry grass. :p I never did dare to repeat that stunt again, since I didn’t want to pay for damages to vehicles, property and possibly human life. πŸ˜‰

Industrial grade fireworks

shellshock meet big bro

Meet big brother. πŸ˜‰ This is a custom made launcher tube for 3″ industrial grade display shells.

industrial launcher

The display shells (3 inch, 5 inch, and the expensive 8 inch ones) are sold in boxes with instructions on the dimensions of the launcher and the instructions are passed on to a local blacksmith (metal smith) to be custom made.

industrial launcher dimensions

It’s usually made of solid metal alloy so it can be reused without the force of the initial primer explosion from the shells (which is quite substantial) wearing out the launcher tube. The base of the launcher tube is very important – perhaps the most crucial part of the component – it must be heavy enough to hold the structure or wide enough to allow other weighing material (bricks etc.) to weigh it down.

industrial with shells

This is the launcher tube displayed with 3″ display shells. These things are ordered in bulk and come with a sticker specifying the exact pyrotechnics to expect from the particular shell (see below).

display shell boxes

It’s sold in boxes made of heavy paper stapled together to form a “box” of sorts and each box contains a mixed bag of pyrotechnics goodness, with different “grades” of shells e.g. Grade A would be a shell which goes “Purple with sparkling to red ball” (three stages with large initial purple explosion bloom, followed by sparkling edges and a single slowly descending red ball) while Grade B would be a shell that goes “Green to silver” (one explosion, color change at fringe of explosion).

display shell box open

This is a close look at the grenade like display shells. It’s wrapped with heavy reinforcing paper and these fireworks are considered industrial grade as it’s the same ones that the government lets off during official celebrations. Heck, some of them are even “diverted” from official celebrations. πŸ˜‰

red green crackling

The grenade like display shells are individually wrapped and come with a label in two languages of what to expect from that particular display shell. This Grade A shell goes “Red to Green to Crackling”.

blue to silver

This Grade B shell goes “Blue to silver” (two phase change) while a Grade C shell would be a single phase explosion e.g. “Red & Blue wave”.

3 inch shell

I have relatively large palms and this is a size comparison of what a 3″ display shell looks like. It’s remarkably similar to a grenade, except you have to use a launcher tube instead of igniting it on the ground (which would cause a lot of Bad Things (TM) to happen).

industrial launcher insert

The industrial grade shells are inserted into the correctly sized launcher tube with the base of the shell level against the base of the launcher, and with the fuse sticking up and out of the launcher tube.

display shell

Download: Industrial grade fireworks []

I probably should mention that the industrial grade fireworks do not have a long fuse delay, despite its looks. The fuse lights slowly at the top and then *zaps* goes straight down the remaining length of the “fuse” and its pyrotechnica!

The blast is pretty substantial and it’s fun to be close to the launcher when it goes off. It’s a mini shellshock effect, right at your doorstep. πŸ˜‰

Consumer grade fireworks, these are not.

chinese firecrackers

Lest we forget our roots, these are the traditional Chinese firecrackers.

horse brand firecrackers

I love the 50,000 Horse Brand firecrackers.

horse brand expand

It’s fast and furious, burning through 50k of individual sticks of firecrackers in the span of a few seconds.

50k firecrackers

Download: Fast and furious firecrackers []

It got all over me in the video, though I thoroughly enjoyed it. Classic!

Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone!


Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots review

cny06 firecrackers box

This is a box of assorted firecrackers and fireworks that somehow appeared in my room in Sibu in a mysterious and somewhat nefarious manner. πŸ˜‰ I gave most of it away since I prefer loud and large fireworks and firecrackers. There were a lot of assorted fireworks (and more will mysteriously appear again tonight) in the box with a couple of larger scale firecrackers.

cny06 colorpeony twins

This is 48 Colorpeony placed next to a 16 Colorpeony for scale. The number represents the amount of shots inside the fireworks. Mysterious mysteries. Colorpeony is a popular Chinese New Year firework and again, it somehow appeared incriminatingly in my room. I love loud firecrackers and huge fireworks boxes that produce the pyrotechnics I crave. πŸ™‚

I got up at 7 am this morning (“got up” not “woke up”, haven’t slept in two days) feeling extremely irritable for no reason at all so I decided to wake up the neighbours with the 48 Colorpeony firecrackers. It’s supposed to be lit at night so the flaming balls and sparks that shoots up into the sky isn’t overpowered by the sun, but I wanted to cheer myself up.

cny06 colorpeony light

Thus, I set the 48 Colorpeony fireworks on the ground near the auto gate and prepared to light it up. The size of Colorpeony fireworks is huge if you haven’t seen one – it has a footprint as large as a notebook (larger than the mini laptops) and it’s about one foot in height and girth. I asked my mom (who was conveniently there) to take a video of the pyrotechnics.

cny06 colorpeony spent

She did…at least all that aiming and panning stuff, but she forgot to press the shutter button! Arrrggghhh…I would have killed her if it wasn’t Chinese New Year coz it was a really good scene coz I was being stupid. I just lit the fuse, stood there looking down INTO the fireworks, gave a running commentary on my favourite firework and got hit by one of the shots coz I stood right beside it. Jesus Christ, I wish that was recorded…

dragons playing pearl fireworks

Thus, I went up and grabbed this new firecracker that I bought – it’s called Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots which is a damn long name. It’s smaller than the Colorpeony fireworks but I didn’t want to waste another Colorpeony so I decided to check out this new firework. It sounds intriguing enough. Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots. Mines. Shots. Mmm…

dragons fireworks

Download: Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots []

I gave my mom a 30 minute tutorial on how to use the video function of my digicam and taught her the basics of panning correctly (she doesn’t know which scenes should be focused on at what time, so I had to give her audio cues…loud ones, in the video, and she had to use zoom coz she thinks fireworks are dangerous in close proximity) and lit the Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots.

cny06 morning sibu

The Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots are surprisingly captivating. It alternates coloured balls of fire and shots of explosions in a standard 30 tube box firecracker format. It doesn’t have the sheer intense exit velocity of Colorpeony (which is loud and shoots up a good 200 meters into the stratosphere) but the Dragons Playing Pearl Fireworks Mines and Shots holds its own for a firecracker in its class.

cny06 morning fireworks

It’s very therapeutic to light fireworks in the morning. I went to bed straight after that and just woke up for the reunion dinner. I’ve only had half a sandwich in two days so I’m a little hungry. I’ll light more of the Dragon Playing Pearl Fireworks tonight when it’s dark so it would look better…

…or should I do it now? Hmm…

Related post: Firecrackers in Malaysia – photos, videos and descriptions []

P/S – I love Sibu, practically everyone is letting off firecrackers (which was what woke me up just now) in the neighbourhoods. There’s always a constant sound of various fireworks and firecrackers, distant and near, and that, my friends, is the true spirit of Chinese New Year. There’s more to come tonight – that’s when the Chinese New Year Eve celebrations really goes off large scale. I have more boxes of interesting fireworks and firecrackers for tonight, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year to all of readers!

Gong Xi Fa Chai!


Firecrackers in Malaysia – photos, videos and descriptions

A Chinese New Year special

Coloured Flowers – Chai Lei

colored flowers box

This is the classic Colored Flowers a.k.a. Chai Lei (translates to
“coloured mine”). It costs RM 7 at your friendly local fireworks
retailer – usually operating with a single shutter open and stacks of
canned drinks obscuring the view. Please do not be mislead by the
benign sounding name – Coloured Flowers is a not something you light
and watch the pretty sparks fly. πŸ˜‰

colored flowers
Red and green, intertwined

Well, actually it does sparkle for a bit before it explodes, but
anyway. These are the classics for people getting into all sorts of
mischief i.e. time delay fuse (mosquito coil lar) rigged up, stuck into
toilet cistern and pity the poor guy who’s taking a dump while it goes
off. The time delay fuse is obviously to put a suitable amount of time
between the act and the deed so an alibi can be established.

chai lei fuse
The fuse of the Coloured Flower burns…

This is the Jin Yue Brand ones – the choice of connoisseurs. It
comes in a pack of 20 firecrackers – with 10 green tops and 10 red tops.

chai lei green

The green tops make a horrific shriek (and a green flare if you’re lucky) as the fuse burns into the primer before exploding.

chai lei red

The red one actually produces a nice, short burst of colourful
sparks before exploding. Otherwise, they are similar, the different
color determines how the primer reacts.

coloured flowers green
The green one lights…

coloured flowers red
The red one lights…

I would say that these are louder and more powerful than the new
Coloured Flowers (below). It costs RM 1 extra per box, but it’s worth
the premium.

chai lei explode
Red and green Chai Lei’s explode the same way.

Coloured Flowers – Chai Lei Wang

coloured flowers box

This is the new breed of Coloured Flowers and one which most people
would be familiar with. It’s made by another company and also comes in
a pack of 20. It costs RM 6, one dollar less than the classic ones but
it can hold it’s own to the originals. The box is slightly smaller than
the Chai Lei box and each firecracker is also slightly smaller.

coloured flowers

However Chai Lei Wang (literally “colored mine king”) differs
physically from the first in its effects. It also has a primer but the
primer produces normal flame coloured sparks before the firecracker
explodes. It registers a little lower in the decibel meter but not by
much. These are the common ones that we used to play as children; we’ll
wait for the primer to flame before chucking it.

chai lei wang

We soon learnt that the time it takes after lighting the fuse and
chucking it does not have a direct correlation with the size of one’s
balls and also another more important lesson – Chinese factories does
not have the rigorous quality assurance process that we take for
granted in other factories. Not all Chai Lei Wang has a primer, some
just explode as soon as the fuse burns out, though these are rare.

Here’s a short movie of how the Chai Lei Wang works:’s Chai Lei Wang video []
(2.84 MB zip file, right click, save download as)
Extract from the zip file – it’s a .mov file (Requires QuickTime Player)

My apologies for the bad take – we shot several times. It sounds
much louder than it does in the video due to hardware limitations. The
first two we messed up, and I forgot to wait till the primer ignites in
the third shot (which is the one you see above) and I did remember in
the forth one, but the cracker rolled into a longkang and it was a bad
take. Also, I noticed I felt the need to protect the family jewels in
the last minute in the video above. Heh. Anyway, the dog got a bit
freaked by the loud noises after that, so we did not attempt any more

chai lei wang 1
This is the primer of Chai Lei Wang burning (not to be confused with
the fuse (forgive the pun), the fuse has already burnt out before the
primer – it lights the primer).

chai lei wang 2
It burns into the cracker…

chai lei wang 3
which explodes.

Disclaimer: Waiting for the primer to ignite is the “correct”
way for teenage boys to play Chai Lei Wang, but is not recommended due
to the variable nature of the primer and fuse.

Dadi Single Voice

dadi single voice

I love these things…I would pick this as my favourite firecracker.
It’s loud and it’s destructive. Throw it too close to a window
and…well, you’ll have to call for the glass cutters. It costs RM 10
for a box of 20 and the premium price is worth it. These babies are
larger than Chai Lei’s (both variants) and leaves a nice red carpet
after it ignites and explodes.

dadi firecracker

The aptly named Da Di Lei Gong (literally “big earth thunder king”)
used to be my favourite when I was young. I remembered a funny incident
from many Chinese New Years back. I was lighting one of these and saw
this rubbish collector trundling along with his basket. Mischief can be
allowed for at that age, so I rigged up a short time delay with a
sparkler. I sauntered back in, and watched from inside my compound as
he reached it…I knew I had the timing right.

dadi lei kung

Just as he was picking up my garbage can, the DaDi cracker exploded
and as I stand here today, I swear he jumped a meter up. Heh. These
things are loud, no doubt about it. πŸ™‚ Anyway, the damage potential of
these firecrackers is all blown (excuse the pun) out of proportion,
IMHO. While its common sense not to hold onto the crackers while it
explodes, anything else is pretty much okay for adults.

dadi fuse

I take the shots close and my digicam lens didn’t crack or anything
(though I have tinnitus in one ear)…even as kids we used to throw
them around and yeah, I can attest that one of these going off right
beside you would not cause any damage (except, as stated previously to
your hearing ;)), did that several times just now while fooling around.
While I won’t make this into a call for the re-legalization of
firecrackers, I feel that there’s no reason to ban what is a
fundamentally Chinese way of ushering in the New Year.

dadi explode
action! My favorite photo – Dadi Single Voice exploding.

I can’t imagine a Chinese New Year without firecrackers. I do think
that they should not be sold to people below a certain age, say 16, but
I do not support an outright ban. It’s always “for the kids”, someone
always has to say “Oh, won’t someone think of the poor children” when
someone gets hurt and just like that, it’s banned. I call it lack of
parental supervision. It’s your fault, no one else’s, stop pushing the
blame around. It’s the same with drugs. Come on, let your citizens
think for themselves; don’t do their thinking for them. I digress.

Anyway, obviously I haven’t conducted ballistics testing on these
things but qualitatively, DaDi Single Voice seems to be the loudest one
and it seems to be the “stronger” one of the three. Let’s put it this
way – if I had to choose between Chai Lei and DaDi to hold onto in my
hand while it explodes, I would choose the former. πŸ˜‰

My apologies for not featuring the other classics like Chung Tien
Pau (“rush sky cracker” – the double report bane of housing estates
everywhere ;)) and Thunder Clap. They were not in stock this year.

Other firecrackers:

Chinese firecrackers

chinese firecrackers

This is the traditional Chinese New Year staple to be let off at the
stroke of midnight. It’s a long string of firecrackers with a big boxy
cardboard thing on top that explodes to reveal a banner with Chinese
writing for good luck.

Shun Lee Hung firecrackers

shun lee hung

This is the other type of Chinese firecrackers. Shun Lee Hung
firecrackers are much like the one above and is common nowadays as a
replacement for the traditional rolled up ones. It doesn’t have the
lucky banner though.

Display shell

display shell

This looks like the great balls of colourful fire in the sky, you
know the ones. They let similar ones off during special events too so
most people have seen these.

display shell fuse
The fuse on top

It’s a long and largish tube that needs to be tied down (or have someone holding it in place).

display text
I am still searching the dictionary for an entry on “repotr”.

It does stand properly when it’s not lighted like now, but when it’s
lighted, the force of the first ball will topple the construction
without support.

Magical shots

magical shots

The favourite of children during Chinese New Year – each tube
propels several small, different coloured balls over a short distance.
The balls are multicoloured and it’s sold in a pack of 12 for RM 20.
It’s fun for the kids, basically, you hold it in your hand and let the
balls of fire shoot out. πŸ™‚

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

Waxed duck – the fake looking meat

Waxed duck at a store display

Waxed duck, otherwise known as lup ngap (Cantonese) or lak yak
(Mandarin) is an oily, waxed meat. Lup and lak both mean “wax” in the
respective dialects although the romanization is different. I had
always thought it looked like plastic meat when I was younger and never
really had a chance to eat it. It’s a salty, preserved meat that needs
to be cooked (i.e. steamed) before serving. The seller mentioned that
it needed to be cooked before eating, but I was adamant at trying to
eat it raw and didn’t have much success:

eating raw lap ngap

It was simply too tough to bite off that way. The skin of the duck
went through some unholy preservative measures that made it look waxy
and rendered it all but impossible to tear off with the canines without
softening it first. It retails for RM 4.50 per drumstick (including
thigh area) and the price increases as the size of the fowl increases,
up to RM 25.00 for a full bird (it’s duck).

raw lak yak

Anyway, the above is a photo I took at home while I prepared it for
steaming. There isn’t any fancy ingredients added – this is the
unadulterated experience, just the duck and nothing else, thank you
very much. πŸ˜‰ I covered the plate with another plate as instructed and
then put it over some boiling water (no direct contact, steaming it)
and after about 20 minutes, it turned into this:

cooked waxed duck

It looks much more edible now, though the waxy looking exterior
remains. It also seems quite oily as the photo shows. I ate most of it
with kueh tiaw, though eating it with steamed rice would be a better
choice to offset the salty taste. It’s very salty, no doubt. It’s also
very tough but it was edible, if not palatable (at least to me) after
the first few bites. The choking oiliness and “waxy” feeling of the
duck makes the skin very hard to consume but nevertheless, I liked it
for the novelty value and hey, these things only come around once a
year. Happy Chinese New Year! πŸ™‚

Chinese New Year Eve dinner

This is what I got for the New Year reunion dinner without the reunion today.


Honey chicken, kai lan in oyster sauce, sliced fish with scallops and ginger.


Steamed rice, garlic prawn and char kueh tiaw.


Magnum almond ice cream, Sara Lee Bites – frozen cheese cake and fudge brownies.

Mmm…I’m going to attempt to eat everything in a gross, disgusting and totally unacceptable manner. πŸ™‚

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