8 Travel Destinations for the Chinese New Year Holidays in 2018

8 Travel Destinations for the Chinese New Year Holidays in 2018

If you’re bored of the usual Lunar New Year celebrations at home, why not jet off to celebrate at the world’s oldest Chinatown in Manila or belt out your favourite Chinese New Year songs from the top of Sydney Bridge in Australia?

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

The Lunar New Year is once again fast approaching, and this time, 16 February is the date to ring in the Year of the Dog.

Whether or not you are the type of person to engage in the festivities at home, one thing remains unchanged – the endless potential for travel! This 2018, choose between eight (because lucky, right?) destinations to experience a more novel way of celebrating the Lunar New Year. It’s your pick! Where ever you do choose to go, may you experience luck, prosperity, and everything else that Chinese people love to wish upon each other.

1. Manila, Philippines

Image Credit: jojo nicdao

What better way to be immersed in rich Chinese tradition than by heading down to the world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo, in Manila. Founded in the 16th century, this district has been the heart of the Chinese community in the Philippines, and plays a significant part in their Lunar New Year celebrations. Here, you will get to catch a glimpse of the Filipino-Chinese Friendship arch, witness vibrant dragon dance performances and can even try your hand at setting off those noisy firecrackers!

2. Jakarta, Indonesia

Image Credit: Seika

Did you know that up to 1999, it was illegal to publicly celebrate the Lunar New Year in Indonesia? Thankfully, the ban has been lifted since, and the Chinese populations are able to rejoice in the festivities along with the rest of the world. This is of particular consequence to Jakarta, which is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in the country.

Aside from the outward displays of lion dances performances, the Chinese there flock to the temples to spend their holiday. There, they give thanks through prayer, have their fortunes told and seek good luck by releasing sparrows. For those who seek a more traditional Lunar New Year, join in the crowds at the temples and experience the spiritual aspect of this celebration.  

3. Taipei, Taiwan

Image Credit: Jirka Matousek

When people think of Taipei, they always think of the fireworks display from Taipei 101, their landmark skyscraper. Truth is, these fireworks only emerge on the solar New Year, so don’t expect anything after that. Don’t fret, the city is still going to be well illuminated!

While New Year celebrations will commence with the start of the lunar year, Taipei also celebrates with a Lantern Festival. It kicks off on the 15th day of the first lunar month (2 March) to coincide with the full moon, and includes beautifully designed lanterns fitted with LED lights to make the city come alive. In the upcoming festival, the main attraction is a 21-metre-tall lantern in the design of a young boy from the Tsou tribe and his people – a shout-out to the indigenous Taiwanese people and the Year of the Dog respectively. If you want to prolong the Lunar New Year celebrations long after it has ended in your country, the dazzling lights and intricate lanterns here are definitely a good choice!

4. London, United Kingdom

Image Credit: John Pannell

Attracting more than 700,00 people per year, the Lunar New Year celebration in London is the largest one outside of Asia. Interestingly enough, the party is not confined to just Chinatown, and can be enjoyed at many other different locations. The date to remember is 18 February (two days later than everyone else) – on this day, a parade will start from Charing Cross Road, move along Shaftesbury Avenue, before finally concluding with performances and a special effects lights show at Trafalgar Square. Don’t miss out on the chance to join in this huge celebration!

5. Ko Samui, Thailand

Even though the Lunar New Year is not an official public holiday in Thailand, the Chinese residents there still deeply value their tradition. The island is brightly decorated with red and yellow ornaments, and the weekend will be packed with parades and performances on the street. It is also a hotspot for tourists to visit, and you will be spoilt for choice when deciding between what to check out!

One of the most recommended places to visit is the Guan Yu Shrine at the Hua Thanon district, which was constructed to be the cornerstone of Chinese identity for people on the island. The walls of the compound are plastered with photos of Koh Samui residents with Chinese ancestry, and residents are encouraged to contribute to information about their family lineage to foster a greater sense of belonging and connectedness. If you want to give the typical song and dance of the Lunar New Year a miss and learn more about Chinese history, this is the place to be.

6. Langkawi, Malaysia

Image Credit: Lemsipmatt

Maybe you’re looking for a more obscure travel destination to spend the Lunar New Year holiday, and not have to literally see red or hear the blare of festive Chinese music at every turn of the head. One place that you can turn to for sanctuary is Langkawi, a Malaysian archipelago made of 99 smaller islands. In 2007, it was granted the status of a UNESCO Global Geopark to pay tribute to its rich geological history. Apart from the many geoforest parks to explore, Langkawi also boasts of powdery beaches and offers duty-free shopping. Shop away!

The most prominent attraction would probably be the Langkawi Cable Car, which is the steepest cable car in the world. During the 15-minute ride to the top of Machinchang mountain, you will enjoy stunning scenic views as you ascend 708 metres above sea level, far away from everyone else. Do note that as Langkawi does not have a public transportation service, it is best that you rent a vehicle early in advance to fully enjoy your experience here.

7. The Maldives, Republic of Maldives

Image Credit: Sarah_Ackerman

Have you ever celebrated Lunar New Year on the beach? Probably not! A popular destination for European tourists, the Maldives may not be as decked out and bustling with the Lunar New Year spirit as the previous destinations. Still, the tourism board and many beach resorts have designed special packages that include specialty gala dinners and Chinese performances to join in on the festivities. It’s the best of both worlds! You get to enjoy the tranquility of the renowned Maldivian beaches without completely missing out on the Lunar New Year celebrations.

8. Sydney, Australia

Image Credit: Nigel Howe

If you really want to see fireworks this Lunar New Year, then Sydney is the place for you! You might be surprised to know just how seriously this city takes its celebrations – apart from having zodiac lanterns and lion dances, they also pay tribute to the Chinese love for red (good luck, of course) by bathing prominent landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Town Hall and the State Library with a bold shade of vermillion. What an honour! On the first night of the lunar new year, the skyline will also come to life with a magnificent fireworks display over Sydney Harbour. Throughout their 17 day long festival, the city will remain bustling with street markets, exhibitions and other cultural activities. There’ll be something for everyone!

While in Sydney, it would be near impossible for you to miss out on seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the iconic steel through arch bridge that connects the central business district with the North Shore. The view of the bridge and the nearby Sydney Opera House along the Sydney Harbour is simply a beaut, as the Aussies would call it. Well, on top of enjoying this sight, why not try a change of perspective – instead of just looking at the bridge, take a look from the bridge instead! With Sydney’s renowned BridgeClimb, you have the opportunity to climb up this steel beauty and enjoy the panoramic views of the city, a whopping 134 metres above sea level. Definitely not a picture that everyone gets to take!

For a limited three week period (9 Feb to 2 Mar), their signature Karaoke Climb returns for the Lunar New Year festivities, and guarantees you a thrilling adventure to kick off the Year of the Dog. As you are making your ascent, the friendly guide will provide you with a commentary (in Mandarin) about Sydney and the bridge.

When you finally reach the summit and your adrenaline rush is at its peak, you get to let it goooooo! The novel karaoke feature allows you to release all your excitement by belting out to your favourite Chinese pop song, and have this moment captured with a complimentary photo and eight-second video of your performance. Imagine: you, your song, and the stunning Sydney skyline as the backdrop – what a perfect souvenir! All climbers will also be entitled to a free pass to the Pylon Lookout Museum, and the first 1,000 daredevils that complete it will also get to take home a limited edition BridgeClimb stuffed dog. Simply enter the promotional code <CNYDOG> when booking to enjoy this!

Apart from a pair of sunglasses and enclosed comfortable shoes, the only other additional thing you have to pack to enjoy this is your sense of adventure! Experience Sydney in a whole different light, and sign up for the Karaoke Climb here today.

About Author

Lydia Lee
Lydia Lee

A linguistics student, Lydia suffers from the occupational hazard of thinking too much about the quirks of language. She yearns to see more of the world and its people, and cannot wait for her next adventure to soak in more beautiful sights and sounds. Before she can do that again, her perfect day would include taking a slow walk, having a warm cup of coffee, and being immersed in a good book.

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