It would seem as if New year celebrations are unending, especially for the Chinese. With the global New Year countdown checked off the list, another celebration awaits - the Chinese Lunar New Year (CNY)! Following the traditional lunar calendar, this annual celebration takes place around January to February. You’ll find that the biggest celebrations aren’t necessarily in mainland China itself, but in neighbouring countries or cities where the Chinese have settled.
Looking for a festive travel experience this month? Here are the top five cities that make a big deal about Chinese New Year!
One of the most-visited areas of Hong Kong is its arts district, Kowloon. This CNY, the promenade at West Kowloon Cultural District Art Park will come alive with a carnival from 25 - 28 January. There will be theatrical shows and performances from over 40 local and international groups including the talented NBC World of Dance Champions - UPeepz and VPeepz from the Philippines! Expect acrobatics, cultural dances, festive inflatables, comedy, and even a handmade float themed after the Year of the Rat. Little ones can look forward to an appearance by The Hungry Caterpillar, attend a workshop on balloon twisting, and face painting. All this with plenty of eateries, food trucks, and stunning views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island as a backdrop - This event is not to be missed!
If you’ve never experienced Disneyland, a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland this season will give you the unique opportunity to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse in traditional Chinese attire along with other festive features in the theme park.
There will also be the annual Well-wishing Festival held at Lam Tsuen Wishing Square from 25 January to 9 February. Together with locals and thousands of other travellers from all over the world, you will get to throw wishing placards onto the wishing tree and light wishing lanterns - it’s quite a magical experience! More info here.
Don’t miss out on the spectacular Chinese New Year firework shows lined up for the month all across Hong Kong either. Believed to be able to scare away evil spirits and bring in good luck for the coming year, CNY fireworks are part and parcel of the Chinese tradition and will light up Hong Kong’s city skyline this season. One of the biggest fireworks extravaganzas are always held at Victoria Harbour and can last up to 25 minutes. Catch it this 26 January at 8pm.
Singapore lives up to its reputation for being the door to Southeast Asia by putting on the massive and highly anticipated Chingay Parade yearly. This year, Chingay will be held at the Formula One Pit building at Marina Bay from 31 January - 1 February. With 6,000 volunteers, it promises to wow the audience with one of the biggest street performances and float parades in Asia. Expect traditional and contemporary performances centered on the theme ‘Colours in Harmony’, a stunning display of fireworks and firecrackers, as well as laser lights and pyrotechnics. The procession is also focused around paying respect to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy as part of the CNY festivities. Hit up the official website for more information and tickets.
Festivities at Chinatown are also a must-do on your list. From 4 - 24 January the street will come alive with fancy lights and fire-eating performances at Kreta Ayer Square. Keep your energy levels up by eating your way through Chinatown’s Food Street - a smorgasbord of Singapore’s best flavours in one place and then finishing the night with drinks Native, Flagship, or Gibson - all of which have been in the 50 Best Bars in Asia / The World list. More information on dates and performance times here.
Among many things its famous for, Malaysia is also known for the incredible number of shopping malls it has across the country. Most of which are in Kuala Lumpur city and for Chinese New Year, the streets might be empty but the malls in Kuala Lumpur are where it's at!
Enter the main street of Kuala Lumpur and you’ll find the Disney mice have taken centre stage for “year of the mouse / rat”. Bukit Bintang’s pride and joy, Pavilion Mall, has Malaysia’s biggest rotating ‘Mickey & Minnie Sculpture’ on display at the centrecourt. Get up close and personal with the mascots and take part in a variety of cultural activities with a modern twist such as CNY Tote Bag Calligraphy and Zodiac Dough Doll Making. More info here.
Catch a traditional Lion Dance performance at a number of malls happening throughout January. Skilled acrobats dressed as lions will perform exhilarating stunts to usher in all the luck and prosperity for the Lunar New year. Suria KLCC’s Acrobatic lion dance will take place on 12 and 19 January at the Esplanade, and at the Centre court on 18, 25 & 26 January. Kuala Lumpur’s traditional art market, Central Market will feature a Lion dance walkabout on 25 and 27 January and an Acrobatic lion dance on 24 January and 1 February. These locations are a favourite among tourists because you get to see the tradition and culture of Malaysia and also its modern advancements in architecture, shopping, and entertainment. More info here.
Also don’t forget to get your “lou sang” fix while you’re in Kuala Lumpur. It’s an appetizer made of various fresh and crunchy condiments (shredded carrots, radish, salmon, nuts etc) that are placed on a large platter and drizzled with plum sauce. It’s the opening dish for a family dinner at CNY. Everyone grabs a pair of chopsticks and tosses the lot of ingredients up together, wishing each other the best of luck for the year. This practice is unique to the Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia only. You can find it at almost any Chinese restaurant around town.
Most of the CNY action can be found at Yaowarat Road - Bangkok’s “Chinatown”. The street turns into a walking street during the festive season to make space for a multitude of lion dancers, drummers, and vendors who will be parading throughout the day. The celebration usually starts with a Dragon Parade, which is different from a Lion Dance. Traditional Chinese and Thai dancers form a long dragon that snakes throughout Yaowarat Road and there usually is a member of the Royal Thai family who takes part in the parade. At dusk, Chinese hanging lanterns will light up the whole street making a great photo opportunity for visitors. Acrobats fly from 40-foot poles at the huge stage near the Chinatown Gate, performing incredible stunts with firecrackers and music.
Since you’re in Bangkok, take this opportunity to visit all the Chinese temples such as Kuan Yim Shrine, Dragon Flower Temple, and the Mang Nguan Ha Shrine. It always feels good to learn a little bit of a culture's history during the same season that it is most celebrated among locals.
Finally, for a more relaxing, authentic, and less-commercialised CNY experience, head to Vietnam. The country welcomes Spring with their version of Chinese New Year, known as the “Tet Festival” and its the biggest and most important celebration of the year. Shops and businesses close for three days to celebrate. The celebrations start three days before the first day of the Lunar New Year and continue for nine days in total. Fireworks take place on the eve, which is the 24th of January this year. However the best time to travel there is on the 4th day, when everyone is back on the streets after a few days of staying home for family gatherings.
Visitors flock to Hanoi during this season to enjoy the beauty of Spring and head out to various parts of North Vietnam from there. Street decorations at Hanoi’s Old Quarter are beautiful and everyone is in a relaxed, happy mood at this time of the year. Your best CNY experience here is to get to know a local family and join them for their celebration at home.
Let’s also remember that celebrating Chinese New Year is about bringing the family together. Why not do it differently this year and whisk your whole family away to any one of these cities to celebrate? Now that you know where the party is at, pick a city and get some of the best travel deals when you book a flight with us. A truly festive travel experience awaits you and your family this CNY!