By Lauren Jade Hill
Where better to see in the Year of the Rooster than by marking the occasion in one of the cities where Chinese New Year is celebrated with the most effervescence and authenticity. As China’s most important annual tradition, it’s certainly an event worth traveling for.
With such a strong Chinese influence, Singapore is interwoven with the nation’s heritage and customs, making it one of the region’s best places to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Chinatown is at the heart of the celebratory spirit, with the neighborhood hosting a series of lively processions along lantern-lined streets. Restaurants and hotels embrace the occasion too, by offering both modern and traditional takes on Chinese New Year’s distinct cuisine; be a part of a Lo Hei at restaurants such as Min Jiang, and try award-winning dessert chef Janice Wong’s contemporary pineapple tarts.
STAY: Guests staying at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore can pick up Chinese New Year hampers from the on-site boutique, including a Magnificent Opulence Hamper, a private eight-course dinner for 10 guests with Master Chef Steven Ng.
While Malaysia’s vibrant capital Kuala Lumpur hosts Chinese New Year celebrations in temples, such as Thean Hou which is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia, George Town on the island of Penang is far better known for its festivities. Here, the streets are lit with colored lights and lanterns, and festival revelers gather in the town’s squares to see the parades, dragon dances and fireworks.
STAY: One of the town’s most elegant luxury hotels is the Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang, from where guests can set out on a Penang Heritage Trail.
Thailand’s biggest Chinese New Year celebrations take place in Bangkok. And it’s in Chinatown that the greatest festivities can be found. With red lanterns decorating the vendor-lined streets, the stage is set for a vibrant parade and celebration of Chinese culture. Gorge on some of the city’s best Chinese cuisine at The Sukosol Hotel’s Lin-Fa.
STAY: The Peninsula Bangkok proudly showcases its Chinese roots through the restaurant Mei Jiang where Chinese chef Jackie Ho is at the helm. Over Chinese New Year, the restaurant is hosting a Chinese New Year Feast, with two curated menus – Fortune and Wealth – to choose between.
As Hong Kong’s most important celebration, Chinese New Year is the ideal time to visit for the cultural insight it affords. Visitors at this time have the chance to join locals in celebrating the occasion by seeking out the city’s temples and markets, and by catching the annual Chinese New Year parade around Tsim Sha Tsui, not to forget the fireworks of Victoria Harbor.
STAY: The Peninsula Hong Kong is one of the city’s most legendary places to stay, having been established in 1928. Three ten-course Chinese New Year Feasts will be hosted at the restaurant Spring Moon, with Chinese New Year cakes and confectionery to buy, too.
Shanghai bursts with energy throughout the entire year, but this is enhanced further by the arrival of Chinese New Year. Seek out Yuyuan Old Town Bazaar to see the lanterns on display, then soak up the atmosphere of one of the city’s ancient temples, such as Longhua Temple which originates from 242 AD. All throughout the city, there are sights, sounds and tastes reflecting the occasion.
STAY: Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai sits on the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River, amid the skyscrapers of Lujiazui. Dine at the hotel’s Yong Yi Ting restaurant for a taste of the region’s cuisine, and pick up some Chinese baked goods at The Mandarin Cake Shop.
Beijing is considered one of the world’s best places to spend Chinese New Year for its festival revelry, as well as cultural insight. The significance of the occasion can be seen in temples throughout Beijing, as well as the temple parks where traditional performances unfold. With fireworks lighting up the sky and Chinese New Year specialties like rice dumplings to try, Chinese New Year is perhaps the most culturally immersive time to visit.
STAY: Situated just moments away from the gates of Beijing’s Unesco World Heritage Site, Summer Palace, the luxury hotel Aman Summer Palace is an atmospheric place to stay, combining traditional Chinese architecture with elegant modern design. While you’re there, take the opportunity to experience the local culture and arts with one of the hotel’s private guides.
Cover photo © Flickr / IQRemix