Where to Travel During Chinese New Year
Depending on where you are at during Chinese New Year, you might experience either the high extreme of crazily crowded city centres or the opposite extreme of quiet serenity, due to the overseas Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans travelling around the world to visit their relatives back in their respective hometowns.
Are you looking for a party crowd, or do you prefer going for a slower pace in enjoying the Chinese New Year celebrations? Here are some places that you might want to avoid or plan your next trip to, depending on your preference.
Beijing, China—The Centre of Tradition; Extremely Crowded
Where else other than Beijing, the capital of China, for the most traditional celebration of Chinese New Year? While you’re there, be sure to experience the temple fairs, especially the two largest ones: Ditan Park Temple Fair and Dongyue Temple Fair. In 2018, 1.7 million people visited the top two temple fairs in Beijing over five days—that’s almost the entire population of Kuala Lumpur in just two parks! Clearly, it won’t be an experience that would leave you feeling cold (despite the winter chills!) or empty. Through the hustle and bustle, experience the traditional foods and the mesmerising performances at the temple fairs such as martial arts and acrobatic performances. However, if you are expecting fireworks, you will have to look elsewhere, since Beijing has officially banned fireworks since 2018.
Victoria City, Hong Kong—Carnival Extravaganza; Less Crowded (for 2020)
Famed for their annual fireworks displays launched from the middle of Victoria Harbour and lasting approximately 20 minutes alongside their Chinese New Year parade throughout the city, Hong Kong has always boasted one of the most vibrant Chinese New Year displays. However, the Hong Kong government had banned fireworks displays this year, citing safety concerns due to the ongoing protests, and the parade is instead replaced with a 4-day carnival. That is not to say that the carnival is not going to be just as impressive, seeing that they are boasting 26 international groups of performers from 19 different countries, as well as 22 homegrown performing groups. If there is any time to go visit Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, this would be it for the lesser crowds. The daily Symphony of Lights Show is still ongoing, however. At 8pm daily, Victoria Harbour would be illuminated, with 40 or so buildings participating alongside a symphony by the Hong Kong Philharmonic, weaving a narrative of sights and sounds.
London, England—Largest outside Asia; Moderately Crowded
Boasting the biggest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, London has celebrated Chinese New Year for over 20 years. Originally just a small, local celebration started by the London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA), it has grown dramatically to the point that it now features a parade from Charing Cross Road to Shaftesbury Avenue and lion dances throughout Chinatown, not to mention a stage show in Trafalgar Square accompanied by firecrackers. Special performances, workshops and activities like dumpling-making and storytelling sessions are lined up from Trafalgar Square all the way to West End. The city’s celebration begins on the second day of Chinese New Year in respect of the fact that the first day is reserved for family visitations.
Taipei, Taiwan—Peace, Quiet, and Serenity; No Crowds
If you would rather have a time to relax and take in the sights instead, then look no further than Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Ironically, instead of big, boisterous celebrations for Chinese New Year, locals prefer to visit their families for at least the first three days, either at home or out in the countryside. For this reason, most shops would be closed, and the city would be less crowded than usual, though many restaurants would stay open during this time. With a notable Japanese influence on their culture, especially in terms of their cuisine, Taipei is also significantly different enough to be a refreshing take on Chinese culture.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam—Something Different; Quiet During The Day, Active During The Night
In the first place, Vietnam has their own version of Chinese New Year since they adopted the Chinese lunar calendar from China hundreds of years ago. Vietnamese New Year is called Tết Nguyên Đán, or Tết for short, and is almost always celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year with pretty much the same traditions with a few unique touches of their own. Due to the one-hour difference in time zones, there would sometimes be a one-day difference between Tết and Chinese New Year, such as in 2007. Tết Eve would have one of the biggest celebrations past midnight to welcome the new year, but the following day would see empty cities as, like the locals of Taipei, the locals would be visiting their relatives back home. At night, however, the life of the city would return. This is why Ho Chi Minh City is also known as the city that never sleeps.
Seoul, South Korea—Full of Culture and Soul; Calm and Crowdless
Korea also has their own version of Chinese New Year, called Seollal. Like Vietnam, Korea also adopted the Chinese lunar calendar more than a thousand years ago, along with some of the cultural practices like family focus during the New Year. Just like Taipei and Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul would have very few people in the city during Seollal itself, but there are cultural performances still going on in several areas within Seoul, such as Namsangol Hanok Village and Korean Folk Village. Seollal-themed events can also be found in Seoul theme parks such as Seoul Land, Everland and Lotte World.
For more similarities and differences between Chinese New Year, Tết and Seollal, you can refer to our article on the topic here.
So, have you decided where you would like to go during Chinese New Year? Let us know in the comments below!
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