The neck-breaking pace at which time this year is passing by (wasn’t it just New Year like, yesterday?) has got us thinking: instead of trying to make time slow down, why not just make peace with it and make the most of every second we’ve got? With that thought in mind, we’ve decided to look beyond country borders for a Christmas celebration that’s unlike anything else. Here are four breathtaking destinations that will change the way you view Christmas in Asia:
If you’ve always longed for a scene where Christmas and city lights intertwine, you needn’t go far: down south is where it’s at. Just across the border from Johor lies a country that lights up like one big Christmas tree every end of the year, from the shopping district of Orchard Road to the bustling Marina Bay area. Even if you’re not an avid shopper, Orchard Road deserves at least one visit as this is the time to bask in streets lined with majestic arches, glittering lights and an infectious feeling of joy.
Lying just 10 minutes away from this shopaholic jaunt is Marina Bay, where Gardens by the Bay resides. For three years in a row, it has played host to Christmas Wonderland, a Yuletide fair of epic proportions which features lofty sculptures of light, European-inspired festive markets and good ol’ carnival games. Tickets are already on sale and selling fast, so you know what to do!
If you’ve ever felt weird for putting holiday music on blast earlier than anyone else, wipe that thought away right now, because there’s an entire nation that begins celebrating Christmas as early as September! We’re talking about the Philippines, a country where 90% of the population is Christian. Here is where you’ll find towns alight with a traditional lantern called ‘Parol’, which can be anything from a paper-made 5 point star to an elaborate LED work of art. It’s one of the more distinctive decorations that make Christmas in this Southeast Asian country unlike any other, besides the wholehearted embrace of the festival by the locals.
Philippines’ diverse geography also means you have the option of celebrating the holiday by the beach. The famed archipelago of Palawan has sandy white beaches and delicious local cuisine in equal measure, and your camera is sure to go trigger-happy at the sight of all the light displays come nightfall.
Seoul is yet another destination perfect for getting into the Yuletide mood, thanks to a world-class performance of The Nutcracker by the Universal Ballet that is held every December, and Lotte World’s Christmas Festival. Lotte World is a recreation complex that houses the world’s largest indoor theme park, making it a permanent fixture on many a tourist’s South Korea bucket list. Its Christmas Festival comprises a Christmas Parade that features Santa Claus and his merry crew, and a colourful itinerary of live shows. Visitors also anticipate the park’s 20m tall Christmas tree, Christmas tram and a tour around the park guided by Lotty, the park’s friendly mascot.
The year-end cheer isn’t limited to the city, as right outside of it is where you will find Konjiam Resort, a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts. It has eleven double-width slopes and three ski lifts for the skiers and snowboarders, plus a spa to wind down at in the evening. That said, Konjiam Resort isn’t your only option, and you can have just as much fun at numerous other ski resorts scattered throughout Seoul, like Jisan Forest Resort, Daemyung Vivaldi Park and Phoenix Park.
Although most Shanghai citizens aren’t Christians, it doesn’t stop Christmas markets, buffets, and of course, lavish decorations from sprouting up everywhere. For your inner generous gift giver/shopaholic/reveller, Christmas markets sell everything from trees to festive liquor to street food. One of the most hotly anticipated ones is Christkindlmrkt, which is hosted by German brewery Paulaner’s branch on Fengyang Road. Additionally, there’s Jiashan Market, a bi-monthly farmer’s market that takes on the form of a Christmas market in November and December. If you fancy your Western seasonal pastries, Jiashan is an ideal choice.
Speaking of food, you’d be spoilt for choice when it comes to the buffets on offer during this season, as everywhere from fancy 5-star hotels to local restaurants serve up elaborate spreads of both Western and Chinese cuisine. Mr Harry, for example, serves a popular British-style dinner with eggnog and turkeys. After a good, hearty meal, you can descend onto one of the city’s busy bar streets to end the night on an even more jovial note, like Yongkang Road or Wuding Road.
Words by Rachel Fong