Thanks to China the world has a reason to celebrate two New Year Eves a month apart. The best time to visit a destination is during its biggest festival and it doesn’t get any grand than the Chinese New Year. Traditionally a celebration to welcome the Spring and pray for a good harvest, the festival plays a significant role in family reunions over dinner. Irrespective of China’s progression in recent history, some traditions are cherished and followed by every family. If you are travelling to China to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, brace yourself for red lanterns, kites, flying dragons, parades, dances, firecrackers and some enchanting food. Embarking on a cultural trail from Shanghai to Sanya during the festive days could just be the perfect way to bring in the New Year again.
Divided by the Huang Pu river, Shanghai has two major boroughs – Puxi and Pudong. Pudong has the sleek, shiny, urbane persona while Puxi is her traditional yet captivating sister. Among the crowd of luxury hotels shines the black beauty Mandarin Oriental sitting unperturbed by the buzzing Bund. It has an unrivalled view of the river in the city and that is not its only credit. The Spa is an obvious pick since it’s the MO group but the restaurant, Yong Ti Ying specialises in Jiang Nan cuisine which literally translates to the south of Yangtze. It is authentic to Shanghai and its neighbouring regions Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The venue offers private dining space for the reunion dinner with an a la carte menu. The view of Bund is the very reason I chose this hotel for the spectacle of pyrometry on the day of the festival as well as a grand parade. Then again Puxi being on the other side of the river, a visit to the Yu Yuan Old Bazaar for dim sums and stroll through Yu Yuan Garden is mandatory to steep in the culture of Shanghai.
The capital city of the Asian giant is rife with pomp and pageantry during the festive days. A visit to Beijing’s heritage sites like Temple of Heaven, The Great Wall and Forbidden City would no doubt be the most popular sites during the New Year but then the local markets of Hutong are as well as the Peking Opera at Grand Changan Theatre. Hutong is a lovely little market with a lake and promenade to enjoy a stroll with the locals or dine out at some of the iconic kitchens in the city. Reunion dinners being the most significant meal of family gatherings during this time of the year, Cai Yi Xuan at Four Seasons Hotel Beijing in Chaoyang district has a wonderful menu crafted for the reunion. They also have private dining space for an intimate party. The recently opened Rosewood Hotel Beijing has a distinctive restaurant exclusively for private dining. The House of Dynasties as its name celebrates the dynasties of ancient China by distinguising each private dining space’s decor, chinaware, art to its dynasty. A special menu has been created suitable for family gatherings on New Year’s Day.
Suzhou is an hour away from Shanghai and is a great spot for a day trip or an overnight stay by the lake. Take a traditional boat ride in Shantang waters or stroll around the lakeshore. Shangri La Suzhou stands tall on the banks of the lake and has a Huaiyang cuisine restaurant – Shang’s Palace. The restaurant also offers local and Cantonese menu. It’s eight private dining venues bring in the New Year celebrations with an intimate family reunion gathering.
West Lake in Hangzhou is a destination best known for its tranquil escape during the weekends among Shanghai locals. However it attracts many international luxury travellers to experience the calm solace away from the glitz and glamour of Shanghai / Beijing. It is known for its ancient silk museum which is the oldest in the country. West Lake beholds an unfathomable serenity within its shores and the boat ride arriving towards Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake is an experience sure to be etched forever on your mind. The resort sits on the banks of the lake and offers 11 private dining spaces exclusively at the Cantonese/Shanghaise restaurant – Jin Sha surounding a garden lagoon. The restaurant has been awarded as the Best 50 in China and has crafted a special Spring menu.
Probably the festivity in Hong Kong rivals only that of Beijjng and Singapore. When one thinks of a festive celebration in the bay city, a burst of colours and pyrometry flashes before the eyes. Known for its vibrant nightlife and revelry the city only ensures every moment experienced during the New Year is well worth the travel half way around the world. From Victoria Peak, cruises to Macao, luxury shopping and the famous cuisine of Canton Hong Kong is every travellers destination for all seasons. Undoubtedly, Tang’s Court at The Langham Hotel is celebrating the New Year with its Michelin starred menu and an exquisite dessert created for the occassion of reunion dinners.
The island of Sanya is one of the most popular Asian island holiday destination. The basking stretch of white sands on its coast and the glistening bay allows it to compete with the likes of Amalfi Coast in Italy. Anatara Sanya Resort and Spa with its panoramic view of the bay and coastal strip is designed to be the perfect family and wellness getaway in China. From its renowned spa to the kid’s itinerary it has everyone in the family engaged all through the holiday. The Chinese restaurant Shi Yuan has an eclectic menu that suits the international palate. Do request the concierge to share the local traditions to celebrate the New Year and Spring season. Sanya has its own cultural festivals that coincide with the New Year.
Concluding the New Year celebrations in Sanya would end the cultural trail on a high note. Wish you a happy Year of the Monkey !