The Chinese New Year (CNY) is fast approaching again. With the holiday in Singapore falling on February 19 and 20 (Thursday and Friday), the extra-long weekend makes for some exciting last-minute getaway possibilities. Whether traveling alone or with friends and family, we have uncovered five easily accessible holiday destinations that won’t break the bank.
When it comes to spending, it’s no secret that Hong Kong is a duty-free haven for shopaholics. With over 60 shopping streets, malls and department stores spread across the city, Hong Kong is immensely popular for its latest fashions and branded electronics. If you’re after a little more culture, take a trip to the night markets for bargain buys and souvenirs or join in on one of the many CNY festivities like the New Year’s Day parade, fireworks over Victoria Harbour and horse races!
If you’re stuck on how to get involved and are after wallet-friendly festive options, on 19 Feb, make your way to the Tsim Sha Tsui area near Victoria Harbour where you’ll see dozens of floats and performances proceed down the streets. On 20 Feb, get down to Victoria Harbour early to score a good place to view the giant fireworks display and choreographed pyrotechnics. End the festivities on 21 Feb and join the crowds at Sha Tin Racecourse for the city’s most popular horse racing event, which also boasts a full program of traditional and colourful festivities. Want to veer away from the CNY crowds? Other key hot spots include: Ladies’ Market, Citygate Outlets, Sham Shui Po, Causeway Bay and Landmark. If you still haven’t had enough action and are craving another adventure, take the ferry to near-by Macau – ‘The Vegas of the East’.
For those after some family fun, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Tokyo. The very trendy, quirky and culture-rich capital is a crowd pleasing destination for young and old alike. Think world-class theme parks, aquariums, edutainment centres and museums, not to mention the eccentric fashions, cafes and cutting edge technology at every turn.
If you’re with family with young kids, the must-sees are Disneyland, DisneySea and Universal Studios. For sights that are a little less mainstream, check out Sanrio Puroland – a haven for Hello Kitty fans, and Legoland Discovery Center for Lego collectors. Culture-vultures on a budget can delight in the sights and sounds of Japan’s quirkier side. On Sundays, a visit to Yoyogi Park is a must for a glimpse of youth dressed head-to-toe in cosplay outfits and outlandish make-up. Not to mention, it’s free! What’s not to love?!
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, visit the unusual cat-loving Cat Café or cosplay eatery, Maid Café. For a more authentic experience, order a bowl of Ramen at a Menya Musashi vending machine before entering the café. After you take a seat at the counter, the chef will present your order – ingenious!
Also known as the ‘City of Angels’, Bangkok is a modern metropolis amazingly rich in heritage, making it an ideal and typically more affordable destination choice for those wanting an authentic, culture-rich getaway. There is no shortage of ancient landmarks, royal palaces and museums, especially the temples, embodying Thailand’s long history, monarchy and religious background. The best way to immerse yourself in the iconic Thai culture is to book in to see a traditional performance, like the Lakhon Nai drama about Thailand’s royal court.
Other sights worth a looksee include the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and National Museum; whereas those after a bargain can make a beeline for the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and one of the world’s largest weekend markets, Chatuchak Market, which covers 27 acres! If you’re in Bangkok but still craving a CNY fix, you’re in luck. Yaowarak, Bangkok’s Chinatown is the epicentre of the city’s CNY celebrations, complete with colourful parades, firecrackers, food and performers. Another well-known countdown take place in Bangkok’s CentralWorld Square.
If all you desire is an idyllic vacation at a resort or beach club, then Phuket is where you want to be for a relaxing retreat. As the largest island in Thailand, there are a staggering 35 beaches along the coastline and 14 islets surrounding the well-known and easily accessible Phuket, which has a flight time of under two hours from Singapore. What’s more, the weather during February is perfect for those after cloudless skies and maximum sunbathing time. Rejuvenate your body and soul by taking timeout for a massage. At as little as S$12, you can relish in one every day, without breaking the bank!
For the sun-seekers wanting to experience the Phuket waters in all their glory, the top beaches to visit are Freedom Beach, Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi islands and Karon Viewpoint. As night falls, rinse the sand from your feet and take a stroll through the Phuket Town Night Market to collect some quirky, local knick-knacks. Alternatively, get your CNY fix at the ‘public park’ on Phuket Road where colourful shows, dragon dancing and traditional performances fill the space.
The golden beaches, river rapids and active volcanos of Bali provide a rustic backdrop for an unforgettable adrenalin-filled getaway. Thanks to its big waves, Bali has been a magnet for surfers all over the world, hosting various international surfing competitions over the years. This is beside a slew of other sea sports like parasailing and snorkelling. Moving inland, you can also give all-terrain vehicle rides, elephant trekking, rock climbing and mountain biking a go.
(Credit: Bali Tourism Board)
For the risk-takers and extreme sports junkies, white water rafting, scuba diving and bungee jumping are a must amidst the stunning jungle-cum-coastline landscape.
Other money-saving tips
To stretch your dollar even further (and avoid any disappointment), always book your flight and accommodation at least two weeks in advance. Separately, make savvier accommodation choices, like staying in boutique hotels versus their chain counterparts. Package deals are another great way to save on travel costs, while special rebates and discounts are available when you book with ZUJI using an American Express credit card.