Christmas

Asia’s Best Christmas Destinations

With only a week left until Christmas, most holiday destinations would have been planned out by now. But for those still looking for a quick regional getaway, you might just be able to snag some last minute tickets. Question is, which is your destination?

Whether you’re travelling alone, or with friends, pick one of these exciting cities to celebrate the yuletide festivities.

Image credit: Kento Mori

1. Nagano, Japan

Located pretty much in the centre of Japan, Nagano Prefecture is a wonderful winter destination if you’re looking to escape the tropical heat of South East Asia. Think steaming onsens (hot springs), ski resorts, 7th century temples, and art museums. Famed for Jigokudani Monkey Park with hot spring relaxing Japanese macaques, these snow monkeys sure know how to chill while keeping warm. Take a page out of their book, and go have a soak yourself in one of the several human onsens in the area.

Adrenaline junkies will feel right at home at Nagano’s ski resorts such as Happo-One or Shiga Kogen. Rest assured of their world-class facilities as these ski resorts have played host to Nagano’s Winter Olypics and Paralympics in 1998. For more relaxing activities, take a walk around the beautiful Matsumoto Castle, also known as Crow Castle a few towns south of Nagano.

Other places of interest are Zenkoji Temple (standing from the 7th century), Mizuno Museum, Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum,and Nagano City Joyoma Zoo.

Image credit: Simon Zhu

No. 2 Hong Kong

With exceptional cuisine, and activities galore, Hong Kong will always be a favourite travel destination with all the city has to offer. And the Christmas season packs on an even more festive fervor in the air. Be dazzled with all the Christmas lights, displays and decorations up at Victoria Harbour City, before hopping on an evening Harbour Cruise that’s sure to take your breath away.

Dining options are endless, and it all depends on what tickles your fancy. From all kinds local Cantonese sit down dinners, to dim sum, to Indian cuisine, or even traditional Irish or English pubs, Hong Kong has it all and more. Check out this link for an international selection of Christmas dinners available around the city. Also, if you can leave a day just for shopping, take your pick of street markets, high-street, or luxury brands. And if you’re still a kid at heart, why not take a romp over at Hong Kong Disneyland for a truly magical Christmas.

Image credit: Jesse Vermeulen

No. 3 Langkawi, Malaysia

Ah, the famed island of Langkawi, always a welcomed respite from life’s bustles. If you’re looking for a sun-soaked Christmas holiday, look no further than the pristine beaches of Datai bay, Pantai Cenang and Tanjung Rhu. The serene padi fields, historical attractions, affordable booze, and great food make this holiday island a fan favourite among Malaysians, and the world alike.

With attractions such a the Langkawi Sky Bridge, cable-car rides, Underwater World Langkawi, Pulau Payar Marine Park, and KILIM Geoforest Park, you have quite a lot to choose from. And that’s just naming a few. Check out the full list here. There are even several historical sites of interest dedicated to the island’s centuries old fabled folk tales and legends. Places such as Mahsuri’s Mausoleum, Field of Burnt Rice, and the Island of the Pregnant Maiden.

When evening falls, enjoy sun-downers at beach cafes by the water, or your poolside bar of choice. Until it’s time to enjoy fantastic seafood dinners, that can be found in shacks all over the island.

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Image credit: Kelvin Zyteng

No. 4 Singapore

Singapore, already being a wonderland of food, entertainment, and super-convenient city living, is even more impressive come Christmas time. It’s like the whole country explodes out of a Christmas canon directly from the North Pole, minus the snow. It is literally difficult to NOT get into the Christmas spirit in Singapore, with their iconic light displays, Christmas markets, special events and tree lighting ceremonies. Here’s a list of all upcoming events. 

Not to mention the dining. Singapore being a food utopia, has everything anyone could ever want and need, and more. That’s just how they roll. Their hawker centers are the epitome of the local cuisine, with an infinity of choices. Chili crab, flame-grilled seafood, laksa (the curry based version), fried carrot cake (chai tow kway), Hainanese chicken rice, sambal stingray and Bak Kut Teh just to name a few! The list goes on for ages and that’s just the local options. Here’s a list of famous hawker centres, and international restaurants serving dedicated Christmas menus.

Image credit: Saveliy Bobov

No. 5 Seoul, Korea

Another favourite winter destination, is electric Seoul. From exhilarating shopping streets, to delicious street food and bbq, karaoke joints, and all the soju to keep you warm, this city will never fail to keep you entertained and well fed. If you’re a big K-drama fan, this list of local eateries around the city will have you exclaiming ‘daebak!’

Get into your Christmas spirit at Lotte World theme park, which celebrates the Christmas Miracle festival every year. There are shows and performances galore, including a Miracle Santa Village where you can take festive pics at the snowman zone. Winter wonderland indeed. Also don’t forget to go ice-skating at Seoul Plaza. With carols blaring, and the glow of Christmas lights all around, you won’t help but grin like an elf as you glide all over the ice. Here are some extra activities to keep you busy while in Seoul.

Image credit: Eibner Saliba

No. 6 Anywhere in the Philippines

You can’t pick a merrier place to celebrate the Christmas holidays than in the land of a thousand islands. The Philippines are basically the Asian equivalent of Santa’s workshop. Except it’s a whole country. They start prepping, shopping and decorating from as early as September!  Whether you’re in Manila, or on one of their multitude of gorgeous islands, there’s no doubt you’re in for an amazing time regardless of where you stay.

With Filipinos already being renowned for their cheerful and hospitable manner, the Yuletide season will have everyone even happier, excited, and joyful. And that’s the kind of holiday environment that’s bound to leave you with unforgettable memories and you celebrate along with them. So go on and sing along to the godfather of Christmas tunes himself, Jose Mari Chan, and check out all the other things you can enjoy here.

Image credit: Lisheng Chang

No. 7 Bangkok, Thailand

Remaining as a firm favourite Asian destination, Bangkok has been further capitalizing on the commercialism of Christmas in recent years, though the country is made up of mostly Buddhists. This is because of the large expat population that reside there, and the millions of international tourists who flock there all year round.

Now most major business and shopping districts in the city have enormous trees decked out, with a large variety Christmas specials in restaurants and malls. There will be no shortage of parties all over the city, be it in bars, pubs or open-air street markets. It’s also a well known fact that you can find any restaurant you want in Bangkok, if you’ve had your fill of delicious Thai food. Think Argentinian steakhouses, Kosher food, Mexican, Italian, Indian or Arabic–the choices are endless.

Pick up an assortment of presents and souvenirs for friends and family from Chatuchak’s weekend market, or Pratunam market before getting a well deserved foot massage anywhere. And don’t forget those Chang beer tank tops. For additional activities, check out this list.

Image credit: Horvath Mark

No. 8 Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a place where you tailor your own experience. Be it joining in on the fun of the thronging party crowds, or just lounging in a private villa with peace and quiet. This truly unique island retains its combined flavour of spirituality and excitement.

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If you love people watching, and being in the middle of swanky cocktail-sipping, sun-tanning crowds, Bali has the most upbeat and beautiful beach clubs and lounges where you can lay all day listening to EDM or deep house. Take your pic from this list of The Bali Bible. 

If you’re leaning away from the crowds, book a private tour to see the mesmerizing sights of the island, ending it with a candle lit dinner on the beach. Here’s a great list of private tour packages. No matter your preference, most hotels and residences have catered to the Yuletide festivities making sure guests have a great time. There is nothing like a Balinese experience even at Christmas.

 

 

 

 

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