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6 last-minute travel destinations for Chinese New Year 2024

By Celia Lee 30 January 2024

Header image courtesy of ce amtic (via Unsplash)

For those not keeping an eye on the calendar, Chinese New Year is only a week away! Although Hong Kong presents its most charming side during the holiday season and families typically gather to celebrate the occasion together, spending the first few days of the Year of the Dragon elsewhere can also make for a joyous time. It is never too late to plan a trip away with friends, family, and loved ones—here are some last-minute travel destinations to consider for Lunar New Year 2024!

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Jiufen, Taiwan

Located in a mountainous region of the Ruifang district in Taiwan’s New Taipei City is Jiufen, a popular tourist destination for locals and overseas visitors alike. Jiufen is a beautiful, laddered city, built into the side of a mountain. Its atmosphere recalls Mediterranean coastal towns, while its traditional architecture has also led many to believe that the city was the inspiration behind Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. Although this theory has been refuted, many visitors still remark upon the likeness between Jiufen’s narrow, winding streets and vibrant red lanterns, and the scenes pictured in the film.

Jiufen Old Street is the main attraction in the area and is a great way to get from the foot to the top of the mountain. Food and souvenir stores are dotted along the street as you make your way around town. The Goldore Museum is another must-visit attraction: Founded by an old miner, the museum details the mining history that brought Jiufen into existence. A series of interactive exhibits are on display, while the museum also suggests various routes for hikers to explore the surrounding area.

Photo: Tuguldur Baatar (via Unsplash)

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

If Hong Kong’s winter temperatures are not cold enough for you, you could head up north and visit Ulaanbaatar. As the capital of Mongolia, the city has a long history that stretches back over more than three hundred years. Once a stopover location along the Kyakhta trading route between China and Russia, Ulaanbaatar has been heavily influenced by both cultures and is now characterised by a unique combination of Russian, Chinese, and Tibetan heritage.

Officially founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre, there are plenty of cultural and religious landmarks to explore in the city. Among these, the Gandan Khiid Monastery is the largest of its kind in Mongolia, holding ceremonies every day. The Bogd Khaan Palace Museum is another popular destination. Built between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the winter palace was the home of Mongolia’s last king and eighth “living Buddha,” Jebtzun Damba Khutagt. The beautiful and impressive complex contains six temples, each adorned with Buddhist architectural sculptures and paintings. As for activities, attending a song and dance folklore concert is an aurally and visually engaging way of immersing yourself in traditional local culture.

Sanya, Hainan Island

Located in the south of China’s Hainan Island, Sanya is known for its tropical climate and has become a popular tourist destination alongside its northern counterpart on the island, Haikou. Originally known as Yazhou (崖州; ngaai4 zau1; “Cliff State”), Sanya historically served as a place of exile for officials who fell out of favour with the emperor throughout dynastic China. It is also said a Buddhist monk accidentally stumbled upon the city on his missionary journey to Japan during the Tang dynasty, explaining the existence of many visible Buddhist structures.

Benefitting from Hainan’s tropical climate, the coastal city of Sanya is loved for its stunning beaches, with Sanya Bay, Da Dong Hai Beach, and Ya Long Bay being the most popular. Not far from the city is China’s biggest tropical rainforest, the Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone. Located north of Sanya, visitors can walk through the preserved ecosystems within the forest, experience the cultures of the indigenous Li and Miao people, and participate in exhilarating activities such as rope slides and zip lines. The Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone is also worth a visit, with Buddhist temples and statues, serene gardens, and other scenic natural phenomena for you to explore.

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Photo: Steve Douglas (via Unsplash)

Penang, Malaysia

Divided into Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula and Penang Island just off the mainland coast, these two portions of the Penang state are connected by two bridges, so you can explore the whole area with ease. Located to the west of Penang Island is Penang National Park. Although it is one of the smallest national parks in the country, its beach-fringed forests remain home to some of the most magnificent flora and fauna in Southeast Asia. Visitors can go on serene jungle walks and boat trips to a golden-sand beach, and the park is accessible by bus from central George Town. For a bit of local culture, visit the floating clan jetties. Located off the coast of George Town, this picturesque strip of houses was once home to Chinese Hokkien immigrants in the late nineteenth century and remains a reminder of Penang’s multicultural history today.

For those who prefer high-energy activities, check out The Top theme park within the Komtar tower. From a Jurassic research centre to a go-karting track and an aquarium, you will never be bored at the highest entertainment tower in Penang. The Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion in George Town is also another popular landmark. Now a historical boutique hotel, the mansion was once the home of famous Chinese industrialist and philanthropist Cheong Fatt Tze and his family.

Photo: Danny Ryanto (via Unsplash)

Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Its name is derived from the indigenous Ainu people’s Satporopet (サッ・ポロ・ペッ; “Dry, Big River”), a moniker which refers to the Toyohira river that flows through the city and supplies water to the city. Home to several Ainu settlements, there is a variety of cultural attractions to explore in Sapporo.

The Historical Village of Hokkaido museum offers a taste of life as it was in Sapporo from the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa era (mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth century). Comprised of relocated and restored buildings, the open-air complex offers information and experiences that detail different occupations and lifestyles of the past. For a tranquil escape, visit the Hokkaido-jingu shrine, home to four enshrined deities and plenty of spiritual Meiji architecture.

One of the major festivals in Sapporo is the annual snow festival held in February, giving visitors the chance to admire impressive snow and ice sculptures at Odori Park and Susukino Plaza in central Sapporo. Afterwards, head to the Tsudome hall for a range of snow activities! For food- and drinks-related attractions, check out the chocolate entertainment centre Shiroi Koibito Park or take a stroll around the Sapporo Beer Museum, which is also a Hokkaido Heritage site.

Photo: Merah Lee (via Unsplash)


Entirely surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the country of Brunei is separated into two areas located to the north of Borneo Island. As an Islamic state, numerous mosques are scattered around the land, with the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque located in the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan. The Royal Regalia Museum is another cultural attraction in the capital which mainly exhibits the sultan’s and the royal family’s regalia.

Venturing further, visit Kampung Ayer, a traditional settlement comprising of houses, schools, and mosques on stilts along the Brunei river. The name of the area is a romanised spelling of the Malay term “kampung air” (water village). As a major historical and cultural landmark in Brunei, the area is a popular destination and has been nicknamed the “Venice of the East.” For a nature break, the Tasek Lama Recreational Park and Ulu Temburong National Park are great locations to explore.

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Celia Lee

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Celia is passionate about culture, food, and different happenings in the city. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her scouting for new and trendy restaurants, getting lost in a bookstore, or baking up a storm at home.