Ditch the tree lights, stockings and reindeers, we’re bringing in the firefly shows, food tours and pandas because it’s Christmas holiday season – Asian style. From lantern festivals and Lama temples to sampan rides and roller coasters – plus a sleigh load of great hotels to call home at the end of the day.
Light up you life at the Giant Lantern festival in San Fernando, Philippines, on 19 December. Be enchanted by the six metre high ‘parols’ (representing the star of Bethlehem), the kaleidoscopic blinking lights, marching bands and an awards ceremony for the best or most congenial parol. Something big anyway. Keep the festival mood snowballing through to a crescendo on New Year’s Eve at the Angeles Beach Club Hotel in Angeles City, where you can play footsies in the party size Jacuzzis and cocktail guinea pig at the rooftop SkyBar before shakin’ dat thang on the special Marilyn Monroe dance stage.
In Kuala Selangor, Malaysia you can take a magical sampan tour through the thick mangroves after dark to see the rare phenomenon of thousands of fireflies buzzing about, resembling a forest of lit Christmas trees. Back in Kuala Lumpur, put your feet up at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel. But not for long. The adjoining Time Square Complex is packed full of thrilling rides such as the 800-meter long roller coaster in Asia’s largest indoor theme park.
Exotic presents can be found beyond the Christmas stocking with a Peranakan Trail Food Tasting tour in Singapore, where you get to walk through a spice garden, see beautiful 1920s shophouses and learn more about the Peranakan people. Walk into another village at the Orchard Hotel, which has a Santa House from 16 November to 25 December 2009, made from wooden logs adorned with gingerbread men — just one part of the hotel’s Christmas themes.
If midnight mass isn’t your thing, then check out another religion at the Lama temple in Beijing. Built in 1694, this is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world, full of art, sculptures and a tranquil garden. After this, see the Giant Panda at the Beijing zoo, then a museum of Chinese architecture through the ages. After all this zen-ness it’s time for some wild fun such as playing table tennis or basketball at the Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong — or maybe some Mahjong to get the heartbeat really going.