Jaw-Dropping Lights, Fireworks and More on a Holiday Getaway in Asia and AustraliaBy Dana Ter
It’s never too early to start planning a year-end vacation. From the peaks of Hong Kong to the depths of the Southern Ocean in Australia, take advantage of the mild weather across Asia Pacific as you mark the year’s end.
Whether it’s a sunset hike to watch the fireworks, a holiday feast in the park or just a lazy day at the beach, there’s magic to be found everywhere.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning any trips.
A stone’s throw from the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel on Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland comes to life with glittering red and green lights as Mickey and Minnie spread holiday cheer down Main Street.
But venture farther from the festive theme park and discover that Lantau possesses its own natural magic. Lantau Trail, a whopping 70-kilometer (43-mile) round-island hike, passes through fishing villages, beaches and waterfalls. Don’t worry — the trail consists of 12 sections, so it’s possible to turn back at any time.
Section one is a 45-minute walk from Mui Wo Ferry Pier to Nam Shan Campsite. Section two is more difficult, but the nearly three-hour ascent to the golden grass and wildflower covered Sunset Peak is worth it.
Conversely, go on a city hike to Victoria Peak and have a sunset picnic with bird’s-eye views of Victoria Harbour on the rooftop lawn of Peak Galleria’s Observation Deck. Linger here until the 8 p.m. Symphony of Lights show — dozens of buildings across the skyline come ablaze in colored lights, accompanied by sounds of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
For more than 60 years, the Myer Christmas Windows on Bourke Street have displayed miniature exhibits of the “Nutcracker” ballet, Gothic interpretations of “Alice in Wonderland” and recreations of iconic Aussie scenes such as poolside barbecues. Each year, window displays change at the iconic department store, but they are guaranteed to be filled with whimsy.
Of course, it’s not an Aussie Christmas without a beach outing, so pack a picnic and head to the shore. Italian restaurant Aromi on Brighton Beach offers gnocchi and risotto for takeout to enjoy picnic-style on the sands. Or pack a blanket and drive an hour to Mornington Peninsula, stopping in Sorrento for a takeout meal of oysters and seafood cannelloni at Loquat, and dine along the dramatic coastline.
A colorful display of snowflakes and mistletoe stretches across the main shopping belt of Orchard Road, signifying the start of the holiday season in Singapore. Besides Orchard Road, holiday cheer is found elsewhere in the Garden City, too. Singapore Botanic Gardens, for instance, is lit aglow at night, and Song Lang Garden in Katong sells live fir trees in its large outdoor nursery.
Hungry for traditional holiday treats? Eateries such as Cedele make wonderful yule log cakes for takeout, while Morganfield’s offers an entire feast of glazed ham and pork roast. Have a picnic on the sprawling greens of the Dairy Farm Nature Park flanked by cliffs. For an ocean view, bike to East Coast Park and find a spot on the white sand.
December in Hanoi is cool and crisp yet perpetually overcast, making for an atmospheric, almost fablelike, holiday experience. Watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks from the tree-fringed Hoan Kiem Lake, where the multiarched Thap Rua, or Turtle Tower, with its faded facade, rises out from an islet on the lake. For a quieter evening, watch the fireworks from the shores of Van Quan Lake.
Or set out on a day trip to the three peaks of Ba Vi National Park, an hour drive from downtown Hanoi, where mist shrouds the jungles this time of year. Follow the moss-covered footpaths (13 kilometers/8 miles in total) to several attractions, such as an old church overgrown with ferns and a few equally eerie temples.
Forget crowded Christmas markets and rooftop bars — secluded islands and long snorkel sessions make for a more relaxed year-end holiday. Go for a snorkel at Koh Bon, just a 15-minute boat ride from Phuket’s popular Rawai Beach. The tiny island teems with crabs and lizards, as well as marine life such as manta rays. Or cycle and kayak on Coconut Island, also a few minutes’ boat ride from Phuket.
It’s all about calm turquoise waters and vast stretches of white sand with views of Phang Nga Bay on Naka Yai Island, home to eco-friendly resort, The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket. Next to it is the smaller Naka Noi Island, known for its pearl farm that cultivates South Sea pearls, which make for precious holiday presents.