Category: International

Chinese New Year with locals


Have you ever enjoyed Chinese New Year with locals? I was able to enjoy this amazing experience during my last trip to China. Today, I´ll  tell you all the things that I learned spending Chinese New Year with locals. About their culture, the way they live, and their food. 

The Chinese New Year, just like other culture’s New Year celebrations, are celebrated extravagantly to say ‘thank you’ to the year that passed and to bring in good luck for the coming New Year. Chinese people are particularly superstitious during this week-long celebration and still believe until now that following the rules will keep you prosperous for the coming year.

To reach South China, I traveled overland from North Vietnam. This was in the middle of my South East Asian trip.  I was supposed to meet a Couchsurfing host in Hunan and celebrate Chinese New Year with locals. This trip gave me a much deeper insight into the Chinese culture. And it felt to me like scratching beneath the usual-Chinese-surface we know.

Things I learned about celebrating Chinese New Year with locals

They are actually open to hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking in South China was surprisingly really good. Due to the Chinese New Year week, there wasn’t too much traffic, but luckily no long waiting times to get rides. From the border, I hitchhiked to Liuzhou, and to Yangshuo, until I reached Hunan. While hitchhiking, I experienced how hospitable Chinese people are. They were driving me around, showing me the city, and treating me for food. The only challenging part during the hitchhike in South China was communicating with the locals what exactly I was doing. I asked for rides near the toll roads and I was bringing with me a paper with a Chinese translation that I was hitchhiking.

They have very good food

Vegetarian Dishes prepared for the Chinese New Year’s eve Photography: Mandylovefly
Vegetarian Dishes prepared for the Chinese New Year’s eve Photography: Mandylovefly

Another interesting observation is how lunch time is “sacred” to them. I immediately learned that people eat their lunch at 12 noon, on time, every day. Whatever you are doing at around 11:30 am, you can assume that they are already thinking about lunch. I also had my first experience of trying stinky tofu in Hunan, where it is normally served. It looks weird, because of the very bad smell and the black color of the tofu. But it was really delicious and I tried it with a spicy sauce – a really good combo.

Chinese people have so much superstition surrounding the food they prepare for New Year.

When I was celebrating Chinese New Year with locals, I had the opportunity to eat some of the great food they prepared that was meant to bring good luck.

  1. Noodles– Okay this one’s not only a New Year celebratory food but really a breakfast staple. Good thing, I love noodles! Long noodles are believed to bring long life.
  2. The Tray of Togetherness– This one’s full of sweets, and I love just being able to share with the families I visit. Anyone visiting a family in the New Year, mostly relatives, can snack on The Tray of Togetherness. It’s usually composed of different bite-sized food and sweets, with a tray of 8 (lucky number) compartments. Coconut brings luck for togetherness, longans the possibility of having many sons, red melon seeds to give you happiness throughout the years, and preserved kumquat for prosperity.
Candy box for Chinese New Year
Candy box for Chinese New Year
  • Pomelo– I got one pomelo in every house. The fruit is supposed to bring continuous prosperity and status.
  • Whole Fish– Serving fish with its head and tail intact symbolizes having a great finish for your year and avoiding bad luck. Not sure how real the superstition is, but I pretty much had a great year after that year celebrated in South China, so I am happy I did it!
  • I also ate fried rice, dumplings, spring and egg rolls, and much more noodle dishes and tea with various families. The vibe around all the families was very happy, and I think in a traditional celebration such as the Chinese New Year, that’s one of the most important things.

    Chinese Prosperity Food with Salmon Photography: ProjectManhattan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    Chinese Prosperity Food with Salmon Photography: ProjectManhattan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    They love having tea. Thus, the tea ceremony.

    Chinese people love having tea. They also have the traditional tea ceremony.  Tea is used for its medicinal properties, its religious bearings, and for the peace and calms it brings to the one taking it. I personally enjoyed tea time because it was a time for the family to talk, and it was a special time of sharing and just “being” with them. I was practicing my Chinese with them, and we tried to have great conversations even with the little Chinese I know.

    The Chinese Tea Ceremony Photography: logatfer
    The Chinese Tea Ceremony Photography: logatfer

    They welcome the coming year with a bang.

    Celebrating Chinese New Year with locals,  people will instantly realize how superstitious they are – a huge part of their culture.  They have the Chinese Zodiac that influences a lot of their decision-making and attitude in the coming year. A lot still use it as a guidance for how they will live their everyday lives.  New Year is celebrated big in China. People even stop working for a few days or a week. They usually celebrate with family. Eating too much food, having tea and drinking alcohol. 2014 was the year of the horse. You can see various horse figurines and photos, different objects that are supposed to bring you luck in the coming year. I didn’t buy one, though. I guess that shows how not superstitious I am. ha! And of course, let’s not forget how “noisy” the Chinese New Year is – celebrated with fireworks, firecrackers, and people making noise everywhere. This is believed to scare the bad spirits away and welcome a good New Year.

    Chinese Drum Photography: garryknight
    Chinese Drum Photography: garryknight

    They follow certain “rules” of respect.

    I discovered various amazing things, celebrating the Chinese New Year with locals. Chinese people are very generous. Hosted by a family, they were always offering me food. When they do, you need to receive the food with two hands. This shows your respect and appreciation for the food offered to you.

    Every time a male visitor or relative comes to the house and sees me, they usually show their surprise and offer me a cigarette. Even if I don’t smoke, I usually receive the cigarettes given to me with two hands to show my respect. The women don’t usually show any reaction when they see a visitor. They are very shy, and will just look at you.

    Food is usually served on the table, ready for you to just get the food yourself. However, people usually serve the food for me.  They also eat with them holding their bowls close to their face, compared to eating with the food on the table. You will have to follow suit, to show your respect. During a wine toast, you need to position your glass lower than that of the other person you’re toasting glasses with. This is another sign of respect.  If they say, “Gambei” (meaning Cheers), you will need to finish your glass in one gulp. I did this, drinking a strong liquor (53% alcohol), and the taste was burning for a couple of minutes.


    They have other “curious” beliefs and rules.


    We’d love to know if you believe in Chinese Zodiac and their readings. Here’s a really interesting guide on Zodiac for this Red Monkey Year that you might want to read. For me, I always believe that you create your own luck and that the best things life has to offer should be met by preparation and hard work. So, we hope you read your zodiac with an “open mind”. The last thing you want is to feel bad about your future. If you’re on a journey of travel this year, this article can be interesting for you. It’s not solely about travel, but with “stars” on how much luck you have with love, prosperity, health and career this year. Let me know what you think!

    If you fancy reading an article, with a lot of amazing red monkey art and read more about what “may” happen this year based on more traditional beliefs, here’s one from the Korean Herald.

    Wishing Tree Photography: joybot
    Wishing Tree Photography: joybot

    If you feel you need help with the luck you’re about to get this year, try Wishing Trees and checking this online Feng Shui store. Again, we believe you make your own luck, so we’d rather you just have fun reading all these advice.

    There were many more things I saw and learned that you wouldn’t usually see with the other countries. During that year´s Chinese New Year with locals, I learned about their rules on birth and having children. At that time, if you already have one child and you are in the city, having a second child means you will have to pay high taxes.  In the countryside, you are allowed to have a “second try” for a child if your first baby is female. Supposedly, male children are important for farm life.

    In China, it was also too difficult to see the bright blue skies because of too much pollution.

    Chinese people also use chopsticks for everything. They only use a small spoon for drinking your soup, and for everything else, you need to use chopsticks: rice, noodles, chicken, and more.

    Parks are crowded in China. You can see people walking around parks and playing a sport, like yoga and badminton.

    Chinese people go crazy for Mahjong, a very common board game in China. This is similar to the Western game, Rummy.  It’s a game of strategy, skill and calculation. There are 4 players. The game is played with a set of 144 tiles of Chinese characters and symbols.   In turn, players draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand using the 14th drawn tile to form 4 groups. It was a tough game to play and although I was able to learn it, I was playing so slow while the others were very fast.

    South China was definitely one of the less-traveled places I visited, and I was happy I did it. I don’t know how I could have experienced a more authentic Chinese New Year with locals than this trip I had.

    How was your experience celebrating the New Year?  Are there any traditional beliefs that you agree more with or don’t like? We believe in respecting everyone’s culture so if you can respectfully say your comments about Chinese New Year traditions, we’d love to hear about them in the comments! We want to know what you believe in and what your opinions are.

    Happy Chinese New Year everybody!!!

    Source: The Gamin Traveler – Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

    Australia Day

    Australian Flag
    Australian Flag

    Every year, Australians celebrate January 26 with national pride by flying the Australian flag from businesses, homes and cars. They also attend festivals, community and sporting events or gather for family barbeques at homes, parks or the beach. Well, it is ‘Australia Day’, a public holiday for all Australians.

    On this day, the Australian government awards the Order of Australia to selected Australians for according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or meritorious service. The Prime Minister announces the winner of the ‘Australian of the Year’ Award for significant contribution to the Australian community and nation. It is an inspirational role model for the Australian community. Other awards include Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, and an award for Australia’s Local Hero.

    Australia Day in Sydney
    Australia Day in Sydney

    Festivities across the Nation

    SydneyThe day begins with Aboriginal and Australian flags being raised on Sydney Harbour Bridge. The event unfolds with the lightning of the honorary fire at the Sydney Opera House that is carried to the Tribal Warrior, an Aboriginal vessel.

    • Ferrython, one of Australia’s most popular and iconic free events where ferries go head-to-head racing from Circular Quay to Shark Island and back to Sydney Harbour Bridge. Spectators can view from Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Click here for more details.
    • Gun Salute – takes place at Bradfield Park under Sydney Harbour Bridge. Royal Australian Navy Flagship honours the military officers by the salute. Soon after, the National Anthem is sung. Royal Australian Air Force completes the grand ceremony with an aerial display.
    • National Anthem– Australians are proud of their National Anthem and stand proud whenever is sung at various events like Olympic Games, National events and school Assembly.

    Australian National Anthem

    Australians all let us rejoice,
    For we are young and free;
    We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
    Our home is girt by sea;
    Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
    Of beauty rich and rare;
    In history’s page, let every stage
    Advance Australia Fair.
    In joyful strains then let us sing,
    Advance Australia Fair.
    Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
    We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
    To make this Commonwealth of ours
    Renowned of all the lands;
    For those who’ve come across the seas
    We’ve boundless plains to share;
    With courage let us all combine
    To Advance Australia Fair.
    In joyful strains then let us sing,
    Advance Australia Fair.

    • Harbour Parade – Sydney’s most iconic vessels parading around the harbour in a dazzling display of national spirit. Follow this link for more details. The best-dressed vessels are awarded cash prizes.
    • Australian Day Regatta– is the oldest in the world for conducting annual sailing events and takes place in the afternoon for all classes of yachts. Follow this link for event details.
    • Tug and Yacht ballet, a spectacular display of nautical precision as a fleet of ten Eastsail yachts and two powerful Switzer tug boats tack in unison. They change direction and formation to a musical score. Click for event details.
    • Tall Ships Race– A parade of tall ships race their way down the harbour and back to Sydney Harbour Bridge. Click for more event details.
    • Festival Village– situated in Hyde Park plays host to music and circus performances.

    Melbourne– The Australian Day Parade is preceded by a flag-raising ceremony at Town Hall. The Governor addresses the nation. The colourful parade begins with crowds lining the streets, to cheer the participants and waving flags and banners.

    Australia day activities in 2014
    Australia day activities in 2014
    • Classic Car show– it is held at the Kings Domain Gardens where over 400 vintage cars are on display. There is entertainment, special guest appearances, delicious food with activities and giveaways.

    So, if you are on a trip to Australia then do not miss out Australia Day festivities.

    Image courtesy Australian day

    Australia day celebrations

    Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

    Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

    Have you ever been to Ice and Snow Sculpture Festivals? They are simply unbelievable even though they are right in front of your eyes. Just take a look at these photos of ice and snow sculptures: can you believe your eyes?


    What are ice sculptures?

    Sculptures are abstract or realistic in form and are made of ice. The sculptor uses razor/sharp chisels which are specially designed for cutting ice and tools like chain saws to complete a sculpture. The sculpting usually depends on the temperature of the environment. Some ice sculptors add dyes to produce coloured ice blocks.


    What are snow sculptures?

    Sculptures that are carved out of a single block of snow. The snow is collected from the ground after a snowfall and then packed into a form. The tools and materials differ widely, shovels, hatchets, saws.

    Both ice and snow sculpture’s life is determined by the temperature around them. It could last from mere minutes to months.


    About the Festival

    A whole new world of ice and snow can be experienced at Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. Ice artworks are exhibited at following venues:

    Ice and Snow World displays ice sculptures of huge scale such as palace buildings, the Great Wall of China etc. It is best visited when they are colorfully lit at night.

    Ice Lantern Garden Party– The Ice Lantern Garden Party in Harbin City is the earliest and biggest artistic exhibition of the ice lantern in the open air. Tourists can take part in various activities in Songhua River such as: sitting on the ice sailing boat, hitting the ice monkeys, skating on the ice and watching the competition of winter swimming. When night falls, you are expected to attend the evening party of Harbin Ice Festival.

    Sun Island Scenic Area– displays snow sculptures that can be only visited during  the daytime.

    Yabuli International Ski Resort  The resort provides great skiing with high mountains and good snow. Local skiers enjoy the high elevation and the fact that the snow is neither too hard nor too powdery. The period from November to late March of the next year is the best time to ski at Yabuli Ski Resort. Besides skiing, there are other entertainment facilities at the resort, such as the mini golf course, tennis court, turf courts, hot-air balloons, paragliders among others. The combination of activities, the beautiful forest and comfortable facilities offer tourists a relaxing and fun vacation. In winter, the ski resort is a fantastic place for skiers; in summer, tourists can escape the heat and enjoy fun outdoor activities. All year round the resort offers beautiful scenery.

    Zhaolin Park– Features intricately carved ice lanterns that are lit up in the night. More than 1,000 ice sculptures are displayed such as internally illuminated ice lanterns, magical figures, and animals that are loved by children. It is mostly an ice world focused on kids. There are interesting activities that kids may enjoy such as ice slides.

    The most popular of them is ‘Ice and Snow World’. It is worth its cost. People throng this beautiful and skilful place from around the world.

    The ideal time to visit this park would be 10 am or 11 am so as to enjoy it in the daytime. You could also visit it in the night as it closes at 9 pm. Sculptures made of snow are beautifully carved and look spectacular. Snow White, Disney characters, angry birds, Buddha are few of those sculptures that you get to see there.

    How to travel to Harbin?
    Harbin China map

    Heilongjiang Province is located in the northeast part of China and the capital city is Harbin. Being on the east of Songnen Plain, plays a vital role in communications between South and North Asia as well Europe and the Pacific Ocean. The City has rich cultural heritages and beautiful natural scenery. Due to severe low temperatures in winter, the city boasts of unique ice and snow culture.

    [bctt tweet=”Travel to #harbin for Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival”]

     If you wish to travel to Harbin, then there are regular flights, trains and buses from major cities of China. Tourists from 51 countries can enjoy 72 hours visa-free transit policy when transiting in Harbin Taiping International Airport. Book your travel in advance. You could take a taxi from Harbin train station to the Ice and Snow world.

    Weather in Harbin

    The weather is extremely cold. The city is considered the coldest city in Northern China and is ideal for Ice and Snow Festival. So, you need to carry warm jackets, thermals, mufflers and boots while traveling.

    Finally, here is a list of the most famous Ice and Snow Sculpture festivals around the world:

    • Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China
    • The Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan
    • The World Ice Art Championships, Alaska
    • The International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival “Ice, Snow, and Fire, Russia
    • The Quebec Winter Carnival, Canada

    */This post is inspired by my friend who visited China and shared the above photos for Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. /*


    References: Map courtesy –

    China 72 hours visa-free transit

    Harbin Hotels

    Dubai Shopping Festival

    If you are a shopaholic, then you would not want to miss this. You can purchase your desired products from electronics to cars, gold and pieces of jewellery, funky and traditional clothes, carpets and households, all these at competitive prices. There are special offers, enticing discounts for shoppers. Raffle draws give an opportunity to win exciting prizes like high-end luxury cars and heaps of gold daily. So, where is this happening? Well, it is at Dubai Shopping Festival.
    Dubai shopping festival
    (Image source)

    Dubai is located in UAE (United Arab Emirates). It is a dynamic international business centre and also for tourists who would like to escape to this destination. It has a seven-star hotel, a series of 200 man-made islands in the shape of the countries of the world and also has the world’s tallest building.

    Artificial Archipelagos, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    Artificial Archipelagos, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    Dubai Shopping Festival begins with the marvellous display of fireworks that light up the Dubai skies. With the onset of January, many international tourists throng this destination. It is a well-organised event with celebrities from across the globe grace the occasion. With street performers, musicians and other entertainers, Dubai comes alive. There are other activities for the whole family like music concerts, fashion shows, children’s events and much more.

    Image source
    Dubai Lamcy Plaza Mercato Shopping mall

    If you are looking for bargains, then Dubai has some of the best malls. Dubai Mall which is the largest has leading designers from around the world who have their stores here. There are over 1000 shops.  Mercato is a Renaissance-themed shopping mall where you could get classic European styles and lovely ambience. The shopping extravaganza lasts for the entire month. It is the perfect excuse to loosen your purse strings. You can enjoy tax-free shopping. There are weekly prizes organised by the malls and retailers.

    Dubai Gold Souk
    Dubai Gold Souk

    The souks of Dubai are the major hub of activity with Gold Souk being most renowned with brightly lit shops filled with shining gold jewellery from necklaces, bracelets and bangles.  The Spice Souk is a market place busy and bursting with aromatic spices.

    Spice Souks
    Spice Souks

    You can plan your trip in a way that enables you to roam around and have fun with adventurous activities like the balloon rides, desert safaris and watersports. You could also have a sightseeing tour of the most renowned destinations of Dubai like Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Desert Safari. While in Dubai you have the option to explore Dubai by car, bus, foot or metro. Emirates airlines have an offer on City Sightseeing. You get an open-top City Sightseeing bus tour. You could choose from 4 major routes. For further details check out this link

    So, if the above excites you then you may want to apply for UAE visas. The following links shall assist you

    Have a happy and safe journey and enjoy the shopping spree in Dubai.

    It is a shoppers’ paradise.

    */Image sources – /*

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