Though while it’s already Year of the Monkey for a full day in the Eastern part of the world, it’s just midday on our first day of Lunar New Year here in the Western Hemisphere. Celebrations are in cities, towns, and villages all over the world and with good reason. Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year) is a great time.
A number of years ago I spent Lunar New Year in Beijing. I was living and working in Japan at the time and thought what better chance would I get to really experience the holiday in China? So two fellow English teachers and myself hopped over to the ancient capital for a few days. Let’s just say… what happens in China, stays in China.
It was wild.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Beijing, I cannot recommend Chinese Box Hostel enough. It was a beautiful and fantastic place in the middle of the historical Hutong district. Also the owner was amazing and not only had a dumpling making session for us all, but when it was time for celebrations, cracked up cases upon cases of beer and bought all of us fireworks. Plus they have cats.
Giving a bunch of drunken Westerners fireworks to set off in historical alleyways isn’t the smartest idea, but hell if it isn’t memorable. Ah the screams as we ran off once we realized the fireworks were exploded too close and burning through our clothes. All the while screaming butchered Chinese (our hostel host tried, in vain, to teach us how to say Happy New Year). Ah, memories.
But seriously, it was a crazy, but wonderful time. Truth is, the city was deathly quiet most of the time. Everyone goes home for celebrations, so Beijing is kind of a ghost town. Everything is closed. However, it can still be a very enjoyable experience if you’re with friends in a kickass hostel. Everything is adorned with lanterns and ribbons. The community is there and it’s a time I’d encourage you to try.
Maybe just don’t set off fireworks in narrow alleyways though.
We did manage to do all the touristy things before Lunar New Year kicked off. The Great Wall was particularly amazing, especially since we skipped the very touristy Badaling section and went to Mutianyu. It’s more north and in the mountains. The views are simply staggering and it was virtually abandoned. We had run of the wall as it were, which was a great experience in itself. Do yourself a favor and head to Mutianyu.
While this was a number of years ago, I went in 2010, I have heard from friends who have more recently visited that my tip still holds true. There are some things in this world that are hyped for a reason, and The Great Wall of China is one of those.
Quite awesome, but not as awe inspiring at The Wall, is the Forbidden Palace. A maze of ornate buildings, walkways, and history, the palace of Imperial China is on every tourist’s must see list. And it is worth a visit for the sheer scale of it all.
My trip to China was a whirlwind long weekend, but it made me curious to see more of the country. I haven’t yet, but perhaps the Year of the Monkey will see me returning there. Shanghai just released news that there is no visa required for a week’s stay in the city, and Beijing still has a 72-hour transit free visa. So if you’re in that part of the world, as I will be once I move to South Korea this summer, it’s worth the trip.
So what can we expect from the Year of the Monkey? My friend and amazing designer (and model!) Alston Stephanus posted this stunning photograph yesterday in celebration of the new year and I just had to share it.
An Indonesian designer, he created the headpiece he’s wearing. Isn’t this just marvelous?? You can find out more about Alston and his Accessories company online at alstonstephanus.com, also on facebook, twitter, and instagram. When I saw this last night I immediately started to read about what the Year of the Monkey means and what those of you who were actually born in these years can expect.
So if you were born in the Year of the Monkey, this is your year! You’re a Monkey if you were born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, and of course anyone born this year (2016).
Those born in the Year of the Monkey are described as being intelligent and clever, especially in terms of their career and wealth. They are also lively, flexible, and quick-witted. They’re also known for their hot tempers! In terms of love, they’re known for their gentle nature and honesty and match best with those born in the Year of the Ox and the Year of the Rabbit (which is what I am so, hey there 😉 ). Famous Year of the Monkey folk include Leonardo DiCaprio, Charles Dickens, Julius Caesar, Daniel Craig, Elizabeth Taylor, and Empress Wu Zetian of China’s Tang Dynasty.
Apparently great economic growth is to be expected as well as a the invention of many new things. I’m down with that. If you’re into horoscopes and such, you can read all about what the predictions for this year are here.
Whatever this year may bring you, may it be a grand one! 猴年吉祥!