Part of the charm of Asia is the many cultures and along with those, the many, many festivals, which can add a very deep and rich dynamic element to your trip, whether you happen to stumble upon one, or make taking part in a festival a planned, key part of your trip. Today we’re going to share a few of the region’s key festivals, some of which we’ve been to and some of which we hope to one day witness.
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos: Songkran: Songkran is the New Year’s holiday according to a Buddhist calendar. While there is some variation in the dates across the region, in Thailand, Songkran Day is on 13 April every year. Otherwise, the holiday occurs over three days: the day before Songkran representing the last day of the prior year and the day after representing the first day of the new. year. Trevor and Scott have both celebrated this Buddhist New Year celebration in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, though it’s celebrated in many other Buddhist nations across Asia in unique ways, including Sri Lanka. Trevor has enjoyed the Chiang Mai, Thailand festivities the most.
Thailand: Loy Krathong (roughly translated as “to float a basket”) is one of Thailand’s most magical festivals. It takes place on a full-moon night of the twelfth lunar month, which is typically in November, toward the end of the rainy season. While Scott seemed to believe it was Trevor’s favorite holiday, nothing could be further from the truth, as the holiday is something of a “Valentine’s Day” for Asians, and V-Day is Trevor’s least favorite holiday. That said, he did enjoy celebrating on Phuket with his father in 2022, when the two floated an illuminated lantern into the sky. Otherwise, the festival celebrates the tradition of making krathong: decorated baskets, which are typically floated on a river.
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Nepal: Kukur Tihar (dog day) – According to Wikipedia, “Kukur Tihar is an annual Hindu festival originating from Nepal which falls on the second day of the festival of Tihar (around October or November). On this day, people worship dogs to please Yama, the god of death, as they are considered to be his messengers. Dogs are decorated with tilaka and wear flower garlands around their necks. Worshippers offer them various foods including meat, milk, eggs, and dog food. It is considered a sin if someone acts disrespectfully to a dog on this day.”
Phuket: vegetarian festival The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a colorful annual event held on the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, usually in September or October. The festival celebrates the Chinese community’s belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants will help them obtain good health and peace of mind. The festival is famous for its ‘extreme’ celebrations. These include acts that invoke the gods, from firewalking to body piercing. Acts of self-mortification are undertaken by participants who act as mediums of the gods. These have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by.
Bali: Nyepi is the “Day of Silence” – a celebration that falls on the Balinese new year (which varies greatly from the western calendar). The holiday has been commemorated on the island for over 2000 years. From 6 am one day until 6 am the following day, Nyepi is a time for self-reflection, and anything that might interfere with that is restricted: no TV, no internet, no cooking, talking, etc. There are no flights in or out of the island and no one is allowed out of their homes except for security and the occasional ambulance.
ONES WE’D LIKE TO DO:
Japan: Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) – Sapporo the 4th to 11th February 2019 and 31st January to 11th February 2020 – Back in 1950, some local students built six snow statues in Sapporo and this act has “snowballed” over time to become an international contest of humungous snow sculptures, taking place over a week every February. Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main places where you can see the beautiful snow and ice sculptures on display. Subject matter often features famous people, landmarks and events which have happened in the past year.
India: Holi – According to Wikipedia: “Holi is an ancient Hindu tradition and also one of the most popular festivals in Hinduism. The day also signifies the god Vishnu’s triumph of good over evil. Holi also celebrates the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love and for many, it is a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. It lasts for a night and a day, starting on the evening of a Full Moon Day around the middle of March.”
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THESE HOLIDAYS
Korea: The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual celebration that takes place during the summer in the town of Boryeong, which lies 200 km south of Seoul. In 1997 a range of cosmetics was made from mud because of its rich mineral content. In order to promote these cosmetics, the Boryeong Mud Festival was created.
Laos: Boun Bang Fai (Buddhist) – The Boun Bang Fai, Rocket Festival, takes place in either May or June (on the 6th month of the Lunar calendar) just before the rainy season. Among other places, it’s celebrated on the outskirts of Vientiane and in the surrounding villages. During this festival, home-made rockets are fired into the air to encourage rain to fall.
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THESE HOLIDAYS
China: Dragon Boat Festival
In China, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar calendar, usually falling in late May or June. The tradition is said to have originated in ancient China and commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar, Qu Yuan. On this day, people eat rice dumplings, drink realgar wine (which is believed to ward off evil spirits) and, of course, race dragon boats.
Celebrations Scott would like to go to in Thailand: Pi ta khon – Scott has been to Dan Sai but not during the festival. Rocket Festival – Scott will make this one (Bang Fai) – May-July
Trevor: Naga fireballs and buffalo races.
- Tantalizing Travel Tales I
- Tantalizing Travel Tales II
- Tantalizing Travel Tales III
- Tantalizing Travel Tales IV