A vacation in an exotic destination is always full of memorable experiences. But one thing that can make such an excursion even more memorable is if it takes place during a local celebration. These times of revelry occur for different reasons in different parts of Asia throughout the year. Some celebrations are patriotic, some are religious, some are cultural or traditional, and some are just excuses for local people to have a good time and socialize with each other. All these special events are great opportunities to get a taste of local culture and add to your collection of travel memories.
Here are the best festivals to plan your vacation around in Asia.
Chinese New Year in China and Southeast Asia
Chinese New Year takes place in China, and in places across East Asia that have a large Chinese population: Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The party lasts for days. New Year celebrations are held in late January or early February, depending on the lunar calendar. For many local people, the festival is about seeing relatives and enjoying feasts and fireworks. For tourists, things like dragon dances, parades, and fireworks are the most memorable aspect of the holiday. Celebrations take place in large cities and destinations around China. However, many people actually return to their hometowns during Chinese New Year, so big city celebrations sometimes lack the crowds that characterize the celebration on Western New Year.
Tet in Vietnam
Tet is Vietnam’s version of Lunar New Year. It is also held in late January or early February. Similar events take place, with many people returning to their hometowns during the ten days of festivities. Tourists can experience Tet at the many temporary markets that are set up around the country. These markets sell incense and paper offerings that are burnt to locals’ ancestors. Various flowers, trees and delicacies are also for sale. These markets are a great way for tourists to see what Tet is all about.
Songkran in Thailand
Songkran is a New Year celebration in April in Thailand. Similar celebrations are held in Laos and Cambodia. Like other major holidays in East Asia, many local people head to their home towns over the festival. However, big cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai still have plenty of people remaining. Songkran is celebrated in a unique way. A giant water fight takes place on the streets of Thailand’s cities and towns. No one is immune from a splashing, including camera-toting tourists (so beware). If you do stay in a large city, you can enhance your Songkran celebrations by enjoying some cultural performances, shopping and nightlife.
Mid-Autumn Fest (Moon Festival) in China
The Mid Autumn Festival is another Chinese festival that takes place in September or occasionally in early October. It is celebrated by Chinese people across East Asia and also marked in Vietnam. Also known as the Moon Festival, it was traditionally a time to celebrate the fall harvest. Most tourists equate this festival with lights. Traditional lamps are carried around, lit in public places or even floated on waterways. This makes for a very picturesque experience. Younger people eat a special cake called moon-cake, a sweet, dense cake usually made from mung beans. In major cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, huge, whimsical lighted displays are constructed.
Deepavali in India
Deepavali is another festival that is celebrated using lights. Deepavali, called Diwali in some parts of India, is a celebration held in the late fall and early winter time in India and in other countries with large Indian populations. Fireworks and large light displays are part of the fest, and many people put lights outside of their houses (usually in the form of lamps and large candles). In Singapore, Deepavali is a public holiday that is celebrated throughout the city-state, with even many non-Indian Singaporeans taking part.
Christmas in Tokyo
People probably don’t associate Christmas with the Far East. Outside of the Philippines, Christmas is not a major holiday. However, that doesn’t stop people in Tokyo from decorating. Streets, malls, and parks are covered with lights, creating one of the most spectacular collection of lighting displays in the world (which is ironic, because Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday in Japan). So people looking to experience some holiday atmosphere while int eh Far East can simply put a trip to Tokyo on their itinerary.