One of the best ways to get to know a country’s culture, cuisine and traditions is to join in the festivities. Southeast Asia is a diverse region made up of countries squeezed in between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say there is a lot to be discovered when one travels to this side of the world. Here are some of the best festivals in Southeast Asia you won’t want to miss out on:
Songkran Festival, Thailand
Forget about water balloon fights, if you are looking to learn more about Thai culture and have a splashing good time while at it then the Songkran Festival is a good place to start. Songkran means “the entry of the sun into any sign of one zodiac to another” in Sanskrit, it’s a celebration closely related to the Vernal Equinox. So whats with all the water splashing? Water pouring is a symbol of washing away the ‘bad.’ However, before you go around splashing water at everyone you see with your Super Soaker CPS 2000, be sure you’re doing it with holy water. The water used in this fun ceremonial activity must be filled with fragrant herbs and flowers and blessed by a priest.
Cherry Blossom (Hanami) Festival, Japan
One of the most scenic and popular festivals in Japan is the Cherry Blossom Festival also known as the Hanami Festival. During Spring the nation will be covered in a blanket of dainty pink blossom, a spectacular view for any traveler. It is best to be outdoors during cherry blossom season; feast on scrumptious street food courtesy of the many vendors lining up the main entrance of the festival’s venue or enjoy a picturesque picnic at the park under blooming cherry blossom trees.
Boryeong Mud Festival, Korea
The Boryeong Mud Festival in Korea is a two-week spiritual and physical cleansing event that originated from Daecheon Beach just outside of Seoul. The mud in that area is great for the skin and holds many medicinal values. Expect mudslides, mud wrestling matches, mud color body painting, mud boxing rings and even mud trampolines. So if you are looking to get down and dirty with some muddy fun the Boryeong Mud Festival is the place to be.
Loi Krathong Festival, Thailand
Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand is a scene straight out of the Tangled’s famous lantern scene. It is one of the most picturesque festivals in the country, during the festival people gather around lakes, river and canals during the evening to release beautiful lotus shaped rafts and lanterns to pay their respects to the goddess of water. Other Loi Krathong traditions include freeing turtles or eels in a river or pond.
Lantern Festival, Taiwan
The first full moon of the Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the 17-day Lantern Festival in Taiwan. Regarded as one of the most important festivals in Taiwan, the Lantern Festival attracts travelers from all over the world to witness and take part in the spectacular festivities. The festival is filled with vibrant colors, exuberant music, amazing fireworks displays, local dance performances, lantern making workshops and the main event, glittering displays of decorative lanterns. So be sure to have your camera ready because you will be snapping a lot of photos.
Holi Festival, India
Quite possible the most colorful day of the year, the Holi Festival is a bright and vibrant festival in India celebrating the arrival of Spring, a season of hope and joy. During the festival people take any opportunity to ‘color’ each other by throwing around abeer and gulal in the air. Holi celebrates ‘universal brotherhood’ and the “victory of truth over evil’. There are many religious myth attached to this joyous festival, one of them is the one about Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons and his son Prahlada.
Dragon Boat Race Festival, Laos
The Dragon Boat Race Festival occurs throughout Loas from September through October, it is the most significant boat racing festival held on the Mekong River. On race day the riverside villages comes alive with festivities, expect singing, drumming and a whole lot of cheering. The races start in the morning and finishes in the afternoon with normally six to ten boats participating, but the festivities do not stop there. The celebration carries on well into the night with music, dancing, delicious food and drink.