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CULTURAL

Experience colourful celebrations and participate in cultural holidays during one of Asia's traditional festivals in 2018.

by Thea Gillingham

Throughout the year hundreds of spectacular festivals and cultural holiday celebrations take place across Asia.

From India's festival of colours, Holi, to the magical Siamese festival of Loy Krathong in Thailand, where lotus shaped baskets are decorated, lit and set to float, there's an abundance of cultural festivals in Asia.

If you’re planning a holiday to Asia in 2018 you may want to consider incorporating a key festival or event into your itinerary as the chance to experience the lively celebrations or participate in cultural activities could be the highlight of your trip.

Our Luxury Travel Consultants can plan your holiday around a specific festival, as everything we do is tailor made, so just let us know what you’re specifically interested in when you make your initial enquiry.

To inspire you, here are details of some of the main cultural holidays celebrated in Asia, including India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma & Laos and their dates in 2018.

India

Holi - 1 March 2018

Indian lady celebrating Holi festival

March is an exciting and colourful time to visit India with the spring festival of Holi taking place. One of the most popular Asian festivals, celebrations take place across India. However Holi is celebrated enthusiastically in Northern India (especially in Udaipur, Varanasi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Delhi) and in the south it tends to be a much more subdued affair.

Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the festival coincides with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It is a time to give thanks for a good harvest, plus it is a time to come together and end any conflicts you might have with others.

The festivities begin with bonfires where people gather to watch the burning of Holika effigies. Religious rituals and prayers are carried out in the hope that evil will be destroyed in the fire as Holika was. The next day people take to the streets to throw dry, coloured powder at each other.

The day of Holi is the Phalgun Poornima (full moon) by the Hindu calendar which generally arrives in March. This coincides with the period between late February and mid March in the Gregorian calendar. In 2018 Holi festival will begin on the evening of Thursday 01 March and end on the evening of Friday 02 March.

Diwali - 6 - 10 November 2018

Every October/November the streets of India erupt with colour and sound as Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated.

Diwali honours Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and during this festival people decorate their homes with lamps, known as diyas, and other decorations to welcome Lakshmi in.

The festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over dark. You’ll see celebratory fireworks all over the country (it is believed that the loud bangs and the bright lights chase away evil spirits).

Diwali is a time to be with family and friends, to celebrate the good things in life and to look forward to prosperity, and it is a magical time to be in India.

In 2018, Diwali celebrations will start on Tuesday 06 November and will continue until Saturday 10 November.

Durga Puja - 15 - 19 October 2018

The Durga Puja festival will take place in Kolkata from Monday 15 October until Friday 19 October. It's one of the most important festivals in the region and there are lively processions carrying idols of the Goddess Durga through the streets and down to the river.

Pushkar Camel Fair - 15 - 23 November 2018

The Pushkar Camel Fair, known as Pushkar ka Mela, is a cultural fete held in Pushkar, Rajasthan.

The festival sees around 50,000 camels, goats and other livestock brought here for trading and to participate in races. It's accompanied by music and dance performances, cricket matches, and a longest moustache competition, fittingly called the Mr. Desert Competition.

There are also hundreds of authentic stalls selling jewellery, textiles and other items from the surrounding areas. Visiting the Pushkar Camel Fair is a once-in-a-life travel experience.

The 2018 Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan will begin on Thursday 15 November and it will end on Friday 23 November.

Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Chaul Chnam - 14 - 16 April 2018

Chaul Chnam (Cambodian New Year) will be celebrated from Saturday 14 to Monday 16 April 2018. This is the most important festival in Cambodia and it is a really fun time to be in the country.

Locals take to the streets to celebrate the end of the dry season and the start of the rains, and you should expect to get wet while you’re out and about as everyone has a water gun or bucket of water and no-one can escape getting soaked.

Thailand

Songkran

Thais celebrating Songkran festival

Songkran is celebrated from 13 to 15 April each year and it is one of the most prominent festivals in Thailand.

As part of the celebrations people take to the streets and throw buckets of water on each other which symbolises washing away the old year and refreshing everything for the New Year.

It essentially turns into a huge, friendly water fight and street party and it is a really fun time to be in Thailand. Even though the rainy season hasn’t started you should expect to get very wet when you’re out and about as everyone has a water gun or bucket of water and no-one can escape getting soaked.

Loy Krathong - 23 November 2018

Floating lit lanterns

Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s most magical festivals and it takes place on the night of the twelfth lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full-moon lights up the sky. In 2018 Loy Krathong will take place on Friday 23 November.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand during this special time you can expect to see thousands of krathongs with flickering candles floating on the rivers and canals, strings of colourful lights hanging from houses and temples, fire lanterns floating in the sky and dramatic fireworks displays. You’ll also see boat races, lively parades, traditional music and dance performances, and other cultural activities.

In Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the centre of the celebrations with cultural performances, boat processions, krathong making workshops, firework displays and many other activities taking place. Seeing the Chao Phraya River illuminated with thousands of candle-lit krathongs is something very magical indeed.

If you’re visiting Thailand’s beaches and islands you’ll find that many hotels and resorts lay on special celebratory meals and activities for their guests culminating in crowds gathering on the beach to float krathongs onto the sea.

Yi Peng - 

Originally an event in its own right marking the end of the rainy season, Yi Peng now takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong. This festival is only celebrated in the north of Thailand and the cultural capital of Chiang Mai has become synonymous with Yi Peng and the festivities in Chiang Mai take place over three days with religious events, cultural performances, boat races, street parades and the release of fire lanterns.

Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are hugely important to the Thai people, and many tourists specifically plan their holiday to Thailand around these magical festivals.

Vietnam

Tet - 16 February 2018

Celebration of Tet in Vietnam

Tet (Vietnamese New Year) usually falls between late January and mid-February and celebrations last up to six days. In 2018 Tet will be observed on Friday 16 February.

It is an occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Year with their beloved family members.

As part of the celebrations you can expect to see parades in towns and cities through Vietnam and people in the streets trying to make as much noise as possible using firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs, to ward off evil spirits.

It is a great time to be in Vietnam, but please bear in mind that most government offices, many shops and markets and some tourist sites are closed during the Tet period.

Laos

Buddhist statues in Laos

Bun Pi Mai - 14 May 2018

Bun Pi Mai (Laos New Year) usually falls around mid April and the celebrations last for several days. In 2018 the celebrations will start on Saturday 14 April.

This is a really fun time to be in Laos as people take to the streets to celebrate, similar to Thailand's Songkran, you should expect to get wet when you’re out and about as everyone has a water gun or bucket of water and no-one can escape getting soaked.

Please bear in mind that many markets and some tourist sites will be closed for the holiday.

 

Boun Bang Fai - 4 - 8 May 2018

Boun Bang Fai, The Rocket Festival, takes place in either May or June (the 6th month of the Lunar calendar) before the rainy season.

This event takes place on the outskirts of Vientiane and the surrounding villages. During this festival rockets are fired into the air to encourage the rains. The most impressive activity of The Rocket Festival is launching handmade firework rockets which are made by stuffing gunpowder inside a decorated bamboo.

On the first day of the festivities the bamboo rockets are carried to the launch-pad and villagers participating in the contest are divided into teams depending on the size and shape of their rockets. Scores are given based on the following criteria: highest flyer, most beautiful decoration, and most entertaining performance. Before launching the rocket, men in women’s clothes and elaborate masks dance and sing around their rockets to call for rain which is necessary for agriculture. Rockets are then launched into the sky whilst huge crowds cheer on the teams.

 

Boun Khao Phansa - 28 July - October 2018

In 2018 Boun Khao Phansa will start on Saturday 28 July (full moon) and will last until October. Early in the morning of the first day of Boun Khao Phansa local people gather food - rice, bananas and necessities such as soap and toothpaste, and then they take the donations to the temples where they listen to Buddhist teachings and receive blessings. In the evening monks and their novices carry flowers and candles around the central temple three times. It can be a very calming and peaceful experience to join the Lao people in temples on the first day of Boun Khao Phansa.

Boun Ok Phansa - October 2018 ( end of Buddhist Lent)

Boun Ok Phansa falls in October and marks the end of the Buddhist Lent. Lots of interesting celebrations and activities take place around the country at this time.

That Luang - 23 November 2018

That Luang Festival will take place during the full moon in November (Friday 23 November 2018) and will last from three to seven days with various processions, celebrations and firework displays. This is one of the most significant festivals of the year in Laos and it is held at the religious monument of Pha That Luang or the Golden Stupa in Vientiane.

Myanmar

Burmese monk lighting candles in Myanmar

Myanmar is often referred to as the Land of Festivals, due to the numerous celebrations that take place throughout the year. If you’re planning a trip to this enchanting country you may want to consider incorporating a festival into your itinerary.

Ananda Temple Festival - 25 December 2017 

Ananda Temple Festival will take place in Bagan from 25 December 2017 to 15 January 2018.

This festival is in honour of the limitless wisdom of Buddha and sees visitors come from far and wide to pay their respects. There is a carnival atmosphere at the Ananda Temples, with traditional dance performances and numerous food stalls.

Alms bowls are filled with everything from crops to money and offered to the resident monks, the trademark of any Buddhist festival in Asia.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival - 16 March 2018

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival will take place on Friday 16 March 2018 (around the full-moon day of Tabaung).

This is a very exciting time to be in Yangon. On the days of the festival, the stairways and platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda are filled by endless streams of devotees from dawn till midnight and red robed monks lead the attendees in Buddhist rituals.

Thingyan Water Festival - 13 - 16 April 2018

Thingyan Water Festival (Burmese New Year) usually falls around mid April and the celebrations last for several days. In 2018 the dates will be from Friday 13 to Monday 16 April.

This is a really fun time to be in Myanmar as people take to the streets to celebrate. In Asia, mainly Southeast Asia, water festivals are par for the course.

Thingyan is also celebrated in Theravada Buddhist countries, where its known as Songkran in Thailand.

Usually lasting 3 days, locals and tourists alike join in the wet fun of splashing water at each other and sometimes water pipes are used.

Full Moon of Waso - July 2018

Full Moon of Waso falls in July marking the start of Buddhist Lent, and for Buddhist clergy across Myanmar it is the beginning of their three month retreat into monastic life.

On the morning of the first day of Full Moon of Waso people gather robes, food and other essentials and they offer the donations to the Sangha.

It can be a very serene experience to join the local people in temples on the first day of Waso and it’s definitely a contrasting experience from the mayhem of Thingyan.

Taungbyone Nat - August 2018

Taungbyone Nat Festival takes place in a village 20km north of Mandalay during the first week of August.

This is one of the most impressive nat festivals in the country and a Myanmar family event, despite being very crowded and boisterous with drinking, dancing and revelry throughout the day and night.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival - 10 - 27 October 2018

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival falls in either September or October and the celebrations continue for more than 20 days. In 2018 the celebrations will start with an opening ceremony on Wednesday 10 October, and they will end on Saturday 27 October.

This festival is a fantastic opportunity to embrace the vibrant life, festive spirit and culture of Myanmar, and if you’re in the country at this time of year make sure you visit Inle Lake and join the celebrations.

Enquire with out Asia Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to begin planning your festivities in Asia.

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