From charming to immersive, and even odd – festivals in Asia are a kaleidoscope of cultural celebrations. They have made the region truly a paradise to get up close with the locals and observe, as well as take part in their observances, ceremonies and rituals. Festivals are also the most fascinating time to visit a destination.
Asian Trails is giving clients the opportunity to experience some of the most unique and popular festivals in Asia, some of which date back hundreds of years, with programmes specially created around them.
Plan your travel dates around the events highlighted in this newsletter, and join local communities to participate in some of the oldest events in the region.
‘Enlightenment’ in Penang: 3 days of cultural and local delights
Deepavali or Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a major cultural festival in Malaysia that falls between October and early November. It is celebrated by Hindus throughout the country to mark the triumph of good over evil. Be “enlightened” with Asian Trails Malaysia’s 3-day programme that centres round the festival with exploration of the island’s sights and dining on its famous hawker food. Ride in the colourful trishaws (three-wheeled passenger carts) through Georgetown’s winding streets and the heritage zone. Visit Little India to join the devotees in the festival – a vibrant colourful scene with the rich Indian culture on display.
4 days in Bali for the Galungan ceremony
Galungan Day is very special to the Balinese Hindu people as it marks the triumph of Dharma (good spirit) over Adharma (evil). It takes place every six months (210 days) in the Balinese calendar. Highlights include decorating temples with ornaments, preparing Balinese food for offerings (Ngelawar) and creating Penjor, a decorative bamboo pole.
Asian Trails Indonesia invites guests to take part in this ceremony with its customised 4-day programme.
It includes a visit to the homes of locals to observe the ceremony and help with the preparations. The programme is available in 2020 from February 17–20 and September 14–17
3-day spectacular Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Myanmar’s Inle Lake is the biggest and one of the most famous events in Shan State. It is celebrated for 18 days during the Burmese month of October/November.
It starts with a procession when images of Buddha are removed from their shrine in the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, placed on the Royal Karaweik barge and towed by leg-rowers in long boats around the lake. Races by these Inle leg-rowers is also a highlight.
Be part of this traditional event with Asian Trails Myanmar. Its 3-day programme includes visits to pagodas and monk’s blessing.
3-day celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival in Hoi An
The mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is a time for family reunion to enjoy the full moon and eat mooncakes.
There is no lovelier place to follow the tradition of moon viewing than in the Vietnamese city of Hoi An. Asian Trails Vietnam has a 3-day programme to coincide with this festival.
Visit a lantern workshop to learn how to make one for the celebrations, as hundreds will light up the town. There is also time to explore the well preserved Hoi Ancient Town.
4 days in Chiang Mai: Lanterns, Lanna tradition, local immersion
The famous Chiang Mai Lantern Festival or Yi Peng Festival takes place annually, in November. It is linked with the ancient Lanna Kingdom (13th-18th centuries), an Indianised state in present-day Northern Thailand.
People release lanterns into the sky as part of the celebrations to symbolise letting go of ills and misfortunes in the previous year. The hundreds of floating colourful lanterns is truly a dazzling sight.
Join in the raising of the lanterns with Asian Trails Thailand’s 4-day programme. Guests also get to interact with the local community around the Old City gate, as well as sight-see around this charming city.
Lai Heua Fai: Laos’ Day-long Fiesta of the Fire Boat
Lai Heua Fai means “floating boats of light downstream”. This festival marks the end of the Buddhist Lent and the monks’ three-month fast and retreat. It is held throughout Laos.
Asian Trails Laos has a day-long tour in Vientiane for clients to be part of the celebrations. It comprises city sightseeing before going to a local house to make small round containers or “boats” using banana leaves, which are filled with flowers, incense sticks and condiments.
At the bank of the Mekong the candles are lit and the boats of lights are floated away – a spectacular sight not to be missed!
Dharma Shaman: 3 days of religious rituals and physical endurance
The religious Dharma festival is held in the Tongren area of Gansu, a province in north central China. This area is known for Thangkha painters whose works on cotton or silk appliqué usually depict Buddhist deities, scenes, or mandala. Tibetan Buddhism is practised here.
The festival held in villages is a ritual of physical strength and pain endurance with participants inserting needles into their flesh and inflicting cuts to themselves to celebrate adulthood.
Asian Trails China’s 3-day programme takes guests to witness this rather unusual event. Sightseeing activities are also included. Departures for this tour is until August 20, 2020.