Asia is bursting with unique and exciting travel experiences just waiting to be explored. From the delightfully eclectic street culture of Hong Kong to the calming serenity of age-old Buddhist temples, there’s plenty to see and do across this magnificent continent.
Asia is also home to some of the oldest and most spectacular cultural festivals in the world, offering an authentic look at local Asian cultures at their most thrilling. For young travelers on a budget who are excited to get out there and start exploring, there are plenty of affordable ways to experience the beauty of Asia too.
Cathay Pacific shares some of Asia’s must-see festivals that are worth the visit for a #LifeWellTravelled.
Honour the ancestors and enjoy a feast fit for royalty in Japan
The streets of Tokyo come alive with excitement each year in an extraordinary festival of dance called Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri, which takes place on 25 July 2017, and is not to be missed! ‘Eisa’ is a delightfully peculiar form of dance that originated in Okinawa Island to honour the spirit of the ancestors. Hundreds of Eisa dance troupes twirl through the streets during this colourful, electric event, which has been held annually since 2002 and attracts over one million spectators and celebrators to Tokyo each year. Head to Shinjuku Station to join in on the fun and festivities, but be sure to go early as roads are blocked from 10h00 and the best vantage points tend to fill up quickly.
Celebrate good health, love and light in Thailand
Thailand has plenty to offer the culture-seeking festival goer – most notably the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Songkran, and the enthralling Loi Krathong Festival or ‘festival of light’. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an important cultural highlight on Thailand’s religious calendar which will take place from 20 to 28 October in 2017. During this time, people abstain from eating meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month to improve their physical and emotional wellness. Songkran, which takes place on 13 April every year, is another incredible Thai experience celebrating the Thai New Year, when people dress up in colourful traditional wear and head to temple to offer food to the Buddhist monks. Stick around for the Loi Krathong festival on 3 November 2017, when people gather around lakes and rivers to make a wish and launch a ‘krathong’ or floating lantern carrying candles and joss sticks.
Bask in Bali’s beautiful art and culture scene
The Bali Arts Festival began in 1965, and has become a highlight on the Indonesian calendar for tourists and locals alike. The event, which usually starts in the second week of June each year and runs until mid-July, brings the art and culture scene’s most talented individuals together for a spectacular display of performances, exhibitions and other cultural achievements. It’s an absolute treat for travellers in search of truly authentic cultural experiences outside of their comfort zones, and is a time when the city of Denpasar really comes alive. From dance troupes and quirky performance artists to exquisite artwork exhibitions, this incredible festival is definitely one for the art lover’s bucket list!
Walk with dragons and bring in the new year in China
Chinese New Year, also referred to as the ‘Spring Festival’ or ‘Chunjie’, takes place in Beijing at the turn of traditional lunar calendar. It is a time when the people of China reflect on the year’s challenges and achievements while spending time with family and friends. Take in the sights of a sea of red decorations lining the streets while the sky fills with colourful fireworks and enormous dragon figures glide and dance by. It’s an enthralling and magical time to be in Beijing, and it’s also the only time you can get your hands on some of the quirkiest yet delicious treats. Be sure to book your spot soon for the next Chinese New Year as accommodation and flights tend to sell out fast during this time. The next celebration takes place on 16 February 2018 which happens to be the year of the dog on the Chinese zodiac calendar. Whilst you're visiting the region be sure to hop over to Hong Kong and indulge in some delicious traditional food too, like Dim Sum and Yum Cha, this is the typical Cantonese style of cuisine and is usually served with some traditional tea. It’s a festive and happy dining experience for locals, service usually starts early in the morning and lasts from until mid-afternoon.
Pay homage to the centuries-old tradition in Vietnam
‘Tet’, or the Lunar Year, takes place on 16 February 2018, and celebrates the arrival of Spring in Vietnam. Unlike cultural festivals across Asia, Tet is a time for quiet reflection, when the Vietnamese take a break from the stress and worry of worldly affairs, draw closer to their families and contemplate the things that truly matter in life. While it’s by no means a time for raging carnival-esque street partying, Tet is a great experience for anyone hoping to do some ‘soul-searching’ while travelling – but that doesn’t mean you won’t see the odd burst of fireworks and bands of merry locals walking the streets! Travel to Ho Chi Minh city (often referred to as Saigon) to experience this beautiful festival and be sure to make time for a visit to a few of the city’s incredible landmarks and attractions while you’re at it!