5 East Asian Festivals That Are Worth The Plane Ticket

Think beautiful lanterns, giant statues, fresh flowers, sacred animals, exuberant dancing and, of course, mouth-watering feasts that are simply out of this world! Across East Asia barely a month goes by without a vibrant festival to celebrate a significant religious or cultural event. Many have been going for hundreds of years and attract visitors from all corners of the globe. We’ve picked out just 5 that might make clicking ‘buy now’ on that plane ticket a little easier. Then the only question is: which ones will you choose?

Lantern Festival – China, 22 February

First celebrated more than 2,000 year ago, the Chinese Lantern Festival marks the lighting of lanterns by monks as a sign of respect to Buddha. Beautifully decorated lanterns, some containing riddles, remain the focus of the celebrations. Other traditions include, eating delicious rice balls (called tangyuan) oozing with sweet fillings, lion dances, stilt walkers and dragon performers. If making it to the real thing is unrealistic, the Trafford Centre is holding its own festivities. Find out more at www.ukalf.uk

Songkran -Thai New Year, 13 – 15 April

Songkran is an experience that you soak up, in more ways than one! Known as the Water Festival, it originally involved local people worshiping Buddha and seeking good fortune for the year ahead by splashing family members with water. But it has since evolved into the world’s largest water fight. The streets are packed with people armed with buckets, hoses and super soakers. A great way to beat the heat!

Full Moon Party – Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, once a month

No East Asian trip can be complete without taking in – and surviving – a Full Moon Party. The dress code includes anything neon, glittery and a little bit crazy. Don’t worry if nothing in your backpack fits the bill, by the end of the night you’re sure to have a painted face – or body – and fluorescent headband. Just be prepared to share the ultimate beach party experience with 10 – 30,000 other tourists, also going wild to trance, techno, reggae and drum and bass. Oh, and did we mention buckets of giant cocktails, fire-eaters and jugglers?

Cherry Blossom – Japan, late March to late April

One of the most delightful visual festivals in Asia; what the Cherry Blossom Festival lacks in revelry and thrills, it more than makes up for with its amazing beauty. There can be few sights more breathtaking than the snow-like cherry trees in full bloom. The blossom is considered the national flower of Japan and thousands flock every spring to celebrate its emergence. Simply find a park and pick your favourite spot.

Elephant Races – Dak Lak, Vietnam, 1 March

Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet, may be the country’s big party night, but if you’re looking for something a little bit unique, nothing gets more offbeat than elephant racing! The annual festival takes place in the stunning Vietnamese highlands and is battled out by rival villagers. Two riders are needed for each animal: one is in charge of steering, while the other controls its acceleration. Do like the locals, and wear a fantastically colourful outfit to cheer on your favourites as they lumber down the track.