Few regions of the world offer quite the same diversity of culture as Asia, a fact perhaps reflected most in the array of dazzling, colourful – and often strange – festivals that take place here every year. Reason enough to visit a country, here are five ‘must-experience’ festivals that are just a short flight from Singapore, and are perfect as the centre piece of an Asian tour.
Pushkar Camel Festival, India, October/November, Dates Vary
Held in the town of Pushkar in Rajasthan, this annual festival has become extremely popular with tourists. Even if camels aren’t your thing (and if they are you’ll be in heaven), you can enjoy the bizarre ‘longest moustache competition’, or the colourful ‘bridal contest’. The streets are a kaleidoscope of colour as sari-donning women stay in the town to sell various goods during the fair. The bathing ghats of Pushkar Lake are very busy this time of year as the festival coincides with the Hindu, Jain and Sikh festival of Kartika Poornima, during which a dip in this sacred lake is considered spiritually cleansing.
Travel time from Singapore: 5.5hr flight to Delhi; 6 hour’s drive.
Setsubun, Japan, February 3rd
Setsubun takes place during the Japanese spring festival, or Haru Matsuri, and involves keeping away health-threatening evil spirits over the coming year by throwing soy beans into the air. Along with sumo wrestling, there are celebrity appearances, and events in which confectionery and money-filled envelopes are tossed into excitable crowds.
Flight time to Tokyo from Singapore: 7hrs.
Chinese New Year, China and Elsewhere, date varies each year
Singaporeans are no stranger to this huge festival, of course, but visiting China itself during this time can offer some unique experiences. And even in China, the event is celebrated in different ways in different regions. While strict conditions govern firework use in Singapore, if you want to see unbridled firecracker action, head to the Chinese countryside – but take care!
Flight time to Beijing: 6hrs.
Songkran (New Year Festival), Thailand, April 13 -15
If you’ve never experienced Songkran before, where have you been? Perhaps one of the most engaging festivals in the world, it’s difficult not to get sucked in to the joyous chaos, where you’ll get completely soaked by locals from dawn till dusk – and often beyond. Thais are friendly any time of year, but are especially warm during this period – although much of that warmth is expressed by pouring water over you! Takes place across the country, but Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya are hot spots.
Flight time to Bangkok: 2.5hrs.
Diwali (Deepavali), India, Autumn
The visually spectacular Diwali is impossible to forget once experienced, signifying the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, hope over despair and knowledge over ignorance. But the triumph of light over darkness is perhaps best expressed during these five days, as fireworks light up the sky for hours on end. Celebrations vary across India, but it’s a wonderful time to visit – however, it’s a good idea to find a safe, lofty position to watch it all from, since the firework action can get a bit hot on the street!
Flight to Delhi: 5.5hrs.
Asian Tour Insurance
With festivals all year round, there is always a great excuse to explore one of the above countries – but things can sometimes get out of hand with so much merriment, so protect yourself with a high quality travel insurance policy. And with so many people traveling during this period, cancellations can be more common – another great reason to get travel cover.