Trying to plan where to be when? Check out these festivals in South East Asia in January!
(Featured image at the Thaipusam Festival at the Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur)
Thaipusam Festival: Malaysia, in particular – Kuala Lumpur
Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu Festivals in Asia that is celebrated by millions of followers worldwide. The festival is held in honour of Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam every January. Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most colourful places to observe the festivities, in particular at the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a truly incredible spectacle to witness as participants perform incredible feats of devotion as they offer thanks to the Lord for good fortune during the year.
Feats including the piercing the body and face with skewers, dragging chariots with hooks attached to the skin and the carrying of huge metal frames (kavadis) attached to the body. Some devotees become entranced, entering meditative states during the procession, believed to cleanse them of their sins.
This video was filmed by Nikki Scott in January 2011 after attending the festival at the Batu Caves in KL.
Aguman Sanduk: Manila, Phillipines, 1st January
Manila’s men have a very interesting way of bringing in the New Year. A walk through the city on the 1st of January will have you wondering what on earth’s come over the usually macho Manilan chaps as you see them sporting ladies dresses and prancing around in a huge cross-dressing parade! It’s a fun event with an exuberant atmosphere and a lot of laughs from the delighted crown of sisters, mothers and daughters. The festival dates back to 193 4 when a group of playful blokes fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol pulled the stunt, which quickly became a novel and popular way of welcoming in the New Year! You’ll find even the most respectable of townsfolk casting off their inhibitions and getting involved in the frolics.
International New Year
Chances are that as you backpack around South East Asia, you’ll find yourself at more than one New Year’s celebration! The lunar calendar (January), the Chinese calendar (February),the Buddhist new year (April)… it’s party none stop!
However, this, the international new year, on the 31st December is a big event everywhere in this part of the world. Wherever you’ve chosen to spend the night, rest assured you’ll have a ball! Fireworks in the cities, carnivals in the towns, house parties in the villages.
Beach destinations cram with backpackers revved up for a night they plan to remember (but will most likely not to after the first bucket!). If you’re looking for a wild time head to the annual New Year’s Eve Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand, or try out the party hotspot of Sihanoukville (also known as ‘Sinville’) in Cambodia.
Alternatives include the Thai islands of Koh Chang and Koh Tao (where lower key parties take place), the 24-hour party city, Bangkok. Or, for a taste of Island bliss at New Year, the Gili Islands just off Bali!
Bun Pha Vet – Laos
Bun Pha Vet is an important Buddhist Festival and a significant time of the year for friends and family in Laos to gather together. Tales of Buddha’s penultimate life as Prince Vessantara are recited throughout temples across the country and it’s considered a favourable time for Laos men to be ordained into monkhood.