Trying to plan where to be when? Check out these festivals in South East Asia in March!
Bali Spirit Festival – Ubud, Bali
An annual celebration of yoga, dance and music, the Bali Spirit Festival is a popular event taking place over four days and five nights in the artistic hub of Bali, Ubud. Mixing indigenous Indonesian culture with international live performance, the event is a tribute to creative and spiritual diversity. With over 100 yoga, dance and music workshops your creative and spiritual side will be stirred as you brush shoulders with inspirational gurus and experts from many different artistic fields. Nightly world music concerts, with renowned artists performing everything from gospel to salsa to afro beats ensure a musical feast for all attendees!
Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Phra
Normally held on the first Saturday in March at Wat Bang Phra (which translates as the Temple of the Flying Tiger), Thailand’s most famous tattoo festival is a must for anyone interested in the spiritual side of this ancient art. The night before the festival, thousands of people travel to the temple to get a ‘sak yant’ tattoo engraved onto their bodies by one of the monks. Each one of the tattoos reportedly unique and the monks work through the night to meet demand. The next day, the new tattoos are blessed or ‘charged’ by the monks using a series of chanting mantras. Some people who had tattoos last year come to get their tattoos ‘recharged’ – as the tattoos are believed to have special powers of protection and good fortune. The scene is incredible as people fall into trances and some people start to behave like the animal that is represented by the tattoo that they have had engraved onto their skin, such as a tiger or a snake. Travellers can also attend the festival and get inked themselves. One famous person who queued up to get inked here was none other than Angelina Jolie.
Perfume Pagoda Pilgrimage – Hanoi, Vietnam
The Perfume Pagoda is an impressive complex of Buddhist Temples located about an hour’s drive from Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. Legend has it that the site dates back to over 2,000 years when a Buddhist Monk began meditating in the area. The beautiful spot is the site of a religious festival, officially beginning on 15th February and continuing throughout the month of March. The event sees hundreds of thousands of pilgrims making their way to this, the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage site in Vietnam. People travel by boat on the Yen River through a stunning landscape of green rice fields and jagged limestone karsts to visit the series of caves built into the mountains, which make up the sacred Pagoda. There, they visit shrines to pray for happiness and prosperity in the coming year. This time is also known as an auspicious interval for young people to start courting!
Male’an Sampi – Lombok, Indonesia
With ‘Male’an’ meaning ‘to chase’ and ‘Sampi’ meaning cow, in local ‘Sasak’ language, you can pretty much guess what this festival entails! A high energy Lombok tradition, the event sees a series of cattle races taking place on a soggy race track 100 metres long and is a favourite amongst local farmers and s popular event that never fails to draw in an excited crowd.
Nyepi – Bali, Indonesia
Nyepi is an important event across Bali in March, which commemorates the ‘Hindu Day of Silence’ for 24 hours, starting at 6am. The date also marks the start of the Hindu New Year. You’ll find business and restaurants closed during the daytime as the whole island observes this religious time of self-reflection and contemplation. Bali’s usually bustling streets and beaches remain empty as there are restrictions on travelling, entertainment, eating, working and even talking on this significant day. Although primarily a Hindu festival, non-Hindu residents are also expected to respect the occasion and even tourists are also expected to observe the rules. Bali’s only airport is also closed for the entire day.
St. Patrick’s Day – Ireland and South East Asia
What! St. Patrick’s Day in South East Asia? Okay, so it’s not a traditional Asian event, but that doesn’t mean for one minute that it won’t be celebrated with fervency in this fun-loving part of the world that accepts Western festivals into the Eastern culture. With the essential ‘Irish Pub’ sprinkled on islands and cities across South East Asia, from Koh Phi Phi, to Hanoi to Siem Reap, you’ll find yourself perched on a bar stool, Guinness easier than you can say ‘Paddy and Mick McMurphy’s your Uncle.’ Cultured types will wince as green beer is downed and Thai bands cover Irish folk songs complete with the ‘local’ accent. Where am I again?