Trying to plan where to be when? Check out these festivals in Southeast Asia in June!
(Featured image: Bali Arts Festival)
Bali Arts Festival – Bali, Indonesia
Taking place over an entire month from mid June to mid July, the Bali Arts Festival is a unique extravaganza of arts, music, dance and history celebrating passion and pride in Balinese culture. Amongst other performances, famous masked dances originating from tribal villages are showcased and ancient classic stories retold. There’s a vibrant atmosphere all across the island as celebrations are enjoyed by locals and travellers alike. For first time travellers to Bali, it’s a fantastic introduction to the rich heritage of the spirited destination.
Ramadan – Indonesia
For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan is of huge importance. Particularly in Muslim nations Indonesia and Malaysia you will come into contact with Ramadan as a traveller. During this period (usually May or June) all Muslims observe fast from dawn until dusk and in many parts of the country restaurants will be closed during the day. Ramadan is also a time when Muslims offer prayers to Allah, ask for forgiveness for sins and attempt to purify themselves of impure thoughts and deeds. According to tradition, Ramadan marks the time when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The fasting period ends with ‘Eid’ a huge celebratory feast, commemorated by over one billion Muslims around the world as they say thank you to Allah for all they have been given.
Gawai Dayak Festival – Sarawak, Malaysia
Gawai is a religious and social festival held every June in the longhouses of lowland tribes in Sarawak to celebrate the New Year and harvest. In local language, Gawai means a ritual or festival, while Dayak is the name for the native ethnic groups of Sarawak. During this important time, families get together for unique celebrations which last a couple of days, with weddings often taking place as it’s one of the few times of year that the community is at home in their ancestral longhouse dwelling.
If you happen to be travelling around exotic Sarawak during this Gawai Dayak, it’s a jolly good idea to get friendly with the locals, as no doubt you’ll be invited into the homes of the friendly tribal people to share with them this sacred festival, and spending the night in the jungle as the locals celebrate this exciting time is an experience like no other. Feasts, songs around the fire, ancient tribal stories, animal sacrifice, and lots of betel nut chewing and drinking of the deadly local liquor, Borak, are to be expected!
Phi Ta Khon Festival – Dan Sai district, Loei province, Thailand
In Thailand, spirituality is never far away, but it perhaps comes closest with this ghostly festival, unique to the Isaan culture of North Eastern Thailand. (About 450km North of Bangkok.) Similar to the Western Halloween, locals don eerie spirit masks and wear phantom costumes and strange hats, while children play tricks in the street. The festival commemorates an old Buddhist tale, when villagers hold a celebration for the return of their Prince from banishment. It is said that they made so much noise that the dead are awakened from their graves and came out to party! Musical processions pack the streets and rockets fill the sky for three days. On the last day, the villagers meet at the local temple, Wat Ponchai, to listen to the the monks recite the message of Lord Buddha.
Singapore Arts Festival – Singapore
The Singapore Arts Festival is a dynamic event showcasing local and international talent. There are dance and musical performances, theatre showings, talks, historic presentations, art displays and more. Boasting over 75 dance, music, opera and circus performances from all over the world, it’s no wonder this annual month-long festival is considered the ultimate performing arts festival in Singapore. Edgy, experimental and innovative performances from vastly diverse cultures are bound to have something to appeal to audiences of all ages and interests. As well as headliner performances from internationally renowned artists and troupes, Singapore becomes lit up by outdoor, late-night and children’s shows spread throughout the city for three weeks.
Coinciding with the festival will be the Singapore Street Festival, a national youth event taking place over three weeks. Budding young artists and performers will enhance the month’s festivities with their engaging and extraordinary talents, including parkour, street graffiti, yo-yo competitions, magic shows, belly dancing, J-rock, rap and urban football. Warning: May walk away with mild feelings of inadequacy (tweens who can free-run across buildings are apparently a thing now).
Seoul Fringe Festival- Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea
The Seoul Fringe Festival is without a doubt the city’s most all-encompassing annual arts festival, with a central aim of granting any artist – amateur or professional, musical, visual or otherwise – an opportunity and physical space in which they can freely present their work to the public with zero boundaries. As a result, for two weeks beginning late August, the city of Hongdae explodes into a wide-scale creative affair. Cafes, clubs, galleries, and pretty much any spaces available (not restricting outdoors) offer themselves up as hosts to a diverse range of live dance, musical and theatrical performance, photography, video and fine arts, transforming the city into an ephemeral cultural mecca, simultaneously allowing independent artists a platform from which to launch their talents. Don’t assume for a second that its proudly inclusive nature inevitably equates to a lowered standard in quality though – any one of the impressive works showcased across the festival could easy qualify for a place within even the most prestigious contemporary art gallery.