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Celebrations of Southeast Asia

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The breath-taking sights, the pungent spices, and the bustling markets of Southeast Asia will awaken your senses. Add to that, the snaking rainforests, pristine waters and sand at the edges. Now top it off with rising volcanoes and you’ll find a region that boasts spectacular geography, rich and ancient civilizations and spirited and warm people.

And the best way to witness their spirit is through their wonderful celebrations. Here are a few gems from the magical islands of Southeast Asia where you will get the chance to immerse yourself in the spirit and soul of these wonderful people.


Cambodia festival
Image Source : musicweekly.asia

This spellbinding kingdom has a rich and complex history, reflected in the people who inhabit this land. Happiness and sorrow, joy and suffering, the new and the old – these contrasts are built into the Cambodian DNA, giving them a unique and valued perspective on life and their relationship with the land. Although Cambodia has seen upheaval after upheaval, the spirit of the Khmers (natives of Cambodia) remains strong as ever. After all, they have this beautiful country to cherish – starting with just the stunning temples. Just like the Greeks worshipped Mount Olympus, the Cambodians revere their Angkor temples. Considered to be an earthly representation of Mount Meru, the abode of the Hindu gods, these temples are a splendid integration of spirituality and creativity. They evoke a sense of pride for the Khmers with their elegance, grandeur, intricacy and symmetry. However, Cambodia has a lot more to offer. The capital, Phnom Penh is an elegant fusion of the ancient and the modern. It boasts of the Royal Palace, which is the home of the reigning monarch (This means that parts of the grounds are closed off to the public). Visitors, however, are free to see the adjacent Silver Pagoda, an embodiment of the treasures of the Khmer civilization. Another tradition of Cambodia is the Sea Festival, which occurs in December. You can indulge in motorboat racing, swimming, Cambodian martial arts and beach volleyball – ringing in the New Year with a burst of adrenaline and happiness. 

Suggested Read : Vietnam and Cambodia – Backpackers Second Home

Laos, Must Visit Island in Southeast Asia

festival Boun Ock Phansa boat racing
Image Source : theculturetrip.com/

The land of the lotus eaters, Laos has not forgotten its traditions. The country is steeped in a history that has trickled down to its people today. If you’re looking for serenity, then at the confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan, you’ll find Luang Prabang, an old French Town populated with calm saffron-clad monks, hidden Indochinese villages and elegant Gallic cuisine. Then there is Si Phan Don, the archipelago that gave it the name the land of the lotus eaters. Literally translating to 4,000 islands, Si Phan Don has an ethereal charm which some would say is otherworldly, making it all the more difficult to leave behind. You will find that Vientiane has transformed its elegant Gallic architecture (remnants of its history as a French trading post) into chic restaurants and hotels; a testament to the respectful nature of the people of Laos. Wondering when you should book your trip? Well, one of the perfect times to visit this wonderful country would be during October. The festival Boun Ock Phansa, which marks the end of the Buddhist Lent occurs in this month, and the highlight of the festival is the boat racing! The people of Laung Prabang and Vientiane, the towns through which the vast Mekong River flows, take to the streets for celebration. The lively parades with their elaborate floats which are eventually offered to the naga or mythical water serpents add a magical charm to the festival.


Pahiyas Festival
Image Source : theculturetrip.com

Spread across 7000 tropical islands, the Philippines is a beach lover’s paradise. Within these islands you will find emerald rice fields, bustling megacities and ancient volcanoes. The clear waters of the Bacuit Archipelago are surrounded by jagged limestone islands which will mesmerize you from every angle, whether you’re underwater, lying on the beach or with a bird’s eye view. The islands have white-sand beaches, lagoons and coves hidden among them and the depths of the ocean have hundreds of species of fish and coral waiting to be discovered. Once you have relished the delights of the beach, head to Banaue. The encompassing rice terraces are a favourite amongst visitors. Did you know that they were planted 2000 years ago, and are on the World Heritage list? The Ifugao people, once head-hunters, were as skilled at building the rice terraces as they were at carving wood. Their carved bulol are a Philippine icon; these rice guardians carved of wood are considered to gain their power from the presence of the ancestral spirit.

In the far north of Palawan (a province of the Philippines) are the Busuanga and Calamian Islands. With the options of wreck diving, kayaking, island-hopping and motorbiking, these islands are an adventurer’s haven. The region is filled with white-sand beaches, dense rainforests and mangroves above ground and exquisite coral reefs underwater. Then there is the Pahiyas Festival, celebrated on 15th May. A harvest festival, it turns Lucban into a vivid medley of colours. The people decorate the walls of their houses with turnips, eggplants, winged beans and all the possible fruits and vegetables. The best part of the festival? It’s open to everyone. You can buy a basket and pick the produce off the walls for free!


Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste - Southeast Asia
Image Source : hellotravel.com

The newest Asian country, Timor-Leste is the first sovereign state of the 21st century. Hidden away from the rest of the world, it has risen anew from a tumultuous past. With untouched reefs, unexplored mountains and the evergreen traditions, the country offers a truly off-beaten path. Once you experience and learn the history in the capital Dili, don’t miss out on what the rest of the land has to offer. Twenty kilometres away from the capital is the Atauro Island, and it was been in the limelight since Conservation International deemed it to have the most biodiverse waters in the world. With snorkelling and diving trips available on the island, it is a great location to relax along the coast and witness the underwater world. Set on a cliff is the Tutuala village, where you can enjoy the sea-view from a Portuguese pousada. Or visit the community run Valu Sere where you will find thatched cabins.

Off the road to Valu are great rock art caves, a remnant of the ancient people living here. And across the turquoise waters is the uninhabited Jaco Island. Considered a sacred isle among the locals, occupying the island is prohibited. But the fishermen will offer you a boat ride for a day trip. And then there is Mundo Perdido which literally means ‘Lost World’. The sunrise when you reach the top of the plateau will definitely make the trek worth it. And you should try to visit during the Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste. Saying it is certainly a mouthful and attending it will definitely be bountiful. You will experience the traditional dances, music and amazing food. In a way it is a chance to truly understand the Timorese culture.

Wondering how to get here, come to Thomas Cook and we will help you plan an adventure through the marvels of Southeast Asia.

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