As the summer break kicks off in various parts of the world, the heat will be rolling in. Many of us aren’t kids anymore and our holidays have been turned into more work time. Think internships, part-time jobs, preparing for the next semester. Yikes… But you can do more than just stay bound to a desk job for a meagre sum of money!
Summer is all about refreshing oneself, be it with a trip to the beach for a cool-down or gaining new insights into cultures you’ve never really known about.
For those looking leaning towards the latter, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are good spots to soak in some local flavours. Across the month of June, these three countries will be clanging up with festivities and overflowing with vibrancy. It would be a pity to miss out on the upcoming festivals just because you got yourself stuck at a desk.
1. Gawai Dayak Festival in Sarawak, Malaysia
Gawai Dayak is celebrated annually on June 1 by tribes in Sarawak, Malaysia. It is a religious and social festival celebrating the New Year and harvest. The celebrations typically begin on the evening of May 31 in a series of processions. The festival lasts up to a few days and it is a prime time for travelers to visit Sarawak as visitors are often embraced within the celebrations.
Homes of tribes will be open to visitors, where they can enter the longhouses unique to these tribes. As part of the celebrations. Weddings often take place as well, considering that it is a rare time where families are gathered. Travelers visiting during this time period will get to spend the night in the jungle with locals, partaking in the merry-making. There’s no better opportunity to get to the heart of Sarawak’s tribe community than the Gawai Dayak Festival.
2. Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai District, Loei Province, Thailand
Tucked away in the mountains of the Loei Province in north-eastern Thailand is the farming village of Dan Sai. The otherwise unassuming place draws visitors to it annually because of its Phi Ta Khon Festival, or Ghost Festival. Some have described it as similar to Halloween, but the Phi Ta Khon’s charm is certainly the locals who stage a vibrant masked parade.
They dance and pose while donning colourful masks made out of carved coconut tree trunks, combined with sticky-rice steamers that make them a sight to behold. This event is uniquely to Dan Sai and the festival dates used to only be revealed by the village elders a few weeks beforehand. However, it has since been fixed at the first weekend after the sixth full moon. It will be held from 16–18 June 2018, and is a feast for the eyes only if you make your way to the village.
3. Bali Arts Festival in Bali, Indonesia
It would also be worthwhile to drop by Bali, Indonesia, to catch the month-long Bali Arts Festival. Starting from June 16 till mid-July, the festival is a showcase of Bali’s diverse performing arts. From performances to exhibitions, visitors are invited to visit the Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Centre in Denpasar where most of the activities are focused. Artists from Bali’s provinces, neighbouring islands and even some coming from abroad will be present.
Already in its 40th year, the Bali Arts Festival is considered one of the main highlights in Bali’s calendar of events. You can expect to witness performances such as music compositions, contemporary and traditional dances, shadow puppetry and more. If you aren’t too into culture immersion, Bali is also a prime location to visit for its architectural beauty, as well as its beaches. After all, Summer is never complete without a visit to the seaside to wash off the heat.
4. Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
If you’re still in the vicinity during early July, consider participating in one of Thailand’s most elaborate festivals. As a show of devotion to Buddhist tradition, locals carve candles into magnificent forms for display. The festival will also include float processions and cultural performances. The float procession will put on display candles sculpted by locals, and will take place on Khao Phansa Day. Visiting Ubon Ratchathani for the festival will be an opportunity to learn more about Thai beliefs and Buddhist traditions without the clutter of tourists in more popular spots like Chang Mai. There might even be a wax sculpture competition involving artists coming from all over the world!
Festivals are a great reason to head to new destinations, especially if you hate doing all the research for a trip. Just make your way down, soak in the atmosphere, and be entertained by the endless string of activities lined up. It might be a tad bit touristy for our liking, but it is still a good opportunity to connect with local culture and learn something new!
Southeast Asian countries are all a quick flight away from each other. If you have the luxury of time, do consider staying longer in the area to explore! If you’re unsure about heading to these places because they seem hard to get to or you’re afraid of being overwhelmed, it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to likeminded travelers and explore each new region with new friends!
These festivities are bound to draw visitors from all over the world. Look out for online communities such as Chirpey, a platform catered towards female travelers. These groups are great to seek advice regarding locales, as well as connecting with others in the same area.
Written by: Karen Lam