Travelling during festival season can be an incredibly enlightening experience for tourists.
In-depth cultural norms and traditions come to the forefront when travellers get to intermingle with locals, and cultural tourism can flourish.
To share more about local festivals that takes place in Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia, some of which are under the radar for tourists, we’ve asked members of our global transcreation (creative translation) and localisation team of linguists and editors to share more about festivals they love in their home countries.
Festivals in Vietnam (Contribution by GTE Localize)
Huong Pagoda Festival
Photo source: Vietnam Discovery
Huong pagoda is a collection of pagodas, caves, mountains and woods. Huong Pagoda Festival is one of Vietnam’s festivals celebrated in Hanoi, and tells the story of a journey to the Buddhist land in February. According to the myth, one of the Buddhas attained enlightenment there, and so Buddhists celebrate her birthday in the lunar calendar by taking a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda in the Spring every year. It is believed that the pilgrimage will bring health, prosperity, good luck and happiness.
Hung King Temple Festival
Photo source: Vietnam Discovery
This festival is held annually from the 8th to the 11th day of the third Lunar month. This event is in commemoration of Vietnam’s first Hung King – Kinh Duong Vuong. The purpose is to remember and pay tribute to the Hung Kings in general. On the eve of the event, one hundred lanterns are launched into the sky, and a procession travels to the High Temple to offer prayers and incense. Tourists can witness many interesting cultural activities during the festival.
Photo source: Vina.com
The festival falls on the 13th to the 15th day of the first lunar month. It’s the festival of “Quan Ho” singing, which has been named one of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2009. During this celebration at Lim Village near Hanoi, you can enjoy local games like bamboo swings, cockfighting, tug-of-war, wresting, etc, and listen to the highlight of the festival – Quan Ho folk singing performances. Locals will perform in traditional costumes on several stages built within the village.
Festivals in The Philippines (Contribution by Shiela Salcedo)
Sinulog Festival (Santo Nino)
Photo source: Guide To The Philippines
One of the most popular festivals in the Philippines, Cebu’s Sinulog Festival is an important religious and cultural celebration for the country’s predominantly Catholic population. It is held on every third Sunday of January and features a grand parade and colourful performances that include fireworks and music.
The Christmas Seasons
Photo source: Discovery Primea
Did you know that Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world? Christmas songs are heard and decorations are displayed starting from September to Epiphany on the 6th of January. The iconic parol, a Christmas ornament that resembles a lantern with a five-pointed star, adorn buildings and Filipino homes. Children singing Christmas carols and shops selling Christmas rice cakes like bibingka and puto bumbong are just some of the common occurrences during the festive season.
Festivals in Malaysia (Contribution by Aniza Borhan)
Langkawi Water Festival
Photo source: Langkawi by Hotels.com
Organised as a 3-day festival held every year in April, the Langkawi Water Festival celebrates water sports and activities. A series of challenges and competitions, from sandcastle building to kayak races and beach netball, makes it exciting for locals and tourists alike. Started in 2002, it managed to set a Malaysian Record for holding a record-breaking 115 activities in a single event in 2008.
Harvest Festival (Kaamatan)
Photo source: Amazing Borneo Tours
An ancient pagan celebration to honour a successful harvest and celebrated by the Kadazan-Dsun ethnic group in Sabah, Kaamatan lasts for the month of May, ending with a public holiday. It includes a beauty pageant to crown a harvest queen, and also showcases a dance performance (the Sumazau) and a singing contest (Sugandoi), as well as other arts and crafts performances. A similar festival called Gawai is celebrated by the Iban, Bidayuh, Murut and Kayan tribe in Sarawak.
Festivals in Korea (Contribution by Jay Kwak)
Boryeong Mud Festival
Photo source: Kim’s MICE & Travel
A popular festival with foreigners living in Korea, the Mud Festival in Boryeong takes place during each Summer. Originally conceived in 1998 to promote cosmetics made with Boryeong mud (considered rich in minerals), the festival lasts for 2 weeks.
Jinju Lantern Festival
Photo source: Charm Jinju
Meant to commemorate the Jinjuseong Battle of 1592, the Jinju Lantern Festival occurs in October each year. It includes a beautiful light display that celebrates lanterns with workshops and exhibitions.
Festivals in Indonesia (Contribution by Sugeng Hariyanto)
Yadnya Kasada (Kasodo)
Photo source: Agen Wisata Bromo Malang
Celebrated in Bromo (more specifically, Mount Bromo) in East Java by the indigenous Tenggerese community, Yadnya Kasada is held during the full moon of Kasada Month in the traditional Hindu Tengger calendar (18 July 2021 for this year). Meant to honour Sang Hyang Widhi, God Almighty, the day of Yadnya Kasada starts long before daybreak for devotees. There are prayers on Mount Bromo and then the throwing of a series of offerings into the crater itself. Although it is only for one day, but a series of ceremonies start a week before the Yadnya Kasada day.
Photo source: The Jakarta Post
Sekaten is a festival in Yogyakarta that lasts for a week and commemorates the birthday of prophet Muhammad. Usually celebrated from the 5th to the 12th day of Mulud month (in 2021 it will be in October) in the Javanese calendar, a mountain of sweets and foods is protected by royal guards and then carried with a procession to the Grand Mosque. A ceremonial gamelan (musical ensemble) will take place, only played once a year during this festival.