As we’re all about living your best life and experiencing as much as humanly possible, we rounded up some of the Asia-Pacific’s most beautiful, surprising, and sometimes bizarre cultural festivals and events so you can experience all aspects of this crazy world.
#1 Shakotan Fire Festival
When: 4-6 July 2019
Where: Shakotan, Hokkaido, Japan
What: Two hours from Niseko, the Shakotan Fire Festival is a three-day long traditional event. It is performed to pray for the safety of fishermen, as well as for them to bring home large catches of fish. The festival is full of dance, parades, and, of course, fire. During the evenings of the last two nights of the festival, participants (some dressed as mythical creatures) will willingly walk through bonfires, carrying portable shrines.
#2 Esala Perahera
When: 7-17 July 2019
Where: Kandy, Sri Lanka
What: The Esala Perahera is a ten-day festival full of colour, lights, parades, acrobats, and dancers from around the country. Commemorating the time when a tooth of Buddha’s was brought to Sri Lanka from India, the festival’s five processions allow devotees to worship the tooth. The celebration is Sri Lanka’s oldest Buddhist festival and is believed to date back to the 3rd Century BC. It’s also believed to summon rain.
#3 Naadam Festival
When: 10-13 July 2019
Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
What: Considered Mongolia’s very own Olympic Games, the Naadam festival is a three-day sporting event that’s been around since the days of Genghis Khan. A combination of art and sport, the festival revolves around the three “manly sports” of wrestling, horseracing and archery.
When: 12-14 July 2019
Where: Sarawak Cultural Village, Borneo, Malaysia
What: The Rainforest World Music Festival is a three-day long festival celebrating a massive range of ethnic, folk and contemporary music from around the globe. Not only are there a wide variety of musical acts (29, to be exact), but music, dance and cultural workshops throughout each day.
When: 13-28 July 2019
Where: George Town, Penang, Malaysia
What: Now in its tenth year, the George Town Festival is a proven crowdpleaser. For two weeks, activities across dozens of venues – from traditional auditoriums like Dewan Sri Pinang to shophouse walls, corner cafés, and cathedrals – will showcase the talent and creativity of Penang. This year, the festival is looking to make the arts accessible to all with its three highlight events – ‘When Night Falls’, ‘Art in the City’ and ‘The Extravaganza’, which, are all about light, diversity and indulgence.
When: 19-28 July 2019
Where: Boryeong, South Korea
What: Considered the most memorable festival in Korea, the mud festival celebrates the re-vitalising and cleansing properties of mud. But, that does not mean this is super civilised – this festival is all about getting muddy. From wellness activities like mud baths and mud-powder massage to muddy ziplines and survival mud games, no one leaves this festival clean (or stressed out, for that matter).
Boryeong’s mud arguably has more healing properties than the mud of the dead sea, so if you were looking for a new skin care regime, this might be the way to go.
#7 Bali Kite Festival
When: 15-18 August 2019
Where: Padang Galak Beach, Sanur, Bali
What: The Bali Kite Festival was created to thank the gods for bountiful harvests and fertility and celebrates Bali’s windy season with hundreds of giant kites taking to the skies. Kite flying teams from around the world gather at Padang Galak as they compete with one another to develop the most elaborate kites. Often, kites will be shaped to look like Hindu deities or wild animals.
#8 Full Moon Parties
When: On the full moon:
- Monday, June 17, 2019
- Thursday, July 18, 2019
- Thursday, August 15, 2019
Where: The original in Koh Phangan, Thailand
What: Since having first begun in 1985 with a mere thirty individuals celebrating the ‘most beautiful view of the full moon on earth’, the Full Moon Parties have exploded in popularity. Each Full Moon, up to thirty thousand people gather in Thailand to party and enjoy all sorts of music (you’re likely to hear a weird jumble of sound as each bar on the beach has its own DJ), play with fire, and live out some seriously hedonistic fantasies.
It’s the kind of mayhem you need to see to believe.
Read also: What to do in Bali: June 2019
If Winter is more your thing:
#9 Dark Mofo
When: 6-23 June 2019
Where: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
What: The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is presenting its super dark, and perhaps creepy, winter music and arts festival for the sixth year. Dark Mofo is all about the rituals of the winter solstice, exploring the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, life and death. Over two weeks, you can celebrate the dark through large-scale and interactive art, film, music, and light or perhaps the annual Nude Solstice Swim.
Expect a lot of strange too with the return of artist Mike Parr. Last year, he was buried alive under a Hobart road for three days!
#10 Elemental AKL
When: 1-31 July 2019
Where: Auckland, New Zealand
What: Taking inspiration from the four elements – air, fire, earth, and water – Auckland is about to be transformed. The city’s restaurants, bars, theatres, parks, islands and public spaces are all going to take on the elements and become part of the celebration. With forty free and ticketed events, expect lots of light installations, dining events, theatrical productions, cultural performances, and interactive art.