Thaipusam – Malaysia (In particular – Kuala Lumpur)
Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu Festivals in Asia that is celebrated by millions of followers worldwide. Held in honour of Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam, Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most colourful places to observe the festivities, in particular at the Batu Caves on the outskirts of KL. It’s a truly incredible spectacle to witness as participants perform incredible feats of devotion as they offer thanks to the Lord for good fortune during the year. Feats including the piercing the body and face with skewers, dragging chariots with hooks attached to the skin and the carrying of huge metal frames (kavadis) attached to the body. Some devotees become entranced, entering meditative states during the procession, believed to cleanse them of their sins.
Aguman Sanduk - Manila, Phillipines (1st January)
Manila’s men have a very interesting way of bringing in the New Year. A walk through the city on the first of January 2010 will have you wondering what on earth’s come over the usually macho Manilan chaps as you see them sporting ladies dresses and prancing around in a huge cross-dressing parade! It’s a fun event with an exuberant atmosphere and a lot of laughs from the delighted crown of sisters, mothers and daughters. The festival dates back to 193 4 when a group of playful blokes fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol pulled the stunt, which quickly became a novel and popular way of welcoming in the New Year! You’ll find even the most respectable of townsfolk casting off their inhibitions and getting involved in the frolics.
International New Year – South East Asia (31st December / 1st January)
Chances are that as you backpack around South East Asia, you’ll find yourself at more than one New Year’s celebration in 2010! The lunar calendar, the Buddhist calendar, the Chinese calendar…its party party none stop! However, this, the international new year, on the 31st December is a big event everywhere in this part of the world. Wherever you’ve chosen to spend the night, rest assured you’ll have a ball! Fireworks in the cities, carnivals in the towns, house parties in the villages. Beach destinations cram with backpackers revved up for a night they plan to remember. (but will most likely not to after the first bucket!) The word on the street is that the places to be if you’re looking for a wild time are Full Moon partying on Koh Phangan, Siahnoukville in Cambodia and Vang Vieng in Laos! Alternatives include Koh Chang, Koh Tao, the fun loving Bangkok of course or for a taste of Island bliss at New Year, the Gili Islands just off Bali!
Bun Pha Vet – Laos
Bun Pha Vet is an important Buddhist Festival and a significant time of the year for friends and family in Laos to gather together. Tales of Buddha’s penultimate life as Prince Vessantara are recited throughout temples across the country and it’s considered a favourable time for Laos Men to be ordained into Monkhood.
Featured image: Hindu devotees with their tongues pierced, take part in a procession as part of the Thaipusam festival in the southern Indian city of Kochi Picture: REUTERS