One of the most wonderful things about travel in Southeast Asia is the abundance of festivals and holidays that are celebrated. As a Malaysian cab driver said “There are so many holidays it’s hard to get any work done.” This is a perfect situation for these two Black Old Lesbians Traveling (not working).
Many of you have complemented us on our planning skills, assuming that is how we attend so many amazing celebrations. Serendipity and the diversity of Southeast Asia has much more to do with this than our planning talents.
Our first visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand was timed to coincide with the Yi Peng/Loy Krathong festivities. There is nothing to compare to spending an evening with thousands of people from all over the world, sending beautiful lanterns into the sky and brightly decorated krathongs aloft onto a river. Knowing that you are participating in an ancient practice combined with the spirt of love and good will that abounded made for a powerful experience.
Ever since seeing a picture of the Batu Caves, I have wanted to visit. As the universe would have it, this happened for us on the day of Thaipusam. This is the largest Hindu celebration in Malaysia and attracts thousands of devotees to the statue of Lord Murugan at the Batu Caves.
We have actually attended 4 New Years Celebrations, all of them serendipitously. Each celebration had its own traditions, spirituality, sights, sounds and highlights. We spent western New Years (January 1) in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, Vietnam. It was a lovely day of walking and sightseeing. Many Vietnamese people went out of their way to wish us “Happy New Years” even though it was not their holiday.
Penang Island has the largest ethnic Chinese population in Malaysia. Spending Chinese New Year there was an awesome experience. . This is the longest holiday we have ever experienced! It was 2 weeks of fireworks, dragon dancers, ceremonies and festivities. There was something to see and do every day and every night.
We were delighted to find out that our time in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia would include another New Years Celebration. This was a two day experience. The Ogoh- ogoh Festival was a night of loud merriment. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). The enormous statues are paraded through town culminating in music, dancing and mock fighting between the Ogoh-ogohs. It was wonderful to be a part of this Balinese -Hindu tradition.
The next day is Nyepi. This is a national holiday on Bali and is a day of silence. The streets are empty and all businesses are closed. We spent a beautiful day of quiet reflection at our lovely bed and breakfast accommodations.
We just participated in another New Years tradition: Songkran (Thai New Year). This three day holiday is celebrated with lots of water (symbolic of purification): bathing the Buddha, pouring scented water on the palms of elders AND the world’s largest and longest water fight! We stayed drenched for three days. Mad, crazy fun!
I don’t know what BOLT’s next festival will be but what I know for sure is that there will be one! We are looking forward to sharing it with you.