May 2021

Traditional Celebrations

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (9 – 12 May) in Hong Kong is celebrated every year on the fifth to ninth days of the fourth lunar month. During this time people make papier-mache effigies of deities, wear costumes, bake buns and build a large bamboo tower for the ‘bun snatching’ competition.

The Taki Noh or 'Bonfire Noh Performance' (9 – 23 May) is one of the most ancient musical forms in Japan with performances taking place during the night at the Heian Jingu Shrinein Kyoto. Burning torches illuminate the stage with actors wearing lacquer coated wooden masks and dressed in period costumes.

Popa Ceremony (10 May) takes place at Mount Popa in Myanmar - a vast volcanic mountain located southeast of Bagan. It is said that the area is home to Mahagiri, the most important of all the nats, spirits worshipped by the Myanmar people. During the festival, pilgrims ascend the mountain to take part in traditional dances, making it a very crowded yet spiritual festival.

Idul Fitri in Indonesia (12 – 13 May) and Malaysia (12 – 13 May) is one of the most important holidays for Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims. It is usually celebrated for a full week with locals travelling around the country to their hometowns. Roads can become heavily congested and many restaurants and sights will close. If possible, we recommend avoiding the Idul Firti period if travelling to the islands of Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Lombok.

Aoi Matsuri (15 May) is one of Kyoto's three most famous festivals. The festival's main attraction is a large parade in Kyoto in which over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) walk from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines.

Sanja Matsuri (15 – 17 May) in Tokyo is a spectacular street parade full of elaborate floats that carry performers on a journey from Yanagi-dori to Asakusa Shrine. Over the course of three days, the festival attracts 1.5 to 2 million locals and tourists every year.

The Sand Pagoda Festival (20 – 25 May) consists of three different districts in Mandalay that hold a festival to build stupas made of sand. The stupas are built over the course of a single night and consist of five parts which are positioned above one another, supported by bamboo mats and posts.

Vesak Day / Visakha Bucha Day is a Buddhist holiday and one of the most important as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. It’s celebrated at different dates during the month in Hong Kong (19 May), Myanmar (25 May), Thailand (26 May), Cambodia (24 May), Laos (26 May), Vietnam (26 May), Singapore (26 May), Malaysia (26 May), and Indonesia (26 May).

The Harvest Festival, also known as 'Pesta Kaamatan' (30 – 31 May), is celebrated annually in Sabah, Malaysia. Once a critical part of village life, it is now a state-wide celebration.

Boun Bang Fai or 'Rocket Festival' in Laos and Thailand has its origins in pre-Buddhist, rain-invoking ceremonies. Parades, singing and dancing all lead to an explosive climax as huge, ornate, homemade bamboo rockets are blessed and fired into the skies to invite the rains.

Saga Dawa is the most auspicious religious practice in Tibet. This month-long festival starts on the new moon of the fourth lunar month and worships the of Buddha.

International Events

Iron Man 70.3 Vietnam (10 May) is a legendary event taking place in Da Nang. Participants will be treated to a fast and scenic course that begins with a 1.9km ocean swim followed by a 90km bike course and ending with a 21km run.

The Grand Sumo Tournament takes place in Tokyo (10 – 24 May).

Held annually for over 40 years, the Singapore International Festival of Arts is spread over an entire month and celebrates the arts with a smorgasbord of theatre, dance, and music performances in the Lion City.

Huangyaguan Great Wall Marathon includes a quarter race actually run on the wall and incorporates 3,700 steps – not a race for the faint-hearted.

A platform for modern and contemporary artists to showcase classic forms to cutting edge experimental pieces, the annual Art Basel (21 – 23 May) in Hong-Kong attracts the world's leading gallerists and collectors and always promises to push the boundaries of our expectations.