Thaipusam Festival 2020

Thaipusam Festival

Do you search for something astonishing, something you have never seen? Something more than just sightseeing or booze-up at a party? Do you want to explore exotic authentic traditions that for most of the people on the entire planet will be bizarre and insane? Yes? Then be crazy enough and go to Thaipusam Festival. It’s not a festival for the weak-nerved, but for those who are able to perceive and respect, weird, yet important for locals traditions that pass from generation to generation. This stunning event will make your jaw drop and everything in your head will be upside down, but you will gain a unique experience.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAIPUSAM FESTIVAL

Thaipusam is a tremendous and colorful Hindu festival primarily celebrated by the Tamil-speaking community to honor Lord Murugan( also known as Subramaniam), the son of Shiva and Parvati. According to the legend, this event is considered to be the birthday of Lord Murugan and the day when he defeated the demon Soorapadman, the embodiment of the evil. In general, this celebration is a time for fulfilling vows and seeking blessings, but it is definitely not an ordinary religious holiday.

In 2020 the Thaipusam festival will be held on the 8th of February in Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, and Mauritius, but the largest celebration will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Annually the thousands of tourists invade Batu Caves, where most of the festivities take place.

The Thaipusam festival lasts for three days. On the first day, early in the morning, devotees start procession from  Sri Mahamariamman Temple (in Chinatown) through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, bearing a golden chariot with a statue of Lord Subramanian. The second day participants spend walking barefoot 15 kilometers to the Batu Caves. The whole location is overcrowded, without a one-meter free place to take a breath. If you happened to be at the Thaipusam festival with family, you’d better stay away from crowds. Also as soon as you arrive at Batu Caves, you will understand why at the very beginning I described this event as the most shocking and weird and simply insane. Many people are in trance, some of them are carried by their relatives. But it is not the most flabbergasting part of this festival. The cherry on the top of this procession is the way worshipers pay penance to Lord Murugan. People pierce their skin, cheeks or tongue with vel skewers. What is more, some people even have small hooks in their backs with some fruits or any other small decorations. The bravest and the most devoted to Lord Subramaniam can be seen hung on multiple hooks while being pushed forward. Speaking about your safety: don’t make a haphazard decision to pierce your yourself with hooks. Such a ritual is definitely not for amateurs.

Thaipusam Festival

Thaipusam Festival

Thaipusam Festival

Then devotees, their family, friends, and tourists are going upstairs to the Batu Caves, where more prayers are performed. The worshipers also bear the giant constructions called kavadis, which in Tamil literally means  ‘sacrifice at every step’. They usually carry flowers and milk. Kavadis are very heavy, sometimes the weight of kavadis can reach nearly 100 kilos. Also, it should be mentioned that before worshipers carry kavadis, they, first of all, prepare themselves spiritually, practicing celibacy, following a strict vegetarian diet and fasting for last two days before the celebration.

Thaipusam Festival

When prayers are finished, all the devotees have the screwers removed from their bodies and wounds are treated immediately. After two days of celebration at Batu Caves, all the participants go back to Sri Mahamariamman Temple accompanied by lots of performers with drums, beating out a groovy rhythm.

To GO or Not to Go?

You might have doubts whether to visit this festival or better choose another destination. We say: “GO!”. Experiencing such an astounding celebration cannot be compared to any other event on the globe. If you seek adventure and new impressions, you should come and feel the frenetic and electrifying atmosphere of the Thaipusam festival.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer 2020

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

India is a unique country which never stops to impress with its diversity of traditions and festivals. When going to India it is always a challenge to choose where to go. If you plan to visit this colorful country in winter, we have a suggestion for you.

In the heart of the vast Thar Desert, lies the majestic city of Jaisalmer, known also as the “Golden City”. Every winter this city comes alive with the vibrant colors, authentic music and passionate dancing of the Desert Festival.  Thousands of people swarm the city to experience the richness of Jaisalmer culture.

RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL, TOURIST-ORIENTED EVENT OR COMMEMORATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE?

As every Indian celebration, the Desert Festival has its story. According to the legend, Lord Krishna, ruler of Yadav community told Arjuna that a successor belonging to the Yadav clan will establish his kingdom on the Trikuta Hill. The prediction of Lord Krishna, eventually, came true. In 1196 Rawal Jaiswal, a descendant of the Yadav community set up his kingdom in Jaisalmer. Naturally, when people found out that the prophecy came true, they were overwhelmed with happiness and started celebrating it. The celebrations soon evolved into the Desert Festival. We should also mention that this celebration is different from many religious Hindu holidays you know, this festival doesn’t bear any specific meaning of purification, the victory of good over evil, and it is not a  chance to ask gods for wealth and health. The main purpose of contemporary Desert Festival is to involve more people, to attract more tourists to learn about exquisite Rajasthan culture. Due to the efforts of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, which is responsible for organizing and hosting the festival, this celebration of the Rajasthan cultural heritage has flourished and developed significantly, attracting more and more visitors from all over the world.

THINGS TO DO AND SEE AT THE DESERT FESTIVAL

In 2020, Desert Festival takes place from the 7th to 9th of February at the beautiful golden desert city of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan, India.The festival kicks off with a traditional procession known as Shobha Yatra. The procession commences at Sonar Road and culminates at the main venue of the festival,  Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium. You will see myriads of men with swords in hands riding camels, horses, and elephants, locals in the most extravagant, bright costumes marching through the street. People dance and sing filling the air with indigenous vibes. Bhopa’s Langhas and Manganiars play folk music and sing touching ballads of romance, bravery, and tragedy. You can also relish the performances of local nomads, the Kalabaz or the Nat’s, famous for their fascinating gymnastic acts. In addition, you will see a lot of snake charmers, puppeteers and you will be astonished by breathtaking stunts of Gair and Fire dancers.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

While enjoying all the festivities, don’t forget to go to Bazaar, a perfect place to shop for souvenirs, where you will definitely find something unique for yourself. Then you can fuel yourself up with some delicacies of traditional Rajasthani cuisine and continue exploring the local culture.

You shouldn’t miss some purely male contests. First of all, it is turban tying, which for locals is not only tradition but an art. Other manly events are Maru-Shri (Mr. Desert competition) and competition for the title of ‘the best mustaches’. In Rajasthan culture, the mustache is a symbol of honor. Judges assess mustaches, paying attention both to the quality and length of mustaches. The man who wins the competition is given a prize and regarded as the most honored man.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

Also, no desert is possible without camels. Camels are the integral part of desert life as well as the desert festival. Therefore, at Jaisalmer Desert celebration, you can contemplate a host of camel-related events. Probably the most captivating competition is camel polo, which draws the attention of the audience by their camel riding skills. You can also experience spectacular stunts of Rajasthan gymnastics on the back of the camel. Camel formation dancing is another animated and amusing event. Finally, you can cheer for camel races, which are not less riveting and exciting than all other events mentioned above. By the way, in case you want more camels in your life, many hotels offer camel safaris.

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

Unfortunately, the festival takes place only for three days. The Desert Festival comes to an end on Poornima (meaning the full moon in Sanskrit). It means that you will have a chance to immerse into the fairy-tail ambiance of picturesque Sam sand dunes, listening to the folk concerts under the full moon and sparkling stars of the magical night sky. The culmination of the Desert Festival is sparkling fireworks exploding in the sky, leaving vivid impressions and bright memories from the festival.

KEEP CALM AND GO TO THE DESERT FESTIVAL

The Desert Festival is an excellent event, for those who are in love with India and its unique culture. In Jaisalmer, you will experience another India, remote, unspoiled and romantic atmosphere of golden sands far from hustle and bustle of typical, always in a move, exuberant and noisy India.

If you do like the idea of escaping from daily routine to the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, start planning your trip straight away. The easiest way to get to the location of Desert festivities is by air. The Jodhpur Airport is the nearest airport to the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, or you can also fly first to Delhi and then go by bus or train, which might take nearly 6 hours. In Jaisalmer, if you need any help, you can go to the tourist help center, where people are always eager to help tourists with how to spend the Desert Festival and enjoy time to the fullest.

Welcome to the fantastic world of India!

Holi Festival 2020

Holi

Colors speak all languages.

Joseph Addison

India is known to be one of the most fascinating, colourful and bizarre countries around the globe. It is a hub of astonishing traditions, crazy cultural rituals and fabulous religious holidays that have been celebrated through centuries. This country is a country of contrasts, where bright colours, smiles, and happiness merge with dark colours, sorrow, and poverty. Nevertheless, India remains a unique and beautiful country, drawing the attention of many travelers who search for adventures and unforgettable memories.

You can come to India at any time of the year and you will be not disappointed. But in spring, the number one destination in India is Mathura and Vrindavan. There you will have an opportunity to witness one of the most colourful festivals on the globe, called Holi. First of all, Holi is a symbol of the victory of good over evil and the celebration of the advent of spring. But in fact, Holi is widely renowned as the Festival of Colours and Love, as it is a time when people can meet each other, laugh, enjoy the abundance of colours and finally it is a time when people learn to forget and forgive, to begin a new life with the arrival of spring.

As most of Hindu festivals, Holi didn’t start a few years ago, but centuries ago. It is an ancient holiday with a long history. There are numerous mythological stories and legends, revealing the origin of the festival. However, there is one, probably the most reliable legend found in the Sanskrit Manuscript of the 7th century. It tells the story of young Krishna who was very jealous about the fair skin of Radha since he has dark skin. Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda, who advised him to paint Radha’s face in various colours. Therefore, Lord Krishna and his friends decided to go to the Barsana, the village where Radha lived, and to colour Radha’s face as well as the other Gopis ( cow-herding girls) from the village. That is how the Festival of Colour started.

But going back to the story of Krishna and Radha, we should mention one more fact, the Gopis in response to Krishna’s joke, beat them with Lathis (sticks). The tradition passed the test of time and is still celebrated as Lathmar Holi at Barsana.  Lathmar Holi is probably the only chance for women to beat men, even just in a playful manner. In any case, men come prepared and usually protect themselves with shields, so nobody gets hurt. This is a very spirited and animated event, which we highly recommend to visit as a part of Holi celebration. Traditionally Lathmar Holi is held seven days before the Holi officially starts. Barsana is situated 115 kilometers from Delhi and only 50 kilometers from Mathura. The easiest way to get to the village is to hire a cab.

Holi

Another event, you shouldn’t miss is Phoolon wali holi, which is celebrated on the Ekadashi before Holi at the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan. Phoolon means flower, therefore the main peculiarity of the event is that instead of dry and wet colours, people use flowers. The temple gates are open around 4 pm after which for 15-20 minutes priests throw various colourful flowers on the devotees. This is a charming, yet short event, so in order not to miss it and capture beautiful pictures of ‘flower rain’, you should come early, just when the gates open.

Holi

To continue the parade of events that take place before and during Holi Festival, if you arrive at Vrindavan early, visit Widow’s Holi. You probably heard many horrible stories about the life of women in India. In the 21st century, it is hard to even imagine, how little rights Indian women have. Speaking of widows, for years they lived a difficult life without earthly pleasures, chained by some preposterous rules, traditions, and superstitions. Widows were isolated and forced to live in Ashrams in Varanasi and Vrindavan during the Holi Festival. Participation in celebration of colours was strictly prohibited for them. But all the rules are made to be broken. So, a few years ago women managed to break this rule and to play with colours as equals. This kind of a new tradition nowadays slowly but confidently gains popularity. More and more travelers come to Pagal Baba Widow Ashram, Vrindavan, to witness this unique celebration of colours, as the embodiment of freedom of expression of Indian Women.

Holi

Next must-go is Holi at Banke Bihari Temple, which is held on the day before the main Holi Festival. It starts in the morning and finishes in the afternoon, around 1.30 pm. The Banke Bihari Temple gates open and welcome every visitor without exception to play colours with Lord himself. The priests throw colours and holy water at people. Crowds are singing, falling in the euphoric and exhilarating atmosphere of colours. Although it is a very bright event, that may seem the friendliest event ever, be aware that celebration may become a bit uncontrolled and even a bit dangerous for women.

Holi

Around 2 pm, the Holi festivities in Vrindavan come to the end. We recommend you not to lose time and move straight to Mathura, to relish splendid Holi procession. You will see myriads of children dressed up as Radha Krishna and about ten vehicles decorated with flowers. The location looks like the battlefield of colours, all the people around play dry and wet Holi with each other and we advise you not to stand aside, but join the crowds, become a part of festivity and colour yourself completely. Let yourself be free, paint your memories in a variety of colours, make your white t-shirt a colourful masterpiece.

On the 9th of March, the evening after the Holi procession is the time for Holika Dahan, the burning of the huge effigy of Holika at the Holi Gate. People gather around the fire, sing, and dance, celebrating the victory of good over evil.

Holi

Finally, the day of the largest Holi Festival comes. In 2020 it takes place on the 10th of March at the majestic Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura. As soon as gates open, hundreds of local men and tourists, armored with dry colours, water balloons filled with colour water, water guns (pichkaris), swarm the Temple and began the “Colourful fight”. Also, people simply chill out, dancing and singing to the drumbeats. While playing colours with people, you can also try some traditional dishes, like gujiya (sweet dumpling), mathri (traditional  Indian crispy cracker), malpuas (rich, soft pancakes, soaked in saffron flavored syrup) and other delicacies. The men usually drink some beverages based on local intoxicating herbs. Bhang is known as the most popular cannabis drink in India. That is actually the reason why you will not see a lot of women at the festival. You can also try bhang, but of course, we advise not to abuse. There is much more fun, being sober and conscious sometimes. Do not experiment with your body.

HOLI TIPS

  •  Be ready for the colour attack, as you are going to go to the epicenter of “a colourful downpour”;
  •  If you want to take beautiful shots of Holi Festival  and save your camera, waterproof plastic covers will come in handy;
  •  Wear old clothes, as it will be destroyed after festival anyway;
  •  Being the woman you need to be extremely careful, in order not to get into trouble ( remember that most of the men take bhang);
  • Wear a cap in order to protect your hair from complete damage.
  • If you are allergic, be careful, as nowadays many water and powder colours are made from chemicals, not from plants, like it used to be. Consult a doctor as soon as you see some skin irritation.

If you don’t mind literally becoming a walking canvas, go to Holi, and bring colours into your life!

Welcome to the Festival of Infinite Colours!

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival 2020

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival

Are you ready for the biggest, the wettest water festival ever? Bring water balloons, squirt guns, any kind of spray bottle, or simply a bucket. Fill all you have with water, and let the Water Fight begin!!!!!

In April Thailand is transformed into the battlefield, where people ruthlessly attack each other with water. This wacky event is known as the Songkran Festival. However this festival can be observed from two sides, and in fact, carries a deeper meaning than water mischief.

TRADITIONAL SONGKRAN

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival

Songkran is the Traditional Buddhist New Year, celebrated from 13 to 15 April. It is considered to be introduced by Brahmins ( priests, scholars of Vedic literature) from India and its name, “Songkran”, can be translated from Sanskrit as change or transformation. That is why on the Songkran people try to get rid of old possessions, sorrows, and problems of past year and move forward. Also in the New Year, Thais go home, to pay respect to monks, family, friends, neighbors. Celebrating Buddhist New Year, people may also go to pray to the temples and wats. They also clean the images of Buddha on house shrines and local temples, carefully pouring them with scented water, as they believe that cleansing can bring good luck and prosperity. In addition, in Chiang Mai, you can see brightly adorned floats with Buddha, which people also shower with water. And, of course, people spill water on each other,  giving the blessing, purifying from bad luck and protecting from evil spirits. Eventually, due to this ritual, the Traditional Buddhist New Year evolved into the tremendous Water Fight.

MODERN SIDE OF THE SONGKRAN

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival

Nowadays, the spiritual aspect remains, but the first association with word ‘Songkran’ is not anymore the Traditional Buddhist New Year, but a three-day water fight. Generally, The Songkran is celebrated in every corner of Thailand and in some other countries. If you are in Thailand on the Songkran, we can recommend you the best cities to celebrate the New Year and to take a part in the water-battle.

Bangkok is definitely in the Top 5. It can boast of its numerous party and crazy atmosphere with flying water. You can also go to  Pattaya City, where usually the Beach Road is cut off to traffic and live music stages are set up to entertain the revelers. For those who want to lie in the sun, feel the breeze coming off the sea, Phuket is number one beach destination. Bangla Road and  Patong Beach are the main hotspots of Phuket during Songkran, however, at night this area is not for an audience under 18, so don’t bring kids. In case you want to enjoy less wild parties, you might like to go to Koh Samui. This is a perfect place to celebrate Thailand’s New Year if you travel with kids.

All the cities we mentioned above have their charm and can compete for the title of the city with the best water parties, but still, the city that can be considered the synonym to the Water Fight Festival is Chiang Mai. We strongly advise this city for those who go to celebrate the New Year in Thailand for the first time.

Chiang Mai is a combination of old spiritual traditions and beliefs with water frenzy. During Songkran, in Chiang Mai, you can be drenched in any part of the city, when you go to the restaurant, or get out of the taxi. Don’t get angry, people do it with good intentions, instead get your water weapon and attack in return. And actually, there is no way you or your friends will get angry. April is one of the hottest months in Thailand and being showered with water is a blessing indeed. You don’t want anything so much as water. In such scorching days, water is the best medicine to be taken both orally and externally.  To soak in water and refresh yourself most of the people go the Old City near Tha Pae Gate, gathering at the moat, used as a water refill station. People fill up with water the weapons of purification and shoot, saying “Suk san wan Songkran!”, which means “Happy New Year!”

Except, for the water fights, don’t miss the painted elephants’ parade and the Miss Songkran beauty contest.  Simply walk around the moat, and have a bite of some local delicacies. To party to the fullest, you can head to  Huaykaew Road, where usually a few stages are set up, that can brag about Thailand’s most popular DJs, pop, and rock bands. The epicenter of nightlife in Chiang Mai, which people swarm when the sun goes down is Nimmanhaemin Road. This area is famous for its numerous clubs and mind-boggling parties. In general, wherever you go in the New Year, Chiang Mai will have smth for you, you will enjoy these three days and probably will have a desire to come back again the next year.

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival

   HOW TO SURVIVE ON THE SONGKRAN FESTIVAL

  1. First of all, don’t go on the street without your water gun. If you don’t have it, don’t worry, as there are myriads of vendors who will help you to solve this problem.
  2. Don’t wear your best clothes, no flamboyant fancy costumes are needed. Wear simple clothes that will get dry quickly.
  3. The water is everywhere so bring a waterproof camera or a waterproof case for your cell phone.
  4. Streets may get flooded, so we recommend you to wear waterproof shoes instead of sandals, that may get broken easily.
  5. People don’t throw the pure water from a mountain spring, so to complete your outfit, you can wear swimming goggles, to protect your eyes from possible eyes infection. However, word “possible” doesn’t mean it will really happen to you. In addition, avoid swallowing the water, in order to avoid any stomach problems.

Experience the cocktail of unique Thai traditions with the craziest Water Fight.  The Songkran guaranties only good mood and exhilarating, spirited atmosphere.

Kanamara Matsuri 2020

Kanamara Matsuri

Japan was always known for its modesty, manners, strong traditions,  complex and demanding etiquette. Japanese people are always polite and respectful, especially towards people of a higher social status. They are never late, as they appreciate the time and perfectly understand the meaning of ‘a hard work’. They bow a hundred times a day while greeting or thanking. But at the same time, having a perfect reputation on the international level, Japan can brag of the most bizarre traditions and festivals, that astonish people all over the world.

Speaking about the most mind-bending and jaw-dropping events in Japan, the first place goes to the Kanamara Matsuri or the Festival of the Steel Phallus. It is annually held on the first Sunday of April at the Kanayama shrine in Kawasaki. The central theme of the event is a penis. Therefore it is the one-of-a-kind event with the tremendous concentration of men’s genitals in the form of different delicacies, candies, carved vegetables, various decorations, and parades. However, it is a mistake to associate this festival with some perversions. In fact, while some foreigners cram the festival to giggle and gawk, for Japanese people, this celebration has a deep, religious and thought-provoking meaning.

ORIGIN OF KANAMARA MATSURI.
DEMONS OF THE PAST AND NOWADAYS

Let’s look closer at this event. Kanamara Matsuri traces its origin to the Edo period. One of the most popular explanations of the appearance of the Festival of the Steel Phallus is the legend about “vagina dentata” or toothed vagina. According to the legend, there was a sharp-toothed demon who was totally enamored of one beautiful woman. But the woman didn’t love him at all and married another man. The demon got mad and decided to inhabit the woman’s vagina before the wedding night.  And when the act of love was about to happen, furious demon bit off the penis of the groom.

When the woman married another man, the jealous demon showed his sharp teeth again and bit off the penis of a poor man. The woman was desperate. So, upset villagers made a plan how to deceive the demon and help the woman to get rid of this evil.

However, there is another more realistic version of how the Kanamara Matsuri emerged. “Vagina dentata” can be considered a metaphor for the outburst of syphilis during the 17th century. The shrine has served as a meeting point for many local comfort women that annually gathered to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Nowadays situation didn’t change much, but instead of syphilis, there are other diseases. So, Kanamara Matsuri is not just a festival of the penis, it is, first of all, a tool to raise the awareness for HIV, AIDs and other STI’s. Also, it is a celebration of fertility. Many young couples and families come to pray for fertility and safe childbirth. But as far as Kanamara Matsuri is the festival, its main purpose is to make people have fun.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM KANAMARA MATSURI

The main highlight of the festival is Penis Parade, which starts around 10 am. The procession consists of three mikoshis ( portable Shinto shrines), each containing a gigantic phallus. The first mikoshi is a black steel phallus that commemorates the original penis from the legend about the demon. The second mikoshi is an old wooden model of the phallus. The third one is a huge pink penis, called Elizabeth. It was donated many years ago by the famous Tokyo cross-dressing club called Elizabeth Kaikan.

It is hard to find right words to describe the atmosphere during the parade. Some people blush, others eagerly take photos with enormous statues of the phallus. And except for the three main erected idols, you can contemplate thousands of other penis variations. To blend in with people, don’t be shy and wear a penis hat, or even penis costume. Don’t forget to buy phallic souvenirs for your family and friends. You should also enjoy some penis-shaped food (mind, that buying any goods at the festival, you donate money on AIDS research). Try the most popular delicacy during Kanamara Matsuri, a penis lollipop. Make a pervy selfie with it AND DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE SAY. Japanese take everything easy, for them, penis and vagina are just parts of human body and there is nothing to be shy about.

Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

After the festival, you can explore some nearby streets, visit some interesting sights like  Kawasaki Daishi Heiken-ji Temple or Toshiba Science Museum or simply take a walk in one of the numerous parks of Kawasaki, enjoying the fragrance of cherry blossom.

In the end, we want to emphasize once again that it is not an erotic festival. Kanamara Matsuri is a religious festival with a very light-hearted and friendly atmosphere. People of all ages, of all nationalities and sex visit festival. We do advise you to come and experience firsthand, before judging it. Kanamara Matsuri is more than just penises, it carries a more profound meaning.

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival 2020

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival

The advent of the Spring. Nature takes up a new look. We wake up slowly from long winter dream. We free ourselves from choking scarfs and heavy sweaters like an armor. Spring – a time when we unlock our feelings, desires, when we open our eyes widely, breathe in the fresh air and simply enjoy every single moment of our life. Drunk with a fragrance of cherry blossom and overwhelmed by feelings we walk through the park, so alive, probably like never before, catching the ray of sunshine and smiling at each other…That is how I can try to describe the feeling you can experience during one of the most charming festivals in Seoul, South Korea as well as in the whole world, known as Yeouido Spring Flower Festival.

THINGS TO DO ON YEOUIDO SPRING FLOWER FESTIVAL

This celebration is an excellent opportunity to run away from hustle and bustle of grey gloomy cities and to relish the cherry blossom in the company of your family, friends or the person you are in love with. Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is very young, probably not so advertised and world-known as Hanami in Japan or the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The festival was celebrated for the first time in 2005. In 2020 it will be traditionally held during the first or second week of April when all around is in blossom. The easiest way to get to the location of the festival is a subway. Firstly, get to the National Assembly Station (Subway Line 9), Exit 1 or 6, then walk straight for 300m (about 5 minutes). And here you are at one of the most romantic festivals on the planet.

As it is Flower Festival, the first thing you should do is take your time and enjoy to the fullest the beauty of cherry trees in full bloom and some other flowers that you can find at the festival, such as azalea, forsythia, royal azaleas, bridal wreath spirea, deutzia.  Very soon you will blend in with people walking to and fro, chatting and taking selfies. But, of course, this festival doesn’t end after you took a selfie and walked around for 10 minutes. Another thing that will capture your attention is myriads of food trucks full of finger-licking street snacks. You will see a lot of people with mats and tents eating fried chicken and drinking beer, you can do the same, borrow or rent a tent, or simply join people and make new friends. You can order some food or come to any of street vendors.

No doubts, when you think about the festival, street food is a must. Try something exotic, for example, beodengi, street food made with silkworm pupae. If you like spicy food, try also tteokbokki that comes with orange or bright red sauce called gochujang. Another flavorsome street snack is jwipo, a traditional Korean pressed fish jerky, traditionally served hot. To continue the top list of mouth-watering delectable Korean street food, it is recommended for every visitor to try odeng (easy-to-eat fishcakes on a skewer), savory and sweet at the same time gyeranppang (egg muffins) and many other street snacks you that you will find at the festival.

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Beodengi

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Tteokbokki

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Gyeranppang

Apart from stuffing your stomach, you can enjoy a photo exhibition, street performances of acrobats, singing contest, traditional Korean percussion music. Also at the festival, you will see some tents where visitors can try on and take a photo in traditional clothes, called Hanbok. If you are with children they can have some fun at the temporary roller skating rink. For couples, there is nothing more romantic than riding a tandem bicycle. The culmination of the celebration is the breath-taking fireworks along Hangang River.

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival

If you lack something romantic in your life, or if you simply want to spend some time with your dear people, Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is more than perfect. Besides, the atmosphere of cherry blossom and cheerful people around is, probably, the best cure for those, who are tired of sitting in the office in front of the laptop whole day and whole night, drowning in the daily routine, thinking about billions of problems that invade their heads every day and every hour.

How little we need sometimes to feel alive again and wake up happy next day.

Chinese New Year 2020

Chinese New Year

Excitement builds up all around the world when the Chinese New Year approaches. This is festival known for streets lit up with bright lights, fireworks whistles that can be heard a mile away and smells of freshly-baked cakes that can tease our nostrils. A cheerful and vivacious mood can be felt in the air. This is a time when all worries and sorrows are left behind and the only rule is to be happy and celebrate.

HISTORY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR

This holiday has a long history of over 3,800 years. According to the popular myth, the origin of this day lies in the fight against Nian(Year), a beast in Chinese mythology. On the night of New Year’s Eve, the beast visited the cities and eat crops, cattle, and even people. In order to protect themselves from the monster, people placed food on their porches so that evil creature wouldn’t harm them.

Going back to the reality, of course, nobody has to fight a beast. Modern Chinese New Year is a colorful friendly celebration which can be found all around, far beyond China. In several corners of the world, major China Towns annually hold outstanding New Year festivals and parades too. To say, that you can visit some Chinese New Year festivities in some big cities, as well as in small towns throughout the whole planet, will not be an exaggeration either.

Also, I would like to add, when surfing the Internet, you might see the name “Spring Festival” in the article about Chinese New Year. It might be confusing, but Chinese New Year and Spring Festival are synonyms. It all happened because of moves of modernization in the 20th century. Chinese government wanted people to celebrate Western New Year. Therefore they decide to rename traditional holiday to Spring Festival. Then there were some other changes in the history of Chinese New Year. There was a time even when the Chinese New Year wasn’t celebrated at all ( the period when Chinese Communist Party was in power). Although, nowadays Chinese politicians don’t stop working and implementing new reforms, Chinese New Year remains untouched. So, in 2020 you are welcome to experience Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) firsthand. It takes place on Saturday, the 25th of January.

WHERE TO SPEND CHINESE NEW YEAR

BEIJING

Without a doubt going to Beijing on Spring Festival would be a great decision. Celebration in the capital of China is, of course, the fanciest of all. The city hosts a series of Temple Fairs, that have been a part of life in Beijing for hundreds of years. There are two most recommended fair temples in Beijing: Dongyue Temple Fair and Ditan Park Temple Fair.

The Dongyue Temple Fair features five days of performances, with acrobats, opera singers, drummers, calligraphers and puppet shows. Another worth of visiting fair is Ditan Temple Fair. It is one of the most popular temple fairs, that includes a variety of performances, wide array of local Beijing snacks and handicrafts. The price of a ticket for each of mentioned above temple fairs is around 10 RMB/person( approximately $1.5 USD), which is quite affordable for any tourist.

Chinese New Year

The Dongyue Temple Fair

Chinese New YearDitan Temple Fair

Except for the Temple Fairs, visitors can also attend the Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival (nearly 50 miles outside of central Beijing) or the Longtan Fair.

Chinese New Year
Longtan Fair

Chinese New Year Food at Longtan Fair

GUANGZHOU

Have already been to Beijing?  Another place for spending a marvelous New Year vacation is the big southern city of Guangzhou. In China, it is called the “Flower City” for its blooming gardens all year round. Guangzhou is well-known for its flower fairs held annually during the New Year. During the fair, streets of the city are decorated with beautiful, fragrant flowers, and miniature landscapes. Also, at the fair, you can buy paintings and calligraphy from local artists or simply enjoy the various folk performances.

Chinese New Year

Among the other traditions of Spring Festival in Guangzhou is the lion dances that are performed to bring good fortune and to get rid of evil spirits. This dance is a symbol of Chinese New Year, a must go kind of event while being in China at New Year!

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

HONG KONG

Last but not least, one of the favorite cities of our team: Hong Kong. New Year in this megapolis is a unique mix of modern fun and ancient traditions. One of the reasons why people go there on New Year is roaring, colorful, indescribable in one word fireworks show. The Hong Kong’s New Year Fireworks and Countdown celebration is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Some good spots to watch the fireworks shows are Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Harbour City Rooftop Car Park, and Avenue of the Stars. In fact, you can enjoy the fireworks show from any place of the city, as this colorful, bedazzling magic performance of light is impossible to be unnoticed.

 

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year can be celebrated almost in any big city, whether it is New York, San Francisco or Singapore, or, of course, China, which will always be the heart of old as well as contemporary  New Year traditions and festivals. Chinese New Year is not only an excellent opportunity to celebrate again New Year’s Eve, but a chance to get an experience of a great cultural celebration (and maybe get a second shot with any past failed New Year’s resolutions).

And, clearly, good trip requires great preparation. Even though Chinese New Year is celebrated almost everywhere, certain locations, like China, might get everything booked months in advance so remember: 不善始者不善终 (A bad beginning leads to a bad ending. Chinese proverb). Avoid paying extra due to bad planning, get your booking done as soon as possible and 吉星高照 (fortune will smile on you!)!

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