Sentosa, Singapore. Image: Singapore Tourism Board
Welcome to Meanwhile in ASEAN and our blog series exploring the best spots to escape the cold this winter. From island paradises to metropolitan cities, we discover all the best sunshine-laden destinations in Southeast Asia to add to your travel list.
Grab your summer hat and join us as we delve into the tropical climate of Indonesia and Singapore to see which local festivals and events are on from January to March. With plenty to see and do under the warm sunshine, you might be jetting off to Southeast Asia, sooner than you think.
Lengkuas Island. Image: indonesia.travel
With highs of 26-27°C between January to March, Indonesia attracts droves of travelers to Maluku and Papua to enjoy the dry season. Both regions are ideal at this time of year for those who like to dive. The wet season continues in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali, and Lombok but temperatures remain pleasant.
Have you heard the wonders of Belitung’s beaches? Flanked by the Gaspar and Karimata Strait, off the eastern coast of Sumatra, Belitung is a beautiful island blessed with a magnificent landscape, divine beaches, and outstanding scenery. This tropical wonderland is truly a place where you can get a glimpse of what paradise would be like. One island, in particular, Lengkuas Island is the site of a 19th-century antique lighthouse.
The upcoming Belitung Cap Go Meh Festival will be held on 19th February 2019, marking the last day of the Chinese New Year or Imlek. The festival means "the 15th night", hence, it is celebrated 15 days after Imlek, when the full moon will be at its brightest. Chinese descendants all over the world, including Chinese-Indonesian, celebrate this day with vibrant festivals. The festival usually includes Barongsai (lion dance) performance, lantern parade, and delicious food festival. One of the most well-known and awaited is the lontong Cap Go Meh.
Prambanan Temple. Image: borobudurpark.com
A visit to Yogyakarta is incomplete without seeing two historic temples, one Buddhist and one Hindu. Located not far from the Buddhist Borobudur temple, the proximity of the two temples tells us that on Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another. Prambanan is a magnificent spectacle and an icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage. The temples at Prambanan were built in the 9th century and is known locally as Roro Jonggrang, coming from the legend of the ‘slender virgin’. The biggest temple is dedicated to Shiva – the destroyer and the two smaller ones which sit on its right and left are dedicated to Brahma, the creator, and Wisnhu, the Sustainer. Tawur Agung Kesanga Ceremony was conducted a day before the implementation of Saka New Year 1941/2019 Nyepi Day which falls on 7th March 2019.
What if we tell you there’s a magical land where the trees are always green, the animals energetic and the beaches are full of life, all year long? Also known as the Land of the Gods, Bali appeals through its sheer natural beauty of a looming volcano and lush terraced rice fields that exude peace and serenity. For those in search for peace and tranquility whilst enjoying balmy temperatures, head to Bali for Nyepi around the 7th-8th of March. The long-standing Balinese event - Nyepi celebrates a ‘day of silence’ and is celebrated on the island, every year. The night before, huge papier-mâché monsters (ogoh-ogoh) are set of fire to deter bad spirits from the island. Festivities involves fasting and mediation as the island of Bali comes to a soothing stand-still, in this enchanting cultural tradition. Nyepi is a great opportunity to make good use of its silence and seclusion, so why not spend some quality spa time with a full-day treatment?
Spa in Bali. Image: indonesia.travel
Travel between Indonesia and Singapore
It couldn’t be easier to cross-travel between Indonesia and Singapore. Direct flights take less than two hours in total. Numerous flights leave each day to and from Singapore’s Changi Airport, connecting to various Indonesian locations - including Tanjung Pandan Belitung, Jakarta, Semarang Central Java, Yogyakarta, Surabaya East Java, and Denpasar Bali.
If you have more time on your hands to enjoy a slower mode of travel, you can also travel between the two countries by ferry. Several local ferry companies travel directly from Singapore to Indonesia, in less than eight hours.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Image: Michaela Loheit / CC-BY-ND-2.0 / Flickr
Singapore enjoys at least 10 hours of wonderful sunshine each day from January to March, with temperatures staying consistent around 28-32°C. Considered “shoulder season” as it sits between peak season and low season, January – March is a great time of year to enjoy the beautiful Singaporean sunshine and avoid the crowds. And, it’s not just the weather that draws in visitors. There’s plenty of festivals and events to enjoy while you’re there.
Two-day Hindu festival Thaipusam, brings traffic to a sstandstillon 20-21 January. An exceptionally lively celebration, Hindu devotees in Singapore commemorate with dance, music, and processions to give thanks for their blessings. Visitors to this festival can expect to see a range of large colorful processions running from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple located on Tank Road. Festivities also extend to Little India and Mariamman Temple where outdoor celebrations are also in full swing.
Celebrations in Singapore turn up a level in February, as Chinese Singaporeans hold elaborate activities to welcome in the Chinese New Year. To take part in the festivities, head to Marina Bay Floating Platform to witness Singapore’s impressive floating platform in NS Square (formerly known as Float@Marina Bay). Here you can enjoy breathtaking displays of Chinese lanterns, eat mouth-watering local food and soak up the warm climate in the open-air.
The famous Chingay Parade is Singapore’s Annual Street parade, celebrating the rich and diverse culture of Singapore. Famed as the largest street performance and float in Asia, expect to see decorated floats, dancing dragons, and traditional costumes representing Singaporean culture today.
With plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained, Indonesia and Singapore offer the perfect getaway to warm-up this winter. Join us next time, as we explore festivities and events in the tropical Southeast Asian nations of Myanmar and Thailand.