Ko Pha Ngan. Image: Oleg Sidorenko / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr
Welcome to another installment of Meanwhile in ASEAN, where we explore all the best sunshine destinations around Southeast Asia to escape to this winter. And it’s not just sunshine on offer, there’s also a fantastic variety of local events and festivals for you to enjoy whilst basking in balmy temperatures.
Ditch your winter coats for sunglasses and join us as we embark on a tour through the sun-drenched countries of Myanmar and Thailand. We share our pick of interesting local celebrations, for you to check out on the warmer side of the equator.
Takhaung Mwetaw Pagoda / Image: hobgadlng / CC BY-NC-ND / Visualhunt
With temperatures sitting around 33-36 °C and over 11 hours of sunlight each day, Myanmar offers an ideal winter-escape during the January to March period.
The Kachin Manaw Festival runs in January and marks the new year for the residents of the Kachin State of Myanmar. This long-standing festival celebrates the unity of six Kachin sub-groups - the Zaiwa, Rawang, Lashi, Lisu, Lawngwaw and Jingphaw. Everybody is welcome to join in with celebrations which consist of traditional feasts, costumes, music and dancing around a Manaw pole. Food, feasting and fun are central to this fantastic festival which provides visitors with a unique experience of local traditions.
The Ananda Pagoda Festival is another January celebration held in Bagan - the central region of Myanmar. The festival predominantly revolves around one of the oldest Bagan temples in Myanmar, the Ananda temple. One of the largest pagoda festivals, this culturally significant festival features various native foods, entertainment, craft markets, and monk sermons. A wonderful insight into local Burmese life, the Ananda pagoda festival will not disappoint.
Maha Bandula Park, Yangon
For those heading south, the historic city of Yangon hosts the popular open-air Yangon Photo Festival, from February to March. Held in Maha Bandula Park, this event draws together a superb collection of photos taken by local and international photographers, where beautiful imagery and warm weather can be enjoyed as one. Yangon Photo Festival’s primary mission is to tell stories through the power of images and offers a fascinating visual tour of social, cultural, and environmental issues throughout the event.
Travel between Myanmar and Thailand
Travel connections between Myanmar and Thailand are easy and plentiful. With over 17 daily flights from Bangkok to Yangon, travel between the two countries only takes 1 hour and 15 minutes on a direct flight. For those preferring the scenic route, travelling by land from northern Thailand via the border at Mae Sot, is also an option. The total journey time is around seven hours and ideal for those who like slow-paced travel.
Chiang Mai Flower festival parade. Image: John Shedrick / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr
Temperatures in Thailand are particularly pleasant at the beginning of the year. Coming out of cool season, the country warms up to 30°C and higher in some parts of the country. Northern Thailand tends to get cooler in the evenings, offering a pleasant respite from the warm daytime heat.
A must-visit for party revelers, the world-famous full moon party draws in thousands of visitors for New Year’s Eve and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Held at Haad Rin beach on the popular island of Ko Pha Ngan, the full moon party is famed for being one of the biggest beach parties in the world. Perfect for those seeking to welcome the new year in with a bang. Prepare to be dazzled by fire displays, hula-hoop dancers, beach entertainment, and every genre of dance music imaginable.
For nature-lovers seeking luscious greenery, mountains, and the warm countryside, Chiang Mai offers the perfect getaway. The largest city in the Northern Province, Chiang Mai plays host to the stunning Chiang Mai Flower Festival every year. An elaborate affair, this event comes to life with an abundance of color, traditional costumes, and highly decorated floats. Held at Buak Hard public park, you can expect to enjoy native dance performances, traditional Thai music, and consistent sunny temperatures throughout the festival.
While not native to Thailand, Valentine’s Day (Wan Valentine‘ in Thai) has become a larger-than-life celebration enjoyed by locals, all over Thailand. A popular time for marriage proposals, love is certainly in the air on the 14th of February. From underwater weddings, pop-up flower markets to oversized cuddly toys – it’s a flamboyant affair. For a metropolitan romantic break, head to Bangkok and join in with local traditions at the Trimurti Shrine, also known as the shrine of love. Locals visit this popular attraction on Valentine’s Day to pray for true love and dreams to be fulfilled. For sun, sea, and sand, head south to Koh Lanta, Phuket, or Krabi and enjoy Valentine’s celebrations on the beach. A great time to visit Thailand, it’s a uniquely fun and unforgettable experience.
Thanks for joining us in another feature of Meanwhile in ASEAN, we hope you enjoyed the tour. Stay tuned for our next installment, where we check out all the best events and adventures to enjoy under the incredible Southeast Asian sunshine.