Monday April 14, 2014
Photo by Wyndham
Songkran in Thailand has been underway since Sunday, although some enthusiastic Thai children were probably splashing people with water for good measure a day or two in advance.
The Thai New Year is an incredibly busy, chaotic, wet, and fun experience -- particularly in Chiang Mai. Rarely do you get to see thousands of people fill the streets to splash strangers with 'blessings' of cold water for the new year. The city fills to capacity for the annual event.
Held annually from April 13 to 15, Songkran is perfectly timed to cool people down during the scorching heat in April.
While, in the traditional sense, a sprinkle of water from a bucket would do, what fun is that? Instead, many participants decide to purchase big water cannons to really spread the love. Adding ice to the water increases the reaction from the crowd. I wasn't dry for four days during my Thai Songkran experience.
And while the splashings are in good nature, Songkran can be a frustrating time for some visitors as the moat surrounding the Old City in Chiang Mai turns into one big party. Road accidents double during Songkran to an average of 52 deaths per day, as people drive intoxicated or crash after getting splashed with water.
Songkran in Singapore 2014
Singapore had planned to get into the Songkran spirit -- and tourist dollars -- this year by hosting the largest Songkran event ever held outside of Thailand. Splashing water at the event, known as Celebrate Songkran, was eventually forbidden. Singapore has long suffered from a scarcity of potable water, so encouraging people to waste water wasn't exactly in line with national campaigns to curb water usage.
The decision came after the TAT Deputy Governor in Thailand stated that Thailand should have exclusive rights to celebrate Songkran. Although festivals -- particularly Buddhist events such as Songkran -- are celebrated widely throughout Asia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand actually considered legal action against Singapore if they hosted their own water fight.
Songkran is also celebrated enthusiastically in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Sunday April 6, 2014
Photo by Greg Rodgers
With the island's extreme popularity, pretty much every season is busy season on Bali. But things are about to get even busier.
May marks the end of rain and the beginning of high crowds in Bali. Students on summer break, surfers, families, honeymooners, and everyone else wanting a glimpse of paradise will begin to head to Bali. Peak season on the island is typically between June and August.
Indonesia's little Hindu island has reached capacity. You'll still find plenty of beauty, but you'll have to share. And step over heaps of trash left behind by revelers.
Bali's tiny Ngurah Rai International Airport in Depasar is the third busiest in the country. Despite Indonesia having more than 17,000 islands, a majority of visitors to the country only see Bali before they leave.
Even the Indonesian government recognizes the problem of excessive tourism in Bali. A new airport is planned in the northern part of Bali, and focus is continually put on diverting some tourists to nearby Lombok -- Bali's island neighbor to the east -- instead. You may want to consider adding a visit to one of Lombok's three Gili Islands while in the area.
Is Bali still worth enjoying? Absolutely. But those pictures of paradise and shots of secluded beaches you see in magazines were probably taken years ago or under special circumstances. To sample the real essence of Bali, head to the Kintamani Region or into the island interior; enjoy the green landscapes and blooming vines on volcanic slops.
Tuesday April 1, 2014
Photo by Greg Rodgers
Asia is here! And so are some major weather shifts throughout Asia.
While many countries throughout Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and Thailand have been enjoying great weather, April typically marks the transition into monsoon -- and the low -- season.
Heat and humidity will be hitting highs before the rain comes through to cool things down. The first showers are welcome, particularly to clean the air of dust and smoke.
Places throughout East Asia such as Japan and China will be warming to pleasant temperatures. Spring begins, flowers bloom, and hanami continues to move throughout Japan.
The next big festival to pop up in Asia will be Songkran (April 13 - 15) -- Thai New Year and the largest water fight in the world. Japan will also become busier than ever around the end of the month for Golden Week (April 30 - May 6).
If you've got a trip to Asia planned for this month, read about Asia in April to stay informed of weather changes and big events.
Thursday March 27, 2014
Photo by Greg Rodgers
Asia is big. And getting from place to place takes patience.
Sure, there are plenty of budget airlines with cheap flights, but by taking to the skies you miss out on a lot of things: scenery, nameless villages, and local interaction, to name just a few.
Then again, ground transportation can be excruciating, or even a hair-raising experience at times. I once rode through Laos on a bus so crowded that I had to sit on a box of onions the entire journey. Buses on rough roads will rearrange your back and riding with caged -- or free-roaming -- chickens is always a possibility.
On the other end of the spectrum, I've enjoyed fast Wi-Fi on luxurious buses between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. With so many people always on the move in Asia, you've usually got plenty of options for getting around.
No matter what your mode of transport, these guides will help you to choose the best seat, stay safe, avoid scams, and generally keep your sanity on long hauls: