Age-old Traditions

Pasola Festival in Indonesia

The Pasola Festival is an annual event which has its origins in war as a ritual for giving thanks to the ancestral spirits in the region of West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. This long-celebrated festival takes place every year towards the end of February and is decided by the Rato, a traditional priest, two weeks before taking place. Visitors can expect an animated event as two groups of 25 men each, mostly from the upper and the lower villages fight each other on horseback, throwing their wooden spears towards their opponent.

The word Pasola derives from the word Sola or Hola, which means a long wooden stick used as a spear. The initiating prayer is led by the Rato. After he symbolically throws his spear between the groups, the “war-game” immediately starts. The horses used for this ritual are usually ridden by brave and skilled men wearing traditional costume. The Sumbanese people believe the festival creates a balance between material and spiritual needs in order to live happily in earth and heaven.

Those wanting to visit the festival should book a flight to Ngurah Rai International Airport, then take a domestic flight to Tambolaka (West Sumba). Alternatively, guests staying at Nihi can ride a morning shuttle bus to see this event

For more information on Sumba packages that would ideally suit the Pasola Festival, check out our Luxury on the Edge of Wilderness and Sumba, Island of Contrasts programs on the Agent Hub.

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Bon-Odori in Japan

Throughout the year, unique local festivals are held almost every day in various cities across Japan. Some of these festivals are extremely hidden and only locals who live in the area can tell you the exact time and place. Travellers visiting Japan during the summer months may be lucky enough to come across one of these festivals by chance, or alternatively miss one being held right next to their hotel. There are even festivals where participants dress in traditional costume and dance in step to the live performance of singers, shamisen (traditional Japanese guitar), flute, and drums – often continuing over multiple days!

The Bon-Odori is a specific type of ensemble dance usually enjoyed at festivals. With its simple and repetitive steps around a raised platform, it is easy for almost anyone to join. While visitors may find it a bit challenging to join a dance, Tokyo is an easy gateway for outsiders to join the festivals held almost every day during the summer.

During a program with Destination Asia, visitors will be met by a guide and Bon-Odori master who will give a short lesson on dancing as well as leading the dance. Each community has its own unique music and moves, so with the help of the master, guests will be able to easily follow the circle.

For more information on our Bon-Odori Evening Tour program, visit the Destination Asia Agent Hub.

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Siem Reap Boat Festival

The most easily accessible and enjoyable festival in Cambodia, Bon Om Touk is one of the highlights of the year in Siem Reap. Occurring on 30 October – 2 November in 2020, visitors can enjoy the festivities as Cambodians from villages all around the Siem Reap region – each with their own Dragon Boat racing team – descend on Siem Reap to cheer on their team and enjoy the festival atmosphere. 

Asides from the boat racing there are several cultural performances in the Royal Gardens, a huge street-food market and many other entertainment venues and fireworks. At night, the river is illuminated by fairy lights and hanging lanterns, the bridges especially are decorated spectacularly so that Siem Reap resembles Hoi An at this time of year. Stroll up and down the riverside and soak up the atmosphere before retreating to one of the many bars and restaurants lining the river for refreshments.

Our travel experts’ recommended hotels are all within walking distance to the riverside area, yet far enough so that any noise from the celebrations does not impact on your peaceful stay.

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