For many individuals, the thrill of winter middle on strapping on skis, snowshoes or skates and getting outside. In fact, that’s no much less true in lots of components of Asia. However with climates starting from the famously snowy Japanese island of Hokkaido to the tropical forests of Malaysia, the continent provides all kinds of wintertime delights for vacationers who’re in search of one thing completely different from a day on the slopes. Recent-caught mountain trout sashimi, anybody? Listed below are 5 festivals to take a look at this winter.

South Korea

The prospect to pluck a sancheoneo, or mountain trout, from a frozen river attracts 1000’s of holiday makers each winter to a cold-weather-loving nook of South Korea. The annual ice pageant, held in Hwacheon County from Jan. 6 to twenty-eight this yr, doubles as a tribute to a cherished native fish.

To hitch in, first, purchase plastic bait and a pole on the boardwalk alongside the Hwacheon Stream. Then enterprise onto the thick ice and declare a predrilled gap within the fishing space. Now, it’s time to start out luring some trout. Professional tip: It’s all within the wrist. And in case your aquatic adeptness nonetheless feels missing, consultants dart about sharing fishing suggestions. Between their recommendation and the abundance of trout within the river, even an newbie’s possibilities of success are fairly good.

Whether or not or not you fish, you’ll be able to nonetheless get a style of the recent catch (alas, not your personal) close to the fishing space, the place a restaurant tent sells the trout fried, grilled and sashimi-style. Order each preparation and savor every with an area beer.

After fishing, heat up with some ice sports activities. Guests can skate, sled, pedal the fanciful contraption that’s an ice bike, and even scoot round crouched or seated on a picket plank, steering themselves with two sticks (sounds laborious, but it surely’s nicely definitely worth the exertion when you get gliding).

Some courageous souls take a dip within the river, inspiring shivers among the many spectators. In case you’d reasonably keep dry, stroll about 10 minutes from the river to an indoor ice fortress and sculpture panorama that make for beautiful Instagram posts.

Most friends wrap up their pageant go to across the nook from the ice fortress web site, with a night stroll up a road bedecked with a cover of vacation lights — a brilliant ending to the day. Hwacheon is a few 90-minute bus trip from Seoul. — Farah Fleurima


Thaipusam, a Tamil Hindu pageant celebrated yearly on the periphery of Malaysia’s capital metropolis, Kuala Lumpur, is many issues: spectacular, raucous, gaudy, intoxicating and undoubtedly not for the faint of coronary heart. Annually, scores of devotees on the pageant — which celebrates the victory of the god Murugan over a demon — fulfill vows of private sacrifice, hoping the deity will grant their prayers: restoration of a sick relative, for instance, or expiation of a previous misdeed. Every petitioner should carry a kavadi, or burden, trekking to a temple constructed inside the massive, limestone Batu Caves complicated about eight miles outdoors the Malaysian capital. Kavadis can vary from a easy pot of milk to elaborate steel-and-wood cell shrines that may weigh greater than 100 kilos.

Many additionally pierce their flesh with hooks and skewers, a apply banned in India, however nonetheless permitted in Malaysia. The sight of scores of pierced pilgrims climbing the 250-odd steps main as much as the temple amid a delirious uproar of chanting, drumming and blaring music attracts a whole bunch of 1000’s of worshipers and spectators yearly. This yr, the three-day pageant will climax on Jan. 25, when devotees and their supporting members of the family and associates make the pilgrimage.

A few of the kavadi carriers — who’ve spent weeks fasting and abstaining from intercourse in preparation — seem to have labored themselves in a semi-fugue state, showing to not really feel ache from their piercings. Regardless of the extraordinary devotion and generally chaotic ambiance, the temper is extra like a road occasion than a non secular ceremony. Certainly, for a few of the devotees, presumably those that have made the pilgrimage many occasions, all of it appears surprisingly mundane. The final time I attended, one man carrying a towering kavadi anchored to the pores and skin on his again by a number of dozen large metal hooks raised a hand as I handed, flashing a smile and calling out, “The place you from, mate?” — Simon Elegant


The traditional metropolis of Nara, as soon as Japan’s capital, wards off the wintertime darkness with an uncommon custom: lighting an area mountain on fireplace.

In a custom stretching again over 250 years, a short, however spectacular, fireworks present results in the heralding of trumpets. Then the dry grass of Nara Park’s Mount Wakakusa is about alight by native firefighters. (“Yamayaki” interprets as “mountain burning,” and theories behind its origins are as colourful as they’re apocryphal, starting from an internecine clan boundary dispute to makes an attempt at confining ghosts to a mountaintop tomb.)

Relying on climate situations, the flames can burn for as much as an hour and are seen all through the town. For an up-close expertise, spectators can watch from viewing factors on the base of the mountain, whereas others could want to see the spectacle from one of many metropolis’s temples or historic buildings, equivalent to Heijo Palace, farther away from the mountain.

Forward of the fireworks show and grass burning, the previous often kicking off at 6:15 p.m., a variety of smaller occasions additionally happen all through the day, together with a contest during which contributors compete to see how far they’ll throw an oversize model of the rice crackers many guests feed to the town’s ubiquitous deer.

Attendees may also take pleasure in reside music performances and outside meals stalls, in addition to a procession of officers wearing historic garb as they make their technique to the mountain forward of the burning.

This yr’s pageant, scheduled for Jan. 27, is a brief bus trip from Nara Station, though the town’s brisk, however not unduly chilly, late-January climate makes for a nice stroll and the prospect to take pleasure in different festivities alongside the best way to the park. — Allan Richarz


Some cities hibernate when snow begins to fall. Sapporo, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, comes alive. For one week each February, the town, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, embraces the chilly with the Sapporo Snow Pageant, providing outside eating, markets, sports activities, ice sculptures and extra throughout three occasion websites.

From its humble beginnings in 1950, when a bunch of highschool college students created a half-dozen snow sculptures as a one-off occasion, the pageant now options greater than 200 snow and ice sculptures alongside the almost one-mile most important pageant web site at Odori Park. The works vary from modest, however nonetheless impressively detailed, amateur-built creations to towering skilled designs depicting mascots, anime characters, well-known buildings and hometown sports activities heroes. To take all of it in, head to the commentary deck of the close by Sapporo TV Tower (admission: 1,000 yen, or about $7.10) for a sweeping view of the pageant from 295 toes overhead. Once you come down, the realm across the tower hosts a mess of out of doors drink and eating choices from piping-hot noodle dishes to all-you-can-eat meals.

Close by, the Susukino Ice World showcases a wide range of dazzling ice sculptures brilliantly lit every night alongside the boulevard, in addition to the prospect to look at artisans at work through the pageant’s ice-sculpting contest.

And returning for the primary time since 2020, the Tsudome web site provides snowy all-ages actions for extra adventurous sorts. Points of interest embrace snow and ice slides for tubes and sleds, zip strains, a snow maze and a snow raft towed behind a snowmobile. In case you’re feeling the nippiness a bit of an excessive amount of, indoor eating choices are additionally out there, showcasing Sapporo specialties like ramen and seafood rice bowls.

This yr’s pageant runs from Feb. 4 to 11. In case you go, bundle up towards the chilly, and think about investing in a pair of detachable snow cleats to navigate the customarily icy exhibition areas. Whereas reserving a resort within the metropolis middle gives most comfort, the pageant’s walkable proximity to Sapporo Station and close by metro stations makes arriving by public transit a straightforward various. — Allan Richarz


Yearly, communities throughout northern Taiwan rejoice the top of the standard Lunar New 12 months celebrations with the peaceable spectacle of 1000’s of lanterns launched into the evening sky. However the southern metropolis of Taitung has its personal technique to greet the event: a loud, fiery feat of endurance. On the fifteenth day of the primary lunar month — this yr, Feb. 24 — volunteers let themselves be pelted with 1000’s of exploding firecrackers.

In the course of the custom, Blasting Lord Handan (often known as Bombing Lord Handan), younger males holding a banyan tree department and carrying nothing however shorts, a headdress, protecting goggles and a moist towel to defend their mouth and nostril from the smoke, are paraded via the streets on a bamboo throne, portraying Lord Handan. The firecrackers, wired collectively in bricks, explode round their naked flesh. Coated in welts and bloody scrapes, the volunteers discover honor of their ache and hope to obtain a blessing from the ordeal.

In accordance with Taoist beliefs, Handan was initially a Shang dynasty basic named Zhao Gongming who, upon his dying, grew to become a god identified for his capability to generate wealth and management lightning. The custom of blasting Handan arose, custom holds, due to the god’s dislike for the chilly — the firecrackers are supposed to deliver him heat and please him.

Though the apply is restricted to Taitung, it’s believed to have arrived from Taiwan’s west coast through the Chinese language imperial period. Below Japanese colonial rule (1895 to 1945), conventional Chinese language non secular expression was suppressed, and Handan worship was pushed into personal houses. Taitung revived the custom in 1951, and it has shortly grow to be the area’s most vital folk-religion ritual. At the moment, the spectacle takes place at Xuanwu Temple, which is devoted to Handan, and will also be seen throughout the streets. — Mike Kai Chen

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