Follow The Sun: Backpacking The Asian Trail

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Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Asia

After growing up in Canada’s frozen tundra and counting down the days until my annual hibernation ended; when I decided to leave for good, I vowed to spend my days in some paradise where the sun would always shine. After falling in love with Asia and spending the last two years on this breathtaking continent, I now have the opportunity to follow the sun around Asia 365 days a year.

Read below for a rundown of the “best times to go” and what not to miss in each country when backpacking the asian trail:

India

Whether you’re in Nepal or India in March, attending the festival of color known as “Holi” will turn you pink and leave you with a memory for a lifetime! Photo credit: Shannon Wolf

Best Time To Go: October – June

Given that you could spend your entire life travelling through India and still not see it all – Be sure to start from the south and work your way north. Not only is it an easier introduction for travelling India, but you will get the best weather possible.

From hippie Hampi to the deserts of Rajasthan, the burning Ghats in Varanasi to the Himalayas of Dharmsala, you will find yourself coming back for years to come, and in great weather.

July & August: During the summer months, to avoid the rain, head over to Ladakh where the road is only open during the summer months and is ideal for trekking.

Best Festivals in India

Holi Celebrations (Held first week of March)
At Holi you will be blasted with color from all angles while you dance and drink your way through the festivities.

Nepal

Best Time To Go: September – November

High season is in full swing in autumn, when you can see unimpeded views of the mountain range while trekking. Be sure to not miss out on the Annapurna Base Camp or the Jomsom Muktinath Trek.

March – May: The second high season is in spring and brings about warm, beautiful weather while trekking across the many trails with lower prices all around.

Best Festivals in Nepal

Holi Celebrations (Held second week of March)
Holi in Nepal is a more relaxed version than India but it doesn’t make it any less fun! Head to the main square in Kathmandu for a day filled with color!

Nepali New Year (April 14)

Myanmar

Ancient temples of Old Bagan, Myanmar. Photo credit: Llee Wu

Best Time To Go: March – April

If you love hot and tropical weather, it’s the driest (and hottest) time to visit Myanmar. Be sure not to miss Bagan with a plethora of ancient stupas and temples overlooking the mountains, Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Inle Lake for leg-rowing fishermen and last but not least, crossing the most famous railway to Gokteik Viaduct.

Best Festivals in Myanmar

Thingyan (“Changing Over”) Water Festival (April 13-16)
Be prepared to get wet and wild as the 4 day water fight continues!

Thailand

One of the best festivals you will ever attend is Loy Kratong – A lantern festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand where you can participate in lighting your own lantern amongst thousands of others. Photo credit: Shannon Wolf

Best Time To Go: November – May

Starting in mid November, the rain has ceased and is the perfect weather to travel from the south to the north of Thailand.

Enjoy the southern islands where the turquoise water sparkles as you swim, snorkel and learn to dive. When you’re island’ out, get your party on in Bangkok’s vibrant city and then head to the North of Chiang Mai and Pai where you can find your inner hippie while indulging in the best food in all of Thailand.

Note: Burning season (burning of crops) starts beginning of May in Northern Thailand but it’s manageable.

Best Festivals in Thailand

Loy Kratong: Lantern Festival (November 28)
The lantern festival held in Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful things you will see in your life as you light your lantern along with thousands of others.

Songkran Water Festival: (April 13-16)
On par to Myanmar, this water festival is feisty and given the temperatures, it’s a blessing in disguise.

Laos

Khon Phapheng Waterfall, Siphandon, Laos. Photo credit: Jane Jean

Best Time To Go: October – April

During these months, the weather is warm and dry – the perfect time to take a cruise on the famous Mekong River, explore cities and get lost amongst virtually untouched jungles as you sway your days away in a hammock or on an inner-tube accompanied by an ice cold Beerlao.

Best Festivals in Laos

Pi Mai Lao: Lao New Year (April 14-16)
Bring in the Lao New Year with locals and tourists alike. A beautiful celebration is held in the capital city and across the country.

Cambodia

Best Time To Go: November – March

Although Cambodia hosts warm weather all year long, this is the driest time to visit. Be sure to start your journey wandering through the most breathtaking temples in Asia, such as Angkor Watt in Siam Reap followed by a wild night in Phnom Penh hanging out in the expat underground on Bassac Lane and then to the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Ta Kiev.

Best Festivals in Cambodia

Water Festival (November 14-16)
Get your waterguns ready because you’ll need them for this adrenaline filled day of water fights.

Vietnam

Best Time To Go: January – May

No matter where you go in Vietnam during these months, the weather is blissful. Buy or rent a motorcycle and feel ultimate freedom as you drive the length of the country from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh to discover varying opportunities for adventure. Ride an ostrich or jump on a 4×4 through the sand dunes in Mui Ne, Abseil; venture down the 60m waterfall in Dalat, explore the Dark Caves in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, kayaking and rock climbing in the famous Ha Long Bay or trek through lush rice fields in Sapa – the options are limitless.

July & August: In the summer months, you will want to spend your time in Central Vietnam where the weather is decent and rainfall is minimal.

Best Festivals in Vietnam

Tet Nguyen Dan: Lunar New Year (February 16)
Lunar New Year is an important holiday in Vietnam where the entire country is beaming with joy. To be apart of the festivities is a beautiful experience.

Malaysia

Bharat Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands. Photo credit: Ronald Tagra

Best Time To Go: November – February

Although the weather in Malaysia is hot year round, the driest season is on the west coast during this time. Start off eating your way through the incredible cuisine in Phnom Penh followed by sun, sand and island hopping around Pulau Pangkor, Langkawi and Tengah.

Best Festivals in Malaysia

Chinese New Year (February 16-17)
Although there are many religions across Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a big deal and a huge party for locals and tourists.

Thingyan Water Festival (April 16)
You’ll be sure to get cooled off by the water festival held in Malaysia!

Philippines

There are two seasons: Dry and Wet. Nothing in between.
Best Time To Go: November – May

This is the driest season and the best time to hop around more than 7,100 islands! Be sure to visit the highlands in Manila to get a traditional Kalinga tattoo from a 99-year old woman named Whang Od,; travel to Palawan for it’s famous island hopping, Boracay for its crazy parties, Moalboal to snorkel amongst thousands of sardines, Oslob for whale sharks, Bohol for the famous chocolate hills and Surigao for tranquility and the best surf in all of the Philippines.

Best Festivals in the Philippines

Sinulog Festival: Similar to Mardi Gras! (3rd weekend in January in Cebu)
If you were to go to any festival in the Philippines, its Sinulog. You’ll drink, you’ll dance and the city is in full swing party mode.

Dinagyang Festival (4th weekend of January in Iloilo City)
A religious and colorful cultural festival where you will be able to witness beautiful costumes and parades in IIoilo.

Dinagyang Festival. Photo credit: Francisco Pajares/ Dinagyang Photo Contest

Aliwan Fiesta (Last weekend of April in Pasay City, Manila)
A gathering of different cultures across the Philippines where you can witness various competitions and cultures in one place.

Bali, Indonesia

Best Time To Go: May-July

When the monsoon spreads across the rest of Asia in the summer months, Bali is the best place to go with the sun always shining and plenty of things to do.

Rent a scooter to explore the beautiful coastline; hang with expats and learn to surf in Canggu, and delve into personal wellness in Ubud for days filled with yoga, meditation and vegan dishes. When you’re craving more island life, boat over to the Gili Islands, hop over to Kuta, Lombok and to Flores for some of the best diving opportunities in Indonesia.

Best Festivals in Bali

Bali Arts Festival (Held on the second Saturday of June through July)
During the Bali Arts Festival you can watch an array of traditional dance, epic music and crafts.

Related Articles:

The 5 Craziest Festivals in South Asia

Top 6 Life-Changing Festivals To See in Thailand

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Shannon Wolf

Born in Toronto, Canada, Shannon Wolf has lived and worked around the globe as a freelance writer and photographer. Over the years her work has been featured and published both in print and online in various publications. Shannon has travelled over 40+ countries on 4 continents in the last 3 years and is an avid food lover and adventurer with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping.

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