10 Festivals That Will Make You Feel Out Of This World

Festivals and carnivals are such happy and joyous occasions. More often than not, it is an extravagant function and sometimes, it may even make you feel out of this world. Here is a list of 10 festivals that is worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime.

1. Burning Man Festival, Nevada

When? Last Monday of August

What? Burning Man is a festival that provoke your thoughts and expands your creativity. Each year, a group of artists will come together and create a new city in the desert. The city comes to live through large-scale installations, costumes, and other mediums of art. It’s hard to truly understand what goes on at Burning Man without being there.

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photo credits to Trey Ratcliff, check out more pictures from Burning Man Festival on his website.

2. Rio Carnival, Brazil

When? Before Lent, ends on Ash Wednesday.

What? The Rio Carnival is known worldwide for being the world’s biggest festival, bursting with music, colours and enthusiasm. It draws approximately 2 million people from all over the world on to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, mostly enjoying themselves and dancing to samba music. I would love to go experience the vibe myself.

A dancer participates in the parade at the sambodrome

photo credit: TerryGeorge. via photopin cc

The Sambodrome - Rio Carnival 2006

photo credit: TerryGeorge. via photopin cc

3. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, China

When? January

What? This is the biggest ice and snow festival in the world (and one of the coldest!) Shiver amongst massive snow sculpture and twirl around the ice palace like you’re ruling Narnia. Just don’t stick your tongue onto the ice!

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photo credit: Bert van Dijk via photopin cc

4. Tomorrowland Festival, Belgium

When? Last week of July

What? Tomorrowland has become one of the most notable music festival in the world. This annual music festival draws top deejays from all over the world to commemorate electronic music. This year’s headliners include Nicky Romero, Avicii, Hardwell, Alesso, David Guetta, Armin, Tiesto and more!

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photo credit: Mixtribe Photo via photopin cc

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photo credit: Scamelot via photopin cc

5. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

When? Early October

What? Self-explanatory, this is the world’s biggest hot-air balloon fiesta. What can be more majestic than the sight of hundreds of balloon floating into the sky all at the same time? This balloon fiesta last for a period of 9 days.

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photo credit: a4gpa via photopin cc

6. Bregenz festival, Austria

When? Late July to late August

What? Europe is without a doubt, well-known for its classical music. Home to music prodigy Mozart, Austria plays host to this one month long opera festival. The highlight of this festival is the intricately designed floating stages that are situated on the shores of Lake Constance.

RIO 1492 + 520

André Chénier -  Scenery

7. Carnival of Venice, Italy

When? Before Lent

What? Same purpose as the Rio Carnival (Number 2) but this is done the Venetian way. It’s like attending a huge masquerade ball along the streets of Venice.

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photo credit: wikipedia

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photo credit: zeropuntosedici via photopin cc

8. Rijeka International Carnival Parade, Croatia

When? Before Lent

What? Many are not aware that across the globe from Rio, the Mardi Gras spirit is also brewing in Rijeka during the period leading up to lent. The reason why this made it to my list is due to the addition of the  Zvoncari (bell ringers) folk custom, which is unique to the Rijeka’s Carnival. It’s origins come from paganism, therefore, participants are seen dressed in strange animal outfits, and making a lot of noise in the efforts to scare the devil away. This is on top of other bright costumes and brass bands.

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photo credit: Rudolf Abraham, check out his album for more pictures of Rijeka’s Carnival

and to digress, here’s an interesting article on the other types of pagan costumes. 

9. Obon Festival, Japan

When? On or around 15 August

What? Imagine lanterns lighting up the entire town, including the rivers. This festive is for the Japanese people to pay their respect to their ancestors. The floating lanterns represent the act of sending off the spirits of ancestors. Lanterns at night will always be a pretty sight.

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10. Pushkar Camel Fair, India

When? November

What? I was so intrigued when I found out about this festive. As the name suggests, it’s a festival with camels, lots and lots of camels. The festival starts off with a camel race (yes you read it right!) Other than that, there will be music performances, markets and exhibitions. The purpose of this Camel fair is for the locals to trade live stock, but over the years, it has gained popularity for its unique experience and hence drawn new crowd. The fair is filled with colour, live, and probably manure.

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Hopefully we all get to experience at least one of them (or more) during our lifetimes.
Keep the spirits up and be merry!

Peace & Love

Eileen x

5 Reasons for You to Visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

I’ve recently made my first ever visit to Vietnam and as always, I was ever ready to embrace a new destination. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much as majority of the people that have been to HCM told me that “it’s all just about the war really”. Others who enjoyed themselves gave much credit to the food. My itinerary revolved around South of Vietnam so I didn’t just stay in HCM but I took a trip out to Mekong Delta as well. To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed myself and I want to give you 5 reasons to visit HCM city if you haven’t made your trip down (or have been giving it seconds thoughts).

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1. Coffee

I am a major caffeine addict which explains why I had to start with this. Vietnam is the world number 2 exporter for coffee  (Brazil number 1) and they really live up to their name. Everywhere I went, even in the middle of a village at mekong delta, I had good coffee. The coffee in Vietnam is unlike anywhere else I’ve tried and it doesn’t take a coffee drinker to realise that. My brother who usually don’t drink coffee really enjoyed the Vietnamese iced coffee. For regular drinkers like myself, I recommend the thick black coffee.

For the curious (and more adventurous) few, why not try the Cà Phê Chồn, which loosely translates into weasel coffee. It is dubbed the most expensive (and most disgusting in my opinion) coffee as it is made from the feces of civit who feast on coffee bean. The ones I found in Vietnam are reproduced chemically but the thought really puts me off from trying. I wouldn’t stop you if you want to give it a shot!

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(Coffee stall at Ben Thanh Market)

2. Vietnamese History and how it shaped Vietnam today

I was delighted to learn how unique the Vietnamese culture has evolved over the years. It is an Asian country and it shares similarities with it’s neighbours but Vietnam also has a strong European influence. The most obvious evidence is from it’s written language looking somewhat like Spanish, Portuguese or French. This is because many people/traders from Europe has stepped foot onto Vietnam (yearrssss ago, before the French colonised Vietnam), and they adopted a more familiar way of interpreting the Vietnam language, gradually evolving into modern Vietnamese language.

In Ho Chi Minh (former Saigon) you will find many architectural buildings that has the European presence. Don’t be surprised if you see the Notre Dame in the city centre! There are also several French bakeries sprawling over the city.

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(Opera House in HCM city)

Apart from it’s language and culture, it is hard to miss the historical conflicts of this country. Vietnam has a really interesting past and it is worth opening your history textbook to learn about what happened and how it made Vietnam today. There were so many parties involved. French, Americans, Viet Cong, anti-colonist, pro-colonist, socialist, communist, Vietnamese from 1950s era, Vietnamese from 1970s. Relationship status: It’s complicated.

One historical sight that I would recommend is a visit to one of the tunnel systems in South Vietnam as it was of great importance to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war and provided them considerable advantage. I visited Cu Chi Tunnels and it is the most intricate of the tunnel systems consisting of nearly 200 miles of tunnels. During the tour of the tunnel, you will also be taken through various ingenious offensive tactic that the Viet Cong adopted during the war.

A little heads up for the Americans: There was a strong “anti-American” vibe when I visited as the war really scarred the people who were directly affected. I’m pretty sure the people now are welcoming to the Westerners but in terms of the historical warfare, there is still a ting of resentment as portrayed in their videos and written materials presented at the war museums. For the rest, Vietnam’s history is worth re-visiting.

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(Top: Inside the Cu Chi Tunnel; Bottom: Translated telegram from Ho Chi Minh at the War Remnants Museum)

3. You can’t cross the road the same way anywhere else

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the infamous traffic in Vietnam (if you’re wondering, Bangkok and Malaysia isn’t even a close comparison). The traffic in Vietnam is mad. There are so many motorbikes and one time I even saw a family of FOUR on ONE bike (no I’m not kidding). Despite the  crazily heavy traffic, it is surprisingly safe to jay-walk across the road (or there’s no other way you can get to the other side). The traffic is heavy but it’s not fast.  The motorists are generally skilled enough to swerve around you. I’ve never felt so liberated crossing the road before.

Check out this awesome time-lapse video on the traffic in Vietnam (get ready to be blown away)

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

4. Eat anything and everything

In Vietnam, you get to eat anything and everything and nobody will judge you. My guide told me that this is due to its poverty stricken past. People were too poor to afford proper food so they ate anything they could find. From dogs, to cats, to rats and tree barks. If you want to take your gastronomic experience a step further, just ask the locals and munch away. I personally tried the rat. Tasted like a more tender version of chicken.

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(Top: Barbecue rats and frogs; Bottom: Feet of a half eaten rat)

Also, this is Vietnam’s answer to viagra.

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(Bottle of goodness taken at Ben Thanh Market)

To be fair to the food scene in Vietnam, apart from eating anything and everything, there’s actually good proper food. I tried food at street vendors, markets and chain stalls and they are all good. If you don’t want to try the rat, you must at least try the Phở (Vietnamese soup noodle).

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(Top: Phở from Phở 2000; Bottom: Food from the market which I literally pointed at the picture and ordered.)

Bonus 5th Reason for my fellow Singaporeans

This 5th reason is a bonus for my fellow Singaporean counterparts. Just for your information, Ho Chi Minh City is nearer to Singaporean than Bangkok. The flight is only 1 hour 50 mins. Minus take off and landing you can barely even finish a movie. IT’S SUPER CLOSE TO SINGAPORE. Tigerair and Jetstar ALWAYS have cheap flights to Ho Chi Minh City. Plus the currency is cheap against our Singapore Dollar. Give BKK a break, try HCM. You get your cheap massage and cheap food and cafes plus shopping too. And it’s the closest place you can get a “European feel” without flying 13 hours. There are great French restaurants and bakery in HCM. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??

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Like all destinations, I feel that there is a need to keep an open mind and be aware of the social status of the country you’re visiting as well. To rephrase what my guide said on this trip,

“This is Vietnam and what you see is what you get. You can’t expect us to give you what you expect to get in your country if you want to see the real Vietnam. If you expect that you don’t come to Vietnam. You don’t expect much, you will be surprised and have a good experience. Vietnamese people work very hard and you must see that. Also, Vietnam is beautiful and we are very friendly.”

Well, all I can add to it is, open your eyes, open your mind, you might enjoy it.
Welcome to Vietnam.

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Peace & Love,

Eileen x

10 Activities You Need to Try on the Garden Route

I have previously blogged about how I planned my South African road trip on the Garden Route, which without a doubt, is one of the best drives I ever did. My friend and I drove through lush mountains, coastlines and we had nature surprising us at every turn.

The moment we got off the flight and started the road trip, we were greeted by this sight. (Wow, wow, WOW)

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Every moment I was in the country, I felt ever so thankful to be present.

However, beyond the scenic tour, there is a whole chunk of activities for you to indulge in to make your trip a lot more wholesome than it already is.

Read more!

Why You Should Travel

I came across an article today, Wanderlove written by Ella Frances Sanders, Intern at Maptia, and it inspired me to write this post to tell the world, why I do what I do, why I travel and why you should too. Looking at the pictures put together by Maptia brings me back to moments where I stood in awe in front of a breathtaking scenery. When you work really hard to get to the view, the feeling of soaking in the glorified landscape is one that is special, rewarding and cannot be traded for anything else. And that’s not the only reason why you should travel.

1. You wake up somewhere different, soak in a different air, with a different view

This world is beautiful and has so much to offer.

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(Santorini, Greece, June 2012)

My love for traveling began when I lived abroad, met people from different walks of life, different culture and it made me realise that I have been living in a bubble. Friends proudly told me about what their countries have to offer, and the mountains and lakes that their houses are situated by.

Read more!

New Mission to Uncover Sri Lanka

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I was meant to do my work but I side tracked and started researching on my next destination: Sri Lanka. A lot of people have a misconceived idea of Sri Lanka thinking it’s still in its dark civil war days, but friends, it ended in 2009. I can’t wait to peel open the different sides of Sri Lanka and show it to all of you. For starters, there are soooooo many ancient ruins in Sri Lanka. From Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa and they are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And also, I’m psyched to visit the quaint sacred town of Kandy and take a scenic train ride down to Ella via Nuwara Eliya where there are plenty of tea plantations, mountains and greeneries alike. Am also planning to head down to Mirissa Beach and a stop over at Old Town Galle and its Fort, also named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I’m open to recommendations if you all know of any hidden gems or possibly the food that I must try in Sri Lanka. 🙂 So excited!

Peace&Love

Eileen x

photo credit: whl.travel via photopin cc