Festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia

The most popular festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia, like in India, coming from a different religious and cultural traditions. Indeed in this region of the asiatic contingent live together many different ethnic and religious populations. Over the year Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu and Muslims tradition celebrates with different festivals and events. Here I choose some of the most interesting to photograph.

Festivals to photograph in southeast asia


Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu Festivals in Asia. It is held in honour of Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam every January.

It’s a truly incredible spectacle to photograph as participants perform incredible feats of devotion as they offer thanks to the Lord for good fortune during the year. Feats including the piercing the body and face with skewers, dragging chariots with hooks attached to the skin.

  • When: following the Tamil calendar—February 8 (2020), January 28 (2021), January 18 (2022), and February 5 (2023)


Vesak is one of the most important Buddhist festivals. The festival commemorates three distinct events in Gautama Buddha’s life – his birth, enlightenment, and death. Devotees spend the day rededicating themselves to the dharma and the Eightfold Path, with temple offerings and candlelight processions to and from significant Buddhist temples. Amazing photo can take during the night celebration when the devotes light thousand of candles.

  • When: following the Buddhist calendar—May 6 (2020), May 26 (2021), May 16 (2022), and May 6 (2023)
Festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia


Galungan is a Balinese holiday which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma, the triumph of good over evil. It marks the time when ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they leave earth. The ceremonies include prayers, dances and food and flower offerings that are prepared during the previous days. Offerings that shine in the entrances of the houses and in the streets.

  • When:  following the Balinese pawukon calendar—February 19 to 29 and September 16 to 26 (2020), April 14 to 24 and November 10 to 20 (2021), June 8 to 18 (2022), and January 4 to 14 (2023)
  • Where In Bali


Even is not the same vibes and energy or Varanasi or in Delhi, through out the Southeast Asia this festival is celebrated the Deepavali. In fact the Tamil Indian community in Singapore and Malaysia celebrates Deepavali to commemorate Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura, cementing the victory of good over evil. Deepavali is also the Hindu equivalent of the new year. During this days, the Indian families take time to hold reunions through the season.

  • When Celebrate : following the Tamil calendar—November 14 (2020), November 4 (2021), October 24 (2022), and November 9 (2023)
  • Where Celebrate : Malaysia and Singapore
Festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia

Chinese New Year

The significant Chinese presence in Southeast Asia celebrates its biggest festival during the Chinese New Year. Indeed this is a time for getting together with family and friends, settling debts, serving feasts, and wishing one another prosperity for the year to come. You can photograph the celebration during fifteen days. My favorite are n Georgetown, Singapore and Vietnam.

  • When: Moveable feast, following the Chinese lunar calendar—January 25 (2020), Friday, February 12 (2021), February 1 (2022), and January 22 (2023)
  • Where :Penang, Singapore, Vietnam, and in cities with significant ethnic Chinese communities

Hungry Ghost Festival

Among the festivals to photograph in southeast asia there is The Hungry Ghost Festival. This is  celebrate the Taoist belief in the afterlife. So the Chinese communities believe the gates of Hell open on the 7th lunar month, freeing the spirits of the dead to roam in the world of the living. Throughout  the communities in Southeast Asia, Chinese go all out to feed and entertain the roaming ghosts. Usually they offer offer food in their temples, also burn hell money and they have some public entertaiment. For example some song stages known as getai are set up, and Chinese opera (phor thor) and puppet shows held for both the living and the dead. Spectators leave the first row empty to accommodate the spirits.

  • When: following the Chinese lunar calendar—September 2 (2020), August 22 (2021), August 12 (2022), and August 30 (2023)
  • Where :Penang, Singapore, Vietnam, and in cities with significant ethnic Chinese communities

Pre festival preparations

Once you’ve got your gear together, you need to prepare like a highly organized person to have a successful photography festivals in travel . My first step is doing a good research of the festival. So I try to check everything, the exact date and the schedule. After knowing when and where it is, i look a map of the country, figured out an itinerary and finally i get there. What kind of subject i want to shooting, what story I want to tell. And then i start to read about history, culture and contemporary issues. Also I will take some information about rules and social behavior Although don’t forget to booked in advance your accommodation. In some festival i didn’t find easy to do it and I have to ask the locals and get some sleep in family home.

During the festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia

Get there in advance, know some local and be familiar with the place. For example usually I come to camel fair Festival in Pushkar every time one week in advance and is really worth. I get confident and even i participated for many years i’d like to start to feeling the place. So when the action come i fell really integrated. This will give a better opportunity to find a good vantage point. This can be maybe the most important thing when Festivals to photograph in Southeast Asia. In crowd events get a higher vantage point. In fact usually the local photographers brought small ladders and stools that allowed them to shoot the action without thousands of heads in their frame. This is a smart and extremely practical idea.

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