Five Asian festivals worth the trip
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Five Asian festivals worth travelling for

With their roots in centuries’ old religious and cultural celebrations, Asia’s best-loved festivals have evolved to encompass Super Soakers, corporate sponsors and internet booking engines – all without losing their utterly unique character. Here are five celebrations worth betting your travel plans on

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

When: February or March, depending on the lunar calendar
Where: Pingxi is on the outskirts of New Taipei
Why: Every year, visitors flock to Pingxi to write their future wishes onto bold red lanterns (pictured above) – and then release them skywards. Anyone can purchase lanterns in Pingxi and send them into the ether throughout the day (when excellent street food opportunities also abound), but the event comes into its own when darkness falls. Grab a prime spot by the festival stage to watch the light show, performances and the release of many more glowing sky lanterns.
Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Taipei

Singapore's Chingay Parade

Chinese New Year

When: January or February, as per the lunar calendar
Where: Singapore
Why: Luminous, winding dragons and prancing lions herald the start of Chinese New Year: a time to reunite with family, sweep away past misfortune and invoke good luck for the year ahead. It’s the key Chinese cultural holiday; but the eye-popping spectacle of Spring Festival, as it’s also known, has universal appeal. You’ll find Asia’s largest street float extravaganza in Singapore, home to the Chingay Parade  (pictured above). The two-day celebration includes a seated, ticketed show at the F1 Pit Building and parades along Republic Boulevard to the junction of Raffles Avenue and Temasek Avenue.
Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Singapore 

Songkran in Bangkok


When: 13-15 April
Where: Bangkok, as well as many other places in Thailand
Why: The New Year celebration of Songkran takes the form of a city-wide water fight (pictured above), as revellers cleanse misfortunes by splashing one another with water from bowls – or, increasingly these days, Super Soakers. If you’re looking to cool off and go wild with the locals, head to Khao San Road or Silom Road – and prepare for a drenching. More traditional, worship-based celebrations await at the city’s main temples, such as Wat Pho (home of the famous reclining Buddha) and Wat Saket.
Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok 

Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo

Kanda Matsuri

When The closest weekend to 15 May, during odd-numbered years
Where Tokyo
Why Taking place every two years, Kanda Matsuri (pictured above) is one of the key Shinto festivals in Japan, taking its name from the Kanda Myōjin Shrine. Its spectacular processions meld deity worship with references to Japanese myths and legends. The must-sees are the mikoshi: a variety of portable shrines that are carried aloft through the streets. Celebrations last a week, but it's at the weekend that parades weave through the Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi and Akihabara districts from 8am until evening – and Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo is just moments from the action. During ‘off’ years, the event alternates with the more modest Sannō Matsuri festival.
Stay Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong

Dragon Boat Festival

When: Late May/June, according to the lunar calendar
Where: Hong Kong
Why: The furious racing of the mighty Dragon Boats is the stuff of legend. Said to commemorate the failed attempt in 278 BC to stop an admired state official from drowning himself, today the race (pictured above) is an annual fixture with regional and international races taking place in Hong Kong – and beyond.
Why: Among the most prominent races is the Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships. Head to Stanley Beach to watch this major competition, encompassing men’s, women’s and mixed teams in sets of varying abilities. All will compete for glory – while you enjoy a leisurely drink on the sand and soak up the boisterous atmosphere.
Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

Interior architecture of Guangzhou Public Library

Why Guangzhou is China’s most liveable city

Whether you’re looking for tranquil natural surroundings, a diversity of striking traditional and progressive architecture, a thriving restaurant scene, or a rich choice of museums, Guangzhou offers all of these in abundance. It’s no surprise then that it has been ranked as one of China’s best cities in which to live – here’s why