Top LGBT festivals in Asia
19th January 2017 | by Louise
It's hard to look at an Asian calendar without being struck by the huge number of holidays, celebrations and festivals that are held every year. Whenever you travel to Asia, you're likely to encounter some kind of celebration on your trip; most of our destinations revel in any excuse for a party!
Several of our destinations have been at the forefront of celebrating the LGBTQ community for many years, and visitors flock to Thailand and Japan to join revellers on the streets of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Tokyo, partying and rallying together to celebrate the LGBT communities, to raise money for local LGBTQ charities, and to show that their cities are open to all.
These are some of the more well-known LGBTQ festivals in Asia, along with a couple of the smaller events that caught our eye. For more information about LGBT travel in Asia and ideas on how to tailor a holiday around any of these festivals, please call us on +44 (0) 1273 670 001 for a chat.
Thailand, but especially Bangkok, 13-15th April 2017
The Thai festival of Songkran has become one of the continent's largest street parties, and visitors from all over the world arrive to join in what could be described as the world’s largest water fight. Songkran is the start of Thai New Year, marking the beginning of the new solar year and celebrating the rain, which arrives in April after a long hot and dry season. It's impossible to stay dry during this festival, so come prepared! Everyone takes to the streets prepared with huge super-soakers, water pistols and buckets of icy water, with the sole intention of drenching other willing revellers. Although not an exclusively LGBTQ festival, Songkran has taken on particular meaning in recent years, with specific LGBTQ parties being held alongside the street celebrations. The party lasts for 3 days, and can be enjoyed all over Thailand, with Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket as centres of the action.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride
29th April - 7th May 2017
Welcoming people of all genders and orientations, Tokyo Rainbow Pride is a week long festival celebrating the diversity of Tokyo’s LGBT community. Heading into its seventh year in 2017, the main event sees a parade of floats belonging to dozens of different LGBTQ groups and organizations from Tokyo and beyond. This vibrant Pride celebration starts in Yoyogi Park and makes its way through the Shibuya and Harajuku districts followed by 5,000 people. Over the course of the week, 70,000 people come to join in the festivities and events, with the parade marking the grand finale of the festival. Visitors can enjoy films, meetings, exhibitions and parties, all coming together to showcase and raise awareness of the LGBTQ community in Japan. Watch the video here.
Hand in Hand Festival
Seoul, South Korea, 4th June 2017
Not so much a festival as a growing movement, Asia Proud Voices brings together LGBTQ choirs from across the contintent, to unify and communicate through song. The network consists of groups including the Wu Tong Gay Men's Chorus in Chengdu, Rainbow Voices Mumbai, and NECO Punch (literally “cat’s paw punch”) - a Japanese gay male choir. In 2015, Proud Voices Asia put on Asia’s first ‘Hand in Hand’ festival in Taipei. It was the first international gathering of LGBT choirs from across Asia, and included representation from China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as singers from Europe and North America. With the plan to operate the festival in Asia every two years, we’re looking forward to seeing the next event come together in South Korea in 2017.
Vietnam, 2017 dates TBC
‘We are Queer, We are Here’; Vietpride aims to promote awareness and visibility for same-sex love and gender-nonconformity in common spaces like the workplace, schools and cafes throughout Vietnam. The initiative has been received enthusiastically by Vietnamese and expat LGBT communities, and a coalition of local and foreign NGOs and diplomatic missions. In 2014, the Vietpride Scholarship was launched to provide assistance for disadvantaged LGBTQ youths in obtaining vocational training and degrees. A unique aspect of the Vietpride rally in Hanoi is that the parade typically takes place on bicycles and motorbikes – the most quintessentially Vietnamese forms of transport. Throughout the event, visitors can partake in film screenings, workshops, panel discussions and ongoing dialogues around LGBTQ rights – in both English and Vietnamese.