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Bucket List: 10 fabulous places to travel to, including cultural festivals in Asia

By: Online Editor, Michelle Wonderland

There’s no doubt I’m a wanderluster; it’s what has inspired our family’s thirst for expattery around the globe this past decade. But no matter how many international countries and world cities we move to, the thrill of new cultural adventures abroad always beckons. I’m a big believer in manifestation, so this year, I’m throwing my new year’s resolutions wish list out to the Universe in hopes that The Dude abides my bucket list of spectacular places to travel to this year

bucket list, travel, festivals in 2015, cultural tourism, bagan, myanmar, burma, family travel
I believe I can fly! Balloons over Bagan’s hot air balloon flights look amazing


January: Ballooning in Bagan, Myanmar

I first said mingalabar to Burma two years ago, yet what I really want to do is take a balloon flight over hundreds of ancient temples along the Irrawaddy. Hubby says it’s time to finally have breakfast champers while hovering over history, so we have our fingers crossed for this opportunity in 2015. Popular hot air balloon over Bagan operators are Balloons Over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning, both offering premium and classic flights.

February: Karma yoga – volunteer teaching in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As one of Asia’s poorest countries, Cambodia suffers from high rates of child trafficking, and many of Phnom Penh’s orphanages struggle to educate and protect children from this fate. Instead of taking another leisure holiday to Cambodia sipping Pastis by the pool and playing tomb raider at Angkor Wat, it’s time to open our hearts this year. Ethical project organizations like Projects Abroad offer opportunities to give, as well as working with charities such as First Hand.

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
Rising up in a blaze of glory, Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

March 5 – 15: Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Pingxi District, Taiwan

Held typically after the fifteenth day of the first month in lunar new year, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival sees nearly 200,000 fiery lanterns blaze the night sky.  Located an hour north of Taipei in a rural, mountain town, Pingxi is reported to be one of the most awe-inspiring launch sites for new year dreams.

April 13 – 15: Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The world’s biggest water fight awaits in northern Thailand. During Songkran (Thai New Year), the 700 year old city of Chiang Mai hosts one of the biggest (and longest) water festivals in Thailand.  Perfect for the family, side trips can include learning the skills of becoming a mahout for a day, and foodie tourism highlights of Esarn-style Northern Thai cuisine.


Expat living Editor
Today in the Expat Living office: Hey, Universe, doesn’t Online Editor Michelle look so very deserving of these trips in 2015?

May 16: Great Wall Marathon Fun Run, China

Though I completely ditched out on the Expat Living team Commando Challenge last year (I had a fever, hey!), I’d really like to tackle the Great Wall Marathon. But knowing that my genuine steam-blowing stamina limitations can’t face a full marathon, I’d opt for the (manageable) 8.5km Fun Run instead.

Castle Hotel
Fun fact: Dalian has some of the cleanest air in China. And there’s this cool Castle Hotel too.


June: Castle Hotel, Dalian, China

Ever since we read about the sweetheart seat flights on China Airlines to Starwood Luxury Collection’s Dalian Castle Hotel in HK Mag, we knew we had to get planning. This Bavarian-style castle mock up features nearly 300 rooms in a city with some of the best air quality in China! It might be a bit cheesy, but there’s a certain Mandarin-speaking-5-year-old who will be giddy at the opportunity to chat with locals and boss her parents around in a foreign language, all while living like a princess.


Elena Brower yoga retreat
Can you hear the ohmmmmm already?

August 1 – 7: Elena Brower Yoga Retreat, Como Shambhala Retreat by Uma at COMO, Paro, Bhutan

Meditating in the Kingdom of Gross National Happiness? Check. Pranayama in the Himalayas? Check. Practicing the art of attention through love and gratitude? Check. Luxe digs? You betcha. Yoga is, well, it’s my life. So when I came across this weeklong yog-stacy, I let out a girly squeal. Led by yoga expert Elena Brower and held at luxury hotel Como Shambhala Retreat by Uma at COMO, this Bhutan yoga retreat is the kind that yoginis like me dream of.

Pushkar Camel Festival
How many humps will we be able to count at the weeklong Pushkar Camel Fair?

November 14 – 21: Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan, India

We want to watch the desert come alive this year! An annual, five-day camel and livestock fair, Pushkar Camel Festival draws in tourists far and near to experience the cultural apex of Rajasthan. As the world’s largest camel fair, other highlights include a massive market hawking local wares and competitions for the longest moustache and bridal competition. To fully experience the spectacle in action, we’d plan to stay at Bliss Camp, a glamping company that organizes not only tour packages for Pushkar Camel Fair, but also offers a host of other luxury-tented desert camps in Rajasthan throughout the year.

Carp street
Look for the “KAPR” signs; there are tubs o’carp around every corner. Photo credit: 52insk.com

December 20 – 23: Live Christmas carp, Holiday markets in Prague, Czech Republic

I was fortunate to be a student in Prague when it was hailed as the Paris of the ‘90s, and proclaim the truth that the “dear little mother has sharp claws”. I vowed that when I had a family of my own, I would share the spectacle of Christmas glory only found in the Czech capital.

Carp bathtub
Your new pet is part of an age-old tradition. Photo credit: Hedgie.org

Not only does the whimsy of Wenceslas Square’s holiday markets truly make it feel festive, but there is something so uniquely Czech about the sale of live Christmas carp in late December. As tradition goes, just before Christmas time, you’ll notice large tubs of carp on each street corner. If you stick around, you’ll get used to the “thwack” of fishmongers preparing these fish to take home for traditional holiday meals. Do as the Czechs do; the other option, which would be more entertaining for the kids, is to bypass the quasi-violent thwacking and take your live carp home to live in the bathtub for a week.

Santa Tours
Meeting Santa Claus live and up-close in the Arctic Circle defo ticks the box


December 24 – 28: Meeting Father Christmas in Lapland, Finland

Let’s face it, we parents will only be able to get away with sustaining the belief in Santa Claus for a limited time. So, to keep the dream alive in our five-year-old’s mind, we would like to meet Father Christmas himself in the Arctic Circle. Budget tour operators like Thomsons organize yearly tours to Finnish Lapland, whereas other specialty operators such as Nordic Experience and Canterbury Travel give families options for meeting Santa on his home turf. Note: the afore-mentioned tour operators are UK based.

Stay tuned to see if I get lucky enough to tick all the boxes on my bucket list this year!