Got a trip to Asia coming up? Want a heads up on major events taking place in the region? Here's our monthly guide to what is happening in Asia.
March 7: Nyepi (Bali)
Nyepi, also known as the Day of Silence, marks the first day of the new year on the Balinese Saka calendar. The Hindu holiday sees the Indonesian island come to a complete standstill – the airport shuts down for 24 hours, shops are closed, lights are switched off, internet access is blocked, and everyone must stay indoors. The day is seen as a time for self-reflection and quiet contemplation for all, and even tourists are expected to observe the day, which is strictly enforced by local authorities.
March 10: 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising
On this day in 1959, thousands of Tibetans launched a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The events led to the Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet for India, where he remains to this day. In March 2008, violent protests erupted during the annual observance of Tibetan Uprising Day. Every year China bans foreigners from travelling to Tibet around this time, in case of further unrest. The occasion of the 60th anniversary is no different, with a travel ban in effect until April 1.
March 20: Holi (India)
Holi is a vibrant Hindu festival, celebrated across India and Nepal, to mark the arrival of spring. The holiday is split into two events; Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi. The former takes place on the eve of Holi, and involves the burning of pyres to signify the triumph of good over evil. The second day of the festival has become most famous for the ritual of throwing colourful powders, which is why it’s often referred to as the Festival of Colours. This particular ritual draws on the story of two lovers, Radha and Krishna, who were concerned about their different skin colours, so coloured their faces to match.
March 24: Thai general election
After many delays, on March 24 Thailand will finally hold its first general election since the military seized power in the 2014 coup. The lead-up to the election has been full of drama, with the Thai Raksa Chart political party nominating (and subsequently withdrawing) Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister. The 2017 constitution allows for the prime minister to come from outside parliament, a loophole that many critics see as allowing Thai junta leader and current prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to retain power.
Late March: Hanami (Japan)
People in Japan will be keeping a close eye on the cherry blossom forecasts ahead of this year’s hanami, or cherry blossom viewing season. Hanami is a centuries-old custom in Japan, but these days it's a time for friends and colleagues to gather outside and enjoy a party beneath the flowering trees. While it can be difficult to predict the exact bloom window, this year it is expected to take place slightly earlier than usual thanks to a mild winter in Japan.
- Asia Media Centre