What's happening in Asia in May?

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’s happening in Asia.

May 1: Japan’s new era begins (Japan)

On May 1, Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed his father as emperor of Japan, marking the start of the new Reiwa era. The 59-year-old will become the 126th emperor of the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. His formal enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo won't take place until October.

May 4-6: Coronation of the Thai king (Thailand)

In 2016, Thailand’s then-Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn became king following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His official coronation was delayed until the end of a period of mourning for the late king, who reigned for 70 years. The 66-year-old will finally be crowned in an elaborate three-day ceremony which will take place in Bangkok.

May 5: Ramadan (worldwide)


Almost two-thirds of the world's Muslim population is based in the Asia-Pacific.

The holiest month in the Islamic calendar is expected to begin on May 5, subject to the sighting of the new moon. Ramadan is a time for Muslims around the world to contemplate their relationship with God, which they do by performing extra prayers, carrying out acts of charity, and fasting between sunrise and sunset. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s Muslim population lives in the Asia-Pacific region, so it's an important time for this part of the world.

Early May: Rocket Festival (Laos)

Every year before the start of the rain season, Laotians celebrate Boun Bang Fai, or the Rocket Festival. The unique celebration sees locals make large rockets from bamboo, which are carried in procession before being blasted into the sky in the hopes they will encourage rainfall and bring on a successful harvest.

May 9-13: Cheung Chau Bun Festival (Hong Kong)

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Giant bun towers at Cheung Chau. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of visitors descend on the island of Cheung Chau, a short ferry ride away from Hong Kong Island, for the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Giant towers constructed from buns form the centrepiece of the festival, which is famous for its "bun-scrambling" contest where participants must scale the bun towers, collecting buns along the way.

May 13: Philippine general election (Philippines)

Filipinos will head to the polls on May 13 for the midterm elections. All positions in local government will be contested, as well as half of the seats in the Senate and all the seats in the House of Representatives. While President Rodrigo Duterte isn’t on the ballot, the election is expected to serve as a litmus test for his administration's popularity.

May 19: Vesak Day (worldwide)

Also known as Buddha’s Birthday, Vesak Day is observed by Buddhists (and some Hindus) all over the world. The day marks three major events in the life of Gautama Buddha – his birth, enlightenment, and passing. On Vesak Day, it’s customary for Buddhists to visit temples, eat vegetarian food and perform good deeds.

- Asia Media Centre