1. Songkran – Thailand

The Songkran Festival actually celebrates the Buddhist New Year in Thailand and its roots lie in a rather gentler ritual. In fact, if you head to the temple in the morning of Songkran, or a few days before the festival, you may see this ritual still taking place as people splash water over each other and wash Buddhist statues in a symbolic ‘cleansing ritual’ to bring in the New Year.

Luckily, the festival takes place at the hottest time of year, so the water is a welcoming treat in Thailand’s scorching temperatures. Chiang Mai and Bangkok are some of the best places to experience Songkran, as tourists and locals take to the streets in colourful shirts and battle it out. Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have similar festivals in accordance with the Buddhist New Year.

2. Loi Krathong – Thailand

On the night of the full moon in November (many festivals centre around the full moon in Asia), people gather in the streets to release paper lanterns into the sky. (Krathong is the word for lantern in Thai.)

The idea is to release their ‘durkha’, or suffering, sending their worries high into the sky. And, as well as lanterns, people also float boats on rivers and lakes all over the country. Some people place locks of hair, old photographs or notes onto the boats in a symbolic act of releasing a part of their past that they want to move on from, and set them to sail.

In Chiang Mai, the festival is also known as Yi Peng Lantern Festival. There’s also a huge lantern releasing event taking place at Mae Jo University a few days before the official start of Loi Krathong. For photographers, the event is a must attend!

3. Nyepi – Bali

At this festival you won’t hear any music, nor cheers nor laughter from people on the street. In fact, at this unique festival in Bali, you actually won’t hear anything at all! Nyepi, which takes place every year on March, is Bali’s annual Day of Silence. The festival is unique to the Hindu culture of Bali and commemorates the ‘Isakawarsa’ New Year.

For 24 hours, starting at 6am, you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, and even Bali’s International Airport, closed as people spend the day in silence, fasting or meditating. Bali’s normally bustling streets are found empty apart from a few security men who make sure that people are adhering to the rules of the day.

The idea of the festival is to give time for self-reflection and if you’re a traveller in Bali at the time of Nyepi, you too are not exempt from the restrictions. No one is allowed on the beach or in the streets and are advised to say inside your hotel room. A boring day for some, but a very interesting day culturally. Why not take time for some self-reflection yourself? The day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni, is the official Balinese New Year’s Day and people are back on the streets bringing them to life once more.

4. Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) – Laos 

Celebrated by Laotian people along with people from Isaan (north eastern Thailand, which historically used to be a part of Laos), Boun Bang Fai Rocket is one of the craziest festivals in Southeast Asia! The idea of the festival derives from an ancient belief in provoking the Rain God into make water fall from the sky onto the crops following the dry season in this region.

The festival takes place over three days featuring all the usual floats, music and dance performances. However, the third day is when the fun really starts. On this day, the locals get to show off the homemade rockets that they’ve been building and there’s a competition held to see who can fire their rocket highest in the sky!

5. Bon Om Tuk (Khmer Water Festival) – Cambodia

Held at the end of the rainy season, on the night of the full moon in November, the Cambodia Water Festival takes place over three days, with the major attraction being the large-scale Dragon Boat Races that take place on the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh. Celebrations can be found on a smaller scale all over Cambodia, but the largest celebrations are found in the capital of Phnom Penh where parades, fireworks and lots of street food accompany the big day.

The festival not only celebrates the beginning of the dry season in Cambodia, but also the unusual natural occurrence of the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. From November to May, the river flows into the mighty Mekong just like any other river, however, when the monsoon rains arrive, the build-up of water forces the river to change direction and flow the other way.
According to southeastasiabackpacker.com