Asia in the spring is marvelous — depending on where you choose to travel, of course.
Numerous spring festivals in Asia celebrate the end of winter and start of warming days. The weather can be extremely enjoyable in East Asia before summer heat and humidity move in to discourage activity.
On the other hand, many destinations in Southeast Asia become unbearably hot as the rainy season approaches. April is usually the hottest month in Thailand. Maybe that's why getting buckets of cold water dumped over one's head during the Songkran festival doesn't sound so bad!
Note: Technically, Lunar New Year celebrations in January or February such as Tet and Chinese New Year are considered the traditional beginning of spring. But temperatures suggest otherwise! The definition of spring varies between cultures, but since most of Asia is in the Northern Hemisphere, "spring" here refers to traveling during March, April, and May.
Big Asian Festivals in the Spring
These spring holidays and events are big enough to affect the region. Plan ahead by booking transportation and accommodation earlier than usual.
- Hanami: Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival begins in the south around March and concludes in the north around May. The fleeting blooms are a great excuse for everyone to picnic and party in the parks.
- Golden Week: The biggest holiday period in Japan begins on April 29 with Showa Day and winds down after May 5. Golden Week is the busiest time of year to travel in Japan!
- Songkran: The Thai traditional new year celebration is widely considered the largest water fight in the world. Songkran officially begins on April 13 each year, but people start celebrating early — watch out for that phone and passport! The epicenter for Songkran is in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
- Holi: The Hindu Festival of Colors in India usually takes place in March each year. The festival is based on a Hindu lunisolar calendar, so dates vary. Holi is also celebrated in Nepal, and smaller celebrations can be found in Malaysia and Singapore.
Southeast Asia in the Spring
Spring, specifically April and May, is a transition time in Southeast Asia between monsoon seasons.
Temperatures become scorching hot as the dry-and-busy season winds down in places such as Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
On the other hand, destinations in the south such as Bali, the Gili Islands, and the Perhentian Islands, begin to experience less monsoon rain and calmer seas. The visibility for diving typically isn’t that great in the spring until island runoff clears up.
If you don’t mind the potential for sporadic rain, spring can be a great time to sneak into popular places such as Bali before the crowds arrive for the peak summer season around June.
Spring Haze in Southeast Asia
Air quality in Northern Thailand becomes very poor as agricultural fires burn out of control and produce a haze that covers hundreds of square miles. Places in Laos and Burma(Myanmar) may also be affected. Forests are so dried out, you may actually pass through large fires as you travel by bus!
The fires burn intermittently until the monsoon season arrives to put them out, usually in May. Unfortunately, particulate matter can reach unhealthy levels. If you suffer from respiratory problems, check conditions before traveling to affected areas.
Japan in Spring
Japan becomes really busy in spring as hanami (cherry blossom viewing) begins. The short-lived flowers bloom from south to north between March and May. Large groups of people head to parks for some sake and good-natured fun.
Just as hanami winds down, Golden Week — Japan’s busiest travel time — begins on April 29. Several national holidays coincide to produce an insanely busy week. The peak tourist season begins in May, shortly after. Although Golden Week is exciting, you'll pay more and wait way longer in queues than usual — consider waiting an extra week or two before visiting Japan.
China in Spring
The hustle and bustle of Beijing is far more tolerable in the spring before pollution traps summer heat in the city. Green, rural places such as Yunnan are perfect for fresh air and pleasant temperatures before June. Lots of spring showers can put a damper on the fun in Guilin and other places in the south, but local residents appreciate the cleaner air!
India in the Spring
Per the Hindu calendar, spring (Vasant Ritu) begins in India in February and ends in April. The monsoon season in India typically begins in early June and lasts until October. Excessive heat and humidity become suffocating in some places around India. Temperatures can hover around 105 degrees Fahrenheit in April! If you aren't a fan of extreme heat, steer clear.
Holi, India’s big Festival of Colors, takes place in spring, usually March.
Spring Travel in Nepal
Spring usually provides the best views of the tallest peaks in the world before summer humidity limits visibility. May is a good time to hit the peaks.