Top 7 Unusual things to See & Do in Southeast Asia

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The Long Neck Women of Burma & Thailand

These fascinating women belong to a sub-group of the Karen ethnic tribe of Burma. Their strange custom of wearing increasingly numerous neck rings as they age, gives the appearances of a very long neck indeed. The truth is a little different however. Their shoulder muscles become weakened by the weight of the rings and this simple makes the neck look much longer than it is. The tribe, though originating in Myanmar, has in recent years migrated into Thailand wear they enjoy a more peaceful existence and make money from tourists. One legend of old is that they wear the rings to prevent tigers biting their necks.

Long Neck Women
Long Neck Women

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

This strange festival takes place in Phuket in the 9th lunar month each year. It is accompanied by incredible demonstrations of body piercing as men vie to be the boldest. They pierce their cheeks with knives, swords and even guns. They walk across burning coals and bathe themselves in hot oil before climbing a huge ladder bedecked in sharp blades. This one is not for the faint hearted; as the small Chinese community here celebrates this weird event, it gets pretty gruesome. As always with these things there is a belief that partaking will ward off evil spirits.

Phuket vegetarian festival
Phuket vegetarian festival

Boun Bang Rocket Festival in Laos

This takes place in Luang Prabang every May, though similar events take place in Thailand. It has a huge amount of prestige attached to it, and the teams that launch their rockets highest into the sky, get bragging rights over those firing damp squibs. This is the start of the rainy season and is held in honour of Phaya Taen, the rain God, in the hope that he will send good monsoon rains for the season’s crops. These are no ordinary rockets, they are huge and travel incredible distances into the sky.

Boun Bang Rocket Festival
Boun Bang Rocket Festival

Strange Things Carried on Motorbikes in Vietnam

Everyone who has ever read much about Vietnam or even better, actually visited will tell you about the motorbikes. Not only are they prolific to the point of insanity they also carry the most incredible loads imaginable. Nothing, it seems, is out of bounds when it comes to motorbike transport. Washing machines, refrigerators, chickens, deadpans, wardrobes, other motor bikes and family of 5 6 and even 7 are regularly seen squeezed onto the back of a trust Honda or Yamaha. Lengths of metal or plastic piping of 5 metres in length are regular things to spot. It’s crazy and strange and oh so Vietnamese.

Plant Pots and Styro Blocks
Plant Pots and Styro Blocks

The Festival of Anguman Sandun in The Philippines

In the town of Minalin in the province of Pampanga n News Years Day each year, the men of the town dress as women and take part in a huge parade. This is not a transgender thing but merely a joke that grew and grew. It is said that a group of men did this in the 1930’s to cheer the town up, when the crop harvest failed. The men were known as Anguman Alang Tutul which means The Fellowship of No Opposition. Now the town’s straight men dress up to the nines and ride on large floats through the centre of town.

Have a foot massage in Cambodia

This is so commonplace throughout the region that it hardly counts as unusual for expats and locals. However, arriving on holiday from the West it is really worth trying. Having someone massage your feet and lower leg for an hour after a hard days sightseeing is unbelievably good. You may have to ask them to tone it down a bit as the reflexology bit of the massage with a pointy stick can get painful. But on the whole, you will feel a lot better walking out, than you did walking in.

Have a foot massage
Have a foot massage

Take in The F1 Grand Prix in Singapore

There is nothing quite like a Formula One Grand Prix and absolutely nobody does it better than Singapore. This relatively new addition to the F1 circus has captured the imaginations of race fans and none enthusiasts alike. It is truly spectacular. The anti-clockwise floodlit, night circuit is unbelievably beautiful and you simply couldn’t have a better setting. With the wonderful night cityscape as a backdrop, this is a jaw-dropping spectacle in one of the world’s truly amazing capital cities.

The  F1Grand Prix in Singapore
The F1 Grand Prix in Singapore