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A Year of Festivals (Lonely Planet General Reference) Paperback – 1 Aug 2008
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...for the adventurous traveler who wants to live like a native.' --Real Simple Magazine, June 2005
Top customer reviews
LP knows about the date problem but still persists in listing its festivals by approximate week. It doesn't quite work, but is very hard to pull off without hyperlinks. This book covers around 300 great and obscure festivals or 'shindigs' (P4) (in very varying degrees of detail and not complete accuracy) so inclusion is necessarily a bit haphazard. The heavyweight world festivals are probably nearly all in the book. Hard to be sure. Japan lists its 3 grandest festivals at every opportunity, but at least one (Takayama) doesn't appear.
I question the balance of the book and the festival choices made; the relative amount of detail given to different countries, and the inclusion of some festivals but not others. From my necessarily limited experience, the great festival countries include Japan, Spain and the Philippines; some are not good: England. Japan gets 15 festivals listed while England gets 18. Hmm. These 18 include the World Marbles Championships. Hmm. We get marbles and stuff rolling down a hill but don't get the wonderful Latino Carnaval del Pueblo in London in August. The Philippines gets a mere five. Hmm. It's a major festival country. As far as I can tell, only one Filipino street dance festival is included. Omissions include the enormous Panagbenga in Baguio and Sinulog in Cebu. Others include Pakalog, Bakhawan, Buyogan, Pintaflores, Meguyaya, Sa-ad, Gakit... The list is long but LP doesn't even get started. The Philippines takes street dance festivals so seriously (they are all competitions) that around 20 winning groups from national festivals are now invited to Manila each May for a televised National Championship. This event, Aliwan, isn't mentioned. A pity as it's a bit like going to 20 festivals in one day.
Myanmar/Burma gets nothing. Politics, possibly. Can't tell. Not even the wonderful Phaung Daw U on Inle Lake. (the best location for a festival I've ever been to but obviously not included in LP's list P208-9).
Switzerland gets 5 festivals in the book including a Turnip Festival. Hmm. The country is far more exhuberant than I ever would have expected. None of its carnivals warrant even three lines in this book: Luzern (exhuberant, loud brass bands, drunken, completely safe, all-night and not a policeman in sight - unlike, say, Notting Hill), Bern (costumes like Venice), Basel (pipe and drumming in the black dark with the street lights out) and the incredible Chienbäse in Liestal - an annual attempt to burn down the town - just a joke, but it is fearsome). Karneval in Germany (very, very important) isn't mentioned at all. Rosenmontag (one of the biggest), which includes free chocolate to last a year, doesn't get a line. I wonder if the featured plastic duck race is worth it (P157)? Germany's peripatetic Love Parade is mentioned but the Street Parade in Zurich isn't. There isn't a lot on Carnival in the West Indies either. Yet carnival is considered important enough to be given a special section in the book. Hmm.
South Korea gets little: just the one mention, in spite of its gorgeous dance and costume traditions. The Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul seems to get a few lines under the tag of 'Buddha's Birthday'. The LP guide's 3 line description is more or less limited to '10,000 Buddhists walking'. Not true. They dance with lanterns for hours, sometimes at amazing speed. After having spent the whole afternoon performing (along with the crowds in the stands) in a baseball stadium. The whole thing is dazzling. Taiwan also gets but a single mention. Nothing is mentioned about Taipei's enormous Parade of the God of Medicine and associated cultural festival including free Chinese Opera and fire walking. Ethiopia gets Timkat but not Maskal or Enkutatash. Greece gets barely six lines.
The LP's 'living, dancing museum of cultures and traditions' does however include quite a lot of large-scale commercial events with essentially no tradition, few toilets and certainly no parade. There's too much pop music in here. In the Classical field, Bayreuth gets a name-check while Glyndebourne gets ignored. A pity: it's possible to get tickets for Glyndebourne. The largest classical music festival in the world, the BBC Proms in London (hundreds of cheap standing tickets daily), isn't mentioned.
You can't cover everything, but over half of the book is given over to photos. Some space is wasted on 'Local Attractions' (redundant), advice for coming down after the excitement of a festival (?!), and a very haphazard thing called 'Level of Participation' ('you can compete if you're a highly experienced dog sledder' P41). Here is some more weird advice: 'As a foreigner, be prepared for the fact that you're likely to be a particular target for violence, so competing in a group is a good idea' (P31). Hmm. An even better idea is not to compete at all. Or participate in a slightly more sedate equivalent such as at Konomiya. Some of the English in the book is embarrassing. The Location Index and Festival Index are poor. Editing errors include Kanamara Matsuri listed twice in the index. LP makes a thing of listing further information sites, usually national tourist offices. A cop out. My experience of these is that they don't know much about their own festivals. Trips to the London branches of the Japanese and Philippines Tourist Offices, for example, only showed me that I knew far more than they did. They also typically don't answer your specific questions after you've left your email and postal addresses. It's a lot of work for the Tourist Office - and for the tourist. Websites are generally not accurate enough on festivals or offer TBA/TBC, even if they're better than they used to be.
The most dazzling festivals I've ever been to (not in the book) are: Okoshi Daiko, Hida-Furukawa, Japan; That Luang festival, Vientiane, Laos; Yoshino Tayu Kuyo at Josho-ji, Kyoto (a tiny parade of around 6 people but far, far more than that mere fact could ever suggest); Phaung Daw U, Inle Lake, Myanmar/Burma.
The book is more of a coffee table illustrated list of events you'll never go to, rather than a serious, complete-ish source of information. I would prefer more information. I know that Japanese Tourism tried to develop a web database of its festivals, but gave up (as far as I can tell) as there are just too many to cope with. It's a difficult job. This LP book is a job around a quarter or third complete. The copy I read goes back to the library today. I apologise in advance if any of my points above are factually incorrect - I tried to check it all via the indexes.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I also liked that they put lesser known events into this book that really makes you want to learn more about the culture and the people for that event.