Spring is a season for dreamers—a time filled with hope when the world is slowly rousing from winter’s slumber, but is still too languid and serene for the fever pitch of summer. A calm but anticipatory energy hangs in the air, brought to life by flowers blooming, trees taking shape, and the surroundings being infused with flashes of color once again.
Though the Philippines doesn’t get its share of this season, the good news is that you can start preparing to catch next year’s springtime in neighboring countries as early as now. Here are the prettiest Asian cities to visit from March to May, with everything from cherry blossoms to cultural festivals to tickle your fancy.
A no-brainer spring destination, Tokyo is both urban landscape and natural wonder, blessed with a dynamic city scene interlaced with peaceful parks, quaint gardens, and revered forests. This duality allows the famous cherry blossom or sakura to flourish in select corners of the concrete jungle, including Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, Sumida Park, Yoyogi Park, and the Meguro River, to name a few. The act of flower viewing is called hanami, and the Japanese throw parties and social gatherings to celebrate it, replete with music, dancing, bento box picnics at the park, and plenty of alcohol-fueled merrymaking. Tourists are more than welcome to take part in the festivities.
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Cherry blossoms aren’t exclusive to Japan, and if you’re looking for a slightly cheaper alternative to Tokyo, Taiwan is just as good an option. In spring, the Yangmingshan National Park right outside city limits shows off its pretty pink flowers amidst hiking trails, lush greenery, and hot springs. The Tian Yuan Temple in the historical fishing district of Tamsui is also a great spot to marvel at gorgeous blooms perfectly framing the religious structure. Back at the heart of the action in central Taipei, make sure to swing by Wufenpu for budget shopping, Rao He Night Market for exotic eats, and Huashan Creative Park for a dose of inspiration.
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A city steeped in nostalgia and heritage, Hanoi holds a bounty of springtime festivals that serve as fitting celebrations to end its long, dreary winters—most notable of which is the Huong Pagoda Festival that starts in February and lasts for three months. Flora thrives in the Nhat Tan Peach Garden and Tu Lien Kumquat Village on the outskirts, while Hoan Kiem Lake, the centerpiece of the city, buzzes with activity. For an unforgettable afternoon, warm your belly with a fresh bowl of bun cha, wash it down with a cup of egg coffee, then stroll along Hanoi’s streets lined with vibrant bougainvillea and ethereal Madonna lilies.
Changwon, South Korea
A home to artists and creative folk, the unassuming city of Changwon features an art village, a museum, charming markets, and interesting cafes—all wrapped up in a no-frills, laid-back package that will appeal to the more low-key traveler. But the highlight of your springtime trip would undoubtedly be the Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival, where hundreds of thousands of cherry trees burst with color to the delight of millions of tourists who visit every year. At night, fireworks light up the inky velvet sky, adding to the romance and wonder that weaves in and out of the crowd. Make sure to seek out the popular Gyeonghwa Station nearby, an abandoned railroad that makes for a picturesque cherry blossom sightseeing spot reminiscent of a fairytale setting.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
If your ideal spring is a lot more playful and chaotic than dreamy and tranquil (probably ignited by the Western concept of spring breakers), then head to Chiang Mai. Commemorating the Thai New Year every April and symbolizing renewal, purification, and transformation, the Songkran Festival honors centuries of religious tradition then explodes in an epic street water fight, where residents and tourists drench one another with water from buckets, dippers, and plastic pistols. Though Songkran is celebrated all over the country, Chiang Mai is known as the best place to join in on the fun, as the city is surrounded by a large ancient moat that acts as a refilling station. Prepare to soak it all in—literally and figuratively!
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