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Lunar New Year migration: The usefulness of vehicles that blend tradition with the modern

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Lunar New Year migration: The usefulness of vehicles that blend tradition with the modern
By Lee Ji-sang Travel writer

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The Thai songthaew is made by repurposing the bed of a small truck. ⓒleshiy985 / Shutterstock.com

Lunar New Year is celebrated with slight variations across the ten ASEAN countries. The Philippines, due to Spanish and American colonial influences, follows the Gregorian calendar. Viet Nam, on the other hand, celebrates Lunar New Year on the same date as Korea due to Chinese cultural influences. In Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand the Lunar New Year holiday begins in mid-April, when temperatures start to rise significantly. Known as Chaul Chnam in Cambodia, Pi Mai Lao in Lao PDR, Thingyan in Myanmar, and Songkran in Thailand, the holiday is generally celebrated as a water festival.

Currently suspended or tightly controlled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lunar New Year in ASEAN?as in Korea?is characterized first and foremost by the wide-scale movement of people, carrying gifts for parents and relatives, from urban to rural areas. To transport such large numbers of people over long distances, ASEAN countries have consistently developed their airplanes, trains, inter-city buses, subway systems, and monorails. Such contemporary vehicles have not, however, completely done away with humbler modes of transportation that are relics of bygone eras. In Viet Nam and Myanmar, which import secondhand buses and trains from Korea, it is easy to find Korean words inside public vehicles. Other ASEAN countries have their own modes of transport that blend traditional elements with modern conveniences. The universality of welcoming the new year is made more interesting by the differences in modes of transportation that reflect the diversity of Southeast Asia.

Article may not reflect the opinion of the editorial board of the ASEAN Culture House Monthly.

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