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“What should we do this evening?,” I asked Anders as he flopped down on the couch after work. I’d been working on writing projects all day and was eager to get out and explore. We tossed around a few ideas while I absentmindedly flicked around online, and eventually stumbled upon the perfect solution.

We were going to a summer festa in Valleta.

Festas are a huge part of the summer season in Malta, when villages honor their parish’s patron saint with parades, fireworks, and over the top festivities. It just so happened that on the night in question, Valleta was hosting its annual celebration.

I had yet to step foot in the tiny nation’s capital, and this was the perfect excuse to do so.

We had absolutely no idea where to go or what we were looking for, so just decided to take a wander around the romantic walled city, and surely we’d stumble upon a clue. Our first stop was the Valleta waterfront, where we gazed over the channel to Vittoriosa.

Though we were losing daylight fast and I felt a little guilty for not seeing more of the city in all its brightly-lit glory, the soft pinks of sunset convinced me we’d come at exactly the right time.

Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the gardens in search of the festa we’d come to see. After wandering down many quiet streets with not a soul in sight to ask for insight, we started to wonder if we’d misread the schedule.

And then we heard it. Rounding a corner, we pinched ourselves at our luck. We’d arrived just in time to see the pious procession being — the state of the village saint was carried with great ceremony out of one of Valleta’s beautiful churches. The crowd was intense, but between Anders’ height allowing him to see over people and mine allowing me to duck around them, we managed to get some great views.

We followed the crowd down the winding cobblestone streets, not a clue where we were going, and not a care either.

When the fireworks died down and the crowd dispersed, we were left with the warm glow of knowing we’d been lucky enough to stumble on something special.

Do you seek out local festivals when you travel?

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44 Comments...
  • Caity
    September 12 2014

    Yet another reason to get my butt to Malta ASAP! These pics are absolutely gorgeous Meihoukai!

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Thanks Caity! It was amazing — you should indeed go!

  • Whitney
    September 12 2014

    This totally happened to me when I was in Quito. We just casually rolled into the main square one morning to find the roads blocked off and a huge parade just kicking off. It looked like some very official people were there too. I still have no idea what the cause for celebration was but we too felt lucky to witness a bit of the local culture! Sometimes it’s the things that you don’t plan to see that are the most memorable in the end šŸ™‚
    Whitney recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Awesome! I didn’t really love Quito but stumbling on something like that probably would have changed my opinion. Lucky find!

  • Silvia
    September 12 2014

    These photos make me miss Europe SO much! I mean, I love Thailand, but the architecture here isn’t quiiiite as charming. <3
    Silvia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Ah, but I can’t get enough of the temples and wats. My heart is always in Southeast Asia! And yeah, I guess Europe is nice too…. šŸ™‚

  • Steve
    September 12 2014

    Meihoukai, I was lucky to see a festival parade while I was in Braga. Sadly, I do not get to see these in the UK.
    Steve recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Nice! Surely there must be quite a few going on around the UK at different times of the year too, no?

  • Shaun's Cracked Compass
    September 12 2014

    Absolutely the right time. Love the black and white pic and the one of all the pushed-out balconies, haven’t seen that in many places.

    And nothing says party like a big ass tuba!
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Yes, Malta is famous for that style of balcony! We saw it all over, but Valleta is definitely the epicenter. They are gorgeous!

  • Ashley
    September 12 2014

    Beautiful photos! Valletta looks so charming!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      It is! I do regret not spending a bit more time there. Also, I should have gone to Mdina after… nothing looks as good after Mdina šŸ™‚

  • justine
    September 12 2014

    What a beautiful city. Good job for getting out during sunset because those photos are gorgeous. I love local festivals so much, especially when there are fireworks! I just happened to be in Malaysia during Thaipusam (a major Hindu festival). It was insane and something I’ll never forget!
    justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Ah, I’ve heard of that one. I bet it was epic! I love when trips work out like that. I managed to catch quite a few in South America but haven’t been to as many here in Southeast Asia.

  • Maria from Nerd Nomads
    September 13 2014

    Wow, amazing photos Meihoukai! Love the light and the colors! Valleta seems like a beautiful city! I have never been to Malta, but my parents have been there several times and love it there. Now I see why :).

    We just came back from five weeks travel in Japan, where we were so lucky to participate in several festivals, like the Taiko Drum Festival in Matsumoto, the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, and the Midsummer Firework Festival in Takayama. Love local festivals! The amosphere and meeting all the locals makes it an extra nice memory of the place.
    Maria from Nerd Nomads recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2014

      Wow, those sound awesome — and like great blog material šŸ™‚

  • Joella in Beijing
    September 13 2014

    Such pretty photos! Looking at these photos makes me realise how much I’ve gotten used to Asia and China! Beijing is a big jumbled mess of modern and old- Malta just looks so pretty and picturesque in comparison haha! But it seems kind of weird too! I haven’t left Asia for more than a year now so I think it’s going to be quite a shock to set foot in Europe again!
    Joella in Beijing recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      Yes, it’s a strange transition! But amazing too — I love how diverse this world is šŸ™‚ We can never say we will be bored!

  • Janice Stringer
    September 13 2014

    I’ve travelled in Malaysia during an asian festival and it was madness. We needed to cross on a ferry from the mainland to Penang International Airport. The queue buying tickets was very long and the local police pulled us out and took us to the front to buy ours, Which led to everyone staring at our little family. Then we were ushered into the queue for the boat. This was long, hot, manic and manned with police, lifting threatening batons, as the crowd continued to grow thicker in density and numbers. There was pushing and shoving all around us – we were stuck in the middle of the throng being squeezed tighter and tighter in the heat. With high wooden walls either side of the people. My daughter grew more nervous each time an older woman bashed her with her bag, to try and take her space. We had to stand our ground and look for a way to save ourselves if it all went wrong! Once on the ferry there was so much room – we didn’t understand why the foot passengers were corralled in the way they were. It has definately made me think twice about the choice and method of transport on fiestas and holidays in Asian countries.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      Yes, there have definitely been cases of stampedes and things at major festivals, for example the big water festival in Cambodia a few years ago. It pays to keep your wits about you and be familiar with the area ahead of time if you are attending one that will be a bit chaotic. Luckily in this case everything was very much under control.

  • Chris
    September 13 2014

    Love the local experiences and those incredible images.

    Must add, I love the new where you’ve been map on the main page šŸ™‚
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      Thanks Chris! I love that one too… makes me determined to get more yellow on there šŸ™‚

  • Miriam of Adventurous Miriam
    September 14 2014

    Local festivals are such a great way to experience a culture and I always seek them out when I travel. Great photos as always – it looks like you and A had a great time x
    Miriam of Adventurous Miriam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      We did! Such a fabulous spontaneous experience! x

  • Gorgeous photos! I’m considering Valletta as my base for my trip in November. The city looks beautiful!
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      Thank you! Valletta would be a fabulous and beautiful base. Enjoy your trip!

  • Miquel
    September 14 2014

    I think that local festivals are one of the best ways to experience a culture. There are always unique nuances and people enjoying themselves! I recently went to a wine festival in Germany. Germany knows how to festival.
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      I have yet to be to be to Germany, but I’ve heard they have a pretty good beer party too… šŸ™‚

  • Leah
    September 14 2014

    Gorgeous photography as usual, Ms. Baackes. I especially love the night shots, I need some tips from you! x

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      We’ll have a fun shooting day next time we travel together x

  • I love local festicals, especially the ones that you stumble upon unknowingly, I always enjoy them more when there is no expectation
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2014

      Yes we were super lucky! I had heard a bit about the summer festas but considering I did zero research before arriving, it was very lucky that we happened to find out this one was happening an hour before it did šŸ™‚

  • Greg | Travel Blue Book
    September 15 2014

    Great photos Meihoukai! What a wonderful thing to stumble upon šŸ™‚ I love doing that. Several years ago, I was hanging out in Chicago’s Grant Park with a few friends who were visiting from Minnesota. We turned the corner and stumbled into a fabulous Puerto Rican parade and festival. Sometimes the the most unexpected experiences can be the most fun.
    Greg | Travel Blue Book recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 16 2014

      Awesome! That must have been very colorful and fun. Yup, this was a super spontaneous trip and reminded me how much I love to travel that way.

  • Shaunna
    September 15 2014

    I love your outfit Meihoukai! Pink looks great on you. Proof that just because you’re a world traveller doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable as well.
    Shaunna recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 16 2014

      Thanks Shaunna! That’s so sweet. That top has had a long long life… first I bought it as a dress at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, can’t remember. Then I spilled bleach on it and chopped it into a top. We’ll see what it becomes next, ha!

  • Carla Turun
    September 15 2014

    Magical photos….i wonder if they have any more festivals left this year….10 days and counting until i arrive šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      September 16 2014

      Who knows… you might get lucky and stumble on one too šŸ™‚

  • scott
    September 16 2014

    I saw this and thought of you and Anders!

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      OH MY GOSH. That’s amazing. Posting to Facebook immediately šŸ™‚

  • Kristen Hopf
    September 18 2014

    When I studied in London, there used to be massive billboards for Malta plastered all over the tunnels of the tube and I’ve been itching to go ever since. Your pictures are gorgeous! What camera/lens do you use?

    • Meihoukai
      September 19 2014

      Hey Kristen, thanks! Check out my obsessions page for all the dirt on my camera gear šŸ™‚

  • Milena - onourway.pl
    September 12 2015

    Im’m so happy that I will go there in October! Love your pics! Could you recommend me some nice places/restaurants on Malta/ Gozo?

    • Meihoukai
      September 13 2015

      Hey Milena! I actually didn’t eat out much in Malta or Gozo as I was staying in a friend’s apartment and we cooked in quite a bit, but any restaurants I did enjoy are mentioned within my posts (sorry, I don’t remember them off the top of my head!) Enjoy your trip!