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Southeast Asia Celebrates Songkran, the Traditional New Year

For more photos and videos from Songkran Celebrations, browse the #Songkran hashtag.

Starting this Sunday, communities in Southeast Asia celebrate the Southeast Asian New Year, widely known around the world as Songkran (สงกรานต์). For centuries, people in places like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (also known as Burma) have marked the starting of a new year with this three-day festival.

Rooted in Buddhism, the events held during Songkran vary from country to country. The most common ritual involves large crowds of people taking to the streets to douse one another with water. Splashing water stands as a religious symbol of bringing good fortune to others, but nowadays it is often taken up for pure enjoyment as well as light relief during the region’s hottest month of the year. Instagrammers taking part in the festivities gear up with water guns, goggles, bathing suits and, of course, waterproof smartphone cases to capture the excitement. Other customs include visiting Buddhist shrines to pray, bringing food to monks and cleansing statues of Buddha.

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Exploring Sarajevo’s Abandoned Olympic Park

To see more photos and videos of Sarajevo’s Olympic bobsled and luge track, explore the Olimpijski Bob Staza and Trebević location pages.

Stark against the dense forests of Trebević mountain stands a crumbling, brightly adorned concrete track built for the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The track, used for bobsledding and the luge competitions until 1991, primarily draws hikers and graffiti artists these days. It bears the marks not only from the passage of time, but also from the wars that plagued Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s.

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Climbing Huashan (华山), China’s Most Heart-stopping Hike

For more photos from the hike to the top, explore the 华山 Mount Huashan location page and browse the #huashan and #华山 hashtags.

In China’s Shaanxi province, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Xi’an, the peaks of Mount Hua, or Huashan (华山), pierce the clouds, tempting adventurers to explore their heights.

The westernmost of China’s legendary Five Great Mountains, Huashan has stood as a destination for Daoist and Buddhist pilgramage for centuries—though the inaccessability of its peaks attracts only the most dedicated of pilgrims.

The southern peak reaches the highest altitude at 2,155 meters (7,070 feet), igniting the imaginations of thrill-seeking travellers. Home to an ancient monastery that in recent years has been converted into a tea house, the trail to the peak is one of the most dangerous in the world. Those brave enough to make the climb face steep and winding staircases carved into the cliffs and Huashan’s notorious plank road: a series of wooden planks affixed to the mountain’s face with no rails or barracades between hikers and the abyss below.

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Exploring Japan’s Biggest Sand Dunes

To view more photos and videos from the dunes, explore the Tottori Sand Dunes location page.

Huge sand hills, strong winds and camelback rides—these aren’t exactly the scenes you’d expect to find in Japan. Yet at the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori, Japan, that’s exactly what you can expect to find. Located in the southwestern region of Honshū Island and neighboring the Sea of Japan, these sand dunes are the only of their kind in the country. Covering an area of 30 square kilometers (7,413 acres), the dunes developed over thousands of years as volcanic sediments from nearby mountains were carried out into the Sea of Japan through the Sendai River. Strong ocean winds brought the sand back ashore to create the dunes. The desert-like environment, along with a herd of imported camels, provide an extraordinary view for locals and visiting Instagrammers alike.

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Mardi Gras 2014 on Instagram

To see more photos and videos of Mardi Gras celebrations across Louisiana, visit the Lafayette Square and Lee Circle location pages and explore the #mardigras2014 hashtag.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, it’s Mardi Gras!

For Catholics, tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, a six-week period of fasting and prayer. Around the world, this period of quiet piety and reflection is ushered in by massive colorful parades and celebrations called Carnival—except in Louisiana, where it goes by the name Mardi Gras.

Translated from French as “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras festivities have actually been in full swing for weeks. The season is marked by festive costumes, king cake and elaborate parades across New Orleans and nearby cities.