I want to like Asia Fest… I really do… but after spending a few hours braving the chaos, the elbow-to-nose crowds compacted within an area the size of my apartment, and cooking myself alive in the scalding heat, I’m tempted to skip Tampa’s next attempt at being Asian and cross I-4 to the Orlando version.

A Chinese "Umbrella Dance"
A Chinese "Umbrella Dance"

I definitely enjoyed the performances. (Had to… because only a handful of tents paid homage to being Asian) Between the modest yet sensual Chinese dances involving colorful umbrellas and tae kwon do demonstrations, there was also room for a Miss Asia Fest pageant and Nepalese musicians playing traditional instruments—do you have THAT Orlando Asia Fest? The crowd cheered as performers both young and old danced the festivities of their countries while dressed in traditional garb. A short waltz away were the dragon boat competitions. These performances of human strength, will and team cohesiveness was exciting to watch against the backdrop of beautiful Downtown Tampa. Just as fun was strolling past the tents that served as temporary “resting spots” for the many teams: many were decorated with past trophies, team shirts and paddles thrown everywhere.

Dragon Boats sailing through Downtown Tampa's channels
Dragon Boats sailing through Downtown Tampa's channels

My heat-flushed cheeks cooled a bit while I sipped and chomped on the icy Philippine halo-halo while my stomach thanked me for filling it with Korean bulgogi beef and fried rice. (Orlando’s Asian Expo… I know it’s hard to have Asian food booths within Downtown Disney… but still…) Another plus for Tampa.

But the heat! Of course the planners of Asia Fest Tampa couldn’t have forseen the scorching hot temperatures months in advance. It was a cloudless day, no nearby shops to run into for shade, and scores and scores of sweaty bodies compressed into the tiny area of Cotanchobee Park. The smart people who made it into the eating tent claimed their chairs and stayed there. My dark skin (the term “too hot” does not come easily to me) was crying.

Miss Philippines answers her question for hte pageant
Miss Philippines answers her question for hte pageant

So Tampa has Orlando beat with the food and a couple more unique presentations. Personally, I’d rather visit Orlando’s version because the space allows for a more enjoyable, full experience… for everyone and not just those hiding in the shade.

Visit Asia Fest without braving the heat by just clicking on my pictures

Date of event: April 28, 2012
Location: Cotanchobee Park, Downtown Tampa

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