Smiley on World Smile DayWorld Smile Day takes place on the first Friday of October in honour of Harvey Ball who created the Smiley Face back in 1963. Smiley has come a long way in fifty-two years! In 2020, the date for World Smile Day is Friday 2nd October.

The message for World Smile Day is “Do an act of kindness. Help one person SMILE.”

The once-humble Smiley has come a long way since its inception, and today has multiple manifestations as the modern-day emoji. We’re not sure that Harvey Ball would have approved of Smiley’s personas – one of the reasons he proclaimed World Smile Day was because he was said to be concerned with the commercial direction Smiley was headed in. He wanted people to remember the original intent behind his Smiley and proposed that everyone around the world should devote one day each year to smiles and acts of kindness.

Smiley with a face mask for World Smile Day

On the other hand, perhaps Harvey Ball would be utterly amazed that people now communicate in Smileys, and that Smiley produced a family of emoticons which transitioned into the language of emoji. World Smile Day 2020 seems more poignant than ever and we are certain there are lots of people nearby that could do with a little extra kindness and a warm smile. Even if you have to see the smile behind the eyes and imagine the one beneath the mask!

During our travels, when language is often a barrier, a smile is often the best form of communication we have. Here are some of those smiles we have been greeted with, and have made us smile in return.

Celebrate World Smile Day with some Smiling Faces from Asia

From chirpy monks in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to giggling young girls in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, we have met countless happy and smiling people on our travels around Asia. We hope these twenty smiles for 2020 World Smile Day will brighten your day.

Allahabad, India

This is just one of the many photos we took when we attended the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013. Arguably India’s greatest festival, visiting the Kumbh Mela was quite literally a once in a lifetime experience and as well as wonderful memories we also left with lots of portraits of Indian people.

Faces of India at the Maha Kumbh Mela, Sangam, Allahabad, India

A warm smile from India

Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

We photographed this rather cheeky-looking lad and his horse at the lively Sunday Animal Market in the town of Karakol in Kyrgyzstan. The town lies on the eastern side of Lake Issyk-Kul, the tenth-largest lake in the world. Once a colonial outpost on the fringes of the Tsarist Russian Empire, today Karokol attracts hikers and tourists.

Sunday Animal Market Karakol Kyrgyzstan-28

A cheeky smile in Kyrgyzstan

Kon Tum, Vietnam

These three playful girls popped out of their home to say hello in Kon Ro Bang, a small village on the outskirts of Kon Tum in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

Kon Ro Bang Village (near Kon Tum) Vietnam (9)Three smiles in the Vietnamese Central Highlands

Srimangal, Bangladesh

Often in many countries, it is quite difficult to get photos of people, especially adults but this is definitely not the case in Bangladesh where the people were some of the friendliest we have met. It seemed to us as if every Bangladeshi we came across wanted us to take their photo. Getting a Bangladeshi to smile and relax was sometimes tricky but we soon found out that if one of us stood behind the other (and the camera) and made a stupid face we would manage to get a more natural pose. This is what we eventually did with this old man who wanted us to take this photo but would stand to attention and look rather stern every time we went to do so.

Srimangal Bangladesh-9The biggest smile in Bangladesh

Chiang Mai, Thailand

There is no denying how much fun these guys are having. They are taking part in the annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival which takes place in the capital of Northern Thailand every year in February. Chiang Mai is known as the Rose of the North and the festival is always a riot of colour. Although its aim is to showcase the huge array of plants that flourish in northern Thailand, festival floats and dancers create a carnival atmosphere.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival Chiang Mai Thailand - Celebrating World Smile Day

Smiles in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Another one from Karakol in Kyrgyzstan; it must be a very happy place! This lady was more than happy to smile and pose for the camera at an arts and crafts cultural event in the town square.

Smiles in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan-7-2 2

More big smiles in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Haputale, Sri Lanka

Here’s a friendly tea picker taking a break at Dambatenne Tea Estate, a large plantation on the outskirts of Haputale, built by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890.

Dambatenne Tea Estate Haputale Sri Lanka | Fourteen countries, fourteen smilesSmiling tea picker in Sri Lanka

Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

We met this friendly guy somewhere between Sary Tash and Irkeshtam in southern Kyrgyzstan whilst hitching our way to Kashgar in China. There were plenty of security checkpoints along the route and most of the military personnel were pretty surly and just checked our passports and sent us on our way but this solder was a happy fellow. All he wanted was to practice his English with us whilst the driver presented his documents in the rudimentary guardhouse.

Sary Tash to Irkeshtam Kyrgyzstan 13A smiling border guard in Kyrgyzstan

Trongsa, Bhutan

This smiling monk was happy to pose for the camera at Chokhor Rabtentse Dzong (fortress) in Trongsa, a small town in central Bhutan.

Chokhor Rabtentse Dzong (Trongsar Dzong) 18A smiling monk in Bhutan

Kampong Cham, Cambodia

This photogenic Khmer girl was relaxing outside her house on Koh Paen, a small island close to Kompong Cham, connected to the mainland by a rickety bamboo bridge.

All smiles in Cambodia

Kashgar, China

This smiling Uyghur was relaxing on the steps of the Id Kah Mosque in Old Kashgar just before the Friday Call to Prayer.

Kashgar China 38rA toothless, but smiling, Uyghur man in Kashgar

Kyoto, Japan

This group of Japanese tourists and their guide waved, smiled and gave us the obligatory peace sign upon entering Kinkaku-Ji, a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto better known as the ‘Temple of the Golden Pavilion’.

Kinkaku-Ji Kyoto Japan 13All smiles in Kyoto

Thanchok, Nepal

This Nepalese man was one of the porters that came with me when I trekked the Annapurna Circuit a few years ago. There were about ten porters in total in the trekking crew, of which this gentleman was the eldest and the fittest.

Around Annapurna trek.Thanchok 2Smiling trekking porter in Nepal

Erdenedalai, Mongolia

This young lad was looking pleased with himself because he had just won a thrilling bareback horse race at the annual Nadaam Festival in Erdenedalai, a small town in southern Mongolia.

Nadaam Erdenedalai Mongolia 22Young horse rider in Mongolia

Muang Khua, Laos

We took this photograph in a small village en route from the Lao/Vietnam border and the small town of Muang Khua in northern Laos. We had stopped in the village to have lunch and whilst walking around it, this young lad beckoned us over to take his photo.

Muang Khua Laos 8Smiles and a thumbs up in Laos

Manufui, Indonesia

Everybody we came into contact with at the once-weekly Manufui market was extremely friendly. It was one of those scenarios where we, the tourists, were the star attraction and we had great fun interacting with the locals and taking pictures of them. Manufui is a scruffy little place near Kefamenanu in West Timor.

Manufui Market West Timor Indonesia 10-2A betel nut smile in West Timor

Mrauk U, Myanmar (Burma)

This young girl took a break from pulling water at the local well to pose and pull a funny face for the camera in Mrauk U, a small town of significant archaeological importance in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Mrauk U Burma (Myanmar) 45A smile and a squint in Myanmar

Mathura, India

This trio of Indian teenagers rode up behind the jumbo auto rickshaw we were travelling in near Mathura, a medium-sized town close to Agra that is renowned as the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

Mathura India (15).jpgThree on a bike but all smiles in Mathura

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kirsty took this photo of a young Thai boy sitting in a songthaew (*) at Wat Pa Pao, a little-visited Shan temple in Chiang Mai whilst on her Day of Photography. Next to the temple is a school and she got there just as the school-songthaew arrived full of kids and she spent some time fooling around with them and taking photos.

(*) A share taxi usually based on an adapted pickup truck or similar, containing two long benches.

Wat Pa Pao Chiang Mai Thailand (12) (1)Cheeky smiles in Chiang Mai

Kailash, Tibet

We nick-named this guy the Snoop Dogg of Tibet when we met him trekking in Tibet. Like us, he was walking the kora (circuit) around Mount Kailash, one of the holiest pilgrimages for Buddhists.

Mt Kailash trek Tibet 44The Tibetan Snoop Dogg

Note: This post was originally published in 2015 with 15 smiles. For World Smile Day 2020, we have re-published it with 20 smiles 😀

We hope these photos have made you smile.

All that’s left to say is… Smile today and show someone that extra bit of kindness.

Happy World Smile Day! 😀