Myanmar is beginning the countdown to Thingyan – an annual traditional festival marking Myanmar’s New Year, for the year 1379. There was some controversy whether or not the official holiday would be reduced from 10 days to 5 days which even led to workers going on strike but with just a few days to go the Thingyan fever is in full swing and people are preparing for the best party of the year. Below some tips on where to be to get the most of it.
YANGON, 7 April 2017 – The countdown to Myanmar’s longest holiday and largest festival has begun as the mercury rises in Yangon. Thingyan, which literally translates into “transit”, marks the beginning of the Burmese New Year and is celebrated in a 4 day long Water Festival. The timing of the festival is calculated according to the Burmese calendar, which this year begins on the 13th of April and culminates with New Year’s Day on the 17th of April.
“Thingyan is an excellent time for tourists to visit Myanmar. Celebrated over four to five days, Thingyan showcases our rich religious and cultural heritage. It is also the best time to experience first-hand the warmth and fun-loving nature of Myanmar people,” said Daw May Myat Mon Win, Vice Chairman (Marketing), Myanmar Tourism Federation.
For tourists this is an excellent period to visit the country and join the festivities. In Yangon there are small “pandals” (= a stage with dance performances or people with water buckets and hoses throwing water at passers-by) and the Mahabandoola Park, China Town and Indian town are good places to visit. Some bigger stages will be along the bigger avenues like Pyay Road and there are several big open air concerts organised around town. It’s generally possible to buy tickets on the spot. Yangon City announced there will be more than 90 stages all around the city.
Mandalay has traditional been a very popular place to throw water at each other, see performances, have a drink with friends or go around town with water guns. The roads along the moat of the Mandalay palace are busy areas while some people head out to Amarapura (U Bein Bridge area) or Pyin U Lwin (the botanical gardens) to join the fun.
In the country side place like Bagan and Inle Lake the stages will be a bit smaller and often families simply gather in front of their hours to enjoy music, splash water to passer-by, enjoy the typical Thingyan snacks and relax. Thingyan is the one time where it’s fully acceptable in Myanmar to douse one another, every day for four days, from morning 09:00 am until evening 06:00 pm. During this period, which coincides with the hottest time of the year in the country, locals and visitors squirt water on others and themselves using hoses, plastic water pistols or other devices. The evenings are usually quiet as everybody goes home after a full day partying and prepares for the next day so don’t expect any parties in the evening.
“Thingyan is about unbridled merriment and the water party is all around the country. Of course, tourists who prefer to go for the temple sightseeing can do so without getting wet,” adds May Myat Mon Win.
Rakhine state is known for organising a traditional festival whereby a boat is filled with water and people take the water from the boat while Mon State always adds an extra day to play with water so you can extend the party by going to Mawlamyine. As Thingyan is also a homecoming season that sees huge amounts of domestic travellers making their way home all over the country, advance planning for foreign tourists during this season is highly recommended.
“I believe the yearly Thingyan festivities can be best compared to famous festivities like carnival in Brazil, the Mardi Gras or carnival in Germany. Instead of confetti the Myanmar use water which is very refreshing in the summer period. Especially young people will LOVE it and I do advice to combine a few days Yangon on a pandal, on foot or by truck with a few days in the country side” said Edwin Briels, an expat living in Yangon who has joined the festival over 10 years. He continues ”I had friend coming over from the Netherlands a few years ago and they couldn’t believe the size and fun of this festival and wondered why it wasn’t more well-known worldwide.”