But For the Sky
27Apr/12Off

Celebrating the New Year in Myanmar and Thailand: A Wet Mess!

We finally succeeded in being in the right place at the right time: not only were we in Myanmar for their election day, but we also managed to take part in New Year celebrations in both Myanmar and Thailand. The (lunar) New Year is celebrated over several days in mid-April in these two countries as well as Cambodia and Laos. It's probably their biggest national holiday (in many places everything closes and everyone is off work) and it basically involves a multi-day no holds barred water fight. Kids take to the streets with buckets, pouring them on passers-by, people stand outside their houses with hoses and take aim at passing vehicles, and huge Super Soakers help fuel an all out water battle. Everyone participates-- adults, children, grannies, cops-- and no one is spared a soaking, not even farang (white people/foreigners).

Claudia Getting Pegged by a Kid's Water Bowl

Claudia Getting Pegged by a Kid's Water Bowl (Yangon)

However, Myanmar and Thailand certainly differ a bit in their celebrations. In Yangon (Myanmar), where the celebration is called Thingyan, huge stages are set up along the main streets and decked out with dozens of high-pressure waterhoses. Concerts are held on the stages and partiers take control of the hoses, spraying the crowds below. These parites last for FIVE days, which is incredible. The entire country shuts down for Thingyan and literally every man, woman and child participates in the waterfights. We caught the first day of the holiday, so we were drenched with water from kids with bowls, teenagers with waterguns and some of the stages whose hoses were already up and running. We left the country that evening, so we missed the first big night of concerts, but we got the idea. I left wishing that it was always Thingyan in steamy Yangon; being hosed down with cold water actually felt great in that heat!

Thingyan Stages Ready to Go (Yangon)

Thingyan Stages Ready to Go (Yangon)

Songkran, as it's called in Thailand, was a completely different affair than Thingyan. We made the mistake of having already booked and paid for a hotel room on Khao San Road in Bangkok, where Songkran celebrations are at their craziest (this is about as smart a decision as staying in a hotel room on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras). When we arrived to our hotel after our Yangon-Bangkok flight, we had to push our way through hundreds of already wasted partiers, dancing wall-to-wall on the blocked-off street, squirting at us with huge Super Soakers and coating our faces with a chalk-like substance. The walk from where the cab had to drop us off was less than a block, but we were a mess upon arrival. We quickly realized that we had better just get into it, because it's the type of thing that is only enjoyable if you just embrace it and participate; there is no option to stand on the sidelines and observe because you will get soaked!

This Kid Is So Happy! (Bangkok)

This Kid Is So Happy! (Bangkok)

So we spent the next few days walking around Bangkok, getting soaked, watching water fights between groups of people dousing each other from  the sidewalk, balconies, and the backs of trucks, and stumbling upon outdoor concerts. Leaving our hotel room at any hour of the day meant walking directly into the middle of the city's biggest party, which at times was fun, but at other times made us feel a bit like hostages since there was no way to go outside without being instantly messy. But we still wandered around our crazy neighborhood, stopping to eat street food or grab a can of beer when the mood struck. By the time we left Bangkok though, I was more than ready to stay dry and not have to push my way through huge crowds of drunk people every time we left the building!

The Party on Khao San Road (Bangkok)

The Party on Khao San Road (Bangkok)

Messy Farang (Bangkok)

Messy Farang (Bangkok)

We're glad we caught the celebrations in two different countries; it was definitely an experience, to say the least, but our advice to you: don't book a hotel smack in the middle of the country's biggest party! I still have Black Eyed Peas ringing in my ears from the same song being pumped all day for three days straight...

Getting into Songkran (Bangkok)

Getting into Songkran (Bangkok)

Click here to view the photo gallery for this post (Yangon)
Click here to view the photo gallery for this post (Bangkok)

Please excuse our rather minimal number of photos. This was a raging water fight, and we didn't want to ruin one more camera on this trip...

Posted by Claudia