It’s raining! So I have rushed outside to my balcony to watch the shower and receive a little relief from the steaming temperature and high humidly. It isn’t actually monsoon time yet but you can tell it is coming by the sale of robust umbrellas, clearing of open drains and my neighbour starting work at 6am to replace his lead-too roof. I fear this light shower is nothing to what is coming.
So on to the matter in hand – Happy New Year, Thingyan or the Water Festival welcomes Myanmar’s New Year falling in mid April, right in the middle of the dry and hot season, this three day festival is celebrated in a most raucous manner – by throwing buckets of cold (and often dirty) water at anyone daring to take to the streets – foreigners are well and truly included. In Yangon and other cities throughout Myanmar temporary stages are erected with water barrels, and even high pressure hoses ready to douse all passers by.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is doused with water on the last day of the festival.
The festival these days is mainly a time of fun but on a spiritual level, Myanmar people believe that during this three day period the king of the nat (spirit beings), Thagyamin visits the human world to tally his annual record of the good and misdeeds humans have performed. Flowers and sacred leaves are placed in front of their homes to welcome the nat. Thagyamin’s departure on the morning of the third day marks the beginning of the new year, when properly brought up young people wash the hair of their elder kin, Buddha images are washed and monks are offered particularly appetising alms food.
Apart from the severe heat and wetting the realty is that the festival is like the worst of all British Bank holidays. Half hour journeys to the airport taking 5 hours because of the traffic and every plane and bus ticket booked for months in advance as people take advantage of the 5 days off to visit family. For those that stay put ALL shops shut for 5 days and in Yangon where there are literally hundreds of restaurants – about 5 stayed open for the festival. This really didn’t seem like a good time to introduce husband to the joys of Myanmar – so like many others we skipped out and met up in Kuala Lumpur then headed to the cool air of the Cameron Highlands – as so many Brits have done in times gone by and finished with a spell on the coast where it might have been as hot as in Yangon but where we at least with a beautiful swimming pool at our disposal – had control as to when we went for a dousing.