April 12-13, 2014: We arrived back in Yangon around three in the morning on the night bus from Hpa An. It made for a pretty lazy day, but in the evening we did manage to meet up with a few of the guys that Chris used to work with. It was a fun night out with Romeo, Henry, Saw and Jimmy. Unfortunately, not everyone could make it…mostly because it was the eve of the Thingyan Water Festival, Burmese New Year celebrations and a weeklong national holiday.
Over the course of the evening, we hatched a plan to go and check out the water festival the next afternoon. Henry picked us up from our hotel and then we made the rounds to get the rest of da boyz before setting off to Kabar Aye Pagoda Road on the east side of Inya Lake, one of two major water festival destinations in Yangon. The other was located near Kandawgyi Lake.
We wisely left cell phones and wallets back at the hotel, only bringing along a bit of cash for snacks and drinks, and our trusty underwater camera to capture the mayhem. Within mere moments everyone was soaked as we paraded past a seemingly endless row of water station after water station. It’s quite the organized spectacle, with most of the water stations (known as pandals) corporately sponsored.
Each station sells tickets allowing people to stand on a stage constructed well above the road and spray the crowd below with water hoses of various velocities. The water, incidentally, is pumped directly from the lake behind.
Chris, being tall and white, was a natural target. I wasn’t far behind, sometimes feeling caught like a deer in headlights unable to move as I got pummelled. We walked the length of the road, ducking out of the way of the water from time to time, before turning around and repeating the whole process in the opposite direction. Like us, many people walked though. Others rode in the back of open vehicles. And still others danced along.
All this and it was still just day one of the four day festival. Water festivals are held throughout Southeast Asia around the same time, but Myanmar seems to take theirs the most seriously. It was serious fun, that’s for sure.
After an afternoon of extreme dousing, we all headed to Chinatown for a fill of street BBQ at one of the many small restaurants lining 19th Street. We didn’t last long into the evening. After the short sleep the night before and a day of waterlogged fun, we were sound asleep by eight. All for the best, as we had an early flight to catch the next morning.
Up next, we make a return trip to Inle Lake, one of the spots we liked most on our 2005 trip to Myanmar.