Thingyan, the most famous festival in Myanmar, will kick off on April 13 this year. It will run for four days to April 16, and be followed up by the Burmese New Year on April 17. During a Burmese leap year, which happens to correspond with the Gregorian leap year schedule, an additional month is added to the Burmese calendar year. In the case of a leap year, the water festival is celebrated for five days starting on April 12. The next Burmese leap year will be in 2020.
The 2019 water festival will only have four days of water splashing fun — April 13-16 — but it is still packed with activities. Since this traditional festival grabs the interest of foreigners in Myanmar, and draws in many tourists, Myanmar Business Today is happy to compile a list of the places where you can visit during this festive occasion.
Yangon’s Thingyan Festival has been dynamic in recent years with the participation of famous DJs and musicians such as DJ Steve Oki and Crisis Era. You can find them, and more, at the Thingyan Music Festival (TMF) 2019, during each of the fours days of the water festival located at the venue on Pyay Road. Check out additional details about this event on Facebook.
When the NLD administration came into power in 2016, the Yangon Regional Government had a goal to reduce alcohol consumption in order to maintain traditions. They stopped granting permits for building mandats — decorated commercial stages or pavilions — with the exception of non-commercial small mandats. Commercial stages had DJ booths and water pipes where you could buy tickets to go on the stage and control a water pipe to splash water to anyone in front of the stage.
However, in 2018, it reversed the ban on new permits and allowed the commercial mandats again. The only exception is for some of the main roads such as Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, University Avenue, and Inya Road. So, where will the Mandats be this year?
Yangon Regional government invited permit applications for 35 large and middle size mandats locations. Businessmen, however, applied for only 29 locations. There will be 13 large mandats and 16 medium size mandats.
According to the YCDC, a large size mandat must be 120-150ft. in length, and 40ft. in width and 20ft in height. The following locations will all have large mandats:
•Six large mandats will be located on Pyay Road
•East Race Course Road in Tamwe Township
•University Avenue in Hlaing Township
•Mindama Road in Mayangon Township
•Pyidaungsu Road in Dagon Township (South)
•Yangon City Hall on Maha Bandula Road
The remaining 16 medium size mandats must be 50-100 feet in length. Each of the following locations will have one mandat:
•Sedona Hotel on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road
•Insein market, Thirimingalar market (old)
•Alone Monastery near Sanpya Cinema on Phone Gyi Street
•Shwe Htut Tin event center on Moe Kaung Road
•Minlann Noodle Shop on Parami Road in Hlaing Township
•Yaykyaw Market on Yae Kyaw Road
•Okkalar Thiri Park
•Corner of Maha Bandula Road and Bogalay Zay Street
•Wireless Bus Terminus on Yangon-Pyay Road
•Sayar San Road
•Upper Pansodan Road
•RC-2 Campus on Pyay Road
If you want to have fun on the mandats, the ticket prices are around K50,000 per day, or if you want to go out on a car, rental prices are around K120,000 per line-car (light truck) per day. The price is the same for foreigners as it is for locals. The line-car will travel from one mandat to the next, typically between 8:00am to 6:00pm. There is no specific location to rent the line-car, but you can visit the nearest mandat to find a car, or check on Facebook.
Yangon’s Walking Thingyan
Or if you don’t want to hang around on one mandat or cruise around on a car, you can have fun with the Walking Thingyan. This encompasses Maha Bandula Park, U Ottama Park, Kandawgyi Park, Inya Lake, and University Avenue, where the so-called Walking Thingyan will be held.
Walking Thingyan is organized traditionally with people splashing water on each other using bucket or cups. There will also be charity feast, called Studitha, where you can eat free. The special Walking Thingyan on Inya Road organized this year has an entertainment program scheduled with a famous singer in the country, this event is free of charge.
Yangon’s YBS buses were reduced to 80 percent capacity during last year’s Thingyan Festival. We don’t know if it will be the same this year or not, but expect some interruption of the normal operating schedules. The regional government also said that it will supervise the bus lines so they don’t overcharge commuters, because bus lines have previously used the occasion as an excuse to raise bus fare during Thingyan Festival.
Moreover, Yangon Regional government said that it will provide YBS bus service to nearby destinations close to Yangon such as Ayeyarwaddy Region so that people going back home can travel back to home without any difficulties.
During Thingyan Festival people working in Yangon always visit the home creating big demand of bus ticket leading to higher bus ticket prices. Every year government said it will make the ticket price stay low and every year the prices still go up doubling itself.
Traditional Thingyan Canceled
The Rakhine Traditional Thingyan Festival in Yangon has been held for 15 years. It featured an event where you can buy a bucket from the organizer and choose a girl from a lineup to throw it on. This has been one of the famous Thingyan Festivals in Yangon, but sadly, organizers canceled the event in early April. It was schedule to be held at Thuwanna Football Stadium. The event was canceled over security concerns related to the conflict in Rakhine State.
Mandalay is the source of Thingyan songs such as Tupo and Ngwe Ngan Marlar, and therefore captured the spirit of Thingyan.
Every year, decorated vehicles led by the “Ngwe Ngan Decorated Vehicle” would go around the city and stop here and there to entertain the public. It is Mandalay’s unique Thingyan Festival.
Some feel that Myanmar’s most famous cultural festival was taken over by Western culture, citing huge EDM parties, and it was Mandalay who started the idea of going back to traditionally organized Thingyan Festivals such as Walking Thingyan and Taw Thingyan in 2017. These more traditional events captured the attention and appreciation of both locals and foreigners. Other major cities followed Mandalay’s example in organizing their own Walking Thingyan events.
Mandalay City Development Committee organized auctions for 25 mandats to be located around the moat surrounding Mandalay Palace, but only eight mandats were bid on as of April 4 this year. Mandat ticket prices for attendees are around K20,000 per day.
Mandalay’s Traditional Thingyan
In addition to the Walking Thingyan in 2018, Mandalay organized the Taw Thingyan, which can be roughly translated as “Country Side Thingyan,” and Pyidaungsu Thingyan, which can literally be translated as “Union Thingyan.” At the Walking Thingyan, you can enjoy walking along the organized place and being splashed with water while at the Taw Thingyan, and you can try traditional foods. At the Pyidaungsu Thingyan, you will see ethnic people having fun at the water festival. What’s unique about Mandalay’s Thingyan is that every quarter has their own water festival mandat with their own performance groups called Yein Aphwe.
The country’s capital city is not left out. Naypyidaw is planning to organize a Walking Thingyan, and also a Thanakha Mandat [Thanakha or traditional makeup] around Shan Lake, which is one of the popular places in Pyinmana City.
There will be no special Thingyan celebration in Naypyidaw Hotel Zone this year. Sky Net’s mandat will be celebrating the event like previous other years. The Mayor’s mandat was canceled in 2016, but restarted in 2017, and will also be continued this year.
Thingyan Festival will be celebrated in various ways across the country: some decide to become a temporary monk, while the others go back to their native village, or simply have a good time where they are during the festival. Since the festival brings the longest holiday in Myanmar, the local people are really looking forward it.
This, That, and the Other Things
Just a few notes on calendar usage in Myanmar. The large cities in Myanmar use the Gregorian calendar, which is good for business. However, they still use the traditional Burmese calendar for holidays.
On the other hand, most of the villages still use the traditional Burmese calendar, but not the Gregorian calendar. In fact, if you ask them when they were born, they can’t tell you according to the Gregorian calendar, they only know their birthdate by the Burmese calendar.
Some people in Myanmar will cite the Gregorian year 2019, and some will cite the Burmese calendar year 1381. Where it gets confusing is when people cite the year based off of when the Buddha died. Those people may say it is the year 2563, the number of years Buddha has been gone. All three years 2019, 1381, and 2563 are officially recognized by the Myanmar government. Fortunately, the year 2563 is used primarily in religious spheres, while 2019, and 1381 are used for all secular needs.