The Buddhist new year celebrations of Songkran (Thailand) and Thingyan 2014 (Burma) are on their way! These massive water fights run for 4 days from 13th April to 16th April and are some of the most fun you’ll have in your life! But which one is best?
In 2013 we decided to experience the water festivals in BOTH of the two best countries to do so – Myanmar (Formerly Burma) and Thailand, so we could compare how the two shaped up… who is the winner? Watch the video to find out…
The 13th to 16th of April see in the Buddhist new year in many parts of the world. By far the most uninhibited celebrations can be found in Thailand and Myanmar as the water festival becomes the biggest water fight in the world.
We explored 4 unique sides of the Water Festivals in 2013 over the 4 days that they run from. Here is the scoop on each to help you decide which is right for you for Songkran 2014 & Thingyan 2014:
Songkran 2014: Khao San Road (Bangkok) – The Tourist Fest.
Known as Bangkok’s tourist mecca for a very good reason… it really is tourist central and for Songkran, even more so. Thousands of foreigners flock together, armed to the teeth with water guns and walk up and down the short road drinking $1 beers and having a pretty awesome time.
Dance music blares from the various bars, early comers set up camp outside and act as snipers for all the passers-by and drinkers revel in this unrestricted east-meets west party. We found that if you stay loyal to a particular bar they let you refill your water pistol and use the toilets for free, otherwise on the street it is 5 baht (12c) per refill and 10 baht for toilet use.
Will you enjoy it? Yes. Is it the best place to experience the water festival? Not a chance.
Songkran 2014: Silom Road (Bangkok) – Local Mayhem
Arriving at Silom road to the central BTS (metro) station you are instantly overwhelmed by the shear scale of this celebration. 6 lanes of highway, usually filled with the dense Bangkok traffic, is now jam packed with slow moving water-fighters for as far as the eye can see.
This is THE place for Bangkok locals to congregate and they do so in droves. Khao San road quickly pales into insignificance as a tourist curiosity, compared to the mayhem of Silom. It’s no exaggeration to say hundreds of thousands of locals turn up to make this the most intense party in Bangkok.
Apart from the main highway, filled with people covered in water and the clay powder that you simply can’t avoid, the side streets burst with energy as fire hydrants are used for water cannons to spray the masses.
As far as Bangkok goes, this is IT. The place to be. Don’t miss it.
Thingyan 2014: Yangon Downtown – Pickup Truck Insanity
Arriving in Yangon you feel a completely different vibe. A nation where public assembly is normally banned, the Thingyan festival is an opportunity for much of the local population (especially the youth) to congregate and forget the worries of everyday life.
There is only one way I can describe the downtown experience – Off the fucking chain! Seriously. The streets are filled with pickup trucks loaded with people, riding around drinking beer and whisky getting thoroughly soaked, and being HAPPY!
Safety is not the first priority as the massive bruise on my back from being close range attacked by a giant firehose proves.
All around the streets are spray stations and loud sound systems. Set up by the side of the road you can either participate by grabbing a hose and spraying all the passing revellers in their vehicles, or you can be on the receiving end, much more fun!
Unlike Bangkok, where tourists are a part of the tapestry of everyday life, in Yangon we are still considered somewhat a novelty. Getting in and partying with the locals is easy as they invite you up on their pickup trucks to join in the insanity.
Getting pummeled by water on the back of a pickup, drinking whisky out of a plastic bottle with a group of local Burmese that i just met ranks as one of the BEST parties I’ve ever been to in my life, which is why I rank Downtown Yangon as the best place to experience the water festival. But get here soon, the tourist industry is booming and it won’t retain its local vibe forever.
For uncensored, off the chain insanity, Thingyan 2014 in Burma is it!
We loved Burma so much we wrote a travel guide. The must have, up-to-date alternative to lonely planet.
Thingyan 2014: Dalla, Near Yangon – Get wet, chill out.
For those of you who think defying death on the back of a pickup is not the smartest way to enjoy a traditional Buddhist festival, Yangon has an enjoyable and more restrained alternative for Thingyan 2014.
We jumped a ferry across the Irrawaddy river and experienced a truly local ride on trishaws around the township of Dalla. As the trishaw driver takes you around this charming and still very underdeveloped part of Yangon you get a real taste of local life and a sense of a more traditional side of the festival.
Aside from seeing barely a single motorised vehicle or other foreigner for the whole 2 hours, we also got endless free food and some drinks from happy locals who were pleased to involve us in their celebrations.
You may not be getting blasted with fire hoses but you will certainly not stay dry as the children and teenagers who live there will be ready to soak you with buckets of water as you ride past. Get ready to say Hello (or, “Min ga la ba” in Burmese) to literally hundreds of people and watch out for the surprise bird’s eye chillies that the children hide in some of the sweet rice balls you’ll be force fed.
This experience came in at about $9 per person ($4 return ferry from Yangon to Dalla, $5 for a 2 hour ride in the the trishaw). Just head to the ferry port south-east of the Sule Pagoda and jump on the boat – you will need US dollars for this and local currency for the trishaw (5000 kyat)
If you need cheap accommodation in Yangon, check out our review of Mahabandoola guest house: Aircon rooms from $5 per person.