Water Festival

Once upon a time I used to be frugal with water in Myanmar … and then water festival happened.

Water festival is an annual event here in Myanmar as it marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year and it is a big. huge. ridiculous. deal. here! It runs for 4-5 days and every store in town is closed! The only places open are the pagodas and temples. The only thing I can remotely compare water festival to is to Mardi Gras, except it is all about water and instead of lent they go to the pagoda to pray and confess their sins.

I’m glad I got to experience water festival but I don’t ever want to experience it again. Alisha came to visit during water festival and it definitely made her visit one to remember.

Before I tell you more about water festival I must let you in on something: Myanmar is hydro powered, meaning that they depend on water and rain to supply power to the entire country. April, when water festival occurs, is during the hot dry season when water is already super low. By low I mean some days we just don’t have water running in the bathrooms. Period. The country should be conserving the little water they have but instead they party all week long dumping water everywhere and on every one.

The weekend before water festival, huge, and I mean huge, stages are built all over town. Then local people build mini stages and other people bring big barrels onto the streets to fill up with water too. I am honestly surprised because everything takes forever here but getting ready for water festival??? Built & Done incredibly fast!

After the stages are built they then hook up power washers, fire hoses, regular hoses, buckets and whatever else they can think of to spray water on people.

Where do they get the water? Every source you can think of! The big stages had massive hoses hooked up to the lakes in town and the smaller, more local stages, use water from their own buildings.

I didn’t mind getting sprayed by water from the lake until I saw a man peeing in it not too far from where the pumps were. #gross !

So how does the festival work?

There are several ways to experience it but the main way is for you and a group of people to load up into the back of a truck with a large bucket or tub for water. You drive around town and basically throw water on every person you see. You also do a ‘drive through’ of the stages and get sprayed with water. The stages usually have live bands playing and everyone around the stage is basically ‘raving’. It was crazy you guys!

Alisha was visiting during water festival and Zama and some local friends were nice enough to take us around. It was fun and it was really crazy at the same time. The fire hoses and power washers were actually pretty painful so when we would see them coming we would hide under our towels. 

We also experienced water festival by just walking outside. If we stepped out our door the people immediately saw us white people and really doused us good. When we walked around everything had to be double and tripled bagged so it wouldn’t get wet and ruined.

We did stand from our porch and throw water down on people. We live on the 11th floor so I’m sure it was painful to get water on you but it was pretty darn funny for us =). 

On a serious note the country really does use the one week to party like crazy. In Yangon alone 16 people died that week and over 300+ were injured. Not only are they celebrating and partying for the New Year but they are praying that Buddha will send rain. To me it is a reflection of their spiritual state without Christ. It’s sad and the people of Myanmar sure do need the gospel!

Here we are - pre-water festivities. We had no idea what was about to occur. 

See the rope? It's attached for the festival so you can hang on for dear life and not fall off. 

So there you have it friends, a recap of water festival. Alisha was a trooper for visiting and going through water festival with us!

Would you participate in something like this? 


  1. I assume this happens at the same time at Thailand's Songkran festival? From the way you describe it, it sounds very similar. We didn't actually know about Songkran festival back when we first moved to Malaysia in 2004, and happened to be in Hat Yai right at the height of the festival--it was quite a unique and memorable experience! Something I'll never forget, that's for sure. And that water can feel pretty good in this hot tropical weather...

  2. 4-5 days? Wow! Yes! I'm coming over ;)

  3. I love your facial expressions ha ha! The festival does seem slightly backwards. An interesting way to celebrate though.

  4. Wow! I've never heard of this! It does seem a little crazy to me that during the time of greatest need they are pouring out all their water. But in a strange way... it makes me think of faith. Like how it's easy to say you trust God to take care of you when life is easy and your bank account is full, but when you are down to the last penny, it gets real. Side note: this could be a whole discussion on being responsible with what you're given - I feel really strongly about how important it is to be a good steward so I'm not saying that you don't trust God if you have a steady income and money in the bank. Or that it is better to throw away your resources (like water during a drought). Just that it's almost like a huge show of faith that they throw a huge party and use up their limited resources and trust that their god is going to bring them more. If only they knew about Jesus and living water. I'm so glad that you guys are there and doing what you do!

  5. Yes! It is the same festival as Songrkan it just has a different name here "Thingyan". I haven't experienced Thailand's water festival but they say in Myanmar they are much more extreme than Thailand. I think it is their only big festival of the year.

    The water felt good the first day but 4 days of it was too much for me.

  6. ha ha! We had fun for 1 day but after that it was just too much. =)

  7. The whole festival is completely backwards (like almost everything in Myanmar). I'm still glad we were able to see it and experience it one time.

  8. I definitely agree that it could be seen as a spiritual step of faith. However, it for sure isn't Biblical, which I know you know.

    I also think it is their one big party of the year so they go absolutely crazy with it. It was eye opening to me to see another part of Myanmar's spirituality and their need for Jesus.