One of the most crazy and amazing experiences I had in Asia, were the 3 days I spent at the water festival – known as Thingyan – in Mandalay, Myanmar.

Marking the Burmese New Year, Thingyan is a Buddhist festival that occurs annually in mid-April. Traditionally, the festival is celebrated by sprinkling water over ones head to rid them of their sins of the previous year, but in modern times – more so in the cities – it’s a soak ’em all free-for-all. The festival spans 5 days, eventually resulting in the New Year. It’s a chance for the local people to go absolutely nuts and celebrate while the government relaxes it’s laws.

Having no idea what the festival entailed – apart from the fact that i’d be getting wet – I rallied with my newly met troops at Ace Star Backpackers and we set about the streets to discover what all the fuss was about. Finding a small street vendor down the road, we stocked up on some water pistols and ammunition to defend ourselves against the unknown that was soon to reveal itself. Sure enough, 50 meters down the road, we met our first douser. Positioning himself curb-side, hose in hand, he made sure that each one of us were all showered and clean before proceeding.

As our destination grew closer, the water skirmishes intensified. Passing by vehicles drenched us with buckets, while children flanked us from alleyways with icey cold water from their bottles – it was clear that this was going to be an awesome day.

Eventually reaching the palace square, we were met by hoards of vehicles, motorbikes and people, surging towards the erected platforms that lined the sidewalks. These platforms were huge stages that pumped music and thousands of litres of water onto the saturated dancing crowds below. Making our way towards the first stage, we squeezed our way into the drenched mosh pit to join in on the celebrations.

Below the stage, we were prime targets for the hose-wielding bandits above. Taking multiple jets of water to the face made it slightly tricky to see at times, but we were having a blast. Shaking hands with the locals, dancing with the locals, hugging the locals – the people were amazing. The vibe and energy they gave made the experience second to none.

The following 2 days followed a common routine, consisting of: Heading to the beer station at midday to grab an ale and some grub, progressing to the palace square whilst getting drenched by locals, purchasing some Grand Royal whiskey at the convenience store, to finally reach the square. From there we hopped from stage to stage to participate in the unreal atmosphere that got more and more crazy with each day.

The festival was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had – one of my favourite memories from South East Asia. The people of Myanmar are some of the most friendly and hospitable people I’ve ever met, and being a part of their traditional celebrations at a time when they were oozing with happiness, was nothing short of incredible.