YANGON 25 August 2017: Myanmar’s festival season kicks off in September, a month-long period of celebrations that showcase the country’s culture and traditions.
From dancing papier-mâché elephants to colourful parades, from oil lamp illuminations to long-tail boat racing, the festive season is one of the best times to visit Myanmar according to Myanmar Tourism Marketing.
September marks the end of Buddhist Lent and the closing weeks of the annual rainy season.
Myanmar Tourism Marketing is encouraging tourists to join the festivals through a recently introduced events calendar on their main Facebook page.
Check out the page on https://www.facebook.com/pg/myanmartm/events.
The page features daily updates and shares tourism-related news as well as videos, images, travel blogs and other stories to give travellers and overseas tour operators a taste of Myanmar.
“Although we have seen steady growth in Myanmar tourism, there is still a long way to go. Only 280,000 overseas tourists a year are visiting key destinations like Bagan and Inle Lake”, says Ma May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairperson, ‘so there is plenty of space to accommodate more tourists and the festival season is the best time to visit.
“Since the festival dates are calculated based on the lunar calendar, it is not easy for visitors to understand… We created our Facebook calendar to help visitors plan their holidays to coincide with these celebrations.”
Up-coming festivals in Myanmar
Manuha Pagoda Festival, Bagan 4 to 6 September.
Manuha Pagoda Festival is a three-day celebration in Bagan’s Myinkabar neighbourhood. Residents donate rice cakes and pickled winter melon, a traditional practice that dates back to the reign of King Manuha in the early 11th century.
Monks gather during the festival to receive food offerings deposited in big alms bowls. Colourful papier-mâché figures competitions take place during the Manuha Pagoda Festival depicting the Manuha King himself, tigers, cows, elephants, horses and other animals.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival Inle Lake 21 September to 8 October.
This spectacular festival on Inle Lake features boats with up to 50 or 60 leg rowers pulling a barge across the lake. On the barge are four sacred Buddha images, which are carried from village to village so that local Buddhists can pay homage and make offerings. The festival attracts visitors from every corner of Myanmar and thus is quite busy. The best way to enjoy the festival is to hire a long tail motorboat and follow the procession, traveling alongside locals and getting to see the leg-rowers up close.
Dancing elephant festival Kyaukse 4 to 6 October 2017.
Kyaukse, a mid-sized town located a three hours’ drive from Bagan (same distance from Mandalay), is famous for its big papier-mâché elephant costumes.
During the festival, two men don one of these elephant costumes and perform acrobatic dancing in the streets of Kyaukse. Vendors selling food, toys and other items line the streets. The Kyaukse festival showcases typical life in rural Myanmar. No real elephants involved in this festival.
Thadingyut – festival of lights nationwide 4 to 6 October.
The end of the Buddhist Lent is a time to pay respects to parents, teachers and elderly persons. On the full moon day in October (often the middle of October) houses and pagodas are lit with candles. If you’re in the country on this day, light a candle near your hotel and walk around the city in the evening (or visit the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon).
Also, during this time of year, smaller towns throughout Myanmar organise their own traditional festivals. This usually offers entertainment, a shopping opportunity and lots of street food.
Additional information and sources:
Kyaukse Dancing elephant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnbciAGvRM0
The Myanmar calendar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese_calendar
Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM) is part of the Myanmar Tourism Federation and is mainly privately funded by key members of the tourism industry in Myanmar.