To really appreciate the culture, traditions and lifestyle of Burma, you should attend one of the local festivals. While there is pretty much something on in every calendar month around the country there are some big festivals you shouldn’t miss that involve water throwing, elephant dancing and one-legged rowing. For all the highlights read on.
The Burmese New Year Water Festival is somewhat similar to Thailand’s Songkran. Thingyan usually falls about mid-April and takes place over four to five days.
As the name suggests, it involves water throwing, dousing, merriment and mayhem — perfect when the mercury is soaring at this time of year.
Taungyyi balloon festival
The Taungyyi balloon festival is held in the town of the same name near the world famous tourist destination of Inle Lake.
The annual festival takes place for five days culminating on November 21 and involves huge hot air balloons of some 15-20 feet in height that are shaped like animals or mythical creatures. These are colourfully decorated and when night falls they are released into the air until the firecrackers inside are lit and they explode in colour and sound.
The Mahamuni Ceremony is celebrated in Mandalay in the second week of February on the 14th and 15th waxing days of the moon. For the ceremony, monks gather to chant and there is also singing, dancing, theatre and even a glutinous rice contest.
Robe Weaving Contest
Think you have what it takes to beat the sewing teams of Burma? This festival might make you think twice. It is held across the country in major cities on November 7.
On this day teams of women compete against each other to be recognised as the best robe weavers. The competitions are held on the platforms of the pagodas. When they are finished, the robes are offered to images of Lord Buddha.
Elephant Dance Ceremony
Held near Kyaukse, near Mandalay, the annual elephant dance ceremony is understandably popular.
While there might not be real elephants dancing — men take their places inside huge elephant figures made from bamboo and paper — the precise rhythm and timing required to get the figures to twirl, dance and act in unison are truly amazing. It’s well worth traveling to see this festival, usually held around October 9 and 10.
Phaung Daw U Pagoda Festival
This festival runs for a full 18 days on the beautiful Inle Lake in Shan State and ends on October 27. During the festivities Buddhist images are placed in decorated royal barges and ceremoniously taken clockwise around the lake. One leg rowing boat races are held during the festival.