This is Thingyan! | Myanmar Water Madness

It’s around 6am.  Middle of April.  Small town of Myeik, coast of Myanmar.  Not much seems to have changed since George Orwell’s time here.  City-wide chanting comes on way too loud echoing all through the streets.  But today, no wake up call is needed.  Everyone’s up early in anxious anticipation.  Every kid in town is already on the street, in front of their house, wearing a slightly evil and way overexcited grin on their face.  They’ve been waiting for this day all year.  In their hands – a weapon of choice.  The older ones tend to go for buckets, the younger stick to water guns or plastic bowls.  Near each group (no, not just kids), their supply magazine – a giant water cooler – among the particularly sadistic mobs, filled with not just water but ice.  A motorbike appears on the horizon – the first victim.  The grins stretch wider, excitement grows higher.  Check your ammo, fix your grip on the weapon.  Get ready…  Four days of absolute madness is about to kick off.  The country-wide water-war starts with a merciless…  Splash!


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Non-participation during Thingyan, the Burmese New Year / Water Festival, is not an option.  Neither is staying dry.  Yet there’s not a single grump in sight.  The collective thrill is addictive.  So you climb onto the open-back minivan, one of many.  Around a plastic tarp-covered speaker, which blast bad pop way too loud for comfort, you crouch around with a group of soaked locals.  Their enthusiasm grows even higher – a white face is still a rare, giggle-inducing sight here.  Then your fear kicks in as you see the real madness ahead.  Makeshift stages set up along the road, one after another, as far down as you can see.  Forget buckets!  Those bucket kids were amateurs!  Here, they got industrial strength water hoses shooting in every direction!  Those damn things hurt!  But you suck it up and as you open your eyes and shake the water out of your ears, among the wild bumper-to-bumper traffic, there’s a crowd dancing around you, as if in a trance.  Bikes, cars, people on top of buses; anything on wheels and no lack of pedestrians either!  There’s bicycles with creative DIY sidecars carrying whole families.  Drops of water fly through the air, seemingly in slow motion and the roads turn into rivers.  “That’s such a waste of water..!”, you think, as kids nearby recycle dirty puddles to fill up their buckets.  Then you get distracted with the sweet smell of thanaka – the traditional sunscreen and cosmetic – which hangs the air.  It’s too much for the senses.  Someone hands you a beer but your ‘thanks’ gets lost in the noise and you didn’t even catch his face.  You pop it open and you drink it in one go –seconds later you’re under water-cannon attack again.

[caption_image url=”” width=”640″ height=”200″ title=”” lightbox=”true” crop=”c”]Myeik Water Fun[/caption_image]

After some hours, you feel relief when instead of hoses and ice water, you see kids with plasticware.  Especially the little ones – there’s a good chance they’ll miss and you get a bit of satisfaction when they do.  Some taunt you with big though empty buckets – just to watch you scram for cover as they laugh.  Everyone around seems to have endless energy.

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Well – you’ve had a thrill of your life but you’re exhausted and cold.  You hop off, ready to call it a day.  And as you do, you face a young, reddish-robed Monk, no older than six or seven.  And certain sadness fills you up.  Monks don’t participate in the water fun.  He discreetly glances at his thoroughly-soaked peers swinging water left and right nearby and in his eyes there’s so much longing, held-back excitement, simple envy.  Before you know it, an older monk rushes the boy along and he’s gone.  You’re left on your own, in a brief moment of quiet contemplation…  Apparently not brief enough – where the monk just stood, now three kids with water leave you little to imagination as to what’s about to happen.  Splash!  And again.  Splash!  And another.  Splash!  This is Thingyan.

[pretty_gallery width=”325″ height=”150″ gallery=”Thingyan”][pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]Festive roads of Myeik[/pretty_image] [pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]Thingyan Water Madness[/pretty_image] [pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]No dry thread for 5 days straight![/pretty_image] [pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]Fear & Loathing in… Myeik?[/pretty_image] [pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]Thingyan Festivities[/pretty_image] [pretty_image url=”” width=”{{width}}” height=”{{height}}” gallery=”{{gallery}}”]Thingyan Party[/pretty_image][/pretty_gallery]

Check out this story in print!
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[caption_image url=”” width=”650″ height=”” title=”This is Thingyan! (Word Magazine)” lightbox=”false” crop=”c”]This is Thingyan! (Word Magazine)[/caption_image]

Coming up in May
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[one_third][caption_image url=”” width=”200″ height=”” title=”” lightbox=”true” crop=”c”]Where God Walks the Earth: Kelkang Revival[/caption_image][/one_third] [two_third_last]Check back in May for our upcoming mini-doc release: Where God Walks the Earth: Kelkang Revival.

We’ll go off the map to visit remote Northeast India where the members of the Mizo ethnic minority dance, cry, roll in the mud and speak in tongues all claiming empowerment by their holy spirit!

Be sure to subscribe on youtube or like Etherium Sky on facebook so we can notify you of the release![/two_third_last]