Category Archives: Festivals

New season, new festival

A child plays with traditional toys. Thiri Lu/ The Myanmar Times

To mark the coming of the new season, Thuwana Stadium hosted an inaugural spring festival last weekend. The event was abuzz with music, food and cultural activities.

Many other festivals are held in Yangon but spring festivals are intended to highlight Myanmar traditions.

They are usually observed with traditional dancing, traditional fashion and traditional handicrafts. The Thuwana Stadium celebration also had 21st century elements – contemporary designers showed off their wares as a photo booth snapped away.

Lynn Whut Hmone, director of event organiser Stellar Seven, said it gave the chance for families and friends to embrace the new season.

Yangon Gallery used the occasion to show off an ancient loom, traditional palm necklaces (htan yaut puddi) and even fish toys (htan yaut fish).

Artist Soe Win Nyein, owner of Acme Myanmar Souvenirs said events like this were important in promoting and celebrating traditional arts and handicrafts.

“Young people in Myanmar are increasingly less concerned about these things.”

Traditional wares on display.Traditional wares on display.

“And grass roots producers do not have too many opportunities to get their wares out there.”

Soe Win Nyein added that Myanmar should look to Thailand in how it supports and embraces local producers for a modern market.

Dr Aung Hein, owner of Toy Box Myanmar echoed these concerns – saying he hoped that Myanmar children who grow up in this day and age still embrace Myanmar toys.

“I think children still like traditional toys but there are not many places to buy them,” Dr Aung Hein said.

Artist May Moe Thu, owner of Pho Wa Hand Painted Cotton Products said the foreign tourist market was still not tapped as well as it could be.

Visitor Dr Kyaw Han Thar Myint said it was fun to see so many traditional elements on display in the one place.

“I loved the traditional dance stage, especially the hna par thwar [a Myanmar traditional dance] and the Shan sword dance.”

“It’s great to find out more about Myanmar culture.”

Songkran Festival

 Of all the feasts and festivals in Thailand, which are many, the Songkran Festival is the most striking, for it is widely observed not only in this country but also in Burma, Cambodia and the Lao State.

Songkran is a Sanskrit word in Thai form which means the entry of the sun into any sign of the Zodiac. But the Songkran in this particular instance is when the sun enters the sign of Aries or the Ram. Its full name is Maha Songkran or Major Songkran to distinguish it from the other ones. But the people call it simply the Songkran for it is the only one they know and in which they take interest. It is their traditional New Year when they can enjoy their holidays to the full with no economic hindrance. Songkran is a fixable feast on the solar calender. It begins on the 13th April and ends on the 15th April, but occasionally in certain years on the 16th April. The Songkran is in fact the celebration of the vernal equinox similar to those of the Indian Holi Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, and the Christian Festival of Easter. The beginning of spring when the sun crosses the equator is now on the 21st of March which is due to the precession of the equinox. The Songkran Festival is in a certain sense like April Fool’s Day, when the maids of the village play pranks on any gallant who happens to pass by their way. He will be caught and bound by the united strength of the maids and they will daub him with blacking.

Information from: “Essays on Cultural Thailand” by Office of the National Culture Commission.

Myanmar’s Explosive Fire Balloon Festival

Myanmar's Exclosive Fire Balloon Festival

The Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival sets the skies of central
Myanmar ablaze every year. These celebrations are a part of
Tazaungdaing Festival of Light which is celebrated in November each year to mark the end of Myanmar’s rainy season. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful fireworks celebrations in the world and also the most dangerous.Brightly colored balloons with hundreds of homemade fireworks woven into their frames were sent soaring into the night sky, showering down cascades of sparks onto adoring crowds.These balloons are loaded with explosives and they regularly crash to the ground. It causes panic among the crowds but visitors still stay because they believe that’s the sight is worth the risks.

People travel to the capital of Shan state from various parts of
Myanmar and even from various parts of the world to watch these
celebrations. The tradition of this way of celebrating is rooted in
Buddhism but the hot air balloon contest itself was started by British colonialists in the late 19th century. So, many people are present that it looks like a whole sea of people. Many first timers are amazed and say that they have never seen so many people at one place before. It is really scary when the fireworks fly right at you and sometimes people die too. In 2014, three people were killed when a balloon crashed onto spectators below. A young child also died when a balloon was blown into the family’s tent.Balloon work hard for months to create the most brilliant spectacle of light in order to
win the contest and then they see all their work explode and disappear in minutes.

Besides fireworks and spectacular balloons this festival offers various other exciting experiences as well. Here you can witness a human powered ferris wheel at the festival’s fairground where workers scamper across the 50-foot high rickety structure like spider monkeys, using their body weight to send it spinning around at extraordinary speed. Some of them dangle from the bars as the ride hurtles toward the ground, while some others swing between the bars upside down as the wheel turns.



Mythical landscape of Myanmar

Even before the days of British colonialism and the ‘exotic east’ writings of luminaries like Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and George Orwell, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) had long been a place of mystery and allure. With its legendary kingdoms, gorgeous landscapes, diverse people and fine examples of architectural and archaeological marvels, how could it not? These days, having re-joined the global community after 50 years of infamy at the hands of a ruling military junta, the Golden Land finds itself jumping onto an ever increasing number of traveler’s bucket lists. Given this, we were pleased to hear from Myanmar travel insider Bennett Stevens of Luminous Journeys. If this still largely untravelled destination doesn’t intrigue you already, what follows may well change that…


Oddly anglicized to ‘Rangoon’ under British rule, Yangon is one of the great unsung cities of the world, and certainly the friendliest! The ‘Garden City of the East” is most famously known as the home of Myanmar’s holy of holy’s – the 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda. At 325-feet in height & covered in 60 tons of gold, Shwedagon’s shimmering glory dominates the city skyline. Although Yangon is much more than Shwedagon. There are a host of fine exotic hotels and restaurants, a burgeoning arts scene, rare antiques shops, fascinating markets, and even the night life is surging with new energy, Yangon is truly an urban experience quite unlike anywhere else.



The vast Buddhist temple-scape of Bagan, a legacy of devotion and monuments to power built by the Pagan Kings over several centuries, is not only a place of surreal wonder, but is without a doubt one of the greatest archaeological sites on earth. The 2,220 surviving temples (13,000 at its apex) can for the most part be explored quite freely. Modes of transport around the 40 square mile temple zone, include bus, car, bicycle, foot and hot air balloon!



Don’t believe what your read on certain travel review sites. Sure, the city is a dusty trading hub, but there is much more to it than meets the average tourist’s eye. On his photo tours, National Geographic‘s Steve McCurry spends more time here than anyplace else. The Mandalay Array, as Luminous Journeys has dubbed it, is culturally and photographically rich indeed. Highlights include Myanmar’s 2nd holiest shrine, the Maha Muni gilded Buddha, the picturesque U Bein Bridge (the largest teak structure on earth), the massive, never completed temple of Mingun, the 600 monasteries and nunneries of the Holy Hills of Sagaing, and a whole lot more. Mandalay – as dusty as it may be – should not be overlooked.

Lake Inle

One of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in Myanmar, Lake Inle is best known for its unique fishermen, who row their dugout canoes standing with a single leg wrapped around a single oar. Despite the rise in tourism and the changing waterscape of expanding ‘floating gardens’, (the lake provides 70% of Myanmar’s tomatoes), Inle, with its wonderful water bungalow hotels and welcoming people, still maintains its palpable, yet indescribable magic.

“The Golden Rock” of Kyaiktiyo

Located about f ive hours by road from Yangon, The Golden Rock is Myanmar’s 3rd holiest shrine, behind Shwedagon Pagoda and the Maha Muni Buddha. The true history of this gilded wonder resting precariously on the precipice of a mountain outcrop, is as shrouded in mystery as Myanmar itself. Legend has it that what keeps it from tumbling a thousand feet into the gorge below, is a single hair of the Buddha!

The Lost City of Mrauk U

Mrauk U was the seat of power of the Arakan Empire that ruled vast coastal regions of western Myanmar and into India as far as the Ganges River. At its height the city was as wealthy, diverse and influential in the East as Amsterdam was contemporaneously in the West. The Arakan kings thought enough of their own well being to enlist Japanese Samurai as personal body guards! Mrauk U today, with its great temple fortresses serving as little more than exotic backdrops for a collection of small rural villages, has a surreal feel to it, especially when shrouded in morning mist. That the only access is by river adds even more of an adventure feel of visiting this lost dynastic capital.


Kyaing Tong & the Golden Triangle

While well trodden Thailand has seen its tribal areas become over-touristed, this is far from the case in Myanmar. It is still quite possible to visit villages who very rarely, if ever, see foreigners, and some tribes are unique to Myanmar. It should be noted that during high season these days, the easier to reach villages will be expecting you! So, if you are looking to get seriously authentic, plan well, and make sure you have a guide who understands what you’re after.


Hpa An

Hpa An is the photogenic capital of Kayin State on the Thanlwin River. About a 7-hour drive southeast from Yangon, the town is surrounded by Karst mountains and is great place for short, scenic treks. Outside of town there are seas of green rice paddies backed by Karst rock formations. Mt. Zwegabin is the most prominent “rock”, and can be climbed in a couple of fairly strenuous hours, but the views are a spectacular reward. The biggest draw of Hpa An for many, are the limestone caves in that serve as amazing natural Buddhist temple shrines.


Putao & the Eastern Himalaya

The Myanmar Himalaya is virtually virgin territory, at least as far as foreign visitors go. The region is one of most  bio-unique in the world, with an average of 30 to 40 new species of flora and fauna discovered each year. Putao is the gateway to Himalayan trekking for true adventure types, and is reachable only by air. For the luxury minded, river rafting, short treks and bike jaunts are all available from the beautiful Malikha Lodge. Nothing like a delicious cocktail and a massage after a long day exploring.



The Beaches – Ngapali & Ngwe Saung

Ngapali is more than Myanmar’s most visited beach. Yes, it’s a lovely tropical beach on the Bay of Bengal, with requisite white sands, swaying palms, sashay masseuses and beachfront bungalows, but what really puts it over the top, is the spectacular seafood. Most of Myanmar’s sea gastronomy chefs are gathered here, all vying to win the affections of your taste bud arrays. Next you should head to Ngwe Saung. What this up and coming budget to luxury resort area has over Ngapali, is that it’s nine miles longer, has more locals than foreigners and is within driving distance of Yangon.

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April 12, 2016 was a landmark date for both Myanmar and Singapore as it was the day when these both countries completed half a century of diplomatic ties. Singapore embassy has plans to celebrate this event by holding a film festival in Yangon which will showcase the best movies coming out of the Singapore film industry.  According to Mr. Robert Chua, Singapore’s Ambassador to Myanmar, the embassy is also thinking about holding orchestra performances in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. The Culture Ministry of Myanmar will work along with Singapore embassy to hold an exhibition at Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum. This exhibition will feature rare historical artefacts from Myanmar.

Besides holding cultural shows to celebrate the unique culture of both the countries, visits from high level officials will also take place.  The relations between Myanmar and Singapore have always been cordial and mutually beneficial. Both countries wish to strengthen these ties even further and the visits of top officials will be aimed at finding newer and better ways to improve their relations. Education, tourism and healthcare will be the key focus areas as these two countries look forward to increase economic co-operation among them.  Helping each other to counter terrorism and increasing contact between their citizens are also on the agenda.


Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival takes place towards the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year. This festival is also celebrated in neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries; Songkran in Thailand and Laos, ChaulChnamThmey in Cambodia. The festival lasts three or five days. The festival revolves around standing on bamboo stages erected along the streets wherein people splash water on passersby. Powerful water pipes douse people driving by in jeeps and trucks. Children use water pistols to drench their friends, relatives, and anyone else in range – only monks and the elderly are safe.


Festivals of Myanmar

Celebrating the Taungpyone Nats or Spirit Festival
Celebrating the Taungpyone Nats or Spirit Festival

Wagaung Maha Dok Festival : Wagaung (August) is the month for what is called Maha Dok festival, believed to be named after a very poor man who became rich over-night for his offerings to ‘Kas-sapa Buddha’. According to tradition and custom, communal groups solicit donors to prepare alms-bowls, one or more each, depending on the means and will of the donor. Each bowl is filled with some rice meal with a curry and dessert like sweets and fruits. Monks are invited to receive the bowls and lots are drawn. Each donor is in turn given a number of each bowl and lots are drawn again for the winning number. The lucky donor often receives a sum of money. Overjoyed with his luck; he believes that he is given another opportunity to do good deeds of merit.

Taungpyone Nats or Spirits Festival: The festival of Taungpyone is a very peculiar and particular festival that although Myanmar Buddhists are not actually spirit worshippers, thousands of country folks and townspeople alike flock to this yearly festival of ‘Nats’ (Spirit Gods) near Mandalay to participate in its joyous, light- hearted merrymaking. 

The small Taungpyone Hill and surrounding areas had been ‘awarded’ to the ‘Nats’ as a special province of their own by Myanmar Kings since the Bagan Dynasty in the 11th century. Once a year, festivals are held to honour these ‘Nats’.

Myanmar’s New Year is in April. It is also the time to celebrate the most famous and active festival in Myanmar. What is the name of this particular festival?

Water Festival: The Water Festival, or Thingyan, is celebrated in Myanmar. It is a time of celebration where people sprinkle and splash water as a symbol of washing away sins and bad luck from the previous year. It is also celebrated in Thailand.

September 2013


Celebration of Tawthalin Boat Races
Celebration of Tawthalin Boat Races

Tawthalin Boat Races : ‘’Tawihalin” (September) is the sixth month on Myanmar calendar and it is the time for Royal Regatta Festivals which is being revived by the state with the holding of festivals of pageantry and boat races. September is the month when boat races are held in practically every pond, river and lake throughout the country.

Buddha’s Tooth Relic Festival also known as Phaung Daw Pagoda Festival: Buddhist devotees from all over the country come to Paung-de (Buddha’s Tooth Relic Festival), 130 miles north of Yangon, to worship this sacred relic brought out once a year (in September) from its vaults. It is taken around the town on an elephant in a procession.