As the excitement of Myanmar New Year approaches, there are plenty of options for things to do over the four-day festival. Inevitably though, most include water.
Thingyan shopping is particularly important for the fashion conscious, especially girls. “We have our hair done in plaits with colours,” says Wai Hnin, a member of the Tiger Girls and Fido Dido dance group. “Every year, we are waiting for the festival from January, which is when we start saving money.”
One of the big costs for most people over the festival period is a pandal ticket. The large wooden structures that start appearing around the first week of April are lavishly decorated with disco lights, LED projectors and showerheads that rain water on the dance floor.
“Once the pandals take shape, the tickets sell like hot cakes,” says Kyaw Soe Lynn, 30, who in 2007 and 2008 organised the Hit Man pandal on Inya Road. “Depending on the size and the location of the pandal, tickets range from K35,000 to K50,000 for four days.”
However, this year, organisers say that the main focus is not on lavish pandals but on safety following the bomb blast at the X20 pandal at the north end of Thein Phyu Road that killed 10 people last year. The organiser of Blizzard pandal, Sein Phyo Hlaing, says, “This year, we have spent twice as much on security than on anything else. We have installed a metal detector and CCTV cameras on the pandal and we have also hired more security guards than last year”.
Despite this, “there are some whose parents do not allow them to go out this year”, adds Nyein Chan Maung, another Blizzard pandal organiser. “Our pandal can hold 1500 people. In the past we have had around 1200 people. This year, I expect about 1000.”
Thirty-one pandals have been licensed in Yangon this year, most of which will be located around Kandawgyi Lake, Pyay, Kabaraye Pagoda, and near Inya Lake.
For those bored by the idea of staying on a pandal, an alternative way to enjoy the festival is to drive around with friends and family in a jeep or truck, shouting cheeky chants such as “Ho a ma gyi nge nge tone ka phin pyaung gyi!” (The lady over there was butt naked when she was little!).
Young rapper G-Tone says “I like shouting these chants while cruising around the city by car.”
Ma Su Su, who works at Royal Rose car rental, says a Toyota Publica will cost about K100,000 for a day and a light truck around K150,000. But most people prefer to hire a jeep for about K120,000 because they have an open roof and you can dance on the bonnet.