The biggest, most exuberant and most famous countrywide festival is the Thingyan Water Festival, which takes place in mid-April (one of the hottest times of year), lasts for several days, and culminates with Myanmar New Year’s Day. The most devoutly religious may spend this time meditating at monasteries, but most people spend the week dancing, drinking, playing music and throwing a lot of water.
Sensitive travellers should be warned that the festival can get pretty exuberant, and is definitely best avoided if you don’t want to get very wet indeed! Sealable plastic bags can be bought inexpensively at street shops and stalls to protect your smaller personal belongings, such as wallets and mobile phones, from getting drenched.
Thingyan is the biggest public holiday of the year, so businesses shut down and the streets are lined with stages on which locals stand and spray water hoses at anything and everything that passes by. Throughout all the days of the festival, these stages are used for performances of dancing and music; locals tend to start celebrating early in the day, so things get quieter as night falls.
If you want to experience Thingyan at its most vibrant, the best places to do it are the biggest cities – Yangon and Mandalay. But be warned that travel at the beginning and end of Thingyan can be very difficult, as people travel back to their home town to celebrate en masse.