The Water festival with a difference-that’s what tourism officials and hoteliers in the eastern Shan State town of Kengtung are promising for the city’s 600th Thingyan festival in April.
One prominent feature of the Kengtung water festival, established by the local Sawba (hereditary Shan leader) in 1410 and held each year from April 12 to 14, is the Sidaw Tin Mingala ceremony, which sees the Nanda-Bayri drum carried to Aung Myay Nat Narn (Victory Square).
For the first time in its 600 year history, organizers have also planned a mass dance per formance featuring members of eight different local ethnic groups in traditional dress, said U Sowe Shwe, chairman of the Golden Triangle Zone of the Myanmar Hoteliers Associationand managing director of Princess Hotel in Kengtung.
“We hope this festival will attract interest from all over the country, as well as overseas visitors. Everyone is welcome,” he said. U Tin Tun Aung, secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA), said water festival in eastern Shan State was different from other regions. “This is Kengtung’s traditional Thingyan celebration_it’s different from the festivals in Yangon and Mandalay. For one thing, the weather is a lot cooler,” he said, adding that about 30000 people regularly attend the event. Water festival in Kengtung features sporting mathches, traditional music and fire crackers, and water is poured on revelers in a much more sedate mannar.
Nestled in the mountains of eastern Shan State, within 100 kilometers of the borders with China, Thailand and Laos, restrictions on travel to Kengtung were lifted about 10 years ago, opening the city of more than 100,000 to international tourism. Despite the natural beauty and ethnic diversity of the surrounding region, just over 20,000 foreign tourists visit the town each year, according to official figures. The majority visit on a 14 day travel permit after crossing the border at Mae Sai-Tachileik.