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Myanmar prepares for unique festivals

Myanmar's festival season kicks off in September, a month-long period of celebrations that showcase the country's rich culture and traditions. From dancing papier-mâché elephants to colourful parades, from oil lamp illuminations to long-tail boat racing, the festive season is one of the best times to visit Myanmar.

Myanmar is preparing for the end of the Buddhist Lent. During this period many unique festivals take place throughout the country, offering excellent opportunities for tourist to participate and experiencethe type of celebrations you would normally only see on NationalGeographic Channel. It also coincides with one of the best periods to visit Myanmar, with September bringing lush landscapes, perfect temperatures around 25-30 degrees and fabulous hotel deals.

Myanmar Tourism Marketingis encouragingtourists and journalists to join the festivals and started an event calendar on their main Facebook page to inform potential visitors from around the world. The page features daily updates and shares tourism-related news as well as videos, pictures, travel blogs and other stories to give travellers and overseas tour operators a taste of Myanmar.

“Although we have seen steady growth in Myanmar tourism, there is still a long way to go. Only 280,000 overseas tourists a year are visiting key destinations like Bagan andInle Lake”, says Ma May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing Chairperson, ‘so there is plenty of space to accommodate more tourists and the festival season is the best time to visit. Since the festival dates are calculated based on the lunar calendar, it is not easy for visitors to understand. We created our Facebook calendar to help visitors plan their holidays to coincide with these unique celebrations’.

Some of the festivals happening in Myanmar in the coming months:
Manuha Pagoda Festival(Bagan – 4th to 6th September 2017)
Manuha Pagoda Festival is a 3-day celebrationin Bagan’s Myinkabar neighbourhood. Residents donate rice cakes and pickled winter melon to visitors, a traditional practice that dates back to the reign of King Manuha in the early 11th century. Monks gather during the festival to receive food offerings in big alms bowl around the Pagoda. Colourful papier-mâché figures competitions take place during the Manuha Pagoda Festival and you will see a parade of colours around the city in the forms of the Manuha King himself, tigers, cows, elephants, horses and other animals.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival (Inle Lake – 21st September to 08th October 2017)
This spectacular festival on Inle Lake features boats with up to 50 or 60 leg rowers pulling a barge across the lake’s waters. On the barge are four sacred Buddha images which are carried from village to village so that local Buddhists can pay homage and make offerings to these statues. The festival attracts visitors from every corner of Myanmar and thus is quite busy. The best way to enjoy the festival is to hire a long tail motorboat and follow the procession, traveling alongside locals and getting to see the leg-rowers up close. Plan to have a couple of days in Inle Lake to make sure you don’t miss the procession.

Dancing elephant festival(Kyaukse –4th to 6thOctober 2017)
Kyaukse, a mid-sized town located 3 hours’ drive from Bagan (same distance from Mandalay), is famous for the big papier-mâché elephant costumes made here. During the festival, two men don one of these elephant costumes and perform acrobatic dancing in the streets of Kyaukse. Vendors selling food, toys and other items line the streets and all of the residents come to join in the celebration. The Kyaukse festival showcases typical life in rural Myanmar, and there are no real elephants involved in this festival.

Thadingyut – festival of lights(Nationwide – 4th to 6th October 2017)
The end of the Buddhist Lent is a time to pay respect to parents, teachers and elderly persons. On the full moon day in October (often the middle of October) houses and pagodas are lit with candles. If you’re in the country on this day, light a candle near your hotel and walk around the city in the evening (or visit the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon if you happen to be there) and enjoy the magical atmosphere.

Also, during this time of year, smaller towns throughout Myanmar organise their own traditional festivals. This usually includes some kind of entertainment, a bit of shopping opportunity and, of course, a lot of different food. Keep your eyes open for these traditional s “pwe’s” while traveling in Myanmar.

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