Dai New Year (Water Splashing Festival)...
Every year on April 13th/15th the city of Jinghong, the capital city of Xishuangbanna, and neighboring villages celebrate the coming of the Dai New Year. Commonly known as the ‘Water Splashing Festival’ or the ‘Festival for Bathing the Buddha’, it’s the most important festival for the Dai people. It’s more than just a large water fight; on each of the days there are different sights to be seen.
On one of the days it’s seems like everybody gathers on the river bank of the Lancang (Mekong) River to watch the Dragon boat races. Each boat with about 50 rowers, a couple more people on the rudder and a few more on the front of the boat who dance and play drums, There’s a real carnival atmosphere here with sideshows, dancing shows and people enjoying traditional Dai barbecue. Every so often you hear the ‘Whoosh’ of a homemade bamboo rockets, called a Gaosheng, packed with gunpowder being launched into the air.
Another day includes a large parade through the city of Jinghong of extravagant floats and the various minorities wearing their traditional clothing, playing their traditional instruments and performing their dances. In the afternoon people visit ‘Manting Park’, admission fee is Y10 on this day, where they watching dancing shows and eat more Dai barbecue whilst they relax and socialise with friends and families in the pleasant surroundings of the park.
All the women look beautiful in their traditional Dai dresses.
In the evening people once again people congregate on the banks of the Lancang (Mekong) River to release Kongming balloons (paper hot air balloons, powered by small burners in their center) for good luck, others float small candle rafts down the river. The city also displays and impressive firework show on the far banks of the river.
Water Splashing day involves, well water splashing. Be prepared to get wetter than you thought was possible, especially if you’re a foreigner when the locals and Chinese tourists alike seem to want to give you more good luck than you probably need. It gets started in the morning and lasts throughout the day until around 6 o’clock. Most of the roads are free of traffic except for the occasional brave (or foolish) motorcycle rider and pillion that each gets a soaking.
There seems to be three methods of blessing your fellowman (or woman).
1) Mainly for the old and the young, is to simply cup a small amount of water in ones hand and sprinkle it over the head or down the back of your chosen blessee.
2) Carry a five liter bucket for you water supply and a smaller bowl for the distribution of good tidings. Sometimes gently pour it over some bodies head and other times try and throw it up some bodies nose. Or you can forget the small bowl and just use the larger bucket.
3) Which is becoming more popular mainly the tourists who visit the Water Splashing Festival, is to purchase a high powered water soaker complete with extra storage tanks of water worn on ones back. These guns hurt if you get shot in the eye or the ear or any other tender parts of the body. Tour groups seem to walk around the city in small ‘tour group armies’, battling it out with each other when they meet.
When people start leaving the streets and vehicles take there place, don’t think you’re safe from a dowsing. Lorries and pick-up trucks filled with water and several passengers join the party. Normally blessing each other but sometimes catching out the unsuspecting person in their dry clothes who thought if was all over.
All three days are excellent fun and a must see if your in the area.