Celebrating New Year in South-East Asia

13 April 2013

Bucket loads of water will be thrown this weekend in South-east Asia as the New Year is celebrated in all its aqua glory. In Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and various other destinations throughout the region, locals will drench themselves and unsuspecting others with water as a symbolic gesture of washing away the negativity of the previous year so that they can begin the New Year with a clean slate. April is generally the hottest month in this part of the world, so being saturated in water can be very refreshing.

Here are our top cities in Asia to experience this fantastic festival.

 Songkran in Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Known as the Songkran Festival, the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai embraces the festivities. It is customary for the locals to pay their respects to Buddha by visiting a wat and also gently pouring water over the face of Buddha statues as a cleansing ritual. With more than 300 temples in the city, there are plenty to admire including Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Chedi Luang. With its gold-plated chedi, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is worth the 18km journey from Chiang Mai to the temple.

Luang Prabang, Laos
The Lao celebrate the New Year by crafting beautiful sand stupas and decorating them with flags and flowers before splashing the creations with perfumed waters. Other customs include freeing animals such as tortoises, fish and birds and covering Buddha images with flowers. In the capital, Luang Prabang, there's a beauty pageant to crown Miss Lao New Year and much traditional dancing and general merriment.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In Cambodia the festival is known as "Chaul Chnam Thmey," which literally translates to "Enter New Year." The local communities celebrate with a variety of games such as Chol Chhoung, which involves two groups throwing a "chhoung" back and forward, Klah Klok, which involves a mat and some dice and Leak Kanseng, where teenagers sit in a circle and a "kanseng" or towel is placed behind a selected individual. While in the capital, Phnom Penh be sure to enjoy a special dish prepared for the occasion called kralan – it's a cake made from rice.

Yangon, Myanmar
In Yangon, the Burmese celebrate Thingyan, which translates to transit of the sun from Pisces to Aries, by throwing water onto each other and releasing fish into large lakes and rivers. Popular foods for the season are mont lone yeibaw, which are glutinous rice balls mixed the palm sugar and sticky rice served with toasted sesame in jiggery syrup and coconut milke. There are also temporary stages erected throughout the capital where performers entertain the crowds.

Lyndon Barnett

Guided by curiosity and a sense of adventure, Lyndon travelled independently to 69 countries on six continents. As such, travel is Lyndon's only addiction. He enjoys with equal measure - scaling the peaks of a South American mountain at altitude, attending opera in a European Opera House or hunting for a bargain in an Asian market.