Water Splashing Festival

Feeling  jinxed?  Had  a  run  of  bad  luck lately?  You  must  make  your  way  to  the laidback  southern  China  city  of  Jinghong. There they have an excellent cure for misfortune—a  bucket  of  water  in  the  face. Apparently,  there  is  nothing  like  a  good drenching to wash away the blues and this city of black and white pagodas and yellow robed  Buddhist  monks  becomes  a  frenzy of water dunking every April as the locals grab  buckets,  basins,  and  bottles  and soundly soak whoever crosses their path. From  a  distance,  the  city’s  streets  and square take on the appearance of an anarchic  fountain  with  white  arcs  of  water stretching  across  the  air  before  descending  into  peals  of  screams  and  laughter. Everybody   is   fair   game,   so   don’t   go expecting to avoid a soaking. There are no wet  blankets  at  this  shower  party.  The good thing is you can retaliate by grabbing the nearest receptacle and throwing back.

Traditionally,   friends   and   neighbors sprinkled  each  other  with  drops  of  water to  wish  them  luck  for  the  New  Year:  The 3-day festival takes place during the local Dai people’s New Year party. Then somebody  realized  it  was  much  more  fun  to saturate  and  be  saturated  in  turn.  Girls huddle and scream as youths attack them with  water.  Even  the  monks  join  in  and jump in the river or nearest fountain. Buddha himself gets wet during a ceremonial bathing in the Mekong river. While all this happens,   homemade   bamboo   rockets scream into the air and tiny, magical hotair  balloons  float  through  the  sky  before being consumed in their own flames. Candle  rafts  float  away  down  the  river  and small  bean  bags  known  as  love  pouches are thrown at whomever you fancy; catch one of those in the face and you know you have an admirer.

There is lots to admire about the province  of  Yunnan  itself.  Scenic  valleys  and fertile  hills  lead  to  lush  paddy  fields  and tropical jungle. Here the people are more laidback  than  their  northern  cousins  and the  pace  of  life  much  less  frenetic  than Beijing  or  Shanghai.  The  people  themselves  are  different,  made  up  of  several minorities,  the  most  prominent  of  which are  the  Dai  people.  Their  fun  and  relaxed attitude  is  more  in  line  with  their  Thai, Laotian, and Burmese neighbors. The area has become a popular tourist destination with  lots  of  trekking  and  biking  possibilities  in  the  surrounding  area.  Of  course many  come  for  the  New  Year’s  celebrations which run from the 12th to the 18th  of  April.  As  well  as  the  water  party,  an amazing  dragon  boat  race  takes  place  on the river with each craft holding 50 rowers, pilots, dancers, and drummers. An extravagant  parade  rolls  through  the  town  with colorful  floats  surrounded  by  traditional dancers.  On  the  final  night  a  massive  fireworks display takes place on the riverbank opposite, distracting tired and wet revelers with an awesome display.