Water Splashing Festival

Nicholas Quirke was expecting to get a little wet on 5 May 2021 as a torrential rainfall greeted him on waking. He was oddly excited by the thought getting soaked after days of promised rain and had the fortune of glorious sunshine instead. He was prepared with umbrella and rain mac and had even asked the hotel if he could use their rubber bath slippers. Breakfast was eaten with the rain teeming down and getting to the jeep was an easy short journey. On the drive to the Dai Nationality Garden, about 30 minutes from Jinghong town, as the downpour continued he watched the steam rise from the forests in apocalyptic fashion. It was a dramatic sight and for a while he felt as if he was in a movie. The Xishuangbanna Dai Nationality Garden is five authentic Dai villages where genuine families live and you can experience the history, culture, religion, sports, architecture, food and life-style of Dai ethnic group. Within five minutes of arriving, having donned rain macs, paid the entrance fee, eschewed getting a buggy to drive them round and beginning to explore the rain had stopped. After another 20 minutes the sun was out and another scorching day was ahead of them. They ate some local snacks, found an array of temples, and historic sites, watched local artisans at work; painting, weaving and making drums and walked through the 5 distinct hamlets. There was certainly a commercial edge to the enterprise but for colour and authenticity of lifestyle it was engrossing. They visited the Mansongman Ancient Buddhist Temple with over 1400 years of history, showing the culture of Buddhism. Travelling on foot they got to see many more relics and spots than the tourist buggy’s allowed including a jack fruit that was bigger than his head and giving him another opportunity to play Dr Dolittle with an elephant. He was spotted by an elderly Chinese lady who sprinted across a courtyard to quiz him about his provenience. It turned out she was was an ex national visiting from then USA. They had a very green and healthy lunch before making their way to the main square where the ‘Water splashing Festival, a Dai Buddhist ritual was to take place. Warned that they would get very wet they planned not to get involved, but at the eleventh hour, deciding that it was better to take part nicholas paid 50 Yuan for a bowl and joined the parade. Most people had rented an outfit but he and Peng with so little time just wore their own clothes. It was a colourful sight and though he had no idea what was going as all the instructions were in Chinese he played along. Eventually they were all in the water and after a sober sprinkling and some prayers the occasion erupted into an utterly joyous soaking. The more water you were splashed with the more blessing you received and as the only Laowai he was a target for the nationals generosity of spirit. The ceremony lasted 30 minutes and by the end he was existed and really really wet. He had got his wish to be saturated but not in the way he had expected. They went to the folk music performance where they could enjoy seeing the cucurbit flute played and watch a Zanha show. On the walk back to the car the sun dried out his tee shirt and hat, though his shorts remained a little damp. The famous Mantang park was a final stop after they had returned to the hotel and changed. They rode scooters to the former Imperial Garden of the Dai Kingdom, with an obligatory Buddhist temple called Zongfo Si and over 500 ancient kassod trees and plant species. It was a beautiful location and there was not a spot in the park that wasn’t full of ‘influencers’ and wedding couples posing for photographs. He tried as hard as he could to avoid curiously narcissistic activities and in the end enjoyed their celebration of self. He was really exhausted but they still found time for a fried food supper at a local supermarket. Back at the hotel he wrestled with seemingly insurmountable storage problems before finally drifting into a bone weary sleep.

Leave a Reply