Known to westerners as the “Water Festival”, every year the 13th of April marks one of the most important holidays in many Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Whereas China, South Korea, and Vietnam celebrate the Lunar New Year, in which the second new moon after the winter solstice marks the arrival of spring, most of South and Southeast Asia bases their calendar off the movement of the sun.

That is, the sun formally crosses the Aries constellation in the sky, which occurs around the 14th of April every year. But more importantly and in modern times, this holiday commemorates the end of the harvest season and a time for farmers to finally reap the benefits of their hard labour before the wet monsoon season begins.

Although each country has a different name for the Solar New Year and customs, they all share a mutual joyous tradition – singing, dancing, and merrymaking on the streets as revellers splash water on passersby. This ritual, which originally signified purification of the soul and washing away of one’s bad luck, also represents the much needed forthcoming rains – and a wonderful way of cooling off – during the hottest time of year.

Book an unforgettable river cruise next April and experience the Water Festival for yourself!

Heritage Line offers captivating river voyages to Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers, Laos’s Upper Mekong River, and Cambodia’s Lower Mekong River.