One of the recommended things to do in Luang Prabang is visit the daily Alms ceremony. This tradition sees monks gathering in the town at dawn to collect food donations from villagers, and also tourists nowadays. I never made it due to only arriving back from the bowling alley not that long before the 5.30am sunrise time. Someone who went told me that it perhaps felt like a slightly inauthentic experience that had somewhat become a photo opportunity for tourists to take pictures of the gathering monks.
Walking around Luang Prabang is every bit as pleasant as would be expected from a UNESCO World Heritage City. The pretty French colonial architecture has a picturesque postcard feel, set against the backdrop of the Mekong River, with misty mountains and lush forestation further afield.
While the Laos New Year celebrations began two days ago, being on a Mekong slow boat limited our exposure to the festivities. Everything is certainly in full swing in Luang Prabang though. Lots of businesses are closed today, although bars and supermarkets are open to enable plenty of boozing and partying to take place. It’s a family-orientated event and is rather endearing to see entire families out and about together. The only reason I know that they are families is due to some sort of convention with everyone in the group wearing identical t-shirts. As with a lot of stag and hen do-style outfits they usually tend to be slightly on the garish side. The guesthouse where I was staying is a family-owned set-up. Everyone here was decked out in a bright pink number. I asked why this was so and was told that as well as being traditional and adding to the good mood, it’s also a practical way of identifying your family member on the crowded streets!
One of the significant aspects of Lao New Year celebrations is the accompanying water festival. In these parts it’s classed as a blessing if someone chucks water over you so that you sins can be washes away in order to provide a fresh New Year start. About even ten yards along the pavement are groups of kids (and some big kids) throwing water at everyone and sundry. This seems to go on all day. The logistics are well thought out with a hosepipe usually nearby in able to top up water supplies. Everyone knows that walking the streets of Luang Prabang will make you fair game to be soaked so you need to make sure any phones or cameras are in a plastic bag. There seems to be some etiquette about not throwing water at older people so I should take it as a compliment when some little shit hiding behind a parked car threw a full bucket of water over me. To make matters worse as I stood stunned for a second, his sister came out of nowhere and got me again, which they seemed to find hilarious! You even have to pretend to smile and take it in the good spirit intended. If a kid did that to someone back home there would inevitably be a load of swearing at the child, their dad would then appear with a probable ensuing punch-up. Here everything was good natured and everyone was embracing the festivities.
With Laos being the Land of Sticky Rice, there was an opportunity to go to a farm to see the process of how the famous product is made. While I’m open to most things this didn’t especially appeal to me. Swimming in waterfalls sounded like a better idea, especially when with the temperature pushing 40C. Kuand Si Falls are a series of picturesque waterfalls at different levels. The clear turquoise waters were great for swimming.
Back in town the New Year festivities were still going strong. Many locals have acquired industrial sized speakers that stand outside their homes and blast awful techno music or dreadful South-East Asian singalong songs out into the night. It was a nice atmosphere to soak up. Tonight there was no continuation of the party at the bowling alley.
I managed to lose my camera in Laos and unfortunately hadn’t backed up any photos for a week or so. Therefore I’ve borrowed some photos from Instagram of pictures taken as close as possible to when I was in a location. I did consider asking permission to use these photos but communicating with around 50 people would have got complicated. I’ve credited all of the photos used and in some occasions cropped them to maintain a matching size ratio. If by chance anyone whose photo is used finds this blog and would like me to remove the photo please let me know and I apologise in advance.