Lao New Year (Pii Mai Lao)


I knew that Lao New Year was going to be wet.
But I didn’t expect it SO wet.
And I am not talking about rain. I am talking about people throwing buckets of water at each other in the streets for hours each day. Water fights. Streets as battlefields.

Organised “posses” of locals driving around town in vans and trucks to deliver their attacks. Tourists fighting back with waterguns. Water everywhere. If you don’t want to get wet do not go outside. For at least three days. Because it’s “no mercy” out there!

Lao New Year (or Pii Mai Lao) is celebrated around mid-April each year. In 2014 the key dates are 14-15-16 April, although in Luang Prabang the celebrations last over one week. There is a long program of activities during the week but the main theme seems to be “water”. Water is a means of wishing long life and peace and good luck so when someone throws water at you they mean well!

Since I was completely soaked in water for 6 hours a day for 2 days I am expecting to have the luckiest year of my life. Or – given the not-so-clean water from the Mekong river used – I am more likely to get ill….

Apart from getting soaked, which gets annoying after a while despite the relief provided from the 40C degrees heat, Luang Prabang had: an elephant parade, an incredibly busy morning market on 14 April (which was the main day of the festival), a very interesting performance of Lao ballet theatre, a Miss Lao New Year beauty contest, and the purification of Buddha images and statues in the temples.

But the most interesting one for me was the parade/procession from Wat Thadnoy to Wat Xieng Thong (the two main temples). Monks, ethnic minorities, performance arts groups, university students, and lots of locals, mostly wearing traditional costumes, paraded for hours in the unforgiving sun.  Amazing show!

Enough words for now, let’s get the images to do the rest of the talking.

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