Luang Prabang, Lao Peoples Dem Rep
Started by walking towards the New Year’s market that stretches from the Museum south to the stadium. Rather like the night market but ten times the size so we decided to take a break and climb the junior slopes of Mount Phosi for a break and to watch the action. On the way got drowned for the first time which was cooling at least.
Every 50 yards or so on the main street gangs of children and adults set up water stations ranging from water pistols to hoses and vast cauldrons ready to soak anyone in hurling distance. The idea is to wash away evil and be pure for the New Year but also a very good excuse for a massive town-wide water fight. Then sat at a bar and had an iced tea as team of water bandits set up a mobile station in flat bed trucks and outside bars and showered anyone and everyone. One guy got a bucketful expertly through the half open window of his car. Elly and I were now soaked so decided to catch a boat across the Mekong to an island were the real party was beginning.
We scrambled down the river bank and got a narrow tail boat for $1 to take us across. Just the two of us in a boat 3 feet wide and 30 foot long driven by the spiritual brother of Michael Schumacher. We arrived in one piece and I vaulted over the side to become stuck in Mekong mud aka Lao concrete. So wet and muddy we hit the beach with most of the population of LP and then the flour bombing began.
The tradition is that you build a Stupa on the beach and decorate it with flour to honor your ancestors. Any spare flour (and there are usually kilos spare) is used to decorate anyone who is wet. That would be everyone. The idea is that once you are completely solid with the mud and flour mixture you wash it off in the Mekong and start again. The added fun is that most of the annual BeerLoa production also comes to the island so by late tonight they’ll be fishing them out of the river with nets. Fantastic fun, massively good natured and unmissable. We took a 8 seater boat back to the mainland and flopped for a late lunch and watched the teams of mobile water assassins drive up and down the main street soaking and being soaked in turn.
This is why it’s so good to be places at their main festivals, you see just how people celebrate just having fun be it Tet in Vietnam or Pimai here in Laos. The more serious Buddhist celebrations start tomorrow but for today at least it’s the world largest wet t-shirt contest. Given the amount of water been chucked at everyone it won;t be a surprise that LP ran out just as Elly was stepping into the shower. The language was choice as you can imagine, A tip if you’re celebrating Pimai and get soaked which will be inevitable, shower immediately before the town runs dry. Dinner in the courtyard of Villa Santini, 3 courses including some very ‘fragrent’ Lao sausage I’d seen drying ny the rod side, an obscene (for Laos) $40 for two including cocktails.