If you’re planning your year-end holidays, Vientiane should be on your list! Two most featured and colourful festivals in the year are coming up in the next two months! If you’re interested in photography, discovering culture and witnessing or participating in customs and local culture, this is the best time to visit Vientiane!
BOUN SUANG HUEA FESTIVAL
The Boun Nam Festival is an annual dragon boat race held on the Mekong river, taking place after Awk Phansaa or the end of Buddhist Lent, which happens this 25th August. Expect high spirits with early morning heat from when 20 or more dragon boat teams line up along the Mekong in preparation to begin the significant event. The teams are made out of locals anywhere from around Laos.
There are three categories of contestants: ‘Sports’ – a category for men, and ‘Traditional’ – with one category for men and one for women. On the race day, the town comes alive with festivities as the locals make their way down to watch the race banging drums, playing music and singing. The Mekong waterfront will usually be very crowded with spectators or merry-makers cheering on their teams or just having fun. The game will be broadcasted live on national tv.
It’s an incredible experience for tourists and visitors who love to see spontaneously genuine culture practice and it’s a bonus if you like water sports, street food, and carnival game stalls.
Apart from the main activity, expect to discover street carnivals lining the Mekong waterfront with game stalls, illuminated boats and floating attractions, and more – imprinting unforgettable memories in visitors like yourself.
If you’re a real adventurer and you’re wondering at this point if you’re able to get on a dragon boat with a team and row your way to victory, the answer is YES! :- the Mekong River Commission (MRC) assembles a team to take part in the race each year. There is a mixed-gender team open to expats or foreigners working in Vientiane (or not). There is a minimal fee to join and it covers your T-shirt and a cap as well as food and drinks on the race day.
If you are interested contact: +856 021 263 263, or email: email@example.com. Remember to include an introduction, express your intention to join the race and some explanation as to why you may be interested and they will provide you with your next steps!
BOUN THAT LUANG FESTIVAL
The Thatluang Festival of the Grand Stupa is the most important 3-day event of the religious calendar of the Lao people, taking place on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, which falls on the 22nd -24th November.
The ‘That’ or Stupa is a dome-like structure commonly found in Buddhist monasteries around the world. The architectural term is a chaitya, which is a prayer hall or temple containing relics, specifically remains of the Buddhist monks or nuns and also believed to store sacred relics of the Buddha. That Luang, the Grand Stupa, is said to the commemorative monument storing the Lord’s hair and bosom bone. That Luang was built by King Setthathirath in the 16th century when he moved to the capital. That Luang now exists as a national symbol of Laos and is highly revered by the Lao people.
This 3-day event of customs starts with the Phasat Pheung procession or the ‘wax castle’ (made of wax, gold paper, Lao kip notes, banana trunks and decorated with flowers) procession from Wat Si Mueang to That Luang. The wax castle will be carried by monks and locals three times around the Sin and then offered to the temple. This culturally colourful procession ends with fireworks, which symbolises an offering of flowers and light to Lord Buddha.
There will be another procession at noon the following day of wax candles being brought in through the Eastern Gate of the Grand Stupa, to be carried three times around the Stupa before being offered to the shrine.
The third and last day starts at dawn with the Takbaat (‘give-alms’) traditions; the morning offering to the monks. Locals would bring some food and money notes to the Thatluang in the morning to be offered to the monks. After the offerings, all the locals there will gather at the stalls to have the traditional food such as the national noodle soup ‘Khao Poun’ and ‘Tom Kai’ which is chicken soup.
The last day would also include a game of Tee Khee, which is a polo game traditionally played in the Kingdom of Vientiane between officials and the villagers. It is believed that this sport was later brought to Burma and later on England. It is now just played as light-hearted fun between two teams of locals.
In recent years, this festival includes trade fairs with interesting goods from around the world, concerts and carnivals held around the esplanade.
See the biggest crowd come together in Vientiane for this religious festival, celebrated with music, beautiful offerings & culture which would be truly exciting for any tourist, family, photographer, or travel blogger.