Pii Mai (New Year) in Luang Prabang, Loas
Ceremonial Offerings for New Year
This gem of a city by the the Mekong river well deserves its Unesco heritage title thanks to the magnificent gilded wats and French colonial buildings that can be found in the old quarter in abundance as well as around the new city.
I visited at a time when access was only possible via the river but now there is a new airport that cuts down the two days by boat into a few hours.
The place is packed with hostels and wonderful eateries that boast an international menu but beware of arriving at festival time as the place is rammed and accommodation scarce. We of course arrived without consulting the diary and found to our surprise it was new year and time to party.
Having scoured the town for a room we eventually ended up in the ‘big room’ above a restaurant and that was only because there was a no show at the last minute! Our fellow travellers weren’t so lucky and slept in a massage parlour on the tables after begging the owner to put them up.
The town is easy to navigate by foot but pedal power makes it quicker and not so hot. Having a man down with a broken foot in our group made the choice easy as a bike enabled him to sightsee with ease. Unfortunately it also made him a target for the locals during the annual new year parade.
Pii Mai in Luang Prabang has to be one of the best parties I’ve been to in a long time. At the head of the parade was the buddhist monks, followed by women in stunning national costume carrying offerings for the gods.
Representatives of the local communities, also in traditional dress and often playing music followed.
Anyone following after the official party was then a target for water guns, coloured dye and flour
even the monks joined in the bombardment.
Take an umbrella and a clear bag for the camera – the locals are merciless.
At all costs do not bike around during the water festival as many an unwary tourist’s and local’s tyres have been swept from under them thanks to the onslaught of buckets of water chucked at them. We saw one man take a tumble and he was ushered away in a tuk tuk by the locals to hospital.
After the festivities we hit the local night market – Luang Prabang is a great place to shop.
Or watch the world go by from one of the numerous coffee shops
and when we were exhausted we had the ‘big room’ to retire to
Where we could clean up , change into dry clothes and watch other people get a soaking from the balconey.