Celebrate the Lao New Year with water-throwing and colourful festivities from Apr 14 to 16
The heat in Laos during this time of the year can be searing. Never fear, mid-April also sees the celebration of Pimai, the Lao New Year, with colourful festivals, holidays and water-throwing to lift the spirits.
Pimai is the largest and most famous of the festivals in Laos and is celebrated throughout the whole country with three days of official holidays, although most locals stretch it to a whole week!
Religious & Fun Celebrations
The main feature of Pimai, in this predominantly Buddhist country, is the sacred act of cleansing Buddha statues in the temples with scented water – an act of purification that also marks the end of the dry season. This carries on to splashing water on one another on the streets, with much fervour and fun.
Pimai is not a day to get your hair done, and your camera and precious belongings should be waterproofed. Foreigners are particularly targeted. If you’re going to get angry and upset then lock yourself in your hotel room.
Everyone and everything is soaked from head to toe. Water pistols, buckets, water hoses, cups and water balloons are the weapons of choice, so get one of these and join in the fun. It is endless and merciless, in a tremendously fun way, but also very much welcome as the heat takes a back seat, giving way to a cool, clean atmosphere.
What’s even more interesting is that each town and village in Laos has its very own way of celebrating. In the capital of Vientiane, and in cities such as Luang Prabang, the celebrations sometimes last an entire month! The streets are filled with processions, concerts and games. Expect loads of fun for everyone.
Champasak – Khmer Temple Ruins & Waterfalls
I prefer outer Laos and have visited Champasak province, which borders Thailand and Cambodia. It has rich cultural heritage with ancient Khmer temple ruins, many wats (temples) and French colonial architecture. Its capital, Pakse, was established by the French, nearly 110 years ago, in 1905.
Pimai ceremonies here include music and festivities amidst the temple ruins, where offerings are also made to merit good fortune and health. The streets are alive with beauty pageants, colourful floats and, of course, water throwing.
In terms of nature or water features, Champasak has many beautiful waterfalls where one can swim, kayak and even see freshwater dolphins! Champasak is the ultimate setting for Pimai soaking fun.
For Food & Rest
When hunger strikes, Lao food not to miss includes laap, a traditional dish made with minced meat, crushed crispy rice and herbs; tam mak houng, a spicy salad with green papaya, chilli, garlic, peanuts and fish sauce; and French-style baguette sandwiches filled with a local pate or grilled meat, salad leaves and chilli sauce.
In Champasak, a lovely place to stay in is the Sinouk Coffee Resort in Lakkhao Village. The resort is nestled amid a tranquil coffee plantation and lush landscapes.
You wake up to the aroma of coffee, and get to savour coffee drinks of all kinds – an invigorating way to start the day as well as to last through the long festival celebrations of Pimai.
By Freda Saunders