Bun Ook Pan Saa II
I love festivals. I think you all know this by now, especially if you’ve been following ON THE BRIGHT SIDE since the days I wrote from Japan. My first festival was the Fuji festival, where I first lived in Japan. One of the last festivals I watched in Japan was the Fire Festival in Fujieda (Rokusha Shrine Fire Festival). My favorite of all in Japan, though, was probably the Fukuroi Fireworks. Two hours of non stop fire works, young and old, men and women dressed in yukata…that was a very special night.
Last year, I happened to be in Laos during a special holiday called Bun Ook Pan Saa or end of the Buddhist lent. I enjoyed seeing hundreds of candles floating down the Mekong River, locals dancing in front of their homes and shops, and everyone lighting sparklers, fireworks and little whizzers and things which pop. I knew last year that I had to comeback.
This year, I was excited to enjoy all aspects of the festival. Pete and I planted our bums on the balcony of Tam Nak Lao restaurant, ordered Beer Lao and far too many dishes and waited for the procession of floats to come down the street. This is a parade and a festival in one – bonus! All sorts of people walked down the street along side those carrying the floats made of colored paper mache, and little bottles serving as lanterns all held together with a bamboo frame (bamboo, paper and fire together – totally safe!). The floats are taken to the main temple and then to the pier where they are launched into the water, even escorted by a team of people in a long boat.
The floats are all made by the monks in the temples and they are just beautiful. I’m not so good at night photography, so my photo doesn’t capture these so well, but I hope you get the idea!
What was so fun is that there are fireworks for sale everywhere you go. And everyone is lighting and shooting them off. Pete and I turned into 12 year olds and bought a butt load of poppers, cherry bombs and all sorts of other goodies. The large firework we bought, we ended up lighting in one of the temples. You see, the monks, after all their hard work to make the floats, decorate the temples and after a 3 month lent…well, they can’t really celebrate like everyone else. They are not allowed to participate. And most of them are teenagers and young men and you can see that it’s just killing them to not go out of the temple grounds. We were at the same temple where I met Bo and Kit in August, and I was able to find Bo and chat with him again before we lit the big firework. It was nice to see him again and he was glad for the visit.
We ended up hanging out with some locals…it was nice to bring our little candle to the pier among the crowds and have some little kid swim it out to a point where the current would pick it up. (We paid him in fireworks, which was completely agreeable by him!)
I just loved it. I loved the chaos, the beauty, the colors, the fireworks, the music and dancing….it was a real celebration and I am glad I made a point to enjoy it.