Bun Ook Pansaa
For those of you who followed my life in Japan, you’ll remember that I am an absolute sucker for festivals. I LOVE them! It’s one of the more interesting aspects of foreign cultures. Sure, we Americans have our parades and block parties, we throw a few fireworks in the air for 20 minutes for America’s birthday. But we fail to celebrate rice harvests, the return of the spirits of ancestors, the full moon or even the seasons. This is where numerous foreign countries have us beat by miles.
I was lucky to catch just a bit of one of the best festivals in Laos – in Luang Prabang. It’s called the Bun Ook Pansaa Festival and it celebrates a the end of a 3-month Buddhist ritual where the devout are not to kill any animals, have sex, eat meat, nor eat after 12:00p.m. The highlight of the festivities are the handmade, natural-product boats, paraded down to the river, and any incense and candles on board are lit before being se afloat down the Mekong River. Similarly, little bamboo and flower boats are abundantly available and anyone who wants can buy one of these, light the candle and incense and make a wish before setting their own boat afloat.
Hand-held fireworks are everywhere! That was really fun! They have these long sticks which set off about 60 pellets and once in the air, explode into a mini starburst. We also had a few big fireworks which you put on the ground and which shoot fire in the air. So WAY cool! These would be totally illegal in the U.S., which makes it all the more fun for me!
It was so awesome to spend part of the evening riverside, watching all these people send their wishes and hopes into the river, shooting off fireworks and having a great time. I particularly enjoyed walking past store fronts, where a group of friends had gathered, blared some traditional music and were just dancing in the streets. The spontaneity of that was delightful. I’m sure there would be some ordinance that would be violated, had we tried to do that in our streets in the U.S.
And that’s exactly why I love these kinds of festivals. Laos is a communist country, but the people are so free in their everyday life and certainly allowed to express themselves and have fun when it comes time to celebrate. And I love being a part of that.
I am already planning to be in Luang Prabang next year for the same festival, as I couldn’t see all of it due to out hotel’s anniversary party. (It wasn’t me who planned them on the same night!) Next year I’ll take some better photos and even some video and really capture the spirit of the festival. It was just sooo sooo much fun!!!