Getting to Luang Prabang by slow boat and the New Year celebrations
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang and the New Year celebrations (10/4/12-16/4/12)
To travel from Thailand to Luang Prabang we had to take a 2 day slow boat from the border crossing Chang Knox/Xieng Kok down to Pak Beng day 1 and the day 2 onto Luang Prabang. We did some research about this trip and all we heard were bad stories so we were kind of dreading it from the start but to be fair it was amazing. Instead of wooden benches we had car seats, instead of an overfilled boat ours was ok and we met an amazing group of people who we continued to travel with for the next week until sadly we would all go are separate way (hence why the blog is only being written now because we have been having so much fun). Two days on a slow boat could have been tough but luckily us along with 2 great lads we had met on the bus to the boarder picked up some cool boxes full of cold beer and ice which we then managed to fill for the next days so the "dreadful" 2 day boat ride was actually a 2 day drinking binge where we all laughed so hard that are cheeks hurt at points. It was ace.
Luang Prabang looked like a lovely place on first impressions you could definitely see the French influence, there were French baguettes along with doughnuts and other French favourites. We had arrived in Luang Prabang just in time for Bun Pi Mai which is the Laos New Year celebrations. The Laos New Year starts the same time as ours in January but they celebrate it in April as it's the hottest time of year and Zara tells me it is because it marks the sun passage through the zodiac sign of Pisces into Aries. The celebration basically consists of one huge water fight for 3 days where you cleanse each other with water to wash away the old spirit and, parades and just pure madness, yes there is cultural things going on but we didn't manage to see much of them as we were too busy going to war with the locals. The new friends we had met on the boat stayed together, where we would all tool up and get to the action all 15 of us. It was pretty epic. The drinks were flowing throughout and sometimes more than was needed in the 40 degree heat it was hard to stay sober. I (Dai) lost 2 hours on day one cannot remember a thing after 5 o clock apparently I fell over twice and knocked a scooter over at the same time (Oops). Anyway the carnage continued to day 2 which we did much of the same but this time trying not to drink so much. The high light of the day was in the evening when people started to come out for their meals earlier than they should have. We just so happened to be stood outside an ATM machine which was in a phone booth style box and these 2 lads( who looked like they spend most Saturdays at their local train station touching up trains) went in dry and came out absolutely soaked, much to the pleasure of the 15 of us who stood outside pointing our water pistols at them! The look on the one guys face through the glass as he was looking out thinking "oh my god how am I going to get out of this one" it was a classic. Day 2 also was the day of the parade where there were lots of locals walking up the street in the Laos traditional dress dancing and getting soaked by buckets of water from the sides… it was an amazing atmosphere. I can't really describe it in words. We both agreed this could never at home as people would take it too far and it would end with a big punch up!! That evening we headed to the local club where I managed to blag a set on the decks which was pretty cool. The Laotians were really nice to me and everyone seemed to enjoy it. After the club we headed to the local bowling alley which was pretty random to be in a bowling alley at 2am in the morning! To round the perfect day I managed to win the game so I was a happy boy. By day 3 of the festival we were all pretty dead on our feet, arms aching from our pump action super soakers and hangovers all round and after very little sleep only half the gang made it out! Some people were moving on others were too hung over. We went out for a while but then went back to try and recover. In the evening we were invited to the guest house ceremony celebration where we were staying. You all gather around a Laos symbolic shrine type thing with the guesthouse owners and their family. The head of the family prays and chants and then you all have to connect to the shrine by either touching the table or the person in front of you. They believe we all have 22 spirits at the start of your life and as your life goes on we slowly lose some spirits and they lose us. By praying and chanting and connecting to the shrine it brings back the 22 spirits which is for protection as you go through life. After the praying they tie pieces of string around everyone's wrists and wish them luck it was very strange but still very nice. We had to keep these on for 3-7days. It was good to finally experience some of Laos culture. The next day most of the gang moved on so we tried our best to do some culture stuff and visited the local museum which was cool. Turns out that us British didn't really have much to do with the Laos as in the museum there were no gifts offered from the Brits but there seemed to be from other countries not sure why this is but we found it a little strange. The next day we headed onto Vang Vieng.