Our selection of the most exciting & colourful festivals in Laos
Our Pick of Laos' Most Colourful Festivals
Laos is home to many colourful and unique festivals, many of which are based around Buddhism or weather seasons, rice planting and general agriculture. There are also some festivals like the Sayaboury (elephant) Festival which is a celebration to acknowledge the significance and importance elephants have played in Laotian history – after all Laos is known as The Land of a Million Elephants.
The most significant festival in Laos is Lao New Year which is called Pi Mai and is usually held across the country between the 14th – 16th April. Like neighbouring countries it is a fun and colourful celebration and involves a lot of water! If you wish to be in Laos over this period be prepared to engage in lots of water throwing and get very wet, but most importantly pack your sense of humour and be prepared to have a lot of fun!
One of the more unique and rather bizarre festivals is the Rocket Festival, or Boung Bang Fai. This fun and electrifying festival happens towards the end of the dry season in mid-May to send an awakening message to spirits to send the rains for agricultural purposes, and it also celebrates fertility. Large tripod type structures are built to which homemade skyrockets are attached and let off into the skies. The homemade rockets are simply carved-out bamboo sticks that are then filled with gunpowder. This festival is one that involves a lot of partying and the consumption of the nation’s favourite beverage, Beer Lao.
In July to mark the start of Buddhist lent is Boun Khao Phansa. This is a particularly important festival for locals and activities usually take place in and around wats and temples. Buddhist monks congregate inside the temples to pray and meditate, and on the evening of this festival many people visit and and sit around the temple to listen to the mesmerising chanting of the monks – a truly spiritual and very moving experience.
The next and greatest festival would have to be Boun Suang Huea or the Boat Racing Festival. The main grand finale of the boat races is usually held during October and at the end of Buddhist lent and signifies the end of the rainy season. This is also a fun and colourful festival and involves a variety of different boat races. The first races start around September and are held in Luang Prabang, and as each village and town located along the banks of the Mekong river prepares for their boat races, a lot of traditions and preparations take place. One culinary tradition is a noodle dish that is called Khao Poon. The best teams then gather in the nation’s capital, Vientiane for the final races. The main races are very similar to dragon boat racing – the water levels are high and the river is flowing rapidly, presenting a great environment for boat racing. Vientiane comes to life during the festival and the city has lots of carnivalesque activities, markets, and performances happening on the streets. This is a great time to visit the Lao capital.