Lao New Year
Lao New Year is known as Bpee Mai or Songkan and it's the biggest and most exuberant celebration of the year for both Laotian people and tourists to Laos, who invariably get roped into the festivities. New Year takes place on the cusp of the Monsoon season, at the hottest time of the year. In a bid to invoke the rain, and to cool off from the heat, water is thrown, sprayed, tossed and fired at everyone for the three days of the festival. Expect to get wet - frequently! These water fights are great fun and very good-natured and the most popular aspect of the festival for visitors, particularly as the heat is oppressive at this time of year (April). Don't be surprised if cream and powder also feature in the water fights. By drenching somebody you are wishing them good fortune for the new year so don't be shy. Flowers are used to decorate Buddhas and there is a tradition of setting animals free during this festival. It is also important to the Lao people that homes are ritually cleaned during the festival. Although many people spend their days at worship in the temples, there is a lot of singing, dancing and celebrating to be enjoyed at night. Beauty pageants are also held around the country, with Luang Prabang hosting the best.
Date: 13 April 2014