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Dragon Boat Racing Festival

Dragon Boat Racing on the Nam Tha river, Luang Namtha

The tradition of racing Dragon Boats began when the day after the Buddhist Lent ceremony and Loi Krotung ceremony everyone would race down the river to the temple.

These days, people walk, bicycle, motorbike or travel in a car to attend the famous event.  The Nam Tha river in Luang Namtha was lined with more people than we knew existed in Luang Namtha!  In Lao style, everyone was happy, festive, joyous, no-one complained about anything, not even the 40 degree heat or  the squeaks and super-loud feedback coming from the full-volume speakers.

Lao is such a laid back, happy place and we are yet to see anyone phased by anything!   So of course the Dragon Boat Races were no different.

We were lucky enough to score a seat in the Luang Namtha Tourism Office shade tent, where we ate and drank until we could no more, and got to hide from the direct sun although the intense heat was still felt by all of us.

We got a good view of the river and the finishing line and saw many boats compete – and one boat sink!  Overall I can’t think of a more relaxed crowd – in any other country we’ve been in there would be lots of security at a multi-thousand person event, but here in Laos it just doesn’t seem to be needed because everyone is so chilled out.  An utterly fantastic day following the amazing day before of the alms giving and Loi Krotung & lanten releasing ceremony – a must do for next year for sure!

Our photos of this awesome day are here.

1st morning of end of Buddhist Lent

Buddhist Lent celebrations

Shoes outside the new temple "Samaki Sai" (means unity)

We had a fantastic morning today for the celebrations of the end of Buddhist Lent. We got up at 5am to pay our respects at the temple, giving alms to the monks and being blessed for the upcoming year.

We started off by filling our bowls with various items to give – you must give sticky rice, money, and anything else is up to you.   We travelled up to the temple and firstly went inside the temple (shown above) where we waited on our knees for our turn to get to the front, shuffling forward whenever a space became available.  After half an hour kneeling we were pretty pleased to get  to the front!  The experience of waiting in the crush to get to the front and see Buddha was really intense – imagine hundreds or thousands of people all crushing into a space, all wanting to move forward, all carrying their “Khan” bowls with offerings inside jostling for space.  And constantly inching forward on their knees.

We then lit incense and candles and placed them at the front along with everyone else’s, and made wishes for the coming year.

Luang Namtha alms giving celebrations for the end of Buddhist Lent

Really interesting, inspiring celebration

Then it was time to line up with all the beautifully dressed Buddhists and give all of the items from our bowls to the temple.  It’s kind of like a procession where you give at least one thing out of your bowl into each collection bowl – there is a big line of bowls to collect money, rice and whatever other food people give.

Local families then visit the stupa of their deceased loved ones, which are near to the temple and pay respects, and then each person takes a small bottle of water, pours it on the base of a tree and sends their wishes out into the universe / to Buddha.

After that we visited the head of the temple who blessed us and tied strings on our wrists.   A point to note here is that the strings are different from the strings tied on wrists in a Baci ceremony.  The strings that were tied today have been made by the monks themselves who have blessed the strings for good luck and then blessings are said when they are tied on the wrists.  Our photos of this awesome, inspiring ceremony are here.

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