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The Boun Pi Mai Lao or Lao New Year is one of the biggest festivals in Laos which is held annually in April, during the hot summer season. The festivities last for three days, though most Laotians spend an entire week welcoming the New Year:a holiday which revolves around family and faith, renewal and revelry.
To signify cleansing, Buddha images are washed; the young pour water on the hands of their elders; and friends and family are blessed with water being poured over their head. Water plays a big part in the festival: when you hit the streets of Laos during Boun Pi Mai Lao, expect to get drenched as you walk into the middle of what seems like one big water fight where everyone is armed with buckets and water guns. (Remember to put your electronics in a waterproof bag.)
Pi Mai Lao is at its most festive in the lovely heritage city of Luang Prabang. Past celebrations have lasted for as long as three weeks filled with colourful ceremonies, parades of traditional Lao costumes, music and dance, a beauty pageant, and even boat races on the Mekong River.
Don’t miss the procession of one of the country’s most celebrated Buddha images, Prabang, a sacred 50-kilogram statue that is carried from the Royal Palace Museum to the picturesque Vat Mai, followed by hundreds of saffron-shrouded monks. It makes for stunning photos and as nobody will be splashing you, it’ll be safe to take out your camera!
Damien Dempsey/Creative Commons
Nomad Tales/Creative Commons
The nations of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar share close cultural ties, and thus also share common New Year traditions, occurring at the same time. Myanmar celebrates Thingyan; Thailand Songkran; and Cambodia Angkor Sankranta near simultaneously with Boun Pi Mai Lao.