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Celebrating Songkran in Laos

View over the river

Our trip to Laos was lucky enough to coincide with Songkran – the Lao New Year, which is celebrated from April 13-15. Traditionally during the holiday water is used to wash homes and Buddha images, with people adding flowers or natural perfumes to add a pleasant scent to the water.

Over the years though the water custom has turned into a massive 3 day long water fight. Everyone becomes involved, young and old alike.

We brought in the beginning of the Lao New Year in Vang Vieng, a beautiful riverside town lined with karst mountain peaks.

View over the river

For a day we rented a motrobike and made our way over to the Blue Lagoon – meant to be a serene picturesque pond. What we found was quite different.

the blue lagoon

This is where the locals were headed for the Pi Mai (new year) celebrations. Booths were set up with various food vendors. Families were gathered and enjoying a picnic.

the blue lagoon

 

And the kids were all huddled around the lagoon itself. Equipped with a rope swing and various ladders there was always a line to jump into the water.

the blue lagoon

We witnessed front flips, back flips, and everything in between. In traditional Lao style everybody was still fully dressed as they jumped into the water. No bikinis here. Even the boys were dressed in jeans and long sleeve shirts.

the blue lagoon

As we made our way back into town we started to see how the holiday is celebrated in the cities. Lined along the main street were groups of bucket holding, water gun armed locals, ready to fire at first sight.

water fight

No one was spared.

From Vang Vieng we took a bus to Vientiane, the capital city, where the celebrations would continue.

As we arrived and trudged along the main strip the side walk was wall to wall people, dancing, singing, throwing buckets of water, squirting hoses at anything and anybody who came their way.

celebrating the new year

For the next two days it was impossible to go outside without instantly becoming drenched. As a tourist, and a dry one you instantly become a quick target.

celebrating the new year

The best thing to do is have a good attitude, prepare to get wet and wear quick dry clothes while leaving all valuables safely locked away in the hostel/hotel room.

We spent our time in Vientiane wandering around, observing and taking part in the New Year celebrations and even happened upon a concert by the river bank where we spent an entire day drinking beers and shouting Saibidee Pi Mai (Happy New Year) while clinking beers with all the locals.

The New Year celebration is a great holiday that simply brings people together and breaks down all barriers.

We saw young and old both soaking others and getting soaking themselves.

A real feel good holiday.

We could use a few of these ourselves in the US if you ask me.

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12 Responses to Celebrating Songkran in Laos

  1. Good to know when not to go there,
    so we will not get wet 🙂

    Gadi and Tun June 20, 2013 at 11:07 AM Reply
  2. I have never attended Songkran in Thailand or Laos. For a strange reason people in Cambodia don’t celebrate the New Year this way. Looks like so much fun though. Vang Vieng looks gorgeous. I am glad they stopped this tubing madness a little now.

    TammyOnTheMove June 21, 2013 at 2:34 AM Reply
    • It may pick up in the future but for now it seems relatively tame

      Dave and Vicky June 22, 2013 at 1:31 PM Reply
  3. I’ve been through this before, except it was in the Philippines. Yes they have this similar holiday too. We were all in the “Jeepney” ( a public utility vehicle” in Metro Manila. I was surprised to see many soaked people with pales and dippers and suddenly all of us in the vehicle were attackedfrom everywhere with a series of splash! At first were like “DAMN!”. Gladly i was just on my shorts and t-shirt. That was fun, at least it helped alleviate the heat we were complaining about on that very small ride outside of town.

    Adam Ross June 22, 2013 at 10:14 PM Reply
    • Yeah good thing you didn’t have an expensive camera or anything, that could be a nightmare if you aren’t prepared

      Dave and Vicky June 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM Reply
      • Yes, that’s the day we commemorate the feast of St. John the Baptist (or San Juan de Bautista here), during June 24th. We “baptize” people with water. 🙂 It’s not celebrated in all places, only in those areas where they have St. John as their patron saint.

        Katie June 26, 2013 at 6:33 AM Reply
  4. great post! I can’t wait to celebrate songkran. It looks like so much fun.

    Krystal June 23, 2013 at 3:27 AM Reply
    • Yeah a little bit wasteful but I try to keep an open mind around the holidays

      Dave and Vicky July 13, 2013 at 1:51 PM Reply
  5. Hi there,

    We will be in Laos for Pi Mai this year — just wondering is intra-city travel still possible during official holiday dates? Seems you had no trouble taking the bus?

    Thanks!
    Jenia

    Jenia from HTL March 11, 2014 at 5:46 AM Reply
    • We didn’t have any problems with travel during that time. We were in Vang Vieng on the first day on the new year and were able to take a bus to Vientiene and then we spent the rest of the New Year in Vientiene but I’m sure transport is still running, but expect all major sites to be closed. We were not able to go to any of the museums in Vientiene because of this. Enjoy the new year celebration!

      Vicky March 15, 2014 at 12:43 AM Reply

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