This weekend, one of the most important festivals in Luang Prabang took place. It’s called the “Lai Heua Fai”-Festival or the “Festival of lights”.
The most attractive festival in Luang Prabang
Laos is a very buddhist country – about 67% of the population are Buddhists. As a consequence, most of the national festivals are connected with buddhist culture. This is also true for the Lai Heua Fai festival. People celebrate it yearly at the end of rainy season and one day after fullmoon. Each family, temple or village builds its own boat or lantern and sends it out onto the Mekong river. This is done to wish good luck for the future and also paying respect to the water spirits. The colorful illuminated boats are made out of banana trunks, leaves and bamboo. Also, they decorate them with flowers, candles and lanterns as well as dragons and small buddhist altars.
Parade and preparations
Already a few days before the main parade, which is during fullmoon, all the temples in the town are decorated. Monks place hundreds of lanterns and candles and there’s an amazing atmosphere if you walk through the main temples of Luang Prabang during that time. Not only tourists love to take photos and you can enjoy helping the monks creating this fantastic decoration. If you look through the streets on this days, you can see the boats beeing built by the locals.
Last monday, finally there was the huge parade going through the main road after sunset. Inhabitants of Luang Prabang and the villages around carry their boats through the town to the Mekong river.
They’re accompanied by music, singing, dancing, fireworks and most of them wear traditional clothes. Hundreds of candles are placed all over the town to create a flood of lights and we even saw fire-eaters. More than 20,000 boats and lanterns are sent out on the river and slowly drift away with the flow of the water. In addition, there are special kinds of lanterns which you light to make them fly – but that’s more of a tourist thing…
Since we were assigned with taking photos for a local photographer, we weren’t able to create enough impressions especially for “Aelizebeth in Laos” to present you a full movie. But we hope that the pictures give you an idea on how amazing it was.
We experienced it as a fantastic festival. People are making party and music, you can see many aspects of local buddhist culture and you’re also able to participate by building your own lantern and sending it out on the Mekong as well. Even our guesthouse offered us this but sadly we were to busy. If you plan to go to Laos, definitly consider including this festival, not only the parade, but also the ambience in the nights before, it’s worth it!