Let me take you back to Vientiane, the capital of Laos on the 8th November last year. I was visiting the Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Laos. But this wasn’t just any day to be visiting the Stupa. We just happened to be in town the night of the That Luang Festival. The festival takes place around the Stupa following Buddhist Lent Day and the Boat Racing Festival. It is a religious festival that includes a market fair and traditional cultural performances.
Our new friend, who looks scared to meet us
That Luang Festival
Being the inquisitive people we were, my friends and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of attending a national festival in Laos. And it was like nothing we had been to before. Firstly, there was hundreds of military personnel at the entrance and throughout. They held guns and looked very serious, which slightly freaked us out. Then we had to be patted down before entering like we were at an airport. And this was all before getting in the gates.
Inside, it was INSANE. We were the only Westerners in a sea of thousands. I have never felt so out of place, which is kind of a big deal coming from me. There was just stall after stall of people selling and promoting every product under the sun. This included mobile phone plans, shampoo and conditioner and energy drinks. Every promoter was speaking into a microphone and trying to outdo their competitors’ next door. Pity we didn’t have a clue what they were saying.
Next, the food. I tried some slightly-inedible bakery goods, but there was fried chicken, popcorn and traditional Laotian cuisine. A friend ordered duck and basically got an entire duck to enjoy by himself. After working our way around the festival, we finally found something that was familiar — dodgem cars and carnival games.
Overall it was such an eye-opener and privilege to be able to attend a national festival in another country and see just what happens compared to Australia.