New Year, Laos style

As I feared in my last post, my day in day out Ground hog day existent wasn’t leading to any exciting new posts here on my blog. Thank fully that all changed on Tuesday.
Now before anyone starts leaving nasty comments that I am a slave driver, this current group of workers were organised about a month ago and were told well in advance that this job will mean working over the Laos New Year. When I first arrived we did have a talk about it and I agreed to their request to take one day off which they decided would be Tuesday.
As per usual I awoke around 5am that morning (when your in bed by 9pm that is to be expected I suppose!) I waiting until dawn and then put my walking shoes on and heading out along a road that I had never been on before but appeared to head off towards those beautiful mountain peaks that I have shown you before in a previous post.
It was a great walk and I was gone for almost 2 hours. I certainly caused a stir amongst the locals as I guess they don’t see too many foreigners talking a morning stroll at sunrise.
Laos New Year is basically a water festival. In days gone by a little bit of water would be sprinkled on your neck from someone wishing you a happy new year. These days it has turned into a full on water fight with hoses, water machine guns, 44 gallon drums on the back of pick ups with buckets for the dozen or more people crammed in next to it to throw on pedestrians, motorbike riders, bus passengers etc – no one is safe! Well no one it seems apart from me that morning.
Kids would see me walking down the road and would rush out with a bucker of water or their water pistols only to stop dead in their tracks when they realised I was a whitey! Those with buckets would stand still as I walked past, those with guns would slowly lower them in defeat. I never got wet once for the entire 10 km walk!
The mountain range was awesome and I managed to walk right up to the base of it. I also discovered a guest house which I inspected the rooms but they weren’t any better then were I currently am staying plus I had a few interesting people stop me to talk. One wanted to show me some type of Jewell which looked like a button of one of my dress shirts, the other one braked so hard on his motorbike he almost lost his passenger when he noticed me. He wanted to practice his English.

Him: “Hello, how are you”
Me: “I am fine thank you, how are you”
Him: “I am 17 years old”

As I got back close to the hotel I found a lady making sandwiches on the side of the road. Fresh baked bread (The French did leave something good behind) with bits of meat, lots of herbs and chilli sauce. 5,000 kip = .80 cents AUS or 20 baht. Delicious.
I then went over the street to the busiest shop in town for this time of year at least, yes it was the beer shop. There is only one beer in Laos and funnily enough it is called Beer Lao. In the bigger towns you might find an imported beer or two but not out here. One beer and one beer only and the Laos people are very proud of it. They should be as well as thank fully it is one of the better tasting beers in the world. I had promised the staff a box of beer for New Year so picked up 12 bottles (630ml) for $10 US dollars. In the pick up it went and I drove out to the farm.
They were all just finishing a late breakfast so for them the beer was well timed as bottle tops were soon opened and the beer was gone within 45 minutes. I politely had a glass and thank fully that was all as i was then asked if I would drive them out to see a cave. I gladly accepted as I had no idea what I was going to do with myself that day and have never had a look around the area before.
Before you knew it, the car was loaded with a big bucket of water, smaller buckets were found and a crowd of people climbed in the back and in the front. It was slow going due to the insane amount of traffic on the road, all pickups and trucks were loaded down with water and people. People lined the road with there own water arsenal and it was a full on war.
On the edge of town there was a police check point but once we cleared that it was more plain sailing. We went about 30 kms west before turning off to the cave. The cave was, well a cave I guess with the usual statue of Buddha inside.
Outside was a real eye opener as it had been set up for a huge party. As we were there quite early there was hardly anyone there but basically it was a dusty car park, you did your business in the bushes and then there was a stage with a little shade and some tables and chairs where you could drink beer. And drink beer they did!
After polishing off another box they had a few dances before we were off to the next place. Back to Lak Sao, chuck a right at the round about and 5km later you are at the river. Set up in the river (yes the water was flowing past our feet at ankle height) was another stage, shade, tables and chairs and of course more beer.)
Although I was having a good time it did wear thin after a few hours. The music (live band) was typically loud but I did meet two nice teachers from the local school, one who spoke pretty good english. It was just a shame as to how drunk they, and everyone else was.
A few local girls with a lot of dutch courage approached me for a chat and on a few occasions a dance but I politely declined entering the mosh pit in the river in front of the booming speakers.
By 4pm I had had enough and starting trying to gather the rabble that were by now pretty far gone. It took a while but obviously no one fancied the 9km walk home so eventually I had everyone in the truck and we were off.
By 5pm I was back safe in my hotel reflecting on lets say an interesting day. I must admit it was better then feeling sorry for myself in my hotel room all day long.

3 responses to “New Year, Laos style

  1. A well written post that had me one step behind you the whole way. The water festival is quite clearly a carbon copy of Thailand’s Songkran and why not it sounds great. At least you had a bit of fun in your one horse town if only for one day. Enjoy your work and a few Beer Lao.

    MeMock replied “Thanks for all your positive feed back Hoo Don, yes it was a good break to the otherwise boring few weeks there.”

  2. MeMock , glad you got out and enjoyed yourself , and not being lonesome and sad locked away in your room , sounds like the locals there are like all the locals here a good party,loud music , food , beer and lots of pretty girls and let the party begin. Malcolm

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