Festival of the Fire Boats

Celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent!

On the 20th of October there was Laos’ famous Festival of the Fire Boats or as they say in Lao Boun Lay Hua Fai. This festival marks the end of Buddhist Lent. For this festival, the villages around the area each make one large boat and decorate it with bright colors and candles. Each village will compete to create the most beautiful boat and put it on display on the night of the festival in a temple on the peninsula. The representatives of the villages will come with their own beautiful ethnic garb and parade alongside the boats the night of the festival.

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The festival begins in the late afternoon with a parade going down the night market road to the temple on the peninsula, Wat Xieng Thong. During this night, the night market road and other parts of Luang Prabang are decorated with candles, lights and bright colors. People on the streets shoot fireworks and light up sky lanterns. The city center is filled with people carrying sky lanterns and small boats with candles.

During the festival, everyone sets out a boat with a candle, some small some large but usually made from the trunks of banana trees. Everyone sets a boat down the MeKong river to pay respect and ask for forgiveness to the river gods and let their negativity flow down the river. On this night there could be 20000 boats floating down the river. You can see both locals and tourists on the riverside enjoying the spectacle.

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Other than the beautiful sky lanterns and fire boats, you can also visit some of Luang Prabang’s temple on your way to Wat Xieng Thong at the end of the road. You will see that each temple has been decorated with beautiful lights and candles in different ways. As this marks the end of Buddhist Lent, this is also a moment of celebration for the novice monks.

fire boat festival temple lights

fire boat festival temple lights

fire boat festival temple lights

 

 

 

 

 

During the parade and the celebrations at the temple, you will hear traditional Lao music and see beautiful festive dances. Ones to watch out for is the cool fire dancers and the martial arts dancers. There is great traditional Lao drums and percussion playing throughout the whole parade.

Overall, it was a great night full of music, lights and happiness. If you’re planning to come to Laos, definitely consider coming during this time!

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