“Sabaidee Pi Mai” or Happy Lao New Year!
Have you ever experienced a 4 days New Year party? That is the Lao New Year or Pi Mai, the liveliest holiday, when “wet, wet, wet” is everyone’s answer to “how are you?”
Officially the last day of the year, 13th April is traditionally a day of renewal, the main symbol of which is water. Buddha images are washed, temples repainted and homes cleaned from top to bottom. The second day, known as “the day of no day” is a day of transition that is neither part of the old nor the New Year. The last day of the festival marks the start of the New Year. During this period all Lao people have to visit 9 temples in order to be lucky for next 12 months.
We were still in Vientiane when it started so we were lucky to walk with the parade – Lao people dressed in traditional costumes, monks and big cars pouring water on everyone – and to see the sand art festival where teams from several countries build nice statues out of sand.
But let’s say traditions – parades, festivals, religious practices – are everywhere, in all countries and cultures. What is original, special and fun about Pi Mai is that the parties are wet!!! Very wet! Every family prepares a small plastic swimming pool full of water, water hoses, and barrels and they splash anyone passing in front of their houses (be it a cars, scooters, bikes, pedestrians). All people dance on the streets and have fun. And this is exactly what we also did for the first Pi Mai day in Vientiane!
As the second day is “the day of no day” we chose to continue our journey to Pakse but due to national holidays the only option was the public bus: no air conditioning, no seats for everybody, stops in all small villages, no English speaking driver, garbage everywhere, etc. etc. And so we travelled for more than 10 hours, listening to babies crying and to some kind of local “manele”. For the Romanians having grandparents in the countryside, remember the “rata”? Well, much worse…
So you can imagine how eagerly we expected the wet party in Pakse! With French, Belgians, Canadians and of course…Lao we got wet and danced as crazy in the middle of the street for the 3rd day! Sabaidee Pi Mai!