Every year there is a festival in the Buddhist calendar held in late October known as the Festival of Lights. This year I went with my good friends and fellow volunteers, and it was an experience I don’t think I’ll soon forget.
It started in the early afternoon, as we began wandering around the city attempting to find where the festival was happening. As we crested a hill on to the main street, we found what we had been looking for. Coming up from the other side of the peninsula, we saw a boat, beautiful and elegant in construction. With a frame of bamboo and flamboyantly covered in brightly coloured cloth and paper, it was wheeled down the street on what looked like a custom built cart, nailed together that morning for the occasion. I hardly noticed this, however. My attention was immediately drawn to the throng of jubilant Lao revelers. They pulled the cart amongst themselves as they played an assortment of local instruments, dancing steadily to the infectiously simple music. As this gleeful procession came up the road and turned on to the main street in front of us, we came to notice that their was a small number of falang in their ranks. As we realised this, we joined the group, walking down the street with them and dancing to the music, introducing ourselves to as many people as we could along the way. As we exchanged pleasantries with the locals, any fears we may have had about showing up to the party uninvited were immediately dispelled, as they seemed just as excited as us that we had joined them. Within moments, we had Beer Lao in our hands, conjured up from the same cart that held the boat. So we walked with them, singing and dancing, and even playing their instruments, which we were graciously handed. This continued for the next few hours with us parading all the way down Luang Prabang’s extensive main road to an extravagantly lit temple. With its dazzling array of lights and the constant stream of paper lanterns being released into the sky, time seemed to slow in an inexpressible way. As the unrelenting beauty of the surroundings shone through, my very soul sang. I stood transfixed. As the boats were drawn past us, and lined up in all of their splendor, I wondered, in an enraptured stupor, if I had ever seen anything more beautiful in my entyre life. But the moment passed, and the feeling faded. When we left the temple, my mind still buzzed in a delighted fervor as we walked down the street and into the rest of our night. But that is another story for another day.
Written by our intern Dylan, who is from Texas in the US and will be with us for an entyre 6 months!