Traditionally, the Lao people celebrated the New Year by travelling home to visit family, clean their homes and local temples, and sprinkle water on family members and statues of Buddha. The splashing water symbolized renewal by washing away the sins and bad luck of the previous year to make way for good fortune in the coming year. Over the years, this water splashing ritual evolved into the massive street water fights that take place throughout the region today.
While the festival is celebrated throughout the country, you'll find the largest celebrations in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Days usually start with visits to the Buddhist temples to wash the buddha statues, place fresh flowers and offerings of sticky rice and fruit. This is the one time in the year that statues of buddha are moved to lower locations so worshippers can pour fragrant waters over the statues for blessings and purification. In Luang Prabang, there are several colorful processions and parades complete with dancers, musicians, and monks. As the afternoon progresses, the Beer Lao continues to flow, the music gets a little louder, and everyone gets more and more soaked as the scene turns into a massive water fight.
1. EMBRACE BEING WET
You can't really avoid it, so get out in the streets, grab a bucket, a water bottle, water gun or anything, and get wet! The water is meant to be spread around and on people for purification and a better new year. It's usually the hottest time of year so getting doused with water will likely be a welcome relief from the heat.
2. DRESS APPROPRIATELY
You're essentially heading out into the streets for a massive water fight – getting wet is inevitable! Your best clothing options are quick-dry fabrics and items you don't mind getting soaked. Many people wear crazy Hawaiian print shirts, so feel free to get funky with your attire. It's a good idea to wear a swimsuit under your clothes and avoid wearing white.
3. GET WATERPROOF BAGS
You never know when some cute kiddo will come at you with a squirt gun or a bucket of water, so save yourself the grief of discovering your phone, camera, or passport has been ruined by sealing valuables in a waterproof bag or pouch. Many shops sell inexpensive waterproof pouches you can wear as a necklace. Clear pouches are an added bonus so you can continue taking photos and videos of the festivities, while your electronics stay nice and dry. (Note: most of the photos in this blog were taken in such a manner!)
4. ARM YOURSELF
If you really want to take part in the fun get yourself a water gun, water balloons, or bowl/bucket. It's so much more fun to join in the water fight with the locals from toddlers to grandparents. You'll also find plenty of hoses and water barrels where you can reload as needed.