Festivals & Events
Please note that the swimming-pool at The Apsara Rive Droite is for the exclusive use of the Apsara Rive Droite guests.
Everyday in Luang Prabang you'll find some kind of ceremony going on, from a blessing or Basi, to a wedding or a funeral. The Laos are a warm and generous people and will often ask you to come and join in. Do, as you'll find it a fascinating experience.
There are also several major festivals, which are dictated by the phases of the moon. At those times hotels are often booked up weeks in advance.
April: Boun Pi Mai, or Buddhist New Year
This festival is about purification for the coming New Year, and is known colloquially as the water throwing festival. There are many processions sometimes including ceremonial elephants, as the images of the Buddha are washed, houses are cleaned and generally the whole of Luang Prabang parties. At all the temples people go to make offerings of fruit, food and flowers.
It is a very lively festival and it is very difficult to walk down the street without having a bucket of water thrown over you. But as it's the hottest time of year, that's really no hardship. As they say, go with the flow. It is generally held around mid-April, but the 15th, 16th, 17th are the official public holidays.
May: Boun Visakhabuxa
This is a ceremonial celebration of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. It's a time to pay respect to the ancestors and there are candle-lit processions around some of the temples.
September: Boun Soung Heua, or the boat race festival
Every year, on the Nam Khan, in front of the hotel teams of young men, compete to be the fastest boat on the river. In the weeks leading up to the festival you can see boats out practicing. On the day the whole town gathers on the banks of the river, there are food stalls, beer stands and a real party spirit, as the crowds cheer on their teams in the heats. By the time it gets to the final the atmosphere is positively frenetic.
October: Ok Pansaa
This is the festival celebrating the end of Buddhist Lent and is one of the most spectacular to witness. Each temple will decorate a float which is lit up with candles and paraded down the main street to the water at Wat Xieng Thong at the end of the peninsula. There it will be cast afloat on the Mekong River. The inhabitants also make their own floats (from banana leaves) which they then push out on to the river with a wish. The whole spectacle is quite magical.