All through the year, Laos is a land full of festivals and celebrations. The lao people love any excuse to have a party or family get together and indeed, I have a lot of fond childhood memories of family gathering. My uncles would slaughter a pig and roast it while my aunts would be busy washing and preparing vegetables and other sides and dipping sauces.
While the celebrations, called “boon”, are always celebrated with enthusiasm, the majority of these festivals is based in the Buddhist holidays that dominates the country or agricultural seasons. In south-east Asia, Laos is the country where partying is actually quite important. Some of the festivals – like the New Year “Pi Mai”- unofficially start a few days earlier and go on for about a week.If you are planning to travel to Laos and want to have fun instead of sightseeing all day you should choose the Lao Pi Mai festival…This is the biggest festival of the year, the whole country comes to a standstill and most of the food is enjoyed with a lots of chilled Beer Lao, the national beer! The dishes are fairly simple and some popular ones are for instance grilled fish with lemongrass, grilled chicken or duck served with a hot and spicy tomato dip and a bamboo basket of sticky rice of course. Like most Asian beers, the Beer Lao is a mild flavored lager and goes well with pretty much any kind of food…Another popular drink to party is the Lao lao. Though it seems to be two similar words, they are actually said with two different tones and mean Lao alcohol. It’s a rice liquor that it often homemade and drank with a group of friends out of a very big jar. Every household has their own recipe and my uncle’s includes some sticky rice, rice yeast, rice bran and water. After a minimum of a month of fermentation (and up to a year) the lid can be opened and some water will be poured in until the top. 30 minutes later, the liquor is ready to be enjoyed with a bamboo straw.If you are lucky enough to be exploring Laos around its New Year time, enjoy its food, Beer Lao and Lao lao but beware since during those hot days of the month… water is thrown at everyone and foreigners are not exempted from this splashy ritual!
Photos: Emilie Mounsaveng