Luang Brabang, Laos Celebrates the End of Monsoon Season — in driving rain

Fire Boat Festival in Laos

Fire Boat Festival in Laos

In one of the nicest places I’ve ever visited, Luang Prabang, Laos, the October full moon marked the end of the seasonal monsoon.  The folks pour out into the streets and into the Mekong and Nam Kahn rivers to let the spirits free.

Hundreds of foreign tourists were among the thousands watching the parade of “fire boats” that followed the races in Luang Prabang. The nighttime event is a highlight of the three-day race weekend: Handcrafted bamboo boats adorned with fruit, candles and paper serpents are carried to a Buddhist temple and then floated on the nearby Mekong as a way of honoring ancestors and empowering the Naga, a serpent like deity in Buddhist and Hindu mythology.  NY Times

Individual villages and temples create large elaborate boats using bamboo, coloured paper, leaves, flowers and candles which they then light up and carry along the main street in a large candlelit procession down to Wat Xieng Thong, where they are displayed and judged before being taken down the steps of the temple to the Mekong river and released downstream. Falang Brabang

Before the festivities begin, everyone cleans their home to rid bad spirits which may have taken up residence during the rainy season. Families then walk down to the river carrying beautifully carved wax candles in the shape of temples or boats, which they light and set adrift on the mighty Mekong, a ceremony which is thought to give the person releasing the craft very good karma for the coming season. – See more

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