Laos: Famed Phathat Sikhottabong stupa festival to have scaled down programme

Monks circumnambulate the That Luang stupa as part of Buon That Luang festival in Vientiane, Laos.

Vientiane, Jan 23 (Vientiane Times/ANN): The famed Phathat Sikhottabong stupa festival in Thakhaek district, Khammuan province, will take place from February 26-29 but will have fewer activities than normal in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Head of Khammuan province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Bounthavy Sisombath, told Vientiane Times that this year’s festival would consist of a wax castle procession on the second day and almsgiving on each of the three days of the festival.

Authorities don’t want to limit the number of people attending the festival but say everyone must comply with government guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Visitors must wear a face mask and wash their hands with soap or sanitiser before entering the festival grounds, where officials will be on hand to monitor the situation, Bounthavy said.

Authorities are carrying out restoration work on the Phathat Sikhottabong stupa, according to the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department.

The Phathat Sikhottabong stupa festival normally attracts hundreds of thousands of people from nearby provinces and even others countries to worship and pray for good luck and good health.

The stupa is considered sacred and has long been revered and venerated by Lao people. In previous years the festival has featured colourful activities such as games, musical performances, a beauty contest and a pageant, as well as a market fair selling local food and other products.

Khammuan province is about 360 km from Vientiane and involves a scenic drive.

Visitors to the province can also enjoy a multitude of other interesting places including Phou Phamarn mountain which offers adventure activities such as zip-lines, a canopy walkway through the trees, and hikes led by guides through forested areas to observe wildlife.

Tourists should also visit Kamphengyak, otherwise known as the Giant Wall, and the Sangsou and Nam Sanam waterfalls are equally magnificent.

The local food is also worth sampling, including khaonompan (flour mixed with beans and coconut), khaokhop - a sticky rice cake - and mam, which is pork or beef mixed with onions, chilli and herbs.

Visitors can also buy locally-made goods such as sticky rice baskets made from woven bamboo, as well as clothing and other items made from naturally dyed cotton.

More than 300,000 visitors came to Khammuan province last year, which was a drop of 30 per cent compared to the previous year.

The decline in visitors was the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department. - Ventiane Times/Asian News Network

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