People rejoice through the weekend as Lao New Year exuberantly celebrated countrywide​

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): ​Lao New Year was joyfully celebrated across the country last week with even more fanfare than usual because of this being Visit Laos Year, with Luang Prabang​ and Vientiane in particular staging a raft of colourful activities.

Luang Prabang city organises the most extensive programme of events at Lao New Year and is the centre of attraction for tourists wishing to experience the full range of this vibrant annual festival, and​ President​ Thongloun​ Sisoulith and his wife joined in the celebrations on April 14.

The Deputy Governor of Luang Prabang province,​ Bounleum Manivong, said the Lao New Year festivities were a highlight of the Visit Laos Year programme and this year lasted for longer than usual, from April 10-20.

The town centre was awash in eye-catching events such as a bustling street market, the Miss Lao New​ Year​ contest and procession, the building of sand stupas,​ an elephant parade, a Naga procession, an exhibition of handicrafts, performances by local ethnic groups, and dance and other stage shows.

Director​ of the Luang​ Prabang​ provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Dr Soudaphone Khomthavong, told the​ Vientiane Times​ that​ this year’s celebrations were more elaborate than normal to add to the attractions of Visit Laos Year.

Provincial authorities also encouraged people from neighbouring countries to share in the fun, hoping to boost visitor numbers to 1.7 million during the course of 2024.

The Lao New​ Year​ celebrations take place nationwide and Luang Prabang province plays a starring role not only in this festival but in another national festival, when the provincial capital stages events that centre around the Mekong River to mark the end of Buddhist Lent in October, Dr Soudaphone said.

In Vientiane, events kicked off with a stately parade of monks and Buddha images, which attracted many spectators.

In homes and offices, people gathered for Baci ceremonies and flocked to temples to sprinkle water on Buddha images that had been placed outside especially for the occasion.

The city pillar at Simeuang temple was a particular attraction for people wishing to show respect and earn merit by pouring water on the revered ancient edifice, while the Buddha images on display at Ong Teu temple also attracted numerous merit seekers.​

President​ Thongloun​ Sisoulith joined the crowds pouring water over venerated statues and the city pillar at Simeuang temple, while Prime​ Minister​ Sonexay​ Siphandone visited Ong Teu temple.

In the far north, Bokeo province staged cultural shows, sports contests, a sand stupa contest by the river, and a street fair.

Champassak, Xekong, Vientiane,​ Savannakhet, Borikhamxay, Huaphan and Xayaboury provinces also organised activities including Miss Lao New Year processions, which were a highlight of the festivities.

The Lao New Year festival encapsulates the essence of Lao traditions, from the heartfelt prayers made to Buddha images and monks to the revelry on the streets, when for three days animated water battles see everyone in sight get a soaking as hoses, water pistols and buckets appear in profusion, with no one spared a wetting. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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