Festival of Lights in Luang Prabang

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Lights at one of the decorated pagodas

I came to Luang Prabang, Laos so I could participate in the Festival of Lights, or “Lai Heua Fai” on October 21. Every year, people around the country spend time crafting boats made of bamboo and banana trucks. These crafts are given colour with flowers, candles and money to be sent down the Mekong River for good luck while people pay respect to the spirit waters.

During the week leading up to the festival, we saw monks and people in different communities spending a lot of time decorating the pagodas or building their own boat to compete for the most beautiful one. I was grateful for a lesson in making the small crafts by the owner of the guesthouse I was staying at. She grew up Luang Prabang so she knew how to make every kind of design.

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A beautiful design made with banana leaves by a Laos woman. I wish I was this crafty.

It was amazing to watch this quiet city turn into a vibrant festival with music, fire, lights and dancing. Some of us went to the Mekong and sent our good wishes to the river along with the other 20,000 boats.

I actually lost some of my friends along the way and even though I was in a crowd of thousands of people with music, dancing and this beautiful celebration, I felt very alone for a bit. I’ve learned I can’t enjoy even the must beautiful celebrations if I am alone. I’d rather be doing something simple with friends or family.

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Nevertheless, I loved watching people lighting up lanterns that floated up into the sky. I couldn’t but think, “Why can’t we do these kinds of things in Vancouver?” There was a lantern festival for awhile but unfortunately funding went down and there have been less of these kinds of community events. The sky lantern originated in China and were used strategically in wars. As years passed, they were included in festivities.

It was an unforgettable experience and the days after the festival only got better as I spent more time with the people I’ve met in Luang Prabang.

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Parade of floats that were made by different communities.

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