Celebrate Songkran: The Giant Lao New Year Water Fight
The Lao New Year is a celebration unlike any other we’ve come across. The party in Luang Prabang lasts at least three days. More often, it becomes a full week of partying. To usher in the upcoming rainy season, the city turns into a giant water fight.
Songkran as its called comes in the middle of April, during the hottest, driest part of the year in Southeast Asia. Every day we were in Luang Prabang was above 95 degrees. But we had no problem staying cool. The party for the Lao New Year had already begun, and kids lined up along the streets with giant water buckets or water guns and soaked everyone who passed by. And I mean EVERYONE.
A visiting tourist going to a temple? Drenched. A couple zooming by on a motorbike? Doused. A man walking to work in a freshly pressed suit? Deluged. Anyone on the streets was fair game in this city-wide water fight. Even people trying not to get wet in their tuk-tuks inevitably got absolutely soaked during the Lao New Year. Once you got used to constantly being splashed with water, it became fun! I think I walked around in board shorts for 3 straight days.
Of course, we couldn’t just be the victims. We grabbed a water gun and joined in the fight. What we really needed was a fire hose at full blast. You would shoot one kid with the water gun, and his 15 buddies would immediately turn their guns on you. The more the merrier!
The celebrations get going around 10 AM, when kids wake up, eat breakfast, and head for the streets with their water weapon of choice. Then it’s non-stop until about 7 PM. Step out onto the streets and you have absolutely no chance of staying dry. Think you can get away from the water fight? You can’t.
We took a daytrip to the Pak Ou caves and got hammered by groups of kids in the countryside. We went for a walk on the other side of the Mekong River from Luang Prabang and still got drenched. There are even groups of kids standing on the backs of flatbed trucks with giant buckets of water splashing anyone within 20 feet.
Things got interesting when the kids started throwing flour to mix with the water. You ended up wet and covered in white powder. Some kids even shot colored water, and that just made a mess.
If you don’t like being wet, avoid Luang Prabang at all costs in mid-April. The Lao New Year technically starts the 14th, but the water fight begins before that. (Incidentally, Chiang Mai celebrates the same holiday at the same time. You’ll get soaked there too.)
But if you’re up for a good ole-fashioned water fight, then Luang Prabang is the place to reclaim your childish innocence and get absolutely soaked!