07 November 2007

Boat racing and end of Buddhist Lent

The end of Buddhist lent and the big boat racing festival is during the same week in Vientiane. The end of Buddhist lent also marks the beginning of the wedding season.

The boat weekend is a big party in Vientiane. The main streets are lined with food stalls, random stalls selling things like soap, fly spray or clothes, and fun gambling games. There are mountains of grilled chicken, coconut sticky rice in tubes of bamboo, steamed buns and popcorn. They had some of the best jumping castles I’d ever seen! The most popular gambling game seemed to be a game where you throw a dart into a grid of balloons and if you hit the marked balloon, you win a prize. The music was really loud and I had never seen so many people in Vientiane.

I watched some boat racing from the starting line. Two boats race at one time. Each boat has 40- 50 people in them. They are what we would call ‘dragon’ boats in Australia, but are about twice the size of the ones I’ve seen in Australia. I noticed that one of the people in group of starting line officials had two very large guns- AK47s. I wondered why he needed such huge guns- what security issue could he possibly have? I see many guns like that but it’s usually someone in a khaki uniform that carries them, usually police, military or security guards. This guy was in plain clothes. I was very surprised when I realised he used these guns as the starting guns and alternated them between each race.

There were lots of fireworks available for sale for 10-50c. It was scary to see so many people letting them off. You light the tube of fireworks and they fire one at a time. An adult was seen chasing a child with fireworks. My friend said her neighbours gave their 6 year old child some fireworks. When the first one fired out she got scared and started spraying them everywhere. My friend ran for cover.

No comments: