An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Category: Laos (Page 1 of 19)

Laos Food Festival 2024

The annual Laos Food Festival was held in Vientiane from January 23rd to the 27th. I usually try to go on the Saturday date after classes at Vientiane College. Here’s some more about the festival from the Vientiane Times:

“The festival runs for five days from January 23 to 27, with stalls open from 9am to 10pm each day. There are 180 stalls, including 165 offering various types of Lao food, from regional specialties to traditional dishes and desserts, and 15 stalls selling handicrafts.
There will also be live performances, demonstrations of Lao sweet making, a talk on small business management and marketing, a fruit carving contest, and a Lao dessert sale, among other activities.
This is one of the most popular events on Laos’ social calendar and is sure to attract a large number of visitors, especially as it is taking place during the Asean Tourism Forum in Vientiane this week.”

Because I only attended the event on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t get to see any of live performances or other activities. Here’s a video I put together of the event.

(Note: I’m quite new at making quality videos, like for Youtube, so this one probably seems amateurish. I will get better as I post more vids. My video editor is DaVinci Resolve 18.6, which I’m also new to using. Will get better at using it, too!)

Happy Birthday to Me

Yup, it’s that time of year again, where I’m reminded that I’m not getting any younger. As a matter of fact, I’m three quarters of a century old. Putting it that way, it sounds really old. But not as old as saying I’m in the middle of my eighth decade. Oh, well, looking forward to the next quarter century! I don’t have any plans to celebrate since I have to work today. Here’s a previous celebration, but this year’s party will be much less subdued. LOL

Speaking of work, I just had a nice three-day weekend as Laos celebrated with the annual That Luang Festival. I had attended the celebration at That Luang a few times in the past, but found it too crowded and too hot, so I stay away from the area these days. Most of my students felt the same way when I asked them if they were going to the festivities. Can’t say that I blame them; if you’ve been once or twice, there will probably be nothing new to see or do.

Next weekend is another three-day holiday as Laos’ National day is on tap. It’s the equivalent of July 4th in the United States. The communist party puts on a big show for this one, and I stay away from it also.

After next week, the term is finished and we get a nice month-long break. Around the middle of the month, Nai and I are going to Thailand and the beach in Phuket, one of our favorite holiday excursions. Surf and sand–can’t wait!

Boat Racing Videos

Here are a few videos of the 2023 boat races held in Vientiane on October 30th.

First is an over view of the course finish line.

This is a stylized ceremonial dragon boat that’s lit up at night, if my memory of past years serves me correctly. I didn’t go into Vientiane at night this year.

While I was standing around waiting for the start of the races, a traditional ensemble began playing right behind me. Very lovely at first, but they kept it up for about 25-30 minutes and it became annoying after a while. LOL

Next is the frantic start of one of the races.

Then there’s the exciting finish of a different race, not the same boats that are in the start line video above.

(When I get more time, I’ll go back and enhance these vids with my video program that I have to learn how to use. It’s called DaVinci Resolve and it’s a free, open source video editor if you’re interested.)

So, that’s it for the 2023 Vientiane Boat Racing Festival. If you’re ever in Laos around this time of the year, you really should check out the boat racing festival in Vientiane. There are also more races around the country at this time, including in Luang Prabang, so there might be other opportunities to take in this wonderful cultural event. Enjoy.

Vientiane Boat Racing Festival 2023

The Vientiane Boat Racing Festival takes place every year around the time of the end of Buddhist Lent in Laos. The finals of the boat racing competition take place on the day after the end of Lent, which this year was Monday, October 30th. Before the racing, there are several days of the festival where there are concerts, activities for kids and vendors, who start setting up booths, stalls and tables to sell various products, hand-crafted goods, food, toys, shoes and many other items. I try to go to the festival every year because there’s so much to see, hear and do. The highlight, of course, is the boat racing.

This year, I went on Saturday and on Monday. Saturday was spent just walking around and taking a few photos, while Monday I took in a few of the races and also did some more walking in the area, which is right along the Mekong River. I didn’t take many pics of the festival area this year, but here are a few. Included with these are some photos I took last year and a few I took in 2020, none of which I have posted before. The reason I put them here is that they are very representative of the festival from year to year, like the one in 2015 and another in 2014. Looking at my photos from past years, it’s easy to see that as far as the vendors go, nothing is ever really different.

There are always many different kinds of Lao food for sale, so you’ll never go hungry at the festival. Plenty of eats at this vendor’s stall.

Lots of sweet goods also.

If you prefer home cooking or just getting a pet, you can try to win one of these ducks. See the bright red rings on the ground? Apparently, you try to toss a ring around a duck; if you’re successful you get to keep it. It costs money (I don’t know how much) to toss the rings, but you might get lucky right away..

You might work up a powerful thirst walking around in the heat, so you could always slake that thirst with a bottle of Lao-distilled vodka. (No, thanks.)

Lots of clothes for sale too.

And stuffed animals for the kids.

Though the animal isn’t stuffed, these children are enjoying the goings on anyway.

So, it was a fun day at the festival. I had taken the bus into town because I knew the traffic around the site would be extreme, to say the least, but when I was ready to leave, after stopping for awhile at one of the local watering holes, it started to rain, a very heavy rain. The last bus back to my neck of the woods was going to depart pretty soon, and I had about a half kilometer walk to the bus stop, but I didn’t have an umbrella. I could get drenched or try to find some place that sold umbrella. I found a small mom-and-pop market close by, and, yes, they had some umbrellas. Not exactly my favorite style, but it kept me fairly dry on my walk to the bus. Whaddy’a think? Cute, eh.

Next post I’ll have videos of some of the boat races, so check again later.

Buddhist Lent

Sunday, October 29th was the day that Laos people celebrated the end of Buddhist Lent. Here’s a short summary of the day from an informative website that has a lot of information about the day. The site says the day was celebrated on Oct. 28th, but the 29th was the actual day in Vientiane.

“End of Buddhist Lent Day is a celebration that typically falls on a full moon day in October. This year, the day will be observed on October 28. In Laos, locals call it ‘Boun Awk Phansa’ where they perform traditional rituals and engage in festivities. The ceremony marks the end of a three-month hiatus for Buddhist monks who return from meditation retreats. During this time, monks aren’t allowed to leave the pagoda under which they meditate. As they are bound to be indoors, locals bring them food in the morning along with daily necessities such as toothbrushes, towels, soap, and slippers.”

Many folks will make or buy small banana leaf boats with lit candles on them and float them on the Mekong River or other bodies of water. For those not near a lake or a river, lit candles are placed on shrines or porches. We did a bit of candle lighting on our front porch. (If you can make out the neighbors’ porch at the upper left, it looks blue. Clicking on full screen, you can see it better. That’s an artifact caused by my phone cam. I could’ve color corrected it, but I think the blue is pretty, so I left it as is.)

And, as always, the day after the end of Buddhist Lent in Vientiane means the final day of the Boat Racing Festival takes place. More on that later.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s monsoon season in Laos, when the rainy weather is prevalent from May to the end of September, so wet days are to be expected. However, if I recall correctly, last year I only had to ride my motorbike in the rain for just a few times during the entire season. This year, though, has seen me put on my rain poncho more times than I can count, and it seems that it’s been raining whenever I go to work in the early afternoon and when I ride home around 8:30 at night. During the last four days, including last Saturday, that has been the case, and the rainfall has been very steady all day and night, though only heavy for just a few periods; it’s mostly been moderate or light. Luckily, the front yard hasn’t flooded (yet) like it has in the past. This photo is from August of 2018.

flooded front yard in 2018

The view from our front porch is quite different now. The house in front of us was torn down, and this past January and February a large, warehouse-sized building was constructed, though it hasn’t been rented out yet. Here’s what the view is now.

view from the front porch

Yikes, looks like the grass needs to be cut; I’ll pay the neighbor to do it when it’s a bit drier.

[Edited on Aug. 9] Here’s a shot of the grass that the neighbor cut today.

the grass in my yard has been cut

Then, lo and behold, the sun came out!!! It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had any sunshine. This is looking at the neighbors’ pond to the side of my house. Notice the blue sky.

sunny pond with duck

[End edit]

The rain has stopped for now, but more is forecast for later. This is the last day of the second term this year at Vientiane College so now we get a month-long vacation, and guess what? I won’t be riding my motorbike in the rain for awhile!

Of course, it hasn’t been only Vientiane that has had a lot of rain, and many areas are much worse off than us. Landslides and floods are prevalent throughout Laos, as reported in these Laotian Times articles: Provinces hit, Vietnamese Nationals Stranded and Landslides. Unfortunately, there’s still a ways to go in August, and September is also quite wet. Hopefully, the fatalities, and landslides and floods will stop.

Pride Month in Laos

You might think that recognizing Pride Month in a somewhat repressive, but mostly benign, communist country would be a no-go. That’s not true, though. First, there is an LGBTQI group in Laos with a presence on Facebook, Proud to Be Us Laos, that participates in quite a few public events (see the Facebook page above), and recently the government allowed for the celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT Day) for the first time during Pride Month this year.

Also, the U.S. Embassy showed its recognition of Pride Month by decking out part of their outside wall with the Pride colors. Here’s a photo I took when riding my motorbike to school last Saturday (sorry, it isn’t the sharpest of shots).

Pride colors on U.S. Embassy wall in Vientiane, Laos.

In addition, Vientiane College is also celebrating Pride Month with colorful streamers adorning our reception area. Here are a few shots I took on Saturday morning after classes had finished.

Pride streamers at Vientiane College, Vientiane, Laos.

Pride streamers at Vientiane College, Vientiane, Laos.

So, it appears that things are looking up for the gay, lesbian, etc. population of Laos. Let’s hope that more acceptance is forthcoming!

After a Long Time

Whew, it’s been a while, hasn’t it. Well, I’m still here, but a bit lazy (as usual). There’s really not a lot to report on; I won’t go into recent events around the world-you can read about those almost everywhere else.

Here in Vientiane, most schools have reopened after students not having classes for almost a year. At Vientiane College, we’ve been having face-to-face classes since January and everything appears to be running smoothly, though student enrollment has been down, as expected. The term finishes up just before the Laos New Year (Pi Mai), which runs from April 13-17 (that includes a weekend) and starts again at the beginning of May with Term 2.

I haven’t put up any digital art lately because I’ve been absorbed with my two favorite online RPGs, Lord of the Rings Online and Eve Online. I’d been keeping up with the subscriptions to both of them, so I thought I might as well play them for a bit. Naturally, I got sucked into them and began to spend way too much time with them, especially Eve. I’ve been spending less time with them lately, so I’ve kind of been getting back to digital art, learning and creating.

Here’s my latest composition, which I’ve titled “Homeward Bound.” I thought of the title before I remembered the Simon and Garfunkel song, though it was probably in my subconscious. Anyway, here it is:

digital art composition

Well, that’s it for now, but I’ll try to keep this blog updated more often (seriously). More later.

Boring Update

Well, it’s been a while, but there’s not really much to write about, though that is debatable. Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the government has eased some of the restrictions and has told all pertinent interests to prepare for more reopening soon. That’s not because the number of covid infections is going down; on the contrary, it’s been skyrocketing. The last few days Vientiane has had over 600 cases of infection with no signs of slowing down. I think the government has given up trying to keep this delta variant in check and is just continuing to get as many people vaccinated as it can. I think I read that about 40% of the population has been double dosed and many others have had one of two doses of the various vaccines that are available.

Schools, of course, are shut down for now, and they have been since near the end of April. However, some schools are doing online classes, and Vientiane College is among those who are doing so. I teach one class a day from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and one on Saturday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Teaching online has been fun and interesting, really. But, it’s sucking up my time like a black hole. I’m still learning and improving my ability to use Zoom and Google drive, classroom and other items from Google. It’s been somewhat of a steep learning curve, but I’m starting to get better at it. One of the major reasons I like teaching online is that I don’t have to ride my motorbike back and forth into Vientiane six days a week! But, if I want to go into the city to get groceries, there’s no problem doing that.

It’s left hardly any time to do any digital art for now, but I hope to get back into it soon. I miss being able to play around in Photoshop and other painting/compositing/etc. software. I could probably spare 30 minutes a day here and there, but I prefer to spend more time per session than half an hour. Hopefully, I’ll have some art to post here soon. I’ve got my fingers and toes and eyes crossed that we’ll be getting back to a near-normal state soon. More later.

Digital Art–Rivals

Here’s my newest piece of digital art, one I’m titling “Rivals.” The photos and background textures are mine, except for the two birds–the one at the bottom and the one at the upper left; I got them from Pixabay.

digital art

In the news, Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the number of new community cases has fallen, and the school is being allowed to open on September 1st. Hurrah!! Hopefully. Although the number of cases has dropped from where it was, we’re still getting some. There were 7 cases reported a few days ago, but the government didn’t tighten up the restrictions already in place. The big concern might be the huge number of imported cases, Laos workers returning from Thailand by the thousands. About 10% of them have the virus and are being hospitalized or put under observation. They’re mostly quarantined off from the general population, so perhaps we won’t see much of an uptick with community cases. Thankfully, there have been only a few deaths reported. Keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well as far as the school reopening. More later.

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