Once again, the brilliant, white-clad crew from Luang Prabang won the traditional boat race category at the Vientiane Boat Racing Festival. Defending their championship from last year, they swept through the other competitors, winning races by large margins. At times they appeared to reduce their effort to save energy for the next race because their lead was so big. They’re an awesome crew, and the other teams will have to improve vastly to give them a challenge next year.
Thousands of people attended the festival, lining the banks of the Mekong or strolling on the car-free main road, which was closed to all motorized traffic. Because of the massive throng of people, it would have been impossible to drive a car or even operate a motorbike on this vendor-filled stretch of the normally traffic-heavy road. Nai and I walked the two kilometers from this area to the boat racing venue upstream. We found a small, covered food and beer booth where we watched the races out of the sun (but still in the heat) for a few hours, and then we walked another half a kilometer to the Kong View Restaurant and Bar, kind of an upscale place with upscale prices, but we could sit in the shade of trees with fans providing a welcome cooling breeze.
At day’s end we walked back to the main road in the cooler air of twilight and hung out at the Bor Pen Nyang rooftop bar and restaurant and watched the parade of people traveling up and down the main road.
Here then are a few photos of the festival–goods for sale, people and even a couple shots of the race.
There were lots of items for sale by the vendors at the usual night market, including these well-manicured feet. The sandals came for free. Most of the vendors along the main road were hawking products like TVs, mobile phones, and household appliances.
Need something else to put on your newly-bought feet? Try this whimsical collection of tiny sandals. Whoops, you might have to downsize those feet.
For the child in all of us. Would you like the baby chick, Garfield or the platypus? I had to ask another teacher what she thought the green animal was, so blame her if it’s not a platypus. Any other guesses?
USA! USA! USA! Well, not really. It’s actually Lao lettering on bags of laundry soap. Quite a resemblance. You can try to make your own caption, something like “America: We ______” (then add a reference to cleaning up or something similar.)
These look like they would be used in making traditional Lao dresses. I don’t think they are genuine handicraft items–there were just too many of them and they were too cheap.
Selling is hard work. These two guys, one alert and one not, were trying to peddle mobile phone cases.
I didn’t know exactly what these folks were doing. I figured the red object was some kind of balloon, and I was curious where it was going to be located. See the next photo to find out.
There’s the red balloon overlooking the crowd on the main street of the festival. The boat race itself was held a couple of kilometers upstream, to the right. It was a hot, dusty walk to the racing venue, and the umbrella vendors were doing a brisk business.
It wasn’t only men racing. Here a couple of women’s boats compete for the top spot in their category. I think there were eight ladies’ boats competing this year.
A few of the boats, after finishing their races, head back upstream to continue in the competition. The runaway winners of the traditional men’s category, the shimmering white-clad Luang Prabang crew, are quite noticeable in the boat at the top of the photo.
A crowd of spectator and sponsor boats watched the race from a distance. If you look closely, you’ll notice several people standing on the river bottom in the shallow water.
This is a fairly new team from the village where I live. The village used to be part of Sithanthai village, but was split off from it. Thus, the talent of Sithanthai was diluted. Most of these guys, though, are new to boat racing and they finished near the bottom of the competition. Their enthusiasm was not outdone by anyone, however. Here they enjoy a few post-race beers.
The other half of the Khokxay team. Two of their members are Nai’s brother-in-law, Aik, and Aik’s 14-year old son (not pictured here), neither of which had raced before.
After the race, Nai and I walked backed to the main festival area and climbed the stairs to the Bor Pen Yang rooftop bar to take in the view. Several motorized paragliders graced the area with some beautiful flying. See the next photo, also.
The same three as the above shot, coming in outta the sun.
The last glider aloft tries to beat the sun in setting down. I think there were five gliders in all, and you can usually see them above the Mekong on Saturday evenings during good weather.
Nai contemplates the view from Bor Pen Nyang. (Or, perhaps he’s just tired.)
The next day, the welders were out dismantling the stalls of the larger vendors, like Huawei, Samsung and, yes, Apple. So, another Boat Racing Festival comes to a sparkling end.