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

Tag: culture (Page 1 of 8)

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.

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!

Thailand Trip–Patong Beach, Pt. 2

Patong Weed Shops

Thailand has recently legalized the use of cannabis (marijuana, ganja, etc.) for medical purposes, though it’s unclear if anyone will be prosecuted for recreational use. See this Lonely Planet article which attempts to clear up the rules.

If it’s for medical use only, well, there must be quite a few people with medical problems because there are “weed shops” everywhere on the Patong Beach main road and side roads, sometimes with three or four shops in the same block. So, here are a few photos of some of the creative advertising of the shops. If you’re traveling to Patong for the lovely beach, great! But if you’re going for “medical” reasons, you shouldn’t have any problem finding “relief” for your symptoms.

There is outdoor seating at Weedland. Their motto is “Weed Be Good Together.” Also, while you’re there, have a cocktail or a beer.

Patong Weed Shop

It’s my way or the “High Way.” No seating at this nook on Bangla Road.

Patong Weed Shop

You might be in “Heaven” at this one, and you can enjoy a Smirnoff with Coke. Yum!

Patong Weed Shop

You’ll be happy here, not only for the cannabis, but you can satisfy your munchies right next door at Burger King!

Patong Weed Shop

“Juicy,” and get fitted for a suit after you feel better. You never know what kind of unusual clothing you might end up with.

Patong Weed Shop

Great exterior at “Weedly Wonka,” and I really wonder what it’s like inside. Chocolate pot, anyone? Also, after you’re high enough, why not get that exotic, strange tattoo you’ve always wanted–right next door!

Willy Wonka Weed Shop in Patong

Only the best here, and you can partake of Smirnoff again.

Patong Weed Shop

So, those are just some of the many weed shops at Patong. If you’re tired and run down and ill after soaking up the sun at the beach, give one of these “medical” entrepreneurs a try. You’ll feel better in no time.

The next post, coming soon, will look at a few examples of the street art, not to be confused with graffiti, near the beach. Some of it looks like it was done after the artists had patronized a few of the weed shops.

Lao in Lockdown

Laos has been locked down since April 1, meaning everyone should stay at home. Of course, people with essential jobs are still working, but most other businesses have been closed, as well as all the schools. Vientiane College, where I work, has been shut down since before April 1, so I’m having an extended vacation, so to speak. I still go jogging in the morning, which I consider essential, and that hasn’t been a problem with the authorities, though I’ve never seen any that early in the morning. I also see quite a number of bicyclists riding for exercise at that time, sometimes in packs of three or four, coming from the city or heading back that way. I’ve also been to one of the foreign markets to replenish my food reserves. I thought I might have a problem doing that because some districts of Vientiane have been blocking travel in and out of their area if you don’t live there. However, I didn’t see any roadblocks on my way to and from the market.

Yesterday, the government said that the lockdown was going to be extended from April 20th to May 3rd. At that time, schools and some businesses would be allowed to open. So, perhaps, Vientiane College might be able to re-open in time for the original start of our next trimester, May 7th. That, though, might be unlikely because I imagine that it might take another week to set up registration times for the students and to get the word out that we’ll open again and to get everything ready. I expect to hear from the administration soon about the school’s plans.

The Lao New Year holiday just finished. The government cancelled all planned activities and warned everyone that social distancing was in place (and the lockdown) for the holiday, meaning no celebrations outside our homes and no more than four people celebrating together, other than immediate family. We’ll probably know how this worked out near the end of the new lockdown date, around the end of April. Laos has had no new infections, that people know of, for about three or four days now (19, as of this posting), but if covid cases start increasing as the month goes on, well, the warning to not celebrate probably didn’t have much effect.

The government also banned alcohol sales and distribution from April 13th to the 20th. The only effect that might have is that when the small mom-and-pop markets run out of beer, they won’t be able to get any more. Also, mini-marts, liquor stores and others won’t be able to sell alcohol. While jogging today, I noticed one of the small markets still had many cases of canned beer left and I would guess it is selling to people who want to buy, which would be quite a large number of people. Lao folks love their alcohol, especially during holidays. (P.S. I stocked up when I heard about the ban, though I don’t drink a whole lot. I still have some BeerLao left–come over to the house and we’ll tip a few!)

Lazy Days and Pi Mai Laos

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. OK, it’s only April, but it sure feels like lazy summertime days. This is the hottest time of year in Laos, with temperatures regularly near the hundred degree mark (38 C.) Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 104 degrees. The monsoon season is in June, July and August, so the temperature doesn’t normally get as hot as in April and May, since the wet weather has a bit of a cooling effect.

Our school is on break until May 10th, so I’ve been hanging out at the house during the day. In the afternoon, it certainly feels like the song, Summertime, suggests. I’m about 500 feet from the main road that runs into Vientiane, so the traffic noise is somewhat muted. In the afternoon, everything is very quiet: the neighbors’ kids are in school, the grown-ups, most of them, are at work and the only thing you can hear is the buzzing of flies. Obviously, I keep a fan blowing. (No air-con) I mostly lie down and read a book and take a nap. Very peaceful and pleasant (despite the heat). Until today, that is. Today, April 13th marks the start of the traditional Laos New Year, Pi Mai Lao (Pee-my). There will be plenty of noisy parties going on, with extremely loud music playing into the early hours. Goodbye relaxation time for several days.

The holiday is also celebrated in Thailand, where it’s called Songkran, and in Cambodia, Myanmar and some other parts of Southeast Asia. Traditionally, the holiday runs from April 13-15, but the Lao government, not content with a three-day weekend, has dictated that, because the 14th and 15th is Saturday and Sunday, Pi Mai will also include Monday and Tuesday. So, it’s a five-day weekend.

Probably the biggest feature of the event is the inclusion of water. By this, I mean the traditional activity of cleaning house and also of pouring a bit of water over the various Buddha statues in the local temple as part of a purification rite. But, the main focus in many parts of Laos, and in Thailand, is throwing water on other people, drenching foreigners and natives alike in large-scale water fights, especially in the cities. I’m going out to my former village today, where the celebration is a bit gentler. I’ve posted about Pi Mai before, here, here and here.

I’ll take plenty of photos and get them posted as soon as I can. Gotta wrap my camera and cell phone up in plastic grocery bags before I head out on the main road, where I’ll try to avoid water-throwing kids. I can probably avoid getting too wet there, but when I get to the dirt road going to the village, I’ll have to slow down and it’s very possible I’ll get soaked before I get to where I’m going. So, I’m going to wear some light, drip-dry clothing and hope the heat and the sun will dry me quickly. Just part of the deal, I guess, but it’s all in fun. I’ll get my licks in at Nai’s family’s party. More later.

Wonder what I’ll look like during this year’s celebration. This is from last year.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Well, that finishes this year’s Pi Mai Lao celebration. One more photo to show. Here are a few friends posing for the camera. Nai’s on the left and a friend, name unknown, is on the right, but who’s the old fart in the middle? Got his face and clothes powdered, I see. He looks fairly full from eating all that fish and rice. Guess he had a good time. See ya next year, sport.

Bangkok in December, Part 2

As promised, here are some photos in part 2 of my visit to Bangkok this past December.

I usually stay in the Silom section of Bangkok at the Silom City Hotel, which is near the extremely interesting Hindu temple of Mariamman. I don’t know if you could call this the Hindu section of Bangkok, but a stroll around the area offers paintings and murals of Hindu interest. Walking up Silom road I saw these paintings–bright, colorful, beautiful.

Hindu painting

Hindu Painting (I think) that I saw on Silom Road.

Hindu painting

Another Hindu inspired painting on Silom Road. Check out the litte mouse near the lower left corner–cute.

The Mahboonkrong (MBK) Shopping Center always has some kind of exhibition outside the main entrance and December through January was the “Amazing Carnival” display. Amazing it was, and, though it’s a short walk around the plaza, you could spend quite a while taking in this bizarre but delightfully fantastic exhibit. Most of the photos below don’t contain any captions, because what could I say about them. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words (or imaginations). (Note that there were a lot of people walking around and it was difficult to get many “uncluttered” shots.)

MBK Christmas tree

Here’s a night shot of the main entrance to MBK, featuring an 18 meter (60 feet) Christmas “tree.”

band

There’s gotta be a band leading the performers into the carnival, like a circus coming into town. So, here’s the small ensemble.

This is the main feature.
All the smaller characters are scattered around her.

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

MBK "Amazing Carnival"

And, back to the start.

There is usually some kind of display on the skywalk from MBK to the skytrain station. At this time, the display featured cats. Nai and I found ourselves attracted to them.

Nai and cat

Nai enjoys the company of one of the felines near the National Stadium skytrain station.

Ron and cat

This guy is the cat’s meow, don’t you think?

That’s it for the Bangkok trip. I don’t know what’s up next on the blog, but I haven’t worked on my photo art in quite a while, so I’ll probably concentrate on that and try to get some stuff posted here. More later.

Bangkok in December, Part 1

Here are a few photos from my stay in Bangkok around Christmas this past December. In this part are some shots of the “Rubik’s Cube” building, as someone else termed it. It’s actually called the MahaNakhon Tower and it’s the tallest building in Thailand at 314 meters (1030 feet). The Edition hotel will be In the lower third of the building and the upper sections will be devoted to Ritz-Carlton condos. It’s supposed to be finished and ready for use sometime this year, but I think some of the condos might already be occupied. See the night shot of the building below.

MahaNakhon Tower

Remember the “Rubik’s Cube” building from previous posts? It’s called the MahaNakhon Tower and it’s almost finished. It’s the tallest building in Bangkok and it really dominates the skyline with its height and striking design.

Bangkok at night

Bangkok at night. Notice the MahaNakhon tower at the left. It appears that quite a few of the rooms at the top are lit, suggesting that perhaps some of the condos are open.

Here are some closer views of the building. It’s located right next to the Chong Nonsi skytrain station, a stop that Nai and I use all the time. I don’t know how I missed the building before. I took these shots from near the station.

MahaNakhon Tower

Shot taken from near the Chong Nonsi skytrain station, just down from central Silom

MahaNakhon Tower

A much closer view of the tower.

The tower looms over you this close to it. I took this shot from “The Square” at the front of the building.

In The Square, the front courtyard of MahaNakhon, sits an interesting sculpture, “Bangkok Soul”. From the MahaNakhon website:

MahaNakhon Square features a 9 meter tall sculpture by Jaume Plensa “Bangkok Soul” featuring various letters from different languages combining in a crouching human form.

Here are a couple of photos of “The Square” and of the sculpture. Click the second one to enlarge it and see the individual letters making up the “man.”

"The Square" at MahaNakhon Tower

A photo of “The Square” at the base of the tower. This area also contains an upscale restaurant and shopping areas. If you look closely, you can see some construction workers in the final phases of finishing off the exterior.

"Bangkok Soul" sculpture

“Bangkok Soul.” Click a couple of times to enlarge it to see the individual letters making up the piece.

In Part 2 of Bangkok in December, I’ll show some photos of the delightfully strange “carnival” exhibition at the MBK Shopping Mall.

Pi Mai Lao 2017 Photos

The Lao New Year celebration (Pi Mai Lao) finished last week. It was a five-day observance this year due to the weekend, so that gave people more chances to party, and most Lao folks DO party! Compared to celebrations in Vientiane, where water gets thrown with abandon and parties are raucous, the countryside festivities are a bit more subdued. Here are a few photos of some of the goings-on.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Just up the road a bit at one of the small markets, children are having some light-hearted fun dousing passing motorbikes. Most of the riders didn’t seem to mind getting wet, and, unlike in some places, the water wasn’t ice-cold. I didn’t ride my ‘bike, so I was able to stay dry, if I wanted to. But, after setting my camera aside, I submitted to the water-tossing ritual.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Here water is being tossed at a couple of youngsters. Notice the red hair of the driver. The style is . . . how do I describe it? . . . mutton, I think, with the sides cut very short, but the top left alone and dyed. This is the current most popular style among Lao boys. I don’t know what the more conservative older folks think about it, but mom and dad apparently don’t care. Did the water get to these guys? See below.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Yeah, they got pretty soaked.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

The kids seemed to have tossed their water a little early at these two blondies (orangies?). Oh, well, hit a few, miss a few.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

These are two things that shouldn’t go together–beer and motorbikes. Most people who drink (and get drunk) aren’t too concerned about the danger of riding their motorbikes or driving their cars while intoxicated. It’s the number one cause of traffic accidents and deaths on the roads, most of which involve motorbikes. As an aside, I was in Vientiane this past Saturday, the 22nd, and I saw the results of four accidents, FOUR, in the span of about 30 minutes, all of them in, more or less, the same area of town, and all of them involving motorbikes. Just amazing.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

At the Pi Mai party at Nai’s sister’s house, Go, Nai’s niece, pours a bit of water down the back of Guay, one of Nai’s brothers. She got me wet (wetter, really) also, and the water WAS ice-cold. Quite a shock if you’re not expecting it!

Pi Mai Lao 2017

A few of the neighbor ladies, cousins, enjoying the party.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

And a few more celebrants. That’s Guay’s wife, Vee, on the far right. There were three different parties going on at the same time, all withing walking distance of each other, so people would go from party to party. Most of the people in this area are related–cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Noy and Nui enjoy each other’s company. Nui is Nai’s sister and Noy is her husband.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Noy holds Namo, the young daughter of Lot, one of Nai’s sisters. Noy always gets along very well with the children in the area and they enjoy teasing and playing with him.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

This is Meow, Guay and Vee’s daughter. She’s quite the sweetheart and she seems to always have a nice smile ready for the camera. In this shot, I couldn’t get her to give me an open-mouth smile. Why?

Pi Mai Lao 2017

I finally got her to laugh, and, aha, her shyness is caused by the loss of a couple of baby teeth. Very cute.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

OK, so we’ve got people and beer, but what’s a party without lots of delicious food? Guay is working on that. Here, he’s stir-frying a panful of . . . what? Beetles, of course. What a treat! Uh, no thanks; I’m feeling kind of full.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Here’s the finished dish. Just dig in . . . use your hands . . . dip them in chili sauce.

Pi Mai Lao

Notice that the grilled fish is just below where I’m sitting. Guess who’s been chowing down on that.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Surely, there has to be something else to eat. How about some soup? Is there any soup? Of course there is. How about some awesome frog soup? Here’s some. Dig in. Looks like one of the little critters is trying to climb out of the bowl.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

No thanks on the frog soup. Anything else? Sure. Still hungry? Try some of this snake meat soup. Uh, I’ll pass on that, too. Thanks anyway. I’ll just finish this fish and have some rice. No problem.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Well, that finishes this year’s Pi Mai Lao celebration. One more photo to show. Here are a few friends posing for the camera. Nai’s on the left and a friend, name unknown, is on the right, but who’s the old fart in the middle? Got his face and clothes powdered, I see. He looks fairly full from eating all that fish and rice. Guess he had a good time. See ya next year, sport.

« Older posts

© 2023 MontanaRon

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑