Last month I went to Luang Prabang in Laos for the Lao New Year celebrations. I was there for about one week and did lots of work. Most of it has already been posted on the Laos Photo Library, but I’m going to start posting more of my Laos stuff in galleries on this site.
This new gallery showcases the insane street celebrations that take place during Lao New Year. During the New Year festivities, Lao people traditionally wash the Buddha images housed in the local temples, and also have ceremonies where they wash their elders’ hands in a show of respect. In the modern interpretation, young people crowd onto the streets to toss water at each other, throw talcum powder in people’s faces, and smear kettle grease all over their friends. The whole thing is quite chaotic and a bit stressful for a photographer who doesn’t particularly want to get water, handfuls of white powder, or grease and soot on/in his camera.
I really wanted to capture the sense of constant movement, the streams of water flying through the air, and the general sense of friendly mayhem. In order to do this I used slow shutter speeds for much of my work, and I’m rather pleased with the results I got. I hope you enjoy this set, it’s one of my favorites!
A couple of weeks back I went to Luang Prabang in Laos for the Lao New Year celebrations. If you’ve ever heard of Songkran in Thailand, it’s really similar to that. Traditionally all the Buddha statues and furnishings would be taken out of the temples and washed by the community during ceremonies and parades. Young people would also wash their elders hands in a symbolic show of respect. Read more »
The next day of Hmong New Year was supposed to be much of the same. Another bullfight, more tennis ball tossing. More Hmong girls in traditional costumes wearing sunglasses and talking on cellphones. I’d already gotten quite a bit of nice material of both subjects, plus I was a bit hungover from the the bombshell barbecue, so I woke up a bit late. After a headachey breakfast and a couple of much-needed stiff coffees at our favorite local eatery “Craters” (two huge unexploded bombs in front for decoration) we headed over to the bullfight.
I’ve complained to a few different people back at home and in other parts of the world that I’ve been very, very cold throughout much of this trip. Everybody seems surprised to find out that it could be cold here, usually fuelled by a belief that every corner of Southeast Asia must be a sweltering sweat hole. Well, during the hot season that is true, the heat in Laos can be unbearable, but during the winter much of the country is quite cold indeed. Much of the country is at a higher altitude, which in and of itself will cool things down quite a bit, and large parts of the north/north central area of Laos are really more influenced by the weather patterns in southern China than they are by the southern monsoons.
I’ve spent the vast majority of the last two weeks doing nothing. Quite literally just sitting around, doing absolutely nothing whatsoever. Well, either that, or spending long, long hours on a little Korean motorbike I bought, trying to find somewhere that I can do something. Believe me, it’s not by choice. Aside from one beautiful, clear morning in Phu Khoun at the beginning of the trip, the weather has been awful. After that last post I wrote it’s basically been grey, windy, cold and often raining.
So after basically a solid week of awful weather it was time to leave Luang Prabang. There was actually one day that was perfect from dawn ‘til dusk, and I made great use of it by shooting most of the day at Wat Xieng Thong, which is arguably the most beautiful temple in Laos. On my final night there I met two other photographers, a guy named Branden who I met on top of Phou Si hill at sunset, and another guy, Paul, who’s living and selling photos in Luang Prabang. We hung out and talked cameras and photos for quite a while, but before too long it was time to head back to my room and get some sleep before the long ride back to Vang Vieng in the morning.
So, I’ve been in Luang Prabang for a few days, and here’s what I’ve figured out:
- I should have rented a house in Luang Prabang, not Vientiane
- Lao tuk-tuk and boat drivers are great fun, and you should get drunk with them
- When you get drunk with them on Lao whiskey, your head hurts really bad the next day… I mean, like, REALLY bad. Don’t let that stop you, though
- When there is sunlight coming from the direction you want, there are thick clouds where you need blue skies. And vice versa
- Tourism hasn’t spoiled the locals
- Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful small towns on Earth
Will I keep adding stupid lists to all my posts? Keep checking them, and we’ll both find out! For the moment, they serve my purposes. Don’t expect me to expound on each point.