Laos New Year – A Three Day Water Fight

New Year’s in south-east Asia doesn’t exactly line up with the western world date wise – and neither do the festivities.

In 2012 (or 2556 over here), April 13th is the last day of the year, April 14th is the day of no day – or the day that sits between two years, and April 15th is the first day of the New Year. And in places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang, each day is celebrated with rituals and ceremonies, food and parties, and a 3 day water fight.

Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year) saw the streets of Luang Prabang turn into an all in water fight. Nobody is safe – I hate to think of the amount of accidents caused by a bucket of water to the face of someone on a motorbike. Soldiers in uniform, school teachers, small children, people on their way to work – everyone gets wet.

pi mai laos luang prabang

Yeah you better run, kid.

Foreigners are target number one for Laos kids, and as soon as we left our guesthouse – even just to grab some lunch – we were bombarded with water guns, buckets of coloured water, paint and flour.

Its seems everyone in the district with a ute, flat bed truck, jeep or old banger, had been called in to drive their friends around town, pumping music and joining in the water fight. By 1pm each day, a huge procession of cars formed a ring around Luang Prabang, and mayhem descended.

Walking down a street or laneway will reveal a new scene – people dancing in the street, old men filling huge buckets with water, kids prowling on their bikes, teenage boys with ridiculous stereos and crowds of people waiting for new targets to arrive.


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We joined in the mayhem and loved it.  Water pistols were for sale everywhere, and locals were more than happy to refill your tank once it has run out, before dumping a bucket of water on your head.  Our main targets were tiny children (who couldn’t contain themselves through the excitement of engaging a bearded foreigner in a water battle), and old, pudgy chinese business men who looked hilarious with their soaking white singlets clinging to their bodies and joy all over their faces.

Tall and blond, Asha was target number one for every man and boy in town – I’m surprised she didn’t drown.  We even hang out in the river – where we were attacked by a entire family.

By the third day, we have had enough. It wasn’t  possible to leave our guesthouse at all without getting hammered with paint and water.

Happy New Year.

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Ryan April 28, 2012 Laos