Boat Racing Festival in Lao in 2021

Boat Racing Festival in Lao in 2021

  Dates of Boat Racing Festival in Lao
2022 Lao Mon, Oct 10 National Holiday
2021 Lao Thu, Oct 21 National Holiday
2020 Lao Mon, Oct 5 National Holiday (in lieu)
2019 Lao Mon, Oct 14 National Holiday
2018 Lao Thu, Oct 25 National Holiday
Held at different times in October or early November in every riverside town to mark the end of Buddhist Lent.
Related holidays

When is Boat Racing Festival?

Boat Racing Festival is a public holiday in Lao which takes place on the 15th day of the 11th lunar month, which means it usually falls in October.

This holiday allows people to attend the boat festival in the capital, Vientiane, which takes place on the day after the end of Buddhist Lent.

History of Boat Racing Festival

Boat Racing Festivals take place in many towns and villages across Lao at this time of year. The specific days of the races may vary from location to location. The public holiday may also change depending on what day of the week, Boun Ok Phansa, the last day of Buddhist Lent, falls on.

The Boun Suang Heua boat racing festival held in Vientiane is the largest and most supported of the boat racing festivals. The entrants come from all parts of Lao to compete in the races which take place along the Mekong river on Fa Ngum Road.

The races are usually 2km long, though the start and finish lines of the races change slightly from year to year as they depend upon the levels of the river.

The traditional racing boats are carved from a single tree and can hold up to fifty rowers. In the days before the races, the boats are cleaned and given offerings as they are considered sacred items.

The start and finish lines of the races change slightly from year to year as they depend upon the levels of the river.

There are usually three categories of boats: sport for men; traditional for men; and traditional for women. The teams of rowers are usually sponsored either by companies or by ministries or organisations in Vientiane.

Usually, the races start with the women, followed by the men's races. The winners in each category receive prize money and a trophy, presented by high ranking officials.

Fa Ngum road and other streets leading to the river are lined with stalls days before the actual festival starts. These sell all kind of clothes, food and drinks. During the races, the streets are thronged with noisy and cheerful spectators urging on their favourite teams.

The races and the prize presentation are broadcast live on Lao's national TV channel.

Boun Ok Phansa

Though the Boat Racing Festival draws the eyes and the crowds, celebrations for Boun Ok Phansa, the last day of the Buddhist lent are not forgotten. In the morning, donation and offerings are made at temples around the country. In the evening, candlelight processions are held around the temples while hundreds of colourful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down the river of Lao. This colourful ritual has been carried on by Lao people for thousands of year to pay respect to the Buddha and to thank the mother of the river for providing the water that supports life. The floats also let the bad luck of the last year drift away, enabling the good luck to flow in.

If you haven't gotten enough of boat racing on the Mekong, you can always head downstream slowly to watch Bonn Om Touk, the Cambodian Water Festival which takes place on the following full moon.

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