Festivals hold a very important role in Laotian culture and are reflective of its religion as well as the many colonial and cultural influences for instance from the Siam, Vietnamese and Khmer cultures.

For instance, the Boat Racing Festival in Luang Prabang is reminiscent of the Thai Boat Racing festivals, as men compete in thin boats handcrafted from wood. This festival occurs August 17th through 18th and includes a trade fair in the city.

In January there is the festival Bun Pha Wet which is held in December or January. The locals vist the temple in recite jataka , which is the birth-tale of Prince Vessantara . At this time, many new boys are ordained to be monks.

The Laotian new year, called Boun Pi Mai, lasts three days long; its purpose is to encourage the rains. This calls for much celebration and ceremony. For instance, one of the ceremonies in Luang Prabang is Pimai, where monks cover the Statues of the Buddha with water. In the temples, small sand shrines, (called stupas) are erected and decorated with colourful ribbons, as a bid for health and happiness for the new year. The small town is fileld with activity during this time, people performing Laotian folk singing called Mor Lam, feasting and performing traditional Laotian dancing called Ram Wong.

Another important festival, Khao Phansaa marks the arrival of the rainy season. During this 3 month period, all the monks in Lunag Prabang must stay in their assigned monastery, since it is believed that during this period it is a time of intense growth and the monks do not want to kill the ground as life is growing on it. Thus, they must travel less (in fact, only in recent years have monks been able to leave the temple at all. Now it is ok for the monks to leave for a short time during the day). During this time, women traditionally come to the Wats at sunset to pray and offer candles to the monks since the monks can not leave to get them. Some monks also fast during this period.

Go and watch the 5.00am Alms giving to the monks is a great daily sight but try not to intrude, photograph from a distance and do not break  the line which is considered rude. It is a very peaceful and dignified ceremony.

Every December, the LUANG PRABANG FILM FESTIVAL presents a showcase of Southeast Asian cinema.  The nonprofit project is endorsed by UNESCO, and seeks to celebrate filmmaking in the region, while supporting a burgeoning local film industry.  Find more info at www.lpfilmfest.org or www.facebook.com/lpfilmfest