According to Lao tradition, Khao Phansa takes place on the full moon of August and lasts for 3 months during the rainy season, dedicated to contemplation and meditation for devotees to pay respects to Buddha.
Awk Phansa Festival is a multi-festival day since a wide range of events and activities are held to pay respect to the Buddha and to thank the mother of rivers for providing water for human lives.
When Awk Phansa Festival comes, people line up at temples early in the morning and offer gifts to the monks. The most distinctive feature of the festival is that most towns throughout Laos are decorated with thousands of lights during the Awk Phansa Festival, which is also called the Festival of Lights since candlelight are brightened everywhere from the streets, outside the local houses to the sanctuaries. In larger towns, the streets and waterway banks look more stunning with sparkling little boats made from banana stems or banana leaves brightened with candles, incense, and blossoms down the rivers.
At Awk Phansa Day, the Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane is the most striking and spectacular event expected by everyone. It’s called the Lai Heua Fai which is held on the second day of the festival. On this day, the town becomes more alive and bustling with festivity and noise of banging drums, singing, even screaming. The streets are filled with stalls selling food, clothing, and other items; and sideshows where you can join small games with prizes. As the races start around 9 a.m., the heats start to kick off and thousands of spectators cram along the river banks to cheer their teams. The boat racing happens from morning to mid-afternoon, by which time everyone is quite merry.
In the evening of Awk Phansa Day, a celebration of the Naga Fireballs is supposed to appear as a phenomenon peculiar to the Mekong. The Naga is said to be a legendary water dragon living in the Mekong River. At the night of Awk Phansa Day, the Naga is believed to shoot up pink-red fireballs to signify this occasion.
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