The Festival of Lights, Fire Boat Festival or Bun Lai Heua Fai in Luang Prabang celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent. Individuals make little “boats” out of slices of banana stalk and decorate them with flowers, a candle and incense and send them floating down the river. Talia made one at school so before the crowds showed up we sent hers off down the river. Then we went off to see what else was going on.
All the temples in town, expecially the ones in the historic parts of town, where we live, were decorated with hundreds of candles and hanging lanterns. The site was quite cosy and magical.
The monks were busy lighting hundreds of candles in their temples.
The candlelight on the stupas and temples was beautiful and attracted many photographers professional and amateur alike.
Along the way we met Talia’s friends from school who were waiting to watch the parade of fire boats that would be coming down the street.
When the temple percussionists started the playing the parade was underway. They play cymbals, a gong or two, and of course the big drum.
Schools and other groups sponsored fire boats and joined in the parade. The fire boats are boats made with paper over a frame and covered with candles. As you can imagine, candles and paper don’t mix well so each boat had a few “fire fighters” who tried to make sure that their boat made the trip to the river without burning up.
Some groups even dressed up in traditional costumes to escort their boat to the river.
We ended up watching most of the parade in front of some friends’ house, which was in a convenient spot right before the parade turned into the temple.
All of the boats congregated at Wat Xieng Thong, the oldest and most famous temple in Luang Prabang.
The end of Buddhist lent falls on a full moon, which tonight was sitting right above the temple.
After leaving the temple the boats are carried down some steep stairs to the Mekong River. We walked along the river a ways to sit and watch the boats float by. It’s too bad the festival only lasts one evening of the year, because it was so magical.