Monday, August 15, 2011

Boat Racing Season is here again!

It's another very hot day here in Luang Prabang and as one of the new batch of volunteers here, I can tell you it takes some getting used to but after a few days of adjustment, we all decided to head off to Nam Bak on Sunday for the local boat race. It's a 3 hour journey from Luang Prabang but the journey was worth every second. All the local villages participate, and the race heats are held in all the villages but for the final boat race, everyone heads to Luang Prabang on the weekend beginning 26th August. On arrival in Nam Bak, we were met with a sea of locals. The narrow street was packed with people, vehicles and stalls selling anything from scarves and bags to chicken feet and other Lao delicacies.

We crossed over the river and dug ourselves into a great spot by the riverbank to watch the races. It was quite clear to us at this point that we were not a common sight in Nam Bak, which led to much curiosity from the locals, especially the kids. Most of the kids would stare but I was lucky enough to have one little local girl wave and say "Sabidee". Too cute!

We decided to test our constitution to the max by tasting the local food on display, goat, chicken feet, fried banana and other unidentifiable snacks. Some were good, some not so good but that's what Lao is all about, trying new things and of course, it was all washed down with the delicious Lao Beer!

The boat race itself seems to be an extremely popular activity. Watching the locals jump up and down and shout as loud as they could for their favourite team was as entertaining as the race itself! We weren't entirely sure how the boat race was arranged or how it ended, as all the commentary was in Lao and unfortunately at this moment in time, we are only managing to say "Sabidee" and "Khop Jai" with any conviction. As we watched the races, the teams with their colourful red, yellow and orange team colours, a lovely local woman approached our table and began chatting (in Lao of course) but the guys responded by asking her what she was eating and she kindly allowed us to pass her snack around, so we could all have a taste. Mmmmm, it was beautiful sweet sticky rice wrapped in a giant green leaf. On her seeing our delighted faces as we munched on this tasty snack, she presented our table with more than enough sweet sticky rice to go around. Now that is Lao hospitality. There may well be a language barrier, but friendship gestures are very easy to interpret.

By Susan Dunn