Friday, November 23, 2012

Boat Racing

From the day I arrived in Luang Prabang the whole town was buzzing about the upcoming boat racing festival. The giant cash prize and prestige gained from winning was the goal. At all hours of the day through the week you could hear the grunts of the men practicing up and down the Nam Khan. After my own experience kayaking, I know it is no mean feat to negotiate a boat that size through the currents of the river at the speed they manage to attain.
The day before the race there is a massive market that takes over the town where you can find anything from beautiful silk hand stitched scarves to plastic AK-47s that the children loved to play with. After a meandering stroll through the labyrinth markets we had quite a lot of fun bouncing on a giant bouncy castle with the kids before we headed to a great noodle soup shop for lunch.
Saturday (the day of the race) was an early start as I headed off early to explore the markets further and sample the delicious street food before trying to find the other volunteers to hunt down the perfect spot to watch the races. We climbed down through the crowds to the riverfront where we had to do some gymnastics over a rock through the mud to get to the “perfect” place to watch from. Typical Lao people style, a kind gentleman brought over planks of wood that we could sit on so we weren’t in the mud. Even though it was still early in the morning, we cracked open our beer Laos and settled in with the locals to watch these giant dragon boats battle it out, interspersed with highly entertaining party boats between rounds. We spent the morning and early afternoon taking turns getting more beer Lao and various types of street food that we couldn’t resist (with every trip another gymnastics round across not only the rock but now the local families that had filled in throughout the day) and after lunch we met up with the rest of the group and headed to the finish line to watch the finals. The local people in Luang Prabang are some of the friendliest I’ve met throughout my travels and it wasn’t long before we were trying laolao with them and cheering on the final teams.
After it was all done the party really began. There is only one volume for music in Luang Prabang and that is as high as the dial will go. Everyone was blaring music and were happy partying the night away. Those Aussies amongst us even managed to watch the AFL before continuing the party into the late night. Safe to say the city was a ghost town on Sunday morning, but that weekend was the perfect way to start off our adventure with GVI in Luang Prabang.

Written by volunteer Monica from Australia