Luang Prabang hopes for Lao visitors at Pi Mai

(Vientiane Times)Luang Prabang's tourism office yesterday encouraged Lao people to visit the World Heritage Site after more than 50 Thai tour operators cancelled visits to the province in the last few days.

Luang Prabang Tourism Department Deputy Director Khamtan Somphanvilay said yesterday that the cancellations were due to the recent political unrest in Bangkok.

“However, we still want to encourage local people to travel within Laos. Hotel and guesthouse bookings are down to 75 percent after the cancellations,” he said.

He said that encouraging Lao people to see more of Laos would also help preserve national culture and traditions as well as promoting local tourism sites.

“We are now also facing a water shortage, so some hotels, guesthouses and homes don't have enough water. This is because the water level in the Nam Khan River is very low, which we haven't seen before,” he said.

“However, visitors and local people shouldn't worry about having enough water for New Year celebrations, because we will ask trucks to bring in water from other areas, while local people who have pick-up trucks can carry water from the Mekong and other waterways in the town.”

He added that the government was trying to find the funds to improve the water supply in the province, which would be costly.

In any case, New Year celebrations, particularly the cultural and traditional activities, will go ahead as scheduled, he said.

The programme of activities starts on April 10 and ends on April 19.

April 10 will see the opening of a trade fair in the morning at the Thatluang esplanade. On the evening of April 11 there will be performances by Lao and international singers.

The Nang Sangkhane competition and traditional performances will be held from 7.30 to 11.30pm on April 12 and 13. On April 14, a lolath (traditional market or street fair) will run from 6am to 12 noon. In the afternoon of the same day, people will gather by the river to build sandcastles, hold a baci ceremony and take part in sports competitions at Xiengman village in Chomphet district.

On April 15, there will be a visit by a group from a Lue cultural village, who will perform a show symbolising the life of the village, as well as a baci ceremony. This will be attended by leaders and visitors throughout the morning. In the afternoon, there will be a vor parade which will highlight Buddhist and Lao traditions and will run from Vat Thatnoy to Vat Xiengthong.

On April 16, leaders and local and overseas visitors will attend an almsgiving ceremony at the Royal Palace Museum in the early morning. In the afternoon, the vor procession will parade back to Vat Thatnoy from Vat Xiengthong. In the evening, there will be a procession of nagas, lanterns and traditional performances.

On April 17, leaders, laypeople and the general public will gather to accompany the revered Prabang Buddha image as it is carried from the Royal Palace Museum to Vat Mai Souvannaphoum, where it will be on display for worship. Other traditional activities will also take place on this day.

On April 18, the public will be able to pour perfumed water over the Prabang Buddha and enjoy various traditional performances.

On the last day of the programme, local authorities, laypeople and visitors will line the street as the Prabang Buddha image leaves the temple and is returned to the museum in the morning.

By Panyasith Thammavongsa

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