August is one of the most boisterous months throughout the year in Laos due to Boun Souang Heua, the vibrant boat racing festival. Another festival falling in August, however, is a somber one called Haw Khao Padap Din. Both of these festivals are important social and sports events witnessed by huge crowds.
Haw Khao Padap Din Festival
- Time: Early August
- Location: Throughout Laos
- Meaning: The festival is held for Laotians to remember and pay respect to the dead.
During this festival, Lao families exhume previously buried bodies, cleaning the remains, and then cremating them on the night of the full moon, then present gifts to attending monks who will chant on behalf of the deceased. Devotees also make offerings at local temples.
Boun Souang Heua (Boat Racing Festival)
- Time: From late August to early October (based on the lunar calendar)
- Duration: 6 weeks
- Location: Luang Prabang
- Meaning: The festival is organized to honor the water divinities such as the Nagas, the spiritual dragons that help protect Laos.
On this local festival, the boats filled with 50 paddlers compete on a few hundred meters on Nam Khan River. There boats are traditional hand-carved ones using a single tree. The boats belong to a village and are usually kept in a shelter on the temple grounds and come out only once a year for the race. These decorative boats are considered sacred, and are both cleaned and presented with offerings a few days before the race. During the race, the morning is devoted to women’s crews and the afternoon to men’s crews. The starting point is two kilometers upstream and the competition is between two boats at a time. The loser is eliminated. After the final race, all the boats participate in a final competition, which is rather spectacular. The winners receive a trophy, a silver cup and cash.