Source: Vientiane Times
This year’s boat races will take place on a stretch of the Mekong River near the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel, in a change of plan announced on Thursday.
An official in charge of the event, Mr Chanthakhan Lattana, told Vientiane Times the authorities had revised their original plan to stage the races at the traditional site on the river near Vat Chan temple.
The races will be run over a course of 600-700 metres, starting upstream of the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel and finishing in front of the hotel, Mr Chanthakhan said.
The course was moved to the same site last year because the river was broader at this point, and this was given as the reason for the switch from the customary Vat Chan location this year.
Spectators could watch the races from a good vantage point in front of the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel on Don Chan Road free of charge, Mr Chanthakhan said.
Many of the activities associated with the Ork Phansa and Boat Racing festivals take place on Don Chan beach and some people have complained that they are charged 10,000 kip to access the beach as well as to float candlelit “boats” on the river at night.
Mr Chanthakhan explained that this fee was set by the concessionaire given the right to stage events on the beach.
Chanthabouly district authorities are now gearing up for the big occasion, with the festivals themselves taking place on October 13-14.
The festivals offer a raft of fun events in addition to the boat races and are a highlight of the year, both for locals and foreign tourists.
This week vendors are setting up stalls to sell their wares and advertise their services and products, which comprise a wide range of consumer goods and food items.
The festivals serve to perpetuate tradition and celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent, and this year are one of the attractions of Visit Laos-China Year.
The authorities have invited boat crews from Luang Prabang province and nearby provinces in Thailand to compete in the races, which adds to the excitement if an out-of-town boat walks away with the trophy.
Every year, the Lao Brewery Company is the major supporter of these traditional activities. This year the company is providing at least 600 million kip for six provinces, including Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak as well as Vientiane, in order to perpetuate the country’s traditions among the younger generation and visitors so that boat race festivals remain a highlight of Lao customs.
The Vientiane boat races are a highlight for the people of Laos and foreign visitors. For those who miss the fun, similar river-based festivals also take place in several provinces.