I “celebrated” Chinese New Year in Georgetown in Penang. I stayed on the first day of the celebrations only and found it rather boring. Nothing was going on, except people visiting temples, praying and burning incense. Granted the first day of Chinese New Year is supposedly a family affair celebrated at home, but disappointing nonetheless. I probably should have stayed longer, but at that point I could not take Georgetown any more. Lao New Year is entirely different. It is all about having fun and getting yourself and other people soaking wet. Everything is a fair game: water guns, hoses, buckets, stealth drinking bottles, water bombs, dyed water and so on. If you happen to be on the streets, you will get wet. Excuses like carrying expensive gadgets or important documents do not apply. Riding a motorbike or a tuk-tuk does not spare of this fate, you will get wet. I first experienced this tradition a week before the main celebration in Luang Prabang, when we got completely wet sharing a tuk-tuk on the way to waterfalls. At the time I was going through a “Laotians are evil” phase and getting did not help my opinion about Laotians. The driver seemed to deliberately slow down over splashing points to get kids a better aim to us. Only later I realized that it was all about premature New Year celebrations and on your way back we retaliated the kids with own dose of water. Lao New Year is probably the only occasion, when you can get away with splashing water to a person’s face and telling them shut up with no repercussions, as demonstrated by a drunk Scotsman, who systematically kept getting us wet as we had a conversation. No hard feelings, it is all good craic.
I am glad that I made to Vien Tiane during Pee Mai Lao, as the city truly showed its best during these three days. Other than that it is rather a sleepy place with pretty much nothing to do or see. Some fine restaurants, Mekong with its sunset, the strange, but fascinating Buddha Park (well worth a visit) and some temples. I got attacked by bedbugs again. Third time during this trip already. On a positive side, all the Pee Mai Lao water warfare made me almost forget about itching bites and bulging blisters. Sabadee Pee Mai!