Luang Prabang – Boun Lai Huea Fai 2017

  • BOUN LAI HEUA FAI in Luang Prabang
  • Night scene
  • A Laotian flag
  • The festival in full spring

This festival is celebrated on the night of the End of Lent. It is held all over Laos, especially where there is a river. The festival in Luang Prabang is where it is the most spectacular.

Lanterns being released

Every family makes a small round container, using banana leaves on a section of banana trunk. They put flowers, incense sticks, candles, betel nuts and other condiments for chewing and sometimes food and money. At the bank of the river, they light the candles, say prayers and send the boat of light floating away. The spectacle of thousands of boats of light with their twinkling candles on the Mekong River is most moving.

This rite has several aims. One is in homage to the river, especially the Mekong River, which literally means Mother of All Things. It is also to ask the river and all divinities inhabiting it for forgiveness for disrespect or misuse of its water. It is also a way to send away all negativity such as sickness, bad luck, shortcoming and failure. Lai Heua Fai is also aimed at sending offerings to the dead. But most of all, it is a homage to the Lord Buddha.

Night scene

Temples and villages build their boats of light, which are much bigger and more elaborately decorated. Two types of boats of light are built for that night: the normal Heua Fai, which is to be floated down the river, and Heua Fai Khowk, which will stay on the temple ground. Both are made of bamboo and colored paper and can be several meters long.

BOUN LAI HEUA FAI in Luang Prabang

In Luang Prabang, each temple and each village send a boat to join the procession on the main street leading to Wat Xieng Thong. Once at this beautiful 16th century temple, the boats are lined up and a jury awards prizes to the most beautiful boats. After that, one by one, the boats are brought down the staircases of Wat Xieng Thong, then they are delicately put on the water and floated down the Mekong River among thousands of small individual banana leaf skiffs in a breathtaking sea of lights.

Watch Festival video here: 

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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