In the best tradition of innocents abroad, we stumble across unexpected, mysterious and colorful religious festivals at our destinations quite frequently: And as luck would have it, (or was it Buddha??), we arrived in Luang Prabang shortly before the October full moon, just as preparations for Lhai Heua Fai, (floating boats of light downstream festival) were taking off. The festival marks the end of Buddhist lent.
According to the legend of Boun Khao Phansa, Buddha’s followers did not stop their wanderings during the rainy season and people began to complain that they were trampling on the rice fields and worried they might damage seedlings or small creatures in the fields. When the Buddha heard these worries, he forbade the monks to leave their temples during the rains- voilà, the three months of Buddhist Lent.
that ends at a steep flight of stairs leading down to the Mekong. I was reminded of Fitzcaraldo while I watched the men wrangling one lighted boat after the other down the steep, packed stairs to the dark Mekong, where the only light came from countless krathongs, sliding silently down the river.
Oh, and Lhai Heua Fai had a little lesson in store for us too. A day before the grand procession, when all was finally ready, tweaked, preened and shiny, and “our” temples were bathed in soft candlelight, and the ethereal paper stars glowed