Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year's Eve ... Lao style

"It's really boring" was the refrain I heard over and over again whenever I asked fellow travellers what they thought of Vientiane, the capital of Laos.  So I wasn't exactly expecting Sydney Harbour style fireworks there on New Year's Eve.  Truth be told, I wasn't expecting any fireworks, let alone a party considering the Laos new year is traditionally celebrated in April and the government imposes a nightly  curfew across the country. 

However, the friendly Laos people put on quite a show in the town centre, sponsored by Tiger Beer (so much for communism triumphing over capitalism).  The beer was warm but at least it was flowing, people were dancing to Laos bands belting out local hits and doing their best renditions of some english classics, there was a bubble machine and an abundance of silly string.  The locals were so excited about bringing in the western new year they counted it in about ten minutes early ... if only the country's public transport was that eager about punctuality!

Unfortunately the pubs and bars quickly began shutting up after midnight and after all the warm beer there wasn't a kebab shop or even a friendly baguette lady in sight.  Only one solution to that problem ... more warm beer.  We stumbled across a local party consisting of four 20-something locals, two speakers blasting Laos, thai and english beats and two microphones.  At their invitation we danced, we sang and we partook in a Laos drinking session whereby you poor yourself a drink, neck it and proceed to pour everyone else a drink to neck from the same glass.  A very classy drinking game, which apparently only stops when the beer runs out (and then someone promptly jumps on a motorbike in their inebriated state to go and fetch more).  The party continued well into the wee hours and could be heard from our guesthouse even after we left. 

Despite my throbbing head, the next day I did attempt to explore the city and came to understand how it might have earnt the "boring" tag.  It had no tubing scene like the famous (or infamous) Vang Vieng, few landmarks of interest (unless you count a small replica of the Arc de Triomphe) and the city's setting could never rival that of Luang Prabang but as the night before proved, there's fun experiences to be had when you scrath the surface a little.

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