BounPimai is one of the most important annual festivals (particularly in LuangPrabang) to celebrate Lao New Year which takes place in the middle of the hot summer season, in April (13-15).
The first month of the Lao New Year is actually December but festivities are delayed until April when days are longer than nights. The New Year celebration lasts three days. During the New Year, the Lao believe that the old spirit of Songkran leaves this plane, making way for anew one.
The first day, also known as MahaSongkran, is considered the last day of the old year. Lao will clean their houses and villages on this day, and prepare water, perfume, and flowers for the days ahead. The second day is called the “day of no day” when it is neither part of the old year nor of the New Year. The New Year really start at the third day which is known as Wan Thaloeng.
During BounPimai Festival, water pouring ceremonies play a big part. At each temple, monks will provide the water, as well as blessing for the devotes flocking to the temples and the white baisri strings, which they will tie around devotees’ wrists.
People also get soaked during Bun Pi Mai – people respectfully pour water on monks and elders, and less reverently on each other! Foreigners are not exempt from this treatment – if you’re in Laos during Bun Pi Mai, do expect to be soaked by passing teenagers, who’ll give you the wet treatment from buckets of water, hoses, or high-pressure water guns.
Other events in LuangPrabang include an annual Nangsoukhane beauty pageant, nightly parties with traditional Lao music and circle dancing, and parades throughout the city. In some of these parades, three outlandishly-dressed figures play leading roles. The two red-faced toothy heads are called Grandfather and Grandmother Nyeu, guardians of the environment and venerated by the people. The lion-headed figure is called Sing Kaew Sing Kham, and he may be an old-time King.