This was the day when the 40th National Lao Day was observed in Pak Lai.
After waking up late (8am) and getting ready for the day, I went downstairs, had some coffee and logged some Internet time. Paying for one more night, I told my hosts that I would be going home to
the next day.
On the way walking to the market for breakfast, I passed a petanque (Lao pronunciation: pet tong) court I had never noticed before. There were already players hard at it, waving me in. I waved back, saying “Gin Khao,” which literally means “eat rice” but is more commonly understood to mean eating a meal – usually with rice.
At the market, I bought some more dried pork and khao nio (sticky rice), took the food back to the petanque court and shared with the owner and patrons. They, in turn, shared a glass of Beer Lao with me.
(Either an expansion of Khem Khong Restaurant or new home being built)
It was still cold and grey, so I opted for my guesthouse room for the afternoon, saving energy for the night time.
When it came, Duangtar took me over to the big, open, fenced-in field that serves the community for large gatherings. There was a small building at what could be considered the “head” of the field and here, on its porch, various groups took turns performing.
Most of the groups were school children of various ages, dressed in traditional Lao attire – silk sins for the girls and pressed slacks and dress shirts for the boys. Most of the performances were merely lamvong dances to recorded, older-era music.Of about ten groups, only about three featured what you could call revolutionary themes.
The audience was scattered all over the field, in the dark – somewhere around 200 people of all ages. All of us stood, except for about twenty chaired VIP’s and some smart ones who brought their motorcycles onto the grounds and sat on those. I would have thought that some people would have brought mats, but I didn’t see any; probably because of the darkness and inability to see anything that might be crawling about.
I got tired standing so long, so Duangtar talked me into leaving before his students hit the stage (they were the last group of the evening). I was disappointed, but relieved. I had expected more of the overall observance and hours of standing had seemed not quite worth it.
Before leaving, sky lanterns were lit and forty filled the night sky over Pak Lai. Duangtar said it was the first time they’d ever done that.