Sabai Dee Pii Mai Lao!

Happy New Year from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

We have crossed through Cambodia’s northern forests (which are sadly being torched and cleared) into Lao, where the Mekong spreads wide around little spits of land. They call this place the “4,000 Islands.”

We arrive at Khong Island on Lao New Year’s Eve. All across this country, Cambodia and Thailand, locals celebrate the new lunar year. Kids stand by the roadside with buckets and squirt guns and hoses, dousing anyone who passes by. It is welcome during the scorching season, when the thermometer says 97 degrees inside, beneath a fan.

Here in Lao, everything shuts down for nearly a week. We meet a sunburned tourist on the street; he’s trying to cash a traveler’s check. He tries the island bank, to no avail. “Everyone there is drunk.”

And when they’re not drinking Beerlao or lao lao whiskey, they’re strumming guitars, singing in the river and eating the local favorites: spicy green papaya salad, grilled fish, minced-meat laap and sticky rice. What better way to celebrate the arrival of a fresh year?

Click here to read about our previous Lao new year adventures.

Sabai dee pii mai Lao!

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