When travelling to South-East Asia countries, the topic of when we should go never looses its heat. Depending on countries, seasons and traveler’s preferences, that ideal time varies. With Laos PDR, a peaceful piece of Indochina, when would it be the best time for you?
Weather in Laos in general
The country is located in tropical area, of which climate is also influenced by monsoon season, resulting in the division of two separated seasons: rainy season and dry season.
Rainy season starts from May to October, then dry season takes it place from November to April the year after. Averagely, the temperature in Laos falls between 24 to 33 degree Celsius. The best time to travel is from November to February. If you can bare the heat, please proceed your luggage to go to Laos in March and April. From May to September the weather is changing from extreme heat to humidity and wetness. If you’re challenging then it could be your new travel experience and who knows what will be your rewards. Last but not least, October is the month with wet weather also, but the country this time has a refreshing green look and it’s not a “tourist month”, so we shall give it a try.
Laos is at its most gorgeous look from November to April, especially from November to February. The temperature is around 15 to 30 degree Celsius. This time is a peak season of travel. You can see the country blooming with flora and fauna along river banks, refreshing wind and chilling sunlight. Basically there is no serious concern or advice for you to go in this season, but always be cautious of sudden situations. November and December are the best times for those who enjoy water activities because water reach its highest level. January and February are the most favorable times ever in Laos since the weather is cooling and chilling the most, but remember to bring a light jacket with you. March and April are hottest months of a year, many river activities are not at their best performance, but Laos is still calling you because of famous Songkran.
Following is popular festivals in Laos during dry season
January: New Year Festival
Lao people also celebrate New Year on the beginning day of January.
February: Boun Pha Vet
Falling on different dates of February, Boun Pha Vet is ceremony to honor Prince Vetsantala or Lord Buddha and his great life. Each village will have their own festival day in order for people from other villages to participate and celebrate together. This time is also the favored time for Lao men to become ordained as a monk.
March: Boun Khoun Khao
To Lao people, rice has an irreplaceable part in their life, also in their culture. Boun Khoun Khao was aimed to hold for that meaning. “Without clothes, a roof is good enough; without rice, there is no sleep,” is a common local aphorism. Throughout March, there will be many celebrations in various villages honoring agriculture and showing gratitude for the spirit and abundance of the land and rice harvest. Featured activities include religious rituals, paddy and milled rice parades, a Miss Great Rice Pile contest, singing contests, sport events, trade fairs and elephant riding.
April: Boun Pi Mai – Songkran Lao
This is the most attractive festival in Laos. Pi Mai means new year and this festival takes place in 3 days of April to welcome Lao’s Lunar New Year. Traditionally, Lao people will be travelling home to visit family, cleaning their houses and the local temples and sprinkling water on family members and statues of Buddha. The act of splashing water symbolizes renewal. By washing away the sins and bad luck of the previous year, it makes an entrance for good fortune in the upcoming year. Over the years, the water splashing ritual evolved into the epic water fights. While in Laos this month, be ready to get soaked!
November: Boun That Luang
If Boun Pi Mai is the most exciting festival, then Bon That Luang is Lao cultural richest festival in a year, also the most important Buddhist festival. It takes place in November and sometimes October as a dedication to The Golden Stupa or Pha That Luang which is the national symbol and most important religious monument.
In the festival, the most important activity is Phasat Pheung procession. Phasat Pheung is a temple architectural model made of styrofoam, nicely decorated with flowers, floral strings and gorgeous bee wax, sometimes notes. On the top of the model, they put 9 white lotus flowers. People dress up in formal clothes or traditional clothes, there will be parade of men and women dance and sing while approaching a stupa. The act of processing Phasat Pheung (wax castle) to That Luang (stupa) has meaning of bringing merit.
Rainy season in Laos starts in May, gradually ends in October. After rains, the country puts on a fantastic look of landscape. However, what normally takes 5 hours during dry season can take 8+ in this season. Please be patient if there is any delay from transportation and be ready for your own back-up plan. There is a high possibility of road blockage for days. In case you insist on continuing your trip by roads, minivan is more flexible than public transport. You can search for waterway or airway alternatives. A good pairs of sandal or hiking boots can save you a lot when it suddenly rains cat and dogs en route.
Following is popular festivals in Laos during rainy season
May: Boun Bangfai – Rocket festival
Boun Bangfai is a festival taking place in May, aimed at calling for rain and a celebration of fertility. With same concept with almost festivals in Laos, Bun Bangfai is also hosted in different days in different villages over Laos.
In the festival, people gather in the outskirt of the village and enjoy the display of firework rockets. There will be a competition about which rocket would travel the furthest and be well-decorated. Village men dress up as women, performing vaudeville acts using wooden phallic objects to anger the gods. They do it with a purpose and a desire that the Gods will give the thunderstorm in return as a revenge, then thunderstorm is a beginning of a good rain which helps for a good harvesting season without drought, floods or pests.
July – October: Boun Khao Phansa
Boun Khaophansa marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent, starts from July and ends at September. During these 3-month devout, people avoid eating “heavily”, read Buddhist holy books and pray for assistance and guidance. It encourages them to follow the five major Buddhist precepts: don’t kill animals, don’t steal or engage in corrupt acts, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie and avoid drinking alcohol. They also prepare alms giving for monks. Please take note that during this time, temples are always busy of people who come to pray and donate.
October: Boun Okphansa and boat-racing festival
After 3 months of Khaophansa, people believe the sorrow, sadness and stress have gone away to leave places for happiness and joyfulness. it’s time for Okphansa festival and boat-racing festival.
There are 3 main activities during Okphansa. On the very first day at dawn, people give offerings and donations. In the evening, people make candlelight processions at temples and hundreds of colorful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down the Mekong River to express appreciation and respect, also wishing for luck, peace and happiness. The final one is boat-racing competition. Before that in the previous night, people go to temples to do a ritual custom called Taak Baat. They confess their mistakes and asking for forgiveness from the Buddha. The boat-racing festival is the mark of recreation time, marriage and house-building time of Lao people.
Lao people follow Lunar calendar so actual festival days vary each year. Please do search before you want to go and celebrate. If you don’t wanna miss, please contact us for your customized tour to Laos.
*Image credits: Internet Resources