Hello dear readers!
here it is, the second article about my adventures in Laos. I know that some girls have been expecting it for a long time, and as I haven’t posted since a few days, some readers also asked me if i was doing fine: yes! Thanks a lot for worrying.
This part of the trip is very special for me, as I am visiting my family in Laos for the first time in my life.
After a few days in Luang Prabang, I take the plane to Vientiane as agreed with my cousin Tiè, where he is supposed to pick me up.
On arrival, I exchange a few phone calls with him and his mum to finally understand that actually he didn’t come to pick me up but his brother Hlo, 2 of my aunts and a niece and nephew instead and that they were waiting for me at the bus station and not at the airport.
After some other phone calls where I try to explain with my broken lao where I am, my family finally finds me and we’re driving back to Thakhek.
The arrival in Thakhek is quite moving. Everybody is happy to see me and I spend the first couple of days getting to know my family and discovering their way of life.
I also see the house where my parents used to live, where they went to school, and where they worked back in the days.
Spending time in my family allows me to really see the way lao people live and the experience goes far more deeper than if I had been a standard tourist.
Every morning, I try to learn a bit of the lao alphabet with the kids. Actually it goes quite fast, as I already have the lao language music in my ears.
The life rythm is really different from what I was used to in Europe. People tend to follow the sun time, meaning waking up early in the morning and going to bed in the evening, which is almost the opposite of what I was doing before :).
Time perception is also more french than german, meaning flexible time with no fixed hard deadlines and the culture is more goal oriented and not process centric.
One day, my cousin Hlo drives me on a tour around Thakhek. The touristic highlights are the old town with the Sikhottabong Stupa, the tham nang ene cave and the Ho Chi Minh museum.
Along the way, my cousin explains me the different communities present in the region, especially the viet community and the overall chinese community growing due to recent chinese investments in Laos.
The ride in the countryside is very pleasant and I can see water buffalos and farmers working in their rice fields. The view on the mekong river is also wonderful.
Day after day, my cousin Tiè’s wedding with his wife Lè is approaching and everybody is busy with the preparation.
Let me share with you my notes about the whole event:
The wedding is divided in 2 parts, the second part (wedding party) taking place a few days after the first one (more ceremonial).
The day before the first part, 2 beefs and 1 pig are killed and cut into pieces by friends of the family. Most of the meat will be used to prepare the lunch for the guests during the first part of the wedding. The rest is offered to the bride’s family.
Some tents are also mounted in front of the house to receive guest, as well as tables and chairs.
The first part, the traditional ceremonial part starts quite early (around 07:30-08:00) at the husband’s house.
The husband’s family gathers to make a baci (also called su kwan) ceremony for the husband.
The Baci ceremony is a traditional ceremony in South East Asia and is based on the belief that a human is composed of 32 souls that may wander out of the body due to special events (like illness, stress, etc…).
The goal of the ceremony is to summon back all the souls in the body, which is supposed to bring back luck or good health. This is done by tying small symbolic cotton thread around the wrist.
As I am too lazy to explain all the details, I invite you to read the very interesting Baci page on Wikipedia 🙂 :
After the Baci ceremony, the husband clan heads to the bride’s family house in order for the husband to claim his wife. The procession is composed of the husband’s family but also the husband’s friends and colleagues. It is accompanied by music, whisky and gifts for the bride’s family.
In this wedding, the procession was expected to arrive exactly at 09:09am.
At the bride’s family house, we are welcome by the bride’s clan, the bride’s sisters and friends being dressed in a nice viet fashion.
After a few welcome drinks, eveybody enters the house for a new Baci ceremony in honor of the married couple but this time in a bigger version with a ceremony master who recites Buddhist mantras and leads the opening/closure of the ceremony.
This takes quite a while as all guests present their best wishes and tie a cotton thread to the couple’s wrists.
The next step (after a first dress change for Lè) is the gift exchange. Both families face each other around a table, the married couple standing at one end of it. Gifts and rings are then exchanged.
The last step before lunch is another gift offering but this time from people of the higher ranks of the family (parents, grand parents, uncles, aunts) to the married couple.
This ceremony aims at blessing the new common life in the new house.
Once this part is done, guests are invited for a big lunch at the house of the wife’s family and after that, the husband is allowed to bring his wife home.
Back at the new home, the day’s not over. First, a small ritual takes place in the bedroom, where the master of ceremony gives his blessings to the newlyweds.
After that, the guests are invited for another lunch, and a small party gets started with music,dancing and singing. Indeed, lao people like to sing and a lot of guests enjoyed taking the mic for 1 or 2 songs.
(And no I didn’t sing myself, so there won’t be any picture or video of my performance 🙂 )
The second part is a diner and dancing wedding party.
Compared to the weddings I attended in Europe, this one was very huge, as more than 1000 people were invited. The dining area had more than 220 tables. We spent the whole afternoon before the party helping to install and dress the tables.
Guests are welcome by the parents of family and a shot of whisky. They then queue and fight a bit 🙂 to take pictures with the newlyweds.
After about 1 hour after the invitation time, the family and the newlyweds are making a procession to the front table near the main stage, where a band will play music later.
The evening starts with some thank you speeches and a short slideshow of pictures of the newlyweds, followed by a traditional diner.
Once the diner is over and after a short dress change for the bride, the dancing part starts with traditional lao music.
There is also the throwing of the wedding bouquet of flowers. Here in Laos, no discrimination 🙂 not only girls but also boys are invited. It will be won by a girl after a nice cat fight.
From times to times, some people get on stage to sing a song or 2.
My friends who saw my dancing skills on salsa or valse won’t be surprised to hear that my lam lao moves are not better, even after a lot of lao beer 🙂
The party then ends with thai pop music.
All the best and long life to Tiè and Lè!
In the next post, I’ll report about the end of my stay in my family and the few days exploring south Laos before crossing the border to Cambodia.