We were fortunate to be in Luang Prabang in the beginning of December when a Hmong festival happened in a nearby town. As we arrived at the festival we noticed many local people arriving in Songtheaw and dressed in vivid colors. We followed beautifully dressed young people down a dirt road until we reached an open area full of makeshift tents.
There was a section of the fair with many little shops and things to buy like shoes or a new knife.
There was a larger section full of festival foods, barbecue, and pavilions for for sitting. Another section, like a fair, where throwing darts at balloons or riding a baby roller coaster are the things to do. There was an entire area with many large colorful printed and painted backdrops for having a photograph taken.
We noticed right away that no one had any objection to having their picture taken. When asked the girls would politely smile and then pose for the picture. They all LIKED to have their picture taken today. Many times I saw a young girl dressed in a beautiful outfit being proudly escorted by her parents to the fair. Courtship was definitely in the air.
As we wandered farther into the fair we saw beautifully dressed young people standing in rows and tossing balls back and forth to each other. I learned later this is a courtship ritual. Tossing the ball back and forth is a way of proving that you can work together. Also, the ball is tossed at a relaxed rhythm and leaves plenty of time for making conversation with a potential husband or wife. In fact, there were hundreds of people standing in lines and tossing small balls back and forth.
Later, Michel found an old wall which he particularly enjoyed photographing the locals in front of. I spent an hour or so being completely entertained watching him gather people for pictures. He would head down into the crowd and select the young people he wanted to photograph. Then, using a combination of sign language and showing them photographs he had already taken, convince them to walk back up the hill to the wall for a picture. Usually showing them the previous photograph taken was all that was needed, even if the wall was not conveniently located, they wanted to have their picture taken too.
What makes these pictures and this festival so exciting is the authenticity of the clothing. The Hmong have been making these costumes using these colors and styles for generations. The colors are more vibrant now that they are no longer using natural dyes. The fabrics are not all made from local materials. But the tradition of the patterns and the styles represent the Hmong tribe that these people come from. The customs and the costume styles have been passed down for generations.
Categories: Laos travel