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4,000 lights in Vat phu festival this month

4,000 lights
Fri, Jan 22, 2010
Vientiane Times/Asia News Network
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This year's Vat Phou festival in Laos will be one to remember as 4,000 oil lamps light up the grounds of the ancient temple in Champassak province at the end of this month.

Heritage Site director Khankham Keanboudta said the lamps would line the steps leading from the temple's lake to the shrine at the top of mount Kao, as well as lighting up the magnificent ruins of the temple buildings.

This is the first year that the annual festival will feature the lamps, and visitors will also be able to float candles on the lake and watch the release of paper sky lamps that float up into the night sky.

"We began lighting these lamps at the temple in October last year; we have lit them three times so far. We are doing this once per month throughout the dry season, but this is the first time it has been done during Vat Phou festival," he said, adding that the lamps were an attractive way of drawing more tourists to the temple.

Khankham said the candles will be lit during the evening procession on January 30, the day of the full moon, in the highlight of Vat Phou festival which runs from January 25 to 30.

According Champassak Administration Office, a trade fair will open at the temple on January 25 and run throughout the festival, featuring more than 100 booths offering local crafts and ethnic products.

On the second day visitors can also enjoy a football tournament between provincial and district teams.

On the third day, January 28, a traditional procession will take place before the Champassak provincial governor strikes a gong to officially open the religious festival.

In the final three days the faithful pay homage to Buddha and games will be held including bamboo climbing, **** fighting, petanque, volleyball, sepak takaw, boat racing, duck diving and sack races.

In the evenings, visitors can also watch cultural performances from Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Thailand .

On January 30, the holiest day, visitors and senior officials will take part in tak baat (alms giving) in the early morning, before watching the finals of the sports competition ahead of the candle lit evening that will close the festival.

Vat Phou is the second World Heritage Site in Laos, after the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) added the temple complex to its list in 2001.

The first area to be declared a World Heritage Site in Laos was the ancient city of Luang Prabang, added in 1995.

Visitors can reach the temple from Pakxe district, the provincial capital, by bus or car along Route 13 south to the ferry crossing at Pathumphone district.

At this point take the ferry across the Mekong River to Champassak and carry on several kilometres to Vat Phou temple.

Alternately, drivers can use the Laos-Japan Bridge over the Mekong between Pakxe and Phonthong districts, then drive the 70 km to Vat Phou.



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