14.11.05

Laos 05 p4

New Year with the Hmong

I was due to fly back to Vientiane that afternoon, so I spent the morning walking around on the other side of the Mekong and then, with only an hour and a half left to go, walked idly up Sisavangvong, wondering where to have an extended lunch. A man walked up to me:
"Would you like to go see Hmong New Year? Not far."
"THE HMONG NEW YEAR IS TODAY??"
I had a few minutes of extreme angst, chewing my fist and feeling my luck had let me down badly. But then I figured it cost nothing to ask:
"If we go, can we be back by 12? I have a plane to catch."
"Oh yes, lots of time!"
"Let's go!!"

We took his motorbike, it was faster, and within ten minutes I was walking down a path with scores of Hmong in full festive dress, feeling completely amazed and exhilarated. The Têt, or New Year, is their one big holiday and it was clear they had spent many months creating their costumes for this special day. All you could hear above the joyful chatter was the jingling and clinging of vast amounts of beads and coins as they dangled from hats and jackets. There were food and music stalls, but the central event was a game I later learned is called Pov Pob (traditional ball tossing): the unmarried Hmong form two lines and throw a fabric ball (or a mandarine!) back and forth. Originally this would be accompanied by courtship songs, as this is a courting game. Dizzy and dazzled, I shot photos like crazy and went to my plane feeling higher than we could possibly fly.

Pov Pob, the ball-tossing game that is at the heart of Têt celebrations













I left Luang Prabang my mind full of faces...


Next (back to Viêt Nam)