What’s your opinion of the That Luang festival this year?

That Luang is the national symbol and most important religious monument in Laos and thousands of people flock to the stupa every November to pay homage to this magnificent structure. Vientiane Times went along to the festival this week and asked visitors and vendors for their impressions of this year’s event.

 

Ms Noy Saengvised, a visitor from Hadxaifong district: I come to this festival every year. I take part in the wax castle procession and in the early morning of the last day I offer alms to the monks. In my opinion, the festival this year was well organised as the types of goods on sale were separated, which made it easy to find what we wanted to see and buy. And there was also more parking space. There were fewer stalls than last year but that could be because some were moved to Lao-ITECC so as to free up space for parking. But I think it was a good idea because it opened up the That Luang esplanade a bit.  

Ms Chanthala Xayyatham, representative of an ODOP group from Xaysettha district, Vientiane: We always sell our products at the festival each year. But this year I felt there were fewer visitors than usual. That could be due to the economic situation, and the effects of the recent floods are still on everyone’s minds so I think the festival was not as joyful as in past years. I’d like to thank the authorities for making some of the stalls stronger and more safe than last year. But unfortunately one of these was not available for our use and the one we were allocated was very small and didn’t provide shelter against the wind and rain. On Sunday night some of our products got wet and damaged when it rained.  I think it would be good if the authorities put up signs in front of stalls in ways that grouped them together, so as to identify the industry and commerce sectors and tourism. It would help to make things better organised.

Mr Chang Vang, a visitor from Borikhamxay province: This is my first visit to the festival.  I thought it was very well organised, despite being one of the biggest festivals in the country. I liked the traditional activities that were staged, which were of interest to both local and foreign visitors. It was good to see our traditions highlighted because the festival is a traditional Lao event. It was also good to see more Lao products than overseas goods on sale. But I think the authorities should pay more attention to the prices of products, as well as food and parking fees, because they are expensive. It costs 25,000 kip to park a car and in some places it is 30,000 kip or even more. Even though the authorities were supposed to have set the fee for motorbikes at not more than 5,000 kip and 15,000 kip for a car, most parking attendants didn’t stick to this ruling.     

Mr Kord Sisomebath, a food vendor from Sikhottabong district: The authorities prepared everything well, including the stall set-up. But the situation for food vendors wasn’t good because we were allocated a pitch measuring 4x6 metres, for which we paid a rent of 5 million kip for seven days as well as cleaning when the festival ends. I think this is quite expensive compared to the cost of the raw materials involved, and we were hardly able to make a profit. And I heard visitors complaining about the high cost of food. But there’s not much we can do about it because we price items according to our costs. I’d like to ask shoppers and the authorities to sympathise with our situation.

Ms Noy Sonekhamxay, a visitor from Borikhamxay province: The festival was good this year because people from every province brought local products to sell here. They also provided information about their tourist attractions and brought maps, which might encourage more people to visit the provinces. I liked the traditional style house that had been made and was on display. It attracted a lot of attention. And this year people really liked the colourful lighting around the stupa. It would be really nice if all the rubbish, like plastic bags, empty bottles and cans, were picked up and disposed of in a tidy manner. There were quite a lot of rubbish bins but unfortunately many visitors don’t bother to use them.  

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update November 23, 2018)


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