Sunday, February 4, 2018

Champassak holds annual Vat Phou festival to promote Visit Laos Year

By:  Siladda Souliyong, Vientiane Times, January 30, 2018

Vat Phou candle lit at night

Champassak district:  Hundreds of thousands of local people and foreign visitors yesterday attended the opening day of the annual Vat Phou festival here, which also marks the start of Visit Laos Year in the province.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Sonexay Siphandone and local government officials attended the opening ceremony.

Among the many events featured were a dazzling parade with dancers representing the province’s 10 districts, and an arts show by local students.

Champassak provincial Governor Dr. Bounthong Divixay said the province has over 200 tourist attractions and its cultural and scenic splendour has reputedly caused leaders of other countries to remark that Champassak is heaven on earth.

If you visit Laos but fail to go to Champassak province, it can be said that you haven’t really seen Laos, he added.

The Vat Phou Festival, combined with the start of Visit Laos Year 2018, aims to promote the province’s tourist attractions to a wider audience. The festival runs from January 29-31 and features many colourful activities.

On the final day there will be an alms-giving ceremony, while concerts will display the talents of musicians from Laos and nearby countries. There will be games and plays, and on the final evening there will be a candlelight procession that visitors can join in.

A record number of people are expected to attend the festival because Vat Phou is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and the sprawling ancient temple complex is highly revered, both for its antiquity and its beauty.

Over the course of 2018, visitors to Champassak province can also enjoy a Lao Food Festival, One District, One Product fairs, exhibitions of locally-made goods such as silk and cotton, beauty pageants and sports contests, as well as the annual boat racing and rocket festivals.

The province has 216 officially designated tourist attractions. Of these, 116 are nature-based, 60 are cultural sites and 40 are of historical interest. However, only 20 of these have additional visitor facilities.

Among the natural wonders are Khonphapheng, Tad Fan and Tad Yeuang waterfalls, while activities range from adventure treks and ziplining to rest and recuperation in the lap of nature. Visitors can also enjoy produce from the Bolaven Plateau, including its famed coffee.

Those with more adventurous taste buds can sample local food such as spicy fish salad (koypa), laab mak chong (chong fruit salad), fish soup, and fish sauce, to name a few.

Try buying dried fish, dried mango or coffee to take home as souvenirs, but don’t forget to have some fresh fish from the Mekong before you leave. According to a provincial official, Champassak drew more than 799,500 visitors last year and is hoping for at least 900,000 in 2018, in the hope that they will generate some US$450 million in revenue.

From Vientiane, you can reach Champassak by road or plane, with flights to Pakxe scheduled twice a day.

Information about the province’s special attractions can be obtained online via www.southern-laos.com or from the Champassak provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department on 031 212069.

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