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Traditional Dances and Puppet Shows

Winter Vacation 2008/2009

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The start of 2009. Luang Prabang was even sleepier and quieter than it’d previously been. Everyone we saw was moving a little bit slower, except for the party up the street from our hotel. This party started last night around 8:00pm. Well, at least that was the first time we saw it; it could have been going on a lot longer than that. There was loud music, people sitting outside eating and, most importantly, line dancing. I don’t know why, but we saw some. This party was still going on when we left to move hotels around 10:30 the next day.
We got checked in to our new hotel. The people at the hotel were surprised with the rate that we paid when we booked online. I think they downgraded us when they saw the rate that we paid. Plus, we are going to stay a couple extra nights and they are charging us more for this room.

We found out we had internet in our room and made the New Year’s calls, then went out for lunch.

We went to a restaurant called The Bakery on the main drag. The food was decent but Courtney ran into some service problems. We don’t know if our server didn’t understand English or was just a bit new or what; it’s up in the air. I ordered spring rolls. However, two people at a nearby table also ordered spring rolls 20 minutes after me and got their order first. The juice drink Court ordered, which was simple to make, didn’t arrive until we had almost eaten all our food. Plus Court ordered a chicken dish and, surprise, got some fish. We decided not to say anything; we were hungry and the fish dish was pretty good. Needless to say we will not be making a return visit, which is a shame, because their dessert case looked awesome. We finished and headed off to the Royal Palace Museum.

I had to take a detour back to our hotel. I was wearing shorts, which aren’t acceptable attire for the museum. I quickly ran back to the hotel, took a detour for a piece of coconut cake and made my way back to the museum. The museum was impressive. It was built in the 1904 by the French colonists for King Sisavang Vong. Some of the walls inside were covered by inlaid murals, depicting battles, worship services and other things we didn’t understand. Some of the battles were quite gruesome: people missing heads, people holding dismembered body parts. Quite over the top, but gorgeous. We spent most of the time in the museum trying to stay ahead of one giant Chinese tour group and far enough behind another Chinese tour group so we could see the exhibits. Eventually we got fed up and leapfrogged the tour group in front of us.

After the museum we walked to the end of the peninsula and stopped at a few wats, including Si Bun Heuang and Sirimungkhun Sop, on our way to the big one, Wat Xieng Thong.

Here are some shots from the first wats we stopped at.
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Wat Xieng Thong, the largest temple complex in Luang Prabang, was first built 1560. We paid our 20,000 kip entry fee and went in.

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We were planning on going to a performance at the Children’s Cultural Centre at 6:00, and by the time we finished going through this wat it was getting near show time. Students, aged 14-18, from the Center put on a puppet and traditional dance every Thursday and Saturday from 6:00 to 7:30. We thought we had to hurry to get tickets for the show. It turns out we didn’t. There was about 20 people there. Either way it was an excellent show. This is the seating area.

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Before the show we were treated to some traditional Lao music, played by students. They also played throughout the whole show.
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Mr. Disen’s son had a talent for carving puppets and they first performed for the full moon festival in December. The puppets were used in performances until the war between the French and Japanese started. They resumed in 1961, and continued until the Vietnam War, which caused yet another break in the performances. Then, in 1986, the government instituted a short-lived plan to bring back the performances. However, some of the performers became very sick and couldn’t perform. So, the performances were cancelled again. Finally, in 2000, funded partially by UNICEF, the Epok performance was resurrected at the Children’s Cultural Centre in Luang Prabang, and has been going on ever since.

The show we watched was, Nang Sangkaan, or the Legend of Pi Mao Lao. In the play, the puppets are preparing for the Lao New Year procession and village celebrations.

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After the puppet show they started the traditional dances.

The first dance, the Dok Champa dance, shows admiration and respect for the national flower, the frangipani flower.

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The second dance, the Thaidam dance, shows respects to God, and our forefathers and mothers. It also draws bad spirits out of the home and brings happiness to the family.

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The third dance, the Hmong festival dance, embodies the spirit of the youth of the Hmong ethnic tribe.

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The fourth dance, the Khamu dance, demonstrates the spirit of Khamu youth.

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The fifth dance, the farmer dance, shows how Lao families do their daily work on the farm.

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The last dance, the Lai Lao dance, demonstrates the strength and agility of Lao youth.

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Overall this was an excellent show. The kids looked like they were having a lot of fun. We saw them on the stage sometimes laughing at each other and just having a good time. We both really enjoyed watching these performances tonight.

After the show Court bought a print that one of the kids made at the center. Then we went out for dinner and did some more shopping in the night market. After the night market we caught a tuk-tuk back to our hotel and called it a night.

Posted by agc_cwm 02:24 Archived in Laos

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