Mekong Moon Magic




Wat Phou’s annual festival shines light on Southern Laos

On the full moon in February, Wat Phou, the ancient Khmer temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Laos, springs to life, drawing visitors from across the globe to partake in its vibrant cultural tapestry. Set against the enchanting backdrop of the Mekong River, this festival unfolds on Makha Bouxa day, a time when it is believed that the Buddha imparted his core teachings – a call to do good and cleanse the mind. The origins of this celebration are steeped in legend, taking us back to ancient India, where devotees flocked to the Buddha on their own accord, resulting in their ordination as teachers and their enlightenment. While the festival is an annual affair, the specific dates change, and this year’s celebration is slated to run from February 22-24, 2024.

Throughout these three days, participants are treated to a sensory spectacle that includes captivating light and sound shows, sports competitions, mesmerizing processions, traditional dance performances, and solemn chanting. The heart of the festival is the profound act of prayer, where spiritual seekers gather to commune with the divine.

Locals place offerings of incense, candles, and flowers to make merit for themselves and others
Wat Phou looks even more stunning at night
Floating lanterns are delightful ways to make merit and cast away bad luck
The festival is a surreal experience with a mixture of ancient beliefs and modernity


Text BY Jason Rolan
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Phoonsab Thevongsa

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