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Bigger than ever Boun Kabongyay festival planned for this year

Visitors are welcome at the Boun Kabongyay festival in Savannakhet next month to join Brou people from across the province in a celebration of food and culture.
An official in charge of the event, Mr Somneuk Keosihathilath, told Vientiane Times on Wednesday the festival is an annual occurrence but this year’s event is likely to be much bigger than previous ones.

 The first day of the festival will feature a procession through the streets of Atsaphon district with Brou people wearing traditional costume and carrying a banana leaf, known as ‘kabongyay’. The kabongyay is traditionally over 15 metres high and at the end of the parade it will be set on fire.
Visitors can also sample Brou foods, see and purchase items made by local artisans and generally just enjoy the hospitality of the local people. A unique shopping experience is usually offered at this festival, especially with model kabongyays being on sale, Mr Somneuk said.
There has been a growing interest and awareness of Brou culture over the last few months and especially since the recent National Assembly decision to approve the Brou as an official Lao ethnic group. This approval came after a recommendation from the government, who found that the Brou belong to the Mon-Khmer family. With this approval, the country now officially has 50 ethnic groups.
The majority of the Brou people live in Savannakhet with neighbouring provinces also being home to some Brou communities.  According to statistics, there are nearly 300,000 Brou people living in Laos.
The Brou people mostly live in rural, remote locales. They grow crops and rear animals for their livelihood.
Aside from the Boun Kabongyay festival, Savannakhet has many other places of interest to visitors. It is a province full of fascinating sights, a stunning landscape and quaint corners.
The Dong Ling monkey forest offers a close up look at the macaques that inhabit the area. Tad Phalong and Salen waterfalls are also must-sees for anyone keen to do a little bushwalking. It is possible to see rare and protected animals in these areas too.
Savannakhet province also has some old and important temples including Vat Xayyaphoum and Vat Taleo. 
The Hotay Pidok library at Ban Nong Lam Chanh houses some of the oldest and most important Buddhist manuscripts in all of Laos.  Many visitors also enjoy shopping for weaving and silk products, especially from the Phoutai people, who live mainly in and around Vilabouly district.
A festival is held every month in Savannakhet.  The Boun Pha That Phonh stupa festival runs for three days in February.  A rocket festival takes place in June and a boat racing festival occurs in October/November.
The provincial capital of Savannakhet is about 480km from Vientiane and, according to statistics from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, more than one million people visited the province in 2017.
The Kabongyay festival will take place from February 5-7 in Ban Phonngam, Atsaphon district. Ban Phonggam is about 11km from the township of Atsaphone.

By Siladda Souliyong
(Latest Update January 18, 2019)


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