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Monday, February 18, 2008

Guesthouses fully booked for Vat Phou festival

Guesthouses and hotels are now booked out in Champassak district of Champassak province, as crowds of people prepare to descend on the town to celebrate the Vat Phou festival from February 19 to 21.

Gov ernor of Champassak district Sipaseuth Sengsavath said yesterday that visitors without reservations may have to stay overnight in nearby Pakxe to be able to enjoy the festivities.

Provincial tourism office head Mr Sivone Vongkonevilay confirmed that there were still rooms available at hotels and guesthouses in Pakxe, but said he could not confirm whether this would be the case during the event itself.

In the meantime, Champassak district authorities have announced they will deploy forces to ensure traffic flows smoothly and to minimise congestion and road accidents.

“We have improved the road to Vat Phou and enlarged ferry landings on the Mekong to facilitate the transport of vehicles across the river,” Mr Sipaseuth said.

Authorities estimate that at least 30,000 people a day will visit Vat Phou during the three-day festival, and that people will begin to arrive as early as February 16.

A trade fair will be held during the event to display and sell products from villages, districts and companies, as part of efforts to encourage local production; so far, more than 100 booths have been booked.

Last year, Champassak provincial authorities held the Vat Phou festival to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the declaration of the temple as the country's second World Heritage-listed site.

District authorities generated 200 million kip from traders and visitors during the trade fair, and villagers were also able to profit.

“We hope the number of tourists will not be less than last year,” Mr Sipaseuth said.


February 19

District governor Sipaseuth Sengsavath will deliver a speech to officially open the festival in the morning and will talk about the aim of the festival - to encourage unity among villagers.

In the evening, a sports competition will be held at the Vat Phou esplanade, which will be an important event to select district athletes for the National Games at the end of this year.

There will also be a cultural performance, bringing together artists from Champassak district and province, alongside the popular Japanese band Gypsy Queen.

February 20

Visitors will be able to explore the Vat Phou temple complex, built at the end of the 5 th century, and learn more about the history of this intriguing site at the nearby museum.

The sports contests and performances will continue, showcasing artists from India and Japan .

February 21

An alms offering ( taak baat ) ceremony will be held early in the morning at Vat Phou, where hundreds of monks will chant blessings to merit-makers.

The continuing sports contest will include traditional games; there will also be a candlelight procession and more cultural performances.

(Latest Update February 13, 2008)

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