Saturday, June 16, 2012

Laos Festival 2012

"Yen sabai"

closing words at
Laos Festival 2012


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The sights and sounds of Laos Festival 2012 from the main stage.

"Yen sabai". Those are the two words that sum up so much of the Lao spirit which was left ringing in the ears as Tokyo bid farewell to its second annual Laos Festival 2012 on Sunday evening. "Yen means cool, and "sabai" means comfortable. Combine the two words and it is something like wishing everyone well. Correct me just in case I'm wrong here.

The event was organised by the Embassy of Laos to Japan in conjunction with the Tokyo Kokusai Gakuen Senior High School and the Japan Lao Parliamentary Friendship League. The venue of the festival was at Yoyogi Park's event plaze, in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo - the same venue for the Thai Festival a fortnight earlier. This spot is a common venue for an array of festivals, including the Jamaican Festival, Sri Lanka Festival and Brazilian Festival. The latter two though, are usually held in late summer.

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Every food stalls enjoyed brisk business as visitors queued up to get some authentic local food.

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If the Thai has Singha Beer, Laos has their very own Beer Lao. How about Malaysia? Todi? Haha!!!

If you had dropped by at the Thai Festival and One Love Jamaica Festival earlier in the month, you probably was put off by the incredibly huge turnout at the two festivals. However, things were less claustrophobic during the weekend's celebration of little old Laos. It was a very much toned down version compared to the Thai and Jamaican festivals.

On a balmy spring weekend, tens of thousands of curious locals and international flocked the city's popular Yoyogi Park event plaza. Saturday saw the peak of visitors, who did not wanna miss out on trying out the nation's favourite ale and browsing Laotian silk products and ethnic handicrafts on display. Though inclement weather dented visitor numbers on Sunday, there was still a solid attendance. Needless to say, the Lao expatriate community consisting of business people, diplomatic officials and students were there in force, promoting the nation.

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 One of the popular food stalls at the festival which offers Lao and Thai food. It has a wide variety of food and the price is slightly cheaper than other stalls.

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The queue stretched for almost 100 meters and there were two lines at one time!

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The chef working on his pad thai. Hopefully there wasn't any additional natural flavor enhancer dripped from his body lol!

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The money collector, who just dumped all the notes in a plastic bag haha!

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A set of pad thai and spicy minced meat with glutinous rice. I am so addicted to pad thai haha wtf!

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Finally, a traditional Lao food. Chicken soup with rice noodle and meatball. This was not bad.

It is said the way to the heart is through the stomach, and more than a few Japanese were won over to popular Lao culinary staples such as papaya salad, Luang Prabang sausage and the ever popular laap. It is never easy to get the locals to try something they have not seen before in their life. However, curiosity got over them and most of them did not wanna missed out on joining the queues at the numerous Laotian or Thai food stalls, trying samples of Laotian rum, buying tropical fruit and vegetables from Laos, and drinking Laotian beer.

One thing however, despite the fact that it was the Laos Festival, I saw more stalls selling Thai food than Laotian food. Moreover, there were also stalls selling Turkish kebab and French delicacies. It seems like it is more like an United Nations' Festival haha!

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Few Japanese futsal players decided to have some kebab during their break.

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One of the stalls that sells French food at Laos Festival.

No Lao festive gathering would be complete without music and dance, and the crowd was not left disappointed. Resplendent in the national dress of sinh and sash, pop singer Alexandra showed her vocal range and won over more than a few of the audience to her soulful sounds. Headlining Saturday evening's lineup was The Cells, who put on a blistering performance that had the crowd up and dancing. To the right of stage, a particularly energetic group of young Lao and Japanese led the way, and before long the crowd was up and dancing.

This years also marks the "Visit Laos Year 2012" and this festival was  indeed a great opportunity for the nation to promote its beautiful country and for visitors to pick up Laos-related travel and cultural information.

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Stage performers singing to popular Laotian tunes.

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They were also joined by dancers clad in colourful traditional Laotian costumes.

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A demonstration of how to make papaya salad, by the staff from the Embassy of Laos in Japan.

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Among the ingredients used when preparing Laos dishes.

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Visitors get to try on the food for free and everyone just rushed onto the stage to get some taste of the food haha!

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My DIY plate of Laotian glutinous rice and meat, with extra ingredients of various spices and herbs haha!

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Tropical fruits were on sale too.

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Handicrafts and clothings at some of the booths

On a more serious note, NGOs and Japanese partner organisations were also in attendance, sharing ideas with festival attendees on important challenges faced in developing the nation. Tokyo's Minsai Centre, which works in partnership with EDF Laos on education development programmes, was one such organisation. The Minsai Centre’s Aiki Sekiguchi said the festival was a great opportunity for Japanese people with an interest in Laos to further their knowledge while enjoying themselves. 

"We really want to tell them all the great things about Laos, and also what is happening with development. The children of Laos really need to go to school, and I think Japan and the Japanese are really in a position to assist in a way that is very beneficial," Mr Sekiguchi said.

I didn't spend too long at the festival as I was actually on my way to the futsal game in Kamata later that afternoon. So, that is roughly about the Laos Festival this year. Thank you for reading and by the way, do drop some comments down at the comment's box-lar, okay? Comments have been really scarce lately haha!

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