This morning I had a taste of Pii Mai, or Lao New Year, festivities. Nothing novel there, given that I recently spent five years in that country. Except that this time it was in Sydney -- Phrayortkeo temple, near Cabramatta, to be precise. I'd long been curious to check out the small but proud Lao community here. And on the basis of a few hours of tak bat (alms giving to monks) and some excellent spring rolls, sticky rice and laab, I'd say it was, well, very like being in Laos.
One notable exception was the white plastic laundry baskets that were carried in the wake of the monks. On receiving alms -- mainly packaged food and drink snacks -- on their silver trays, each monk would turn and tip the offerings in the baskets. It didn't exactly add to the magic but then Lao Buddhist practice is nothing if not pragmatic. It is also a lot of fun. Once tak bat was complete a senior monk did the rounds merrily sprinkling the crowds of lay people with water.
I'd be curious to see what goes on outside the temple. Lao itself is a nation of party animals and Pii Mai is the biggest and wildest of them all. Cross-dressing, ice-cold water throwing, drinking games that take you from sober to staggering in roughly 10 minutes, sound systems with internal-organ-rupturing output, dirty dancing... and a great deal of traffic carnage. Australia is an rule-bound, nannyish land but no doubt some of that same mischief is being played out in those distant suburbs as I write.
If you're interested there are some Laos party pics here.