I stopped in Vang Vieng for a few days en route to Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng is a small town surrounded by natural beauty, set on the picturesque Nam (River) Song near hills and limestone karsts.
Numerous agencies in town offered all manner of tours, including kayaking, caving, tubing, trekking and biking. However I decided to pass on these opportunities and spend time simply walking around and appreciating the river and the scenic views.
Unfortunately my plan for a peaceful few days was foiled by a gigantic party in the paved courtyard of my hotel just outside my room. Somewhere between fifty and a hundred relatives had gathered to celebrate the death anniversary of an ancestor, and it was far from a somber occasion.
The festivities began the afternoon I arrived and continued, day and night, for the next 48 hours. My eardrums were under constant assault by a diverse range of sounds, from the joyous laughter of a family gathering to the upbeat, rhythmic thumping of Lao pop music, and (all night, until dawn) a seemingly endless call and response chanting that I presumed was part of some kind of Buddhist prayer vigil. In the daytime, every time I left or entered my room I had to squeeze past large ice chests then thread my way through an obstacle course of squatting women chopping vegetables, dressing huge bowls of rice, and tending cooking fires.
After some badgering I finally got the hotel manager to move me to a room across the street. For a brief time I was furious with the hotel for knowingly putting me in a location that was not only incessantly noisy but awkward as well. But I was able to calm myself down and appreciate that this was a significant and meaningful event for the community of celebrants. The hotel may have made a bad decision regarding my lodgings, but I am sure the eulogized ancestor appreciated the auspicious energy generated by his or her descendants.