We’ve just had the boat racing festival in Vientiane. It’s the second biggest festival of the year. There were big crowds along the banks of the Mekong. Lots of stores were set up selling clothes, food and various consumer goods. Consumer goods like Oishi Green Tea, Ovaltine, Walls Ice Cream etc. There were lots of rides for children too. I walked past a petting zoo but was too afraid to go inside. I feared there was probably some form on animal cruelty going on in there and my ticket money would just perpetuate it. There were a few free concerts going on too with Lao pop stars crooning to the crowds.

It’s somehow reassuring to see that no matter where you go in the world there are carnies to be found. There were lots of different carnival games and almost all of them seemed impossible to win. There was one where you had to throw a bucket over a bottle to win it. On offer were bottles of beer lao, cooking oil and soft drink. They proved to be near impossible to win and although I saw about a dozen attempts I didn’t see one winner. It’s good that most of the prizes are practical items like beer and cigarettes, so much better than those massize soft toys filled with polystyrene balls that leak and create an articifial snow field. There were games with sling shots and ball bearing guns in which you had to knock a cigarrette packet off a ledge, suprisingly no kids were playing those games.

There weren’t as many gambling games as I expected. One tent had a couple of dozen people gathered around it crossing things off pieces of paper. It took me a few moments to realise they were playing Bingo with a guy on a loud speaker pulling out balls from a box. The main form of betting I’ve noticed in Laos takes place on the pettanque field. People bet on games and if you’re a good player you can probably win more than your daily government wages. The only way to play the pokies in Vientiane is to make a trip to the border crossing with Thailand. They have slots machine on the Laos side of the friendship bridge as they’re illegal in Thailand.