Before any momentous occasion in Laos, there is usually a traditional ceremony called “Baci” — and the day before I left Luang Prabang, some Lao students invited me to a Baci in order to bless their new microscope (and to wish me a safe journey home).
According to Lao custom, a Baci gathers and reintegrates the many vital forces which make up your soul. During the ceremony, a village elder chants to call those vital forces (called kwan) back to you. One after another, small white strings are tied around your wrist by everyone in the room. Each serves as a reminder that you are part of a greater community — but it’s also a person-to-person wish for your good luck and happiness.1
And when it’s over, you share a feast! If you’re looking for a singular experience that represents the unique, beating heart of Lao culture — in all of its warmth, graciousness, and love of good food — it’s probably this one.
- By the end of the ceremony, the dozens of strings around each wrist make it look like you’re wearing white terry-cloth wristbands from the 1970’s or, in my case due to prodigious arm hair, like a golden retriever is being held hostage. [↩]