This light and airy house with lots of white looks like an optical illusion. Nestled in the heart of Vientiane, it appears to be floating above a lush green oasis with crystal clear pool water. The beautiful dwelling called “White House” is the work of Saola Architects, a homegrown design studio in Laos.
The pastel white house with 160 sq. m. usable internal space sits encompassed by its natural surroundings. As the architects intended, it has the general shape of the letter V. The ground floor is mostly enclosed by glass walls that afford the seamless integration of indoor and outdoor living spaces.
The architects said they got the design inspiration from a vernacular architectural style in Laos. The house plan, which reflects local traditions, has been adapted to make it suitable for modern living. This includes making the interior living rooms bright and airy, and connect to outdoor spaces with no apparent gaps or spaces in between.
The swimming pool is placed in a straight line along one side of the V-shaped design that in a way is dictated by the appearance of the land. As time passes, sunlight reflected from the pool puts on a spectacular shadow and light show on nearby walls. Because the ground floor enclosure is made mostly out of glass, only the upper part of the house is visible from afar and seemingly hovering above the landscape.
The inground pool provides passive cooling that drives natural air circulation, thereby improving the indoor thermal comfort. As pool water evaporates, air currents carry moisture or water vapor into and out of the room. As a result of that, the interior is kept cool without the need for air conditioning. The heat gain control makes the house comfortable to live despite a hot and humid climate.
Aesthetically, the house is a mix of bare concrete on the inside and lots of white paint on the outside. For an improvement of the indoor climate, wood is the main décor material for its ability to provide a soothing ambience especially in private areas on the second floor. By and large, the seemingly floating house is poetry in motion when kissed by the sun. It’s spacious, airy and bright thanks to open floor design, plus windows that allow plenty of natural light and good ventilation all year round.
For peoples across the ASEAN, New Year means more than the first day on the new calendar. Whether it’s Songkran, Thingyan, Choul Chnam Thmey, Tet, or Nyepi, the happy day is publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and joy. As celebrations kick off, traveling can be difficult. We think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018. Have a safe journey!
The New Year Festival differs from country to country across the ASEAN. It’s part of a tradition that has been in existence long before the advent of the new calendar. The happy day goes by different names — “Songkran” in Thailand, “Thingyan” in Myanmar, “Choual Chnam Thmey” in Cambodia, “Tet” in Vietnam, and “Nyepi” in Bali. It’s publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and festivity that has transformed into the Region’s timeless attraction. If you’re planning a visit during the holiday season, we think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018.
Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia share a common culture when it comes to celebrating New Year. The season of goodwill and festivity is based on Buddhist/Hindu beliefs that they received from India. It’s celebrated around mid-April in keeping with the Buddhist solar calendar. The occasion marks a change of seasons from cold to hot, which coincides with the rising of Aries in ancient astrology.
Over time, each country has developed its own system of beliefs associated with the beginning of a new year. The Myanmar version is concerned with the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, son of Shiva, who is worshipped as the destroyer of obstacles and patron of learning. In Thailand, the beliefs center around the legend of Thao Kibil Prom, a deity who was beheaded after losing a bet on intelligence games. The two stories reflect elaborate systems of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs about cleansing rituals, to which the Southeast Asian mainland is greatly indebted. Over time, the use of water to rid a person and place of something deemed unpleasant or defiling has evolved into a tradition, which later transformed into a popular water festival that we see today.
– Myanmar –
Thingyan is the most widely celebrated festival in Myanmar. Traditionally, it was a public holiday that usually lasted about ten days to allow the people plenty of time to travel, celebrate the water festival, and reunite with families in far-away provinces. Just recently the holiday period has been cut short despite opposition from some sectors. As for 2018, the Thingyan Festival is scheduled for April 13 through 16, and culminates in Myanmar New Year’s Day on April 17. In Yangon, the water festival centers around Kandawgyi Pet Lann Road, and Kabaraye Road.
– Thailand –
Thailand’s traditional New Year, known as Songkran, falls on April 13 through 15. In Bangkok, the water festival takes place on various locations, such as Khao San Road that’s popular among foreign tourists, and Silom Road that’s favorite among the general public including the gay community. In fact, a good time is had by all during Songkran, and it’s not limited to just the two spots mentioned. Up north, the province of Chiangmai is mega rich in Songkran tradition. Tourists, both local and foreign, traverse thousands of miles to converge in the city during the high season.
– Laos –
The people of Laos start celebrating Songkran or Pi Mai Lao (literally Lao’s New Year) on April 13. Take time to relax since April 14 through 16 is the official public holiday. It’s a slice of paradise for those impressed by warm, sweet, and welcoming hospitality unique to the Lao PDR.
– Cambodia –
For 2018, the Cambodian New Year or Choul Chnam Thmey falls on April 13 through 16. The annual event is celebrated with a multitude of joyful festivities and merit making ceremonies in Buddhism. People often confuse Choul Chnam Thmey with the Cambodian Water Festival, which is an entirely different event. The Water Festival, known as Bon Om Touk, is celebrated with row boat racing in the capital Phnom Penh usually in October or November each year.
Since 2013, the ASEAN as a whole has attracted upwards of 100 million visitors from across the globe. Slogans appear to have a significant role in motivating the potential tourists and travelers to make a visit. While we have grown familiar with our amazing memorable phrase, other countries have theirs. Let’s see what works across the Region.
/// ASEAN ///
According to the 2016 World Economic Forum report, the ASEAN Region “continues to be one of the most exciting parts of the global economy, having grown by around 5% a year in nearly two decades.”
The WEF report said that about 104 million foreign travelers visited the Region in 2015, while ASEANstats.org, a division under the AEC Department of the ASEAN Secretariat, put the number in excess of 108 million. Of this, nearly 46 million or 42.2 percent were travelers from within the ASEAN membership. Meantime, the Region welcomed about 18 million travelers from China. A forecast indicated the number could top 20 million in 2017.
Slogans appear to have significant impact on the tourism industry. Many countries have seen great success for they provide a glimpse into pretty much everything a destination has to offer, from natural and cultural attractions to food to history and the people. All the good attributes are encapsulated in a single striking phrase.
Since 1998, “Amazing Thailand” has been the short and sweet slogan that worked best for the Kingdom. It contributed to propelling Thailand to the ninth place among the World’s Top 10 International Tourism Destinations in 2016, during which it drew up to 32.6 million foreign visitors.
Loy Krathong is a season of festivity celebrated annually in much of the Southeast Asian mainland. For the Thais, it’s a festival of lights, and one of the Kingdom’s landmark events. The same is true for Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. There are many different reasons to celebrate.
/// THAILAND ///
In Laos, the equivalent of Loy Krathong Festival usually happens before anywhere else in the ASEAN. Known as Boun Awk Phansa, it is celebrated on the day of the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, or around October in the Western calendar. The occasion marks the end of the three-month-long rains retreat often referred to as Buddhist Lent.
The celebration begins at dawn when laypeople attend almsgiving ceremonies at temples across the country. The night is aglow when colorful floats made of banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, and candles are launched in thanksgiving to the river spirit. The tradition is known as Lhai Heua Fai.
In neighboring Cambodia, the occasion is celebrated big time and goes on for three days. Known as Bon Om Touk, the Water Festival is commemorated with plenty of fun events hosted by communities around Tonle Sap Lake on the 14th and 15th nights of the waxing moon, and the night of the new moon. The tradition culminates in exciting rowboat races and a ceremony dedicated to memories of a waterborne battle against Cham states that are central and southern Vietnam today.
Myanmar celebrates its version of Loy Krathong based on traditional stories about King Asoke the Great and the mythical Phya Naga. The Myanmar experience, which is specifically about the public veneration of the Great Serpent, is held on the day of the full moon of the 12th lunar month.
The Loy Krathong tradition doesn’t exist in Vietnam, except for a few areas in the central part of the country.
As for Thailand, Loy Krathong has become one of the country’s tourism industry success stories. The festival takes place annually on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually around November. It is often claimed that the festival has its origin in the Sukhothai Period, but this proved not to be the case.
Written work by King Rama IV in 1863 indicated that the practice was adopted by Thai Buddhists during the reign of King Rama III. It has become a traditional veneration of the Buddha ever since. Like so, the Kingdom pays tribute to the teaching of the Buddha with light. The floating of Krathong or banana-trunk floats symbolizes letting go of episodes that debase life and the dignity of the human person.
The Thai Loy Krathong experience is seen as a chapter in the influence of the civilization of India. Brahmanism and Buddhism both spread into the Southeast Asian mainland until about 1500. Eventually the countries of the mainland became predominantly Buddhist.
Convergent evidence points to a piece of written work by King Rama III, which mentions Thao Srichulaluck, or Nang Noppamas, as a court lady during the period of the Phra Ruang Dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Sukhothai from 1238 to 1438. The story refers to the practice of making banana-leaf containers bedecked with lotus flowers and setting them adrift in the river as a means of paying homage to the Buddha. Other evidence also refers to candle lighting and pyrotechnic displays as the public veneration, but falls short of mentioning the Krathong.
Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide in modern-day Thailand. The exact date of the festival changes from year to year. As for 2017, the full moon of the twelfth lunar month falls on November 3. The Thais mark this important day with almsgiving and other acts of kindliness. At night they head for the river, where they launch the Krathong adorned with flowers, incense, and candles. Some ask forgiveness from the river spirit for any wrongdoing they may have committed. Others trim their hair and fingernails, put them on the Krathong along with some money, and set it adrift as a way of making all the bad things go away.
The river is aglow with candle lights as the season of festivity culminates in spectacular firework displays. Lately loud firecrackers have banned in some areas for safety reason. As a means of protecting the environment, only biodegradable materials, such as banana trunk and leaves, are encouraged. As a result, foam sheets that were popular twenty years ago have begun to disappear, albeit not entirely. But the fight to safeguard the environment continues, which gives rise to many inventive ideas. Some people use bread, tree barks, even blocks of ice as a means of keeping the Krathong afloat for the duration of the festival. Others are seen using booklets of lottery tickets that didn’t win to buoy up the weight of the basket.
Did you know this? China also has its version of the water festival. Coconut rice in bamboo sticks is favorite holiday food in Cambodia. Let’s see how the traditional new year is observed around the Region.
/// Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia ///
Songkran,otherwise known as the Water Festival, is an aspect of culture of the Tai or Dai people inhabiting much of the Southeast Asian Region. Held to celebrate the traditional new year, the occasion marked by the throwing and sprinkling of water goes by a variety of names.
The Thais call it Songkran and celebrate it big time in a water festival that has become one of the Region’s greatest hits. The Laotians call it “Pi Mai Lao,” literally Laos’ New Year. The people of Myanmar refer to it as “Thingyan,” while the Cambodians call it “Chaul Chnam Thmey.” In Malaysia and Singapore, it is known as “Puthandu.”
Chinaalso has a water festival that celebrates the new year in the Tai or Dai calendar. The Dai people are one of several ethnic minorities inhabiting Xishuangbanna in China’s southern Yunnan Province. The region bordering Myanmar and Laos is known for Dai culture, beautiful temples, and pristine rainforests. To promote tourism, the Water Splashing Festival is held in mid-April and lasts three to seven days depending on the location.
In Cambodia,“Kralan” or “khao Lam” is favorite holiday food during the annual water festival. The popular dish is made of sticky rice mixed with grated coconut, red beans, and coconut milk roasted in specially-cut bamboo sections. Meantime, in Myanmarit’s time for “Mont Lone Yay Paw,” the most popular, iconic dish prepared to usher in the Thingyan Festival. Mont Lone Yay Paw is sticky rice balls with filled centers topped with fresh grated coconut. It’s a must-try local food if you’re in Myanmar during the holiday season. And if you happen to be in Malaysia,look for the sweet and delicious holiday food Onde Onde. The traditional green-colored balls of rice cake come coated with fresh shredded coconut.
In Myanmar,the most widely celebrated Thingyan Festival coincides with the Padauk blossom time, Padauk being the national flower. The streets are ablaze with golden blossoms of Burmese Padauk during the traditional new year season, and the people of Myanmar lovingly refer to them as “Thingyan flowers.”
For the citizens of Myanmar, meeting up with family is of the utmost importance during Thingyan. The traditional new year is a public holiday that usually lasts ten days to allow the people plenty of time to celebrate the water festival and seek reunions with loved ones. There was a little hiccup leading to Thingyan 2017 after the Government decided to shorten it to just five days. More than 500 workers took to the streets, and succeeded in restoring it to the normal ten-day practice.
In Thailand, the Government has tried multiple ways and means to ensure safety and solve traffic woes that Songkran brings. This year it enacted a law banning pickup trucks from carrying passengers in the open truck bed and inside the extended cab. The ban infuriated many travelers affected by it, and the protests ranging from sarcastic responses to insults went viral on social media. Opponents of the ban succeeded in relaxing, but not abolishing, it at least for now. Bizarre behavior continues to make headlines. Last year a shirtless Englishman was arrested throwing water in the faces of revelers and charged with inappropriate dress. Songkran traffic can be a total nightmare. So, drive safely and responsibly. Happy New Year!
Because of unique landscape and climatic factors, our ancestors in Southeast Asia designed and built stilt houses, and they came in a variety of styles. From houses in Inle Lake to earthquake-resistant structures in Indonesia, from a “bomb village” in Laos to the traditional Thai house, the stilt house is one way people have come to live with nature. Let’s check it out!
Stilt Houses in Inle Lake / Myanmar
The traditional houses in Inle Lake, Shan state, Myanmar was built by local people. There is a population of 70,000 people living in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself. Housing there provides some good examples of how people live with water.
Bahnar Rong and Ede Long House / Vietnam
The Bahnar, Giarai, and Ede are 3 ethnic groups who live in the central highlands of Vietnam, and their houses are extraordinary examples of native architecture. In the center of their communities, the Bahnar and Giarai build strikingly tall houses called “Rong,” to show off the status of the village, while the Ede build very long houses which serve extended families. Each type of structure sits on low stilts and is made of wood and bamboo.
Tongkonan, South Sulawesi / Indonesia
The distinctive point of these “stilt houses” is not stilts, but rather their unique roof shape, which originated in an ancient royal Chinese boat design. The wooden construction used to assemble the house with tongue and groove techniques without nails. Most of them have been built more than one century. The Tongkonan custom house has been listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site since 2010.
Nias Traditional House, Bawömataluo / Indonesia
Nias Island has some oval-shaped, steep-roofed wooden houses on stilts. These structures, able to withstand powerful earthquakes, are built without the use of nails.
Bomb Village / Laos
Unexploded bombs were recycled as many ways in the Hmong village of Phonsavan. You’ll see innovative ideas for how to bring this weapon into everyday use in such items as boats, flower pots, garden decoration, and house stilts. Oh, didn’t you know? Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. During the Vietnam War 270 million cluster bombs were dropped in Laos, and about 80 million of them did not explode.
Traditional Thai House / Thailand
Now, back to the past: there are many reasons traditional Thai houses have often built facing out towards rivers, or even over them. Raising a house on stilts provides semi-outdoor space underneath, which can be used for storage of tools or agricultural equipment, eating meals, social activities, or to avoid being flooded out during the rainy season.
For film lovers this is the festival to celebrate filmmaking, promote cultural exchange in Southeast Asia, and support a sustainable local industry and art form. The Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) happens on 2-7 December 2016 in beautiful Luang Prabang, Laos’ former capital.
The Luang Prabang Film Festival brings together the boldest storytellers and the most-talked-about films in Southeast Asia. Its curators handpick these films from ten countries, spotlighting them each year in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
LPFF is a charitable cultural organization committed to the celebration of Southeast Asian films and to the growth and support of local and regional film industries and filmmakers.
The city’s inspiring environment, rich in culture, provides an ideal backdrop for artists and industry professionals to share their experiences and showcase their talents. It is a festival for the adventurous, and is quickly becoming known as one of the most exotic and exciting locations on the international film festival circuit.