We plan on spending a quiet new years and Laos looks to be the perfect place. New Years is usually played up as a fancy affair with overpriced parties, loud music, and lots of drinking, which suits others but our temperament perhaps in our older years has shifted to enjoy conversations, others company, some quiet solitude, and time for reflection. We thus ended up in Savannakhet, a medium size town close to the Mekong with a friendly populace and a convivial little place called Natalie's Kitchen where we would spend quite a few hours.
After exploring the little town with some fabulous old French colonial buildings watched the last sunset of the year set over the Mekong with Thailand just on the other side. The place is positively international and boasts a few Thai restaurants along with a restored cinema, which unfortunately due to lack of tourists doesn't show any films. Walking around, we learned of a party where the deputy governor of the province has been invited and looked at the fancy set up and the band warming up with the ever present karaoke singers practicing their tunes for the night.
The spirit of the celebrations seem to be the same and so as the night began to set, music from shops and houses began to be heard along with little stalls selling noise makers and firecrackers. Many of the people and the shop owners put down bamboo mats in front of their homes and shops and sat down on the curb with friends to celebrate. Walking by the town square, a mass of women were blasting Loatian music and dancing and when we walked by enthusiastically asked us to join them, which we of course did. We danced, sang, and took pictures of our moves and the scene. A gathering of kids had also formed with firecrackers in hand, which they set off with ear shattering bangs and explosions of light. As the night progressed the music got louder and the volley of firecrackers more frequent. We walked back to Natalie's Kitchen where the gracious owner invited us in to his own little party of a few French tourists and we danced some more and decided to light our own provided firecrackers. So in reality it wasn't a quiet New Years at all but one we will remember like all of our happy encounters for the kindness of strangers and their curiosity to include us into their lives.