Party for the buffaloes

“Have you seen the buffalo?” a local guy asks us a short time after we’ve arrived at the buffalo slaughter party in a village near Tad Lo in Laos. We got stuck waiting forever for our food at mama’s place back in Tad Lo and just missed out on the traditional dancing ceremony with beating drums and costumes – or apparently without costumes, because an old woman keeps on apology for the fact that the show was too short, the lack of costumes, hurried, not what it once used to be – so at least getting to see the buffaloes sounds like a good idea.

The guy takes us to the back of the big open square where some kids are catching crickets – later it will turn into a dance floor – and there, in the light of his flash light, we can barely see it, a buffalo roped to a thick stick. I feel sorry for the poor animal, especially when the guy tells us about the slaughtering process. The buffalo is one of twelve animals – four water buffaloes and eight cows – that will get their back legs cut off and then bleed to death before sunrise the next morning. Something they do once a year, for good luck, prosperity and fertility. Since we first heard about the slaughter earlier that day I had planned to watch the slaughter, but at that moment I change my mind, I do not want to see animals suffer and die in agony (it took them about ten minutes to die, some other backpackers that did go, told us the next morning), and I’m glad the slaughter is in the morning, and not in the evening as we first thought.

Another guy sees us, and chases us away; apparently we are not supposed to see the animals before the slaughter. We wander around the premises, buy some snacks and some beers and people watch.  A group of people are standing around some guys, mainly kids and teenagers, sitting on the ground playing some kind of betting game. More and more chairs and tables are set around at the edges of the square and filled up with people, loads of kids are dancing on the dance floor, and suddenly I realize that the guy that I thought was a DJ, located at the edge of square, talking a lot and laughing of his own jokes (how I wish I spoke Lao at that evening) with a very distinct “hahaha” all the time, is actually not a DJ, but a performer, and he is the one who’s been singing all the songs we’ve heard since we arrived.

There are not that many westerners around, but we all get crowded with adorable little kids that want to dance with us, some grab our hands and tow us to the snack stall and want us to buy candy for them or ask for money, it feels weird – this is something else than the fun and laughing kids asking us for pens in Tad Lo. We still have a lot of fun until we have to leave, catch our minibus and get back to Tad Lo and our accommodation.

The next morning the cute old lady in charge of the bungalows where we stay wondered if we came in late, because she didn’t see us last night.
“A bit before midnight” I answer. She smiles an almost toothless smile and says “that’s very late”.
Then it’s time for us to hit the road with our rented motorbikes again, and get back to Pakse.


(1: Kids playing a betting game, 2: Cricket catching time, 3: Who’s caught the biggest cricket?, 4: One of four buffaloes waiting for it’s slaughter, 5: Snack stall)