I must admit I went largely because I was curious. Why would a Laotian temple —
which has large grounds of its own – hold its own summer festival in a Croatian church?
The answer came the moment I drove into the immense church yard and saw row upon row of parked cars on its lawns. The Laotian community and their friends from other Southeast Asian communities was huge.
I walked past a swimming pool, a soccer field, and then found the stalls. The first booth was a huge display of flowers. Then came a pile of fresh greens and vegetables, bigger than I’ve seen in other ethnic festivals.
Next noticed was an equally large group of DVDs and CDs in Lao and Thai with Lao and Thai stars. Where else are these available for sale?
I was tempted to grab the opportunity to buy a conical straw hat – so typical of Southeast Asia. They are much cooler than cotton for gardening. I remembered the metal bowls that were carried by monks as they went begging from door to door every morning in Laos. And the woven bamboo baskets for carrying rice.
I thought of buying some home-made soups, sauces and dishes for dinner. But I was carrying two cameras and didn’t want to risk a spill.
Or sticky fingers. I wanted to taste this interesting-looking concoction and the crispy fish. Cameras and sticky fingers don’t mix.
So I enjoyed myself just looking at what was important for our Laotian neighbours. Many had brought their own rugs to sit on as they enjoyed the company of friends and family.
Some of the vendors usually sold their products from home. Mai Ing Lau was offering health supplements like USANA.
Nok here was selling souvenirs of a couple Asian countries. She was from Thailand.
Here was a chance to buy Laotian-style clothes.
The arrival of monks added to the Laotian atmosphere.
Monks from Wat Lao Veluwanaram were there to give blessings. They also provided worshipers opportunities to give donations to the temple and thus to gain merit. A handy money tree was available.
In the church hall was a band and Laotian-style social dancing. It was a blast. I am sure they would welcome outsiders to join them.
And I’m sure they would accept a beer – from a stranger who wanted to talk. My experience was superficial of course, but it was a great introduction to Lao culture in Toronto.
So next year, look for this Summer Festival. It should be on the Temple’s calendar at: http://www.watlao-veluwanh.com. Phone 905-584 6886 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for the venue. This year it was at the Croatian Centre, at 9118 Winston Churchill Boulevard in Norval. For me, it was worth the trip from downtown Toronto.