in Luang Prabang, Northern Laos
August 20 2010
Hollywood star Jude Law and his lover Sienna Williams posed
as backpackers in remote communist Northern Laos and pledged their love
for each other in a ceremony conducted here by a village shaman.
In a picture-book journey which ended north of Luang Prabang,
the ancient Royal capital of this landlocked country and a city noted
for its golden temples, the re-united couple sat arms round each other
watching the clear night sky by the Mekong river, before taking part in a
traditional ‘baci’ ceremony.
Travelling as backpackers, with a little luxury thrown in, they rode
elephants through waterfalls, visited remote hill tribes, and toured
the streets of the tiny city on bicycles before committing themselves to
each other Laos style.Jude showing his ‘baci’ string bracelet
In fact although the couple have said they will wed in England soon,
followed by a follow up celebration in New York, under the eyes of those
who witnessed the ceremony in a hill side village north of here, they
are already married.
The couple arrived as normal tourists on one of the short take off and
landing ATR 72 turbo prop planes which service the city’s remote
airstrip from Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, Bangkok, and the Laos
For two nights they stayed at the plush US$1400 dollar a night Amantaka
Hotel, but from the hotel they borrowed bicycles and acted just like
tourists when they went touring.
Said manager Gary Tyson: ‘They behaved just like the other backpackers
who pass through here. They took bicycles out in the day time and went
to the local markets and restaurants and from what I understand they
were not bothered by anyone and were hardly noticed.’
As a UNESCO heritage site Luang Prabang attracts thousands of tourists,
but the city is quiet with an 11.30 pm curfew created by the Communist
government to discourage some of the louder travelers and thus ensure
its Heritage status. The city’s two small dance halls close at the same
For two nights the two were tucked up in their villa with private pool long before midnight.
But the couple were spotted shopping at the city’s night market, where
Jude bought a Laos T-shirt he was later photographed wearing in Los
One tourist called Paul travelling with his friend Henry said: ‘I saw
this really beautiful blonde girl pushing a bicycle towards me looking
stunning in a short red dress. I think she looks familiar? But then when
Jude Law passed me just after her the penny dropped’
He said he followed to get a second look and Law spotted him. He said ‘Just Checking’ and Law smirked.
And at the city’s ‘Tamarind’ Laos restaurant they sampled spicy Laos dips with sticky rice and Mekong River weed.
‘Just Wonderful! Jude and Sienna ‘ was their contribution to the restaurant’s visitors book.
A Luang Prabang Canadian expat said at the city’s populat Pack Luk wine
bar said: ‘They came here and sat out the front with a glass of wine
each. Later I saw them sitting down by the river with their arms around
At the Amantaka Hotel they met Prince Nithakong Somsanith, a cultural
and artistic adviser to UNESCO, and himself an expert in the ‘baci’
ceremony and, as former Buddhist monk and member of the former ruling
Royal family, also authorized to carry out the ceremony.
It was after their meeting with the Prince that the couple decided to
head out into the hills and go through the ceremony. But first they rode
an elephant together through the picturesque falls at Tat Sae, north of
Luang Prabang. Later in pictures taken at ‘The Tonys’ in New York Jude
could still be seen wearing the string baci bracelet around his wrist.
Prince or Ti Ao Nithakong, known simply as Nith describing the ceremony
said: ‘The couples are joined together by their wrists with red thread
and the thread is connected to offerings . The offerings are, coconut,
for purification, bananas, for fertility, an egg, and sticky rice, a
symbol of solidarity, sticking together. The egg is an animist item to
call the spirits.Prince Nithakong Somsanith
‘The shaman calls all 32 souls of different parts of the body to come
together and harmonize and then reminds the couple of the rules of the
‘The man is the teeth, the woman is the tongue. The man should not bite
the tongue. The man should be the first to go to bed while the woman
later comes to attend to him. The woman should be the first to get up
and descend the stairs.
‘During the ceremony the couple kneel together side by side. It is a
tradition that the woman also shoves into the man slightly to show she
too has power in the family.’
Prince Nithakong’s father was advisor to the last Laos King who
disappeared after the Pathet Laos took over the country in 1974. His
uncle was the country’s former Prime Minister. He himself was exiled in
Paris for many years.
But the government of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos have since opened up the country to visitors and exiles alike.
He added: ‘The baci ceremony is performed everywhere and was also performed at the Royal Court.
‘It usually takes place on the morning of the wedding and is followed by
the wedding blessing by monks and feasting and drinking beer and rice
alcohol in the evening. Jude Law and Sienna will already be man and
wife in people’s eyes here’.Northern Lao family prepare for a baci ceremony
‘Today couples go to the Communist Party officer to be married and have their ‘baci’ afterwards.
Prince Nithakong wished the couple well in their marriage. Jude Law
originally got engaged to Sienna Miller in 2006 but they split after he
allegedly had an affair with their nanny.
Law already has three children with his first wife Sadie Frost and a love child with U.S. model Samantha Burke.
Law recently tried to get lawyers to details of their marriage deleted from Sadie Frost’s biography ‘Crazy Days’.
After meeting law she wrote: ‘I felt a weight pressing on my heart. I
tried to cut the weight loose but I could not. It was an unshakeable and
unwelcome premonition, like being presented with the apple in the
Garden of Eden. I felt it was my fate to spend the rest of my life with
Luang Prabang has for several years been a secret destination
for superstars. One of its most famous guests has been Mick Jagger whose
photograph hangs in the ‘Brasserie Elephant’ , who is reported to have
visited the tiny city three times.