While Rose got excited about orange robed monks in Vientiane – it was only a warm-up to her ecstatic adoration in Laos second major city, Luang Prabang (LOO-ONG – PRUH – BONG)
Every morning, the monks in this town, get up at the crack of dawn to participate in a ceremony called “Tak Bat”. Townspeople line the streets with alms in hand, usually a rice ball, and as monks pass by they drop it into their basket. In return, the giver hopes to improve their karma.
It’s had a long tradition, but people like us – tourists – unfortunately have steadily been interfering with the ceremony by stepping up to the monks with a camera in hand and flash turned ON, imagining themselves a National Geographic photographer on a self-appointed mission to capture ART or at very least a better photo than the next blog.
Sadly, the result is that it upsets the monks’ procession and the exchange they have with the residents of the town.
It’s even gotten to the point that tourists have started to participate in the ceremony, which fine enough if you’re Buddhist, but if you’re a backpacker passing through, to me it feels like you’re trivializing it, approaching it as if it’s an activity like ziplining.
It’s the notion that: I want to do that myself. I don’t want to watch people do it. In other words, it’s not worth it unless I can join in.
We saw plenty of examples from tourists sticking the snouts of their cameras into a Buddhist temple during a nighttime ceremony only to let their flash fly: once, twice: as long as it takes to ensure they got the picture they wanted while others walked into another temple at night to join a procession of monks who were carrying candles and circling their temple as part of a ceremony.
Again, fair enough if you’re a Buddhist, but given two of the guys in the procession with the monks looked totally confused and apprehensive about every move they made, essentially giving the impression that they were in over their heads, I had my doubts.
In any case, it was only a small group doing it, and didn’t undermine everything. Ok, rant over. Back to Luang Prabang.
It was originally the capital of Laos, and the home of the royal family who lived in the palace until Communism took over in 1975:
They also had their very own private temple, which, surprise, surprise was much more elaborate than other temples in the city:
However, we visited another popular temple in the city – Xieng Thong – and it’s artwork, I felt, seemed a lot purtier than that there Royal guy’s – probably because we actually had access to walk inside them:
As usual, the heat was intense.
One morning we made our way up these steps to a spot called – Mount Phusi:
which, at the top, had a wicked lookout on the city with a view of the two rivers that run around Luang Prabang – the Mekong and Nam Khan:
Plus, more temples, with our friend, ever present (yet impermanent) Siddartha:
Despite getting up early to walk around in the morning to beat the heat. Already at 9am, it was clear we (I) were deluding ourselves:
Similar to Vientiane, Luang Prabang had French influences from colonial restaurants:
to croissant filled cafes:
But, one of the best spots we found was across this bamboo bridge to a restaurant on the other side of the bridge, which we found out, coincidentally, was owned by a Canadian:
Since the town juts out into a peninsula, we alternated between sitting on one side of the town to watch boats swing themselves around the Mekong:
Then to the other side to watch people fish in the Nam Khan:
It’s an incredibly calm, and slow-paced town with one of the most elaborate craft markets we’d seen until now, which happens every night, and is filled with hand woven quilts, pants, shirts made by Laotian craftspeople along with trinkets of all stripes:
Plus, during the day, a regular food market with all kinds of fruit and local spices:
After four relaxing days, we moved on to a more active schedule in Vietnam where we met up with two friends from Toronto, who came out to visit. Next stop, dodging traffic in Hanoi.