We arrive in Luang Prabang, Laos, after a one hour flight from Hanoi, Vietnam. A taxi drops us off at the hostel. We leave for dinner. Walking around the area, there’s no honking, no traffic; it’s calm. Initially it makes me uncomfortable for some reason, having come from the busy streets of Hanoi – lots of motorbikes, honking, open shops, people everywhere, eating and drinking on the street stalls. There is none of that in Luang Prabang.
That feeling quickly goes away as I discover the spiritual side of Laos.
One morning I wake up at 5:30am, to watch the famous alms giving ceremony. We walk out to the main road, and we see locals waiting for the monks to arrive. And soon the monks arrive, carrying large bowls. The people on the sidewalk, give a handful of food to each monk. It lasts for about 30 minutes.
The food collected is what the monks will eat for the day, for breakfast and lunch. I find it interesting that locals show up everyday, so early, to feed the monks. It feels very communal, very intimate. As a tourist, I make sure to observe from a distance, curious, but not rude. Some tourists get too close, taking photos, which alters the mood for the monks. Some tourists do buy food from street vendors in the morning, and offer it to the monks; while this is a nice gesture, the monks cannot become dependent on the ups and downs of tourism over the year for food. Depending on the local community is more stable in this respect.
Why is the community so generous? One reason may be that practically every man in Laos goes through monk hood once, from a month to years. When these men leave monkhood and later find a job, they may feel inclined to give. Another reason is that they find value in Buddhism, and are motivated to support their religion. And thats why there are so many beautiful wats in the region.
I spend the remainder days bicycling around the small town, surrounded by the Mekong river.
I visit the many wats, meditating in some of them, and appreciating the spiritual energy of the region. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the various wats, but hopefully you can just enjoy photos of the various wats I visited below.
A selfie is nice once in a while, right?
I love the nagas (seven-headed serpent) and red and gold interior in the wat below.
Wat Pa Phon Phao
I was able to remember the name of this one!
The inside of the above temple:
I was sitting in the temple above, and decided to meditate for 30 minutes. A few minutes into it, the monks started playing some magnificent music. I wish I had caught more than 5 seconds of it.
Next stop: the capital of Laos: Vientiane.