Thursday started early. Really early. While we’ve had to set alarm clocks any number of times on this trip to ensure that we got our included-in-the-price breakfast before a morning tour, today we were to see the monks walk asking for alms. And provide them with said alms. This is an 800 year old tradition whereby devotees and now tourists place sticky rice in bowls carried by the monks. This provides food for the monks (although they have other food as well) and, at least for the devotees, shows respect for the monks.
So we arose at 5:00, met our host at the front of the hotel at 5:30, and sat on cushions he had placed along the street in front of the hotel with bowls of sticky rice. We had to don sashes properly wrapped around us. About 40 monks passed us in four or five groups (1). While I got the picture above, I was mostly busy digging handfuls of rice out of my baskets to drop into the bowls carried by the monks. Also, it was still before sunrise, and pretty dark (2). Most of the images I shot didn’t come out.
By 6:15 we were back in our
room house. Sally went back to sleep, while I caught up on the blog.
We had a late breakfast and then I walked into town to see what it looks like during the day, with no guide, and no night market. It’s a pretty sleepy town. There are extremely few regular cars here. Traffic in town and the surrounding area is dominated by motorbikes and tuk tuks. The tuks here are different than those we saw in Thailand. At least in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, they are used for short trips and mostly by tourists. Here they’re a major form of transportation, and so they are bigger and more robust.
Our main activity for the day was a river cruise on the Mekong. We really had no idea what to expect other than sitting in a boat all afternoon with our guide and having some snacks while we looked at the scenery and made of couple of stops. I think we were both a bit afraid that we would be uncomfortable in the hot sun and bored. It turns out we were anything but uncomfortable, and we weren’t bored either.
The boat was a big surprise. It was extremely long and narrow for its length, and setup up to accommodate maybe six guests. We, of course, were only two. There were two king-sized day beds separated by a bar and serving station. We were outnumbered by the waiter, the captain and our guide.
The scenery was beautiful. We’re just at the end of the rainy season, so everything is still lush and green. And with the boat moving and creating a breeze, and being shaded from the sun by the roof and some clouds, the temperature was about perfect.
We made two stops. The first was a little village where they distill whiskey, which was cute. The second, our endpoint, was a cave where 2,000 Buddhas sit looking down (4).
Along the way we saw that the Mekong is still a river where some people have not moved into the 21st century.
The last stop was a pair of caves which rise above the river which house hundreds (5) of Buddhas, reportedly placed there by local villagers over hundreds of years. The lower cave is a couple of steep flights up, and the upper cave is a couple of hundred steep steps up.
We just visited the lower, which contains most of the Buddhas (6).
The cruise home was peaceful. In fact, the current was strong enough that the captain slowed down so we wouldn’t get home too early – this was supposed to be a sunset cruise. But we enjoyed our afternoon snacks (7). Unfortunately, the sky clouded over before sunset so it just got dark.
(1) There are more than 1,000 monks in Luang Prabang.
(2) 1/13s, f/1.8, ISO 3200 dark.
(3) Not really it’s name, which was written in Lao script. Which I can’t read.
(4) Buddha’s eyes are almost always shown looking down as he meditates.
(5) Our guide said there are thousands. I’m not sure that’s true, nor am I sure about the provenance of the statues. The information I can find all seems pretty sketchy.
(6) Apparently the local villagers are no more energetic than we are.
(7) There was enough food that Sally didn’t need dinner.