Chennai Journal
Sunday, November 18, 2007
More on Laos

One of the important Buddhist customs is almsgiving. Every morning between 6 and 6:30, the monks in Luang Prabang from various monasteries parade through the street to the main wat, or temple, Wat Xieng Thong, which sits at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.

Along the route, people offer rice, fruit, and other food to the monks. I suppose many do this as a daily ritual, along with the monks. It is customary for young men to serve their time in the monastery--and for some it's exactly that--as in off hours you can see them on the streets talking on cell phones, gathered around a computer terminal in an internet cafe, or laughing and joking among themselves. Below you can see one of the young monks deeply engrossed in a cell phone conversation, with his friend waiting patiently.

Of course, the intrusion of the modern world isn't limited to motorcycles, internet cafes, and cell phones. It's the tourists, too. It was not the high season yet, but still, at least 30 other tourists were out along the part of the route I was on --near my guest house, the Sayo--snapping away. A tourist brochure given to you at the airport has ten tips to help you honor the Lao culture, one of these being a plea not to use a flash and keep a respectful distance during the alms giving. I certainly tried to do this, and used my telephoto lens as well.

There are many wats or temples in Luang Prabang, and there is a peaceful sense being around them. I tried to upload a video, but it's 72 MB and that seems a bit more than Blogger can swallow. So here are a few more pictures (and there are more on Flickr):

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