Lovely Place, Luang Prabang

We’re in Luang Prabang, Laos, a sleepy little city that feels more like an oversized village. It is famous for its numerous Wats, Buddhist monasteries which function as temples and often also have a school attached. Thanks to this, the town has a large population of monks and has become famous for its almsgiving ceremony which happens every morning.

Around sunrise, all the monks, there are about 450 in the city, walk in single-file down main street with their little food bowls hanging over their shoulders and the townspeople offer them alms, i.e. one of the monks’ two daily meals. Usually this is sticky rice with maybe a little bit of fruit. The alms givers sit on little mats by the side of the road, eyes trained on their baskets of sticky rice and feet tucked under so as to not show disrespect (the feet are considered the lowliest and dirtiest part of the body and should never be pointed at another person). When a monk passes, the people get up on their knees to reach the bowl better, drop in a little ball of rice and the monk moves on. No words are spoken and there is no eye contact in this quick and somber ritual.

Many of the 'mini monks' don't go on to become monks but are simply here to receive an education at the wat.

Tourists giving out alms. They were notably stingier than the locals. I wonder if the monks mind?

There were many posters all around town about the alms giving ceremony, asking tourists to be respectful and to enjoy the ceremony but to please not intrude, i.e. don’t use flash photography, dress sensibly and only join in the alms giving if it really means something to you. There are plenty of vendors walking the streets in the morning trying to hawk rice and food packages to tourists for alms giving. But apparently that food isn’t of the best quality and locals discourage this practice. Ideally the rice should be prepared personally, as part of the ritual.

There were children by the side of the road with plastic bags, begging for alms from the monks. I don't know if they were orphans or just very poor.

Around Luang Prabang there are several standard tourist spots that every tuk-tuk driver and mini bus chauffeur offers: the caves and the waterfalls. The Tham Ting and Tham Theung caves, also known as the Pak Ou caves, are famous because they are filled with hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues of all sizes and designs. The lower cave, Tham Ting, is more of a giant hole in the wall than a real cave but the upper cave, Tham Theung, is very dark and slightly spooky with a single candle burning on an altar at the very end. Once your eyes adjust you can start to make out all the little Buddha figures sitting, lying and standing around the altar and on the surrounding walls. We even found a ‘cemetery’ of old and mostly beheaded Buddhas at the very end of the cave.

In the lower cave you can appreciate the various styles of Buddhas and their artistic placements.

The Kuang Si Waterfalls, the other major tourist draw, are great fun because you can go hiking up the waterfalls – not to be attempted in the rain because it gets VERY slippery – and then go for a refreshing swim afterwards. There’s also a bear sanctuary where we met Fa Bear:

But the best part was probably the Tarzan swing. Especially since we had that pool all to ourselves and didn’t have to worry about jumping on anyone’s head. Here is a video of bear Fa swinging.

3 Responses to “Lovely Place, Luang Prabang”

  1. Kuru says:

    I love Fa bear. Perfect picture 🙂

  2. Vicky says:

    the kids love the new tarzan 🙂

  3. Nora says:

    I think you should install one of those swings at Babbo’s pool while he’s not looking… 😉

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