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February 20 - Luang Prabang

LAOS | Sunday, 20 February 2011 | Views [557]

I just read about the Hu Long Bay boating accident.  My friends and I are planning to go there but now we will be extra careful with who we book with and it might be a day trip only.

UNESCO Luang Prabang http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/479

Where to start?  Luang Prabang (LP) is a beehive of activities centered around the temples, villages, artisans, rivers, waterfalls, caves, and probably for the most popular event called Tak Bat*, the procession of monks receiving their morning alms. I have another entry to write on this topic because what goes on is disturbing to me, as well as other tourists I have been talking with.

Right now it is hard to concentrate as I write this because a van is outside the on the sidewalk with the engine idling and the noise and exhaust is annoying me.  Idling vans and motorbikes are common and my ears and nose picks up on it right away.  It just left.

For now, here is a brief observation and first impression of Tak Bat.

The parade (or circus) looks like this: tourists and locals set up on the sidewalk with cooked rice, fruit, and biscuits to give to the monks.  As the monks walk pass people hand small clumps of rice into the monks' baskets.  I don't know if I would want to eat a meal of 30 or so clumps of rice handed to be by all sorts of people.  The groups of tourists are the side attraction because some groups, mostly Asians, get all dressed up and sit on the sidewalk in front of their hotels and have picture after picture taken of themselves by the group leader.  During the procession I watched a group leader ask a young monk to stop to get a photo of him with the tourist - that goes against the respect for the religious ceremony.  Seems like anything to keep the tourist happy or to make a fast Lao Kip (their currency).  The local ladies also play into this by selling the tourist rice to give to the monks.  Again, more on this topic later.

Speaking about making a Kip, on Thr night I went to watch the 7pm Ethnik Fashion show at the Hive Bar.  The idea is fantastic and I support it fully.  I happened to go right after I had a filling meal of a BIG bowl of soup and tea and wasn't hungry a bit.  Two waiters hovered over me waiting to take my order after I explained I just ate and was not hungry but I would order water.  They walked away in disgust and never came back with water.  About 10 min later and Western woman came over and gestured as to sit down.  I motioned yes and she said, "No, I work here.  Have you been served? A purchase is required."  I explained the situation for the 3rd time (while I am trying to watch the show too) and requested water.  The water came out shortly.  I can tell the wait staff reported to the lady that there is someone not placing an order.  The incident did not sit well with me.  I did go back last night with Canadian ladies and this time I ordered two items.  The show is a great way to highlight the dress of the different ethnic groups and to employ models.  The whole this is well orchestrated too.  After is a hip hop show and these young men are talented.

The days are passing swiftly in LP.  There is always a pleasant walk to take or a gallery to linger in.  I thought to recap here what has been happening over the last two days:

  • 6:30 am alms (both mornings)
  • bike rental, flat tire, food market (papaya, cabbage, oranges, tamarind)
  • scenic bike ride in the country side
  • coconut milk
  • nap, rain storm
  • Buddhist holiday on Full Moon and the lighting of the temples with candles
  • Family style fish dinner at the Tamarind restaurant
  • Night Market
  • English Conversation classes in the mornings
  • Lao food
  • Ethnic museum
  • Red Cross herbal sauna
That is it for now.  Please comment if you have the time.

* from the TravelFish website - If Luang Prabang has a must-see attraction, this is it.

Each morning at around 06:00, hundreds of resident monks leave their wat and walk silently down the streets in single-file to collect food offerings from the local people. The endless parade of monks, each barefoot and saffron-robed, is truly a spectacular sight and this dawn ceremony has become an iconic image of Luang Prabang. However, many tourists seem to forget that this is a genuine religious ceremony, not a cultural show for their enjoyment. Despite the vendors eager to sell you a basket of sticky rice so you too can feed the monks, only participate if it's meaningful to you. Otherwise, show respect and observe the ceremony quietly and from a distance.

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