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Alms for the monks

LAOS | Friday, 1 January 2016 | Views [395]

Alms for the monks

Alms for the monks

5 am comes very early when you are determined to stay up till 12. Still on California time I stayed up even later, adrenaline and lack of sleepiness keeping me wide awake, but I was not about to miss the next day's events. We awoke before the morning light to line the streets and wait for monks both young and old, dressed in the proverbial orange robes, to hand out alms of rice and packaged foods for the new year. Hundreds of locals and tourists lined the streets all sitting on little red stools that wrapped around the town. We watched in anticipation for the procession to reach us so that we could flick gobs of sticky rice into their pots without touching the rims, a scarf draped down our front and our feet barren of shoes pointed away from the procession lest we offend the monks. As they filed our way they ranged from the older monks, faces lined with wisdom and leathered from many life experiences to the young ones, faces bright and hopeful ready start their monk hood lives. They came silently with their bowls open and ready to aceept our offerings. To put into words the feelings that I experienced would be very difficult, but if I could try I would have to say it was a humbling and fulfilling feeling and unforgettable experience.

As the last monk departed and we were out of foods, we ambled to the early morning produce market to check out the local veggies. As we started the walk down the street of the market we were bombarded by so many different sights and smells. Each stall ranging from on the ground to a wooden table, laden with interesting veggies and even odder proteins; live chickens, rats, bats, frogs, crickets, herbs and spices, leafy greens, bright tropical fruits, and textiles to name a few. Every stall hawking their wares trying to entice you to buy from them as you wind your way down the street. Then came the meat side street; women sitting higher up in their stall butchering and bagging their meats. To try to figure out what meats they were offering was something I didn't feel the need to find out As it was it was quite the blood bath. Everything from organs and body parts sitting out ready for the shoppers to choose what piece they wanted. What an intense and very raw experience for the vegetatarian. The street food came next, the food coming from the previous stalls; bbqed, smoked, braised, and skewered ready for the adventurous tourist or seasoned local. If you wanted some clothes, bags, jewelry, hiusegolds, or anything else they were last to end the market. 

We breakfasted on Laos coffee, mangos and papaya, and fried coconut sticks then headed down to the Mekong River to take a boat to a local village across the river. We walked through the village along the road built by UNESCO and noticed the stark difference of the village life to the streets of Luang Prabang. Shantys and clapboard house compared to well built buildings, pads on the wood floors and clothes lines filled with many colors lined the makeshift homes. Children running barefoot down the road making up imaginary games with sticks, mothers following behind with babes on their hips.

Back to the boat, we set out to a silk textile place where we had lunch and saw the many looms set up to produce silk goods. We saw the dyes that were made from plants and trees and the worms that produced the silks. I don't think I am comfortable wearing silk after that experience. 

Tags: alms, laos, mekong river, monks, morning market, silk worms, sunrise

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