Saturday, August 4, 2007

The One with the Alms Giving

Luang Prabang is a pretty little town with a french colonial feel, set on the banks of the Chocolate Mekong. We spent a couple of days here with Carrie and Vicky.

On the first day, Sam and I ventured out to Kuang Si falls, - some very cool waterfalls - which also had a sanctuary for orphaned Asiatic Bears at it's base. One very paddington esque bear, got stuck in the tyre swing, and spent a while trying to figure out how to pull himself out... you have to love animals!

The next day we were up early to go to the alms giving which takes place every morning at 6am. As we left the guest house we were ushered and hurried onto the curb where we were given sticky rice and biscuits to make as an offering.. and then charged exorbutant amounts for. We got 2 trays between the 4 of us, and sat back to give a ball of rice to each passing monk.

When our trays were empty, we headed round the corner to another spot to watch line after line of saffron robed monkes walk past local people to collect more sticky rice. Quite a sight.

After breakfast (it now felt like we'd been up for days!) we got a tuk tuk to take us to the Pak Ou caves. We'd been told that this was where all unwanted Buddhas are left (you're not allowed to destroy an image of buddha0 so we were expecting a cave packed full of dusty happy buddhas... but whilst there were lots of buddhas... to be honest it was a bit of a let down (but did allow for some funky shots of shadows of buddha in torchlight)

That afternoon Sam and I checked out the Wat-age of Luang Prabang - Wat May with it's gilded gold doors. The Royal Palace with its Prabang Buddha - the most sacred in Laos and which gave Luang Prabang it's name, but which was rather small, and Wat Xieng Thong, which has visions of hell stencilled on it's walls - murderers boiling in cauldrons and adulterers escaping rabid dogs on spiny trees and being pecked by giant birds... so much for peaceful Buddhism!

It's a little known fact but Laos has a midnight curfew. At this time everyone should be tucked up in bed in their registered abode (or else risk turning into a pumpkin?!) But there is one tiny loophole in the law. You must be in bed... unless you go ten pin bowling! Weird but true, and so for a very surreal evening we partied until 3am at the bowling alley with our new Laotian friends Mr Peter and Mr Lee!

A crazy place!

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