Not Long in Luang Prabang

19 Oct

The last stop of our jungle tour was a Khmu & Hmong village, located on the shores of the Nam Khan River.

As we approached the village by boat, we were greeted with many smiling and curious faces.

We visited homes, talked to the villagers, played with kids, and just allowed this new/old and foreign world to unfold and seep into our souls.

It was one of the shortest experiences that I’ll always remember.

***

Only a 30 minute boat ride and 1 hour bus away from the jungle, we found ourselves in, what seemed to be, another planet – Luang Prabang – a perfect riverside city with majestic golden temples, old French architecture, lantern-lit streets, delicious Asian cuisine, and an intoxicatingly relaxed pace.  In short, Luang Prabang is a traveler’s dream.

G and I wasted no time (please read: I pushed G out the door) and headed straight to the Hmong Night Market.  There, we strolled around for hours, trying to pick out the perfect scarf/braclet/shirt from the hundreds of options.

At one point, G was so tired of shopping that he left to get a massage. I, on the other hand, was happy to continue hunting solita. What can I say? I just love me a market.  BTW, Lu, that scarf is for you!  Don’t mind the strained smile, that’s the best I could do while modeling scarves in 100 degree heat.

While night marketing, restauranting, and massaging were all highlights of our time in Luang Prabang, my favorite moment, BY FAR, was waking up at 5:30 am to give alms to the Buddhist monks.  G & I were extremely lucky because we were the only tourists (among many locals) waiting for the hundreds of monks to appear during their morning procession.

It was a quiet and beautiful moment for me, kneeling on the wet street, handing out steaming sticky rice to the colorful monks.  I wondered if I could do this on a daily basis, like most of the residents of Luang Prabang do.  I also hoped that I could find something in my own everyday life, that could make me feel as good as handing out rice in the rain….

Here is a quick clip I found on YouTube of a typical Luang Prabang morning:

If you are interested in giving alms to the monks during their morning procession, please be respectful of the ritual.   I was told, as a girl, to look modest (cover those arms and legs) and make little eye-contact with the monks.  Ask your hotel to prepare a good few containers of sticky rice the night before, to ensure that you will be able to give the monks high-quality rice, instead of the cheap rice often sold to tourists along the main road.  Also, if you want to take photos, make sure not to use flash and stand on the opposite side of the street.  It’s important to preserve and uphold this Buddhist tradition in Luang Prabang, and many article’s I’ve read (like THIS NYT article) make it seem like some tourists are acting more like invasive paparazzi than respectful participants.

Oh, and if you are like me, and have no idea what to actually DO once the monks arrive, simply scoop-up a handful of rice with a clean hand, and place it in their bowls as they walk by.

I may or may not have accidentally dumped an entire bag-full of rice into the first monk’s bowl… The puzzled look on his face was priceless (and SO embarrassing for me)!!!

Even though our time in Laos was way too short, G & I left Luang Prabang knowing that we’d be back for more (Soon! Please!).  Not many places in the world can steal your heart as quickly as Laos.

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3 Responses to “Not Long in Luang Prabang”

  1. Katie October 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Incredible description…I feel like I was there with you!!

  2. donna November 7, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    how did i miss this entry? you’re making me dream of Laos. hmm…springtime rendevouz?I LOVE the scarf!

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