Laos > Luang Prabang
LUANG PRABANG, 04 Oct 2009
Upon reaching the end of the line of alm-givers, the monks promptly make a U-turn and walk briskly pass us to return to their monastery. Their movements are so precise, polished after months of such daily routine.
A group of elderly ladies in all-white clothings wait for more visiting monks. I wonder why white, which in Buddhism is worn as a sign of mourning, a funeral garb. Maybe these ladies are widows praying for their departed husbands?
I peek into a basket carried by a monks’ assistant. It’s full of modern goodies, not necessarily nutritional. These could end up with the begging kids.
Another line of monks is approaching, and the girls posture themselves again.
The ritual repeats itself, I think for the 4th time for this lady and her friends. Cool sling-bags.
That’s the end of the line … what a relief.
Some half an hour after the monks first appeared, the whole thing is all over. The pavement is duly cleaned and is soon deserted.
My favourite ladies retire to their home (office?) right across the road, contented at earning precious merit. Thanks, girls!
We return briefly to our hotel for breakfast, before paying the former Royal Palace a quick visit. The Lao monarchy started in the 15th century and ended in 1975 with the communist takeover. Luang Prabang has always been the royal capital all those centuries. The Royal Lao Family now operates out of a small town just east of Paris, and still harbours hope of reviving the Lao monarchy.
In the compound of the Royal Palace, a new pavilion is under construction, supposedly to house the sacred Prabang Buddha, which gave its name to Luang Prabang. This Buddha image, now kept in the Royal Palace, is thought to have arrived here from Sri Lanka in the 15th century, together with Theravada Buddhism.
Across the Royal Palace, there’s another classic French building.
Nightfall and there’s the full moon above 200-year-old Wat Chomsi atop Mt Phousi, a hill right in the middle of old Luang Prabang.
On the ground, beautiful Wat Mai is celebrating Ork Phansa, the end of the Buddhist Lent.
The large yard is bedecked with lanterns, and in the middle, a huge boat lantern.
The fierce head of a naga forms the bow of the boat carrying a huge lotus. All these are sacred Buddhist icons.
And the tail of the boat is equally spectacular. The monks are pretty artistic, I must say. Well done!
Kids loiter around, lighting crackers and generally having fun on this beautiful night, while the monks watch.
In one frame, the Full Moon, the Porch of Wat Mai, and in the distance, the Stupa of Wat Chomsi at Mt Phousi.
Outside Wat Mai, the night market is in full swing, and incidentally, this is our final night in Luang Prabang. Tomorrow we return to Vientiane. What a pity.
[MORE TO COME …]