The beauty of the Laos alms giving
At 4:30 AM in the morning, ringing of the alarm clock rang loudly disturbing a quiet space, but thanks to that noise, I could get up. I had spent all the day before to wander around the streets of Luang Prabang and ended a delicious dinner with larb gai – a Lao specialty. The reason for getting up early today is my desire to engage in a traditional activity in Laos: alms giving to local monks.
Over the past decade, Luang Prabang has undergone several waves of investment but it still maintains historic old charm with strict rules originating from a longstanding culture and the people’s belief. Become one of the best preserved cities in Asia, Luang Prabang owns original stone temples and French colonial architecture, reflecting the complexity of a past time.
I carried a bamboo basket full of sticky rice, and joined a long line of locals and visitors sitting in line at a temple with their well-prepared offerings such as sticky rice, bread, fruit…. Everyone was quietly waiting for the monks as a way to show their respect. As the sun began to dawn in the horizon, I could see a line of monks, including the elderly ones and young novices slowly coming.
Despite seeing images in advance on newspapers, we still felt overwhelmed by the scene taking place infront of us. A monk delegation of about 100 people, wearing an orange saffron and a hanging basket with a long strap, walked quietly step by step on bare feet. Each one followed the other, the elderly walked prior to the young one, and finally the young novices.
When they were approaching, I began to focus on the main task: offering them the warm sticky rice. They quietly and slowly received on by one, a generous monk smiled when I clumsily gave him a handful of rice. Around me, Buddhists lifted up sticky rice basket across his forehead and pray something, then offered it to the monks … a cake wrapped in leaves, a piece of candy … All quietly passed the long lines of people like that.
In my life and career, I have had the opportunity to visit many world-class museums, historic sites, and in particular luxury hotels, everything makes me think that it is of course, not somthing special. However, this small town made me very surprised and interested, the old culture creates a very special affinity for this place.
La Résidence Phou Vao – typical hotel for the soul of Laos
My memories of Luang Prabang will always be hidden in mysterious fog covering the city in the morning. Every day, I got up early at the hotel to look forward to a break of the city with a peaceful life in the mist like through a veil.
La Résidence Phou Vao is a famous hotel in Luang Prabang, we can say this is a typical hotel for the soul of this country. La Résidence opened to visitors from longer than any other hotel in the city, even when Laos largely closed to the outside world. That is why it is nicknamed “Friendly Hotel”.
With unique wooden items made from teak wood, hand-woven silk walls, outdoor eateries, and an outdoor pool overlooking the mountain Phou Si, the hotel is really attractive to me. This was the kings’ favourite place to play kite. I’m imagining about the scene of kite flying high in the majestic spaces with the hills and mountains – such a magical image. And certainly I would also planning to conquer the summit of Mount Phou Si.
Stroll through the pretty small streets of Luang Prabang
Spent carefree days in Luang Prabang, in the morning I wandered on pretty small streets here and stopped to hear the melodious chanting of the monks at a temple. Then slowly go through the items sold on the store in the market, along the road through the alley, and was mesmerized by the cute appearance of adorable kids chewing baguettes. In the evening, I looked forsouvenirs for friends, bought hand-stitched bags and elephant statues carved from authentic teak in the bustling night market.
Discover the beauty of the majestic Mekong River
In another day, when the fog started to melt down, I joined a tour of Pak Ou Caves with a rosewood boat, owned by La Résidence to see the famous Buddha statues. We glided along the Mekong River, passing farms and the area elephants wading in shallow water, stoping at Ban Phanom, a 300 year old village – where the local people can only earn their living on Mekong river.
What a wonderful place! The cave is located right on the bank of the gentle river. Numerous figurines occupy every corner high above in the cave with sufficient sizes and shapes; which is said that in the past when Luang Prabang capital was invaded, the Lao people sailed at night and brought the Buddha images to the cave to hide them from the enemy.
During my journey, I encountered a non-modern, non bustle Luang Prabang – totally in contrast with the places I’ve traveled. However, that simple calmness attracts and leaves me more impressions than anywhere, I think I will come back to Luang Prabang to enjoy the quiet peaceful days.