With feet back on dry land, it’s time to settle into the pace of Luang Prabang, Laos’s capital until the communist takeover in 1975. This pace admittedly isn’t a whole lot faster than life upon the slow boat.
This morning saw another 4 something wakeup, this time by choice. Luang Prabang is filled with temples, and the temples in turn filled with monks. At the crack of dawn each morning the monks walk throughout the city collecting alms in the form of sticky rice. Armed with my own bamboo basket of rice I joined some locals on an intersection that was soon to be busy with monks. I got a few pointers – shoes off, kneel, small ball of rice into every bowl, don’t touch the bowl, and don’t touch the monks!
There was something quite peaceful about the whole thing, with no words shared, just the nods of thanks from the monks as they shuffled by in their bare feet and saffron robes. The elders led the lines with the boys, some as young as 5 or 6 bringing up the rear. A couple of the youngsters struggled to conceal early morning yawns. I wasn’t so successful at hiding mine.
Finally all mouths had been fed. Rubbing my burnt fingers and picking off the sticky rice that had glued itself to the soles of my feet, I enjoyed the glow of satisfaction that comes with having done a good deed (and having gained good photo opportunities).
After an afternoon wandering around town taking in the remnant French buildings that vie for space with the temples, a pit stop at one of the multitude of Luang Prabang’s cafes was on the cards. The muddy brown water of the Mekong flowed silently by and whiffs of smoke from a mosquito coil drifted up my nose as I sipped my tea, chatted to fellow traveller Kim from New York, and relaxed into watching afternoon life unfold.