Luang Prabang

We spent two days in Luang Prabang, the first capital of Laos. It is situated at the merger of the Nam Khan and the Mekong Rivers and encircled by mountains. The city government has provided main roads around the city so that in the city proper there are no trucks or buses—mostly motorbikes, bicycles, tuk-tuks, and pedestrians. It has beautiful brilliant new and old temples with the orange-robed monks, old French-Lao colonial buildings, flowering trees, fascinating morning and evening markets, river traffic, coffee, and thousands of tourists. Our days were spent meandering around the town and climbing the one hill to look out over the countryside. We didn’t hurry because it was hot and we needed time to refresh ourselves with drinks and rest.

One evening we attended a royal ballet performance of classical dancing and music. It reminded us of classical performance in Indonesia. Another evening we attended a storytelling time with music. The Lao khaen was a new instrument for us and we found it interesting to hear and see played. Both performances were fun and provided a respite from the many temples we visited! We also visited the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) with information about Laos’ ethnic groups, traditional lifestyles, and handicrafts emphasizing women’s role in society.

Early mornings (6:00 am) we got up to watch the feeding of the monks. It is an interesting process. The monks file through the streets and collect food (rice, fruit, crackers, etc) from the devout—and from tourists. Local women along the street are happy to lend you a mat for a price and sell you food to give. We did not give any food but joined other tourists in taking photos. What each monk collects is what they will eat for that day.

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