I received a postcard from friends this week: a picture of women in Laos on their knees giving alms to the monks.
It reminded me how much I love Laos: the songs, dances and smiles of the people, the brilliant hand-woven fabrics, the colourful markets, the ethnic villages, the beautiful countryside… I’m less fond of the border markets like those I talked about last week, with their cheap Chinese electricals, clothing, and leather-goods, and their bears in cages, but I guess that is all part of the whole.
The postcard made me nostalgic for my visit to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Luang Prabang, back in March of 2010.
Described by UNESCO as “an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries”, Luang Prabang is a charming town where the gentle rhythms of a religion that is lived daily are in evidence everywhere.
Not-withstanding the smoke in the air from the usual spring burning when I was there, and a fever I was running from a bout of illness I had picked up elsewhere, the city wove it’s magic over me.
Luang Prabang got its well-deserved reputation and its World Heritage listing as a “Cultural Site”, not just from its architecturally beautiful temples, but from the way these are still integrated into the daily life of the whole community. Every morning at six am, the people of Luang Prabang come out to the main street to give offerings of food to the monks of those temples as they make their way, barefoot and single file on their morning alms rounds.
This morning routine of giving food to the monks so that they are able look after of the spiritual needs of of the community frames the day: setting the rhythm and the pace of life in this charming town.
I’d love to go back, as my friends knew when they sent me the postcard. With that, my photos and my memories, I can at least revisit in spirit.
Wishing you happy travels.
Photos: 24-28 March, 2010