Food for the Soul ~ Alms Rounds, Luang Prabang, Laos

Reflections of trees and coloured glass Buddha images, shop window: Luang Prabang

Shopfront Abstract: "Buddha Dreams", Luang Prabang

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.

Coloured glass and stone Buddha images in a shop window, Luang Prabang

Stone Buddhas ~ Luang Prabang

Evening light on the muddy Mekong River, Bamboo lamps in the foreground

Lamps on the Mekong

View: Smokey brown sky, low sun, palms, and a modest wooden house. Luang Prabang

Late sun in the palms, Luang Prabang

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.

White cement wall in front the brown cubed roof line of Wat Nong Sikhounmuang, Luang Prabang

Wat Nong Sikhounmuang, Luang Prabang

Wooden long-boat in a temple shed: orange robes hanging behind. Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Temple Still-Life: Long Boat, Wat Nong Sikhounmuang (I Think)

Head and shoulders of a Golden Buddha: Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Golden Buddha: Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Portrait: Young Lao Woman, seated

Young Lao Woman

Three small buddha images at the feet of a large golden buddha.

Offerings and Prayers ~ at the Feet of the Buddha, Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Lao temple, with brown curved sloping roof:  Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Graceful lines and curves: Wat Nong Sikhounmuang

Spider and web against the orange of a monk

Spider at the Back Door - Wat Pak Khan

Pale pink croc shoes on a concrete step.

Crocs on the Step

Portrait: Elderly Lao woman with temple offerings decorated with frangipani.

Seller of Offerings: Wat Xieng Thong

Buddha image in a dark temple alcove

Lay your offerings here. Wat Xieng Thong

Lao temple building: Wat Xieng Thong

The epitome of traditional Lao temple architecture, Wat Xieng Thong, built in 1560.

Gold-painted carved door: Apsaras and deer, Wat Xieng Thong

Apsaras and Deer

Ancient gold-painted Lao Buddha image, Wood Wat Xieng Thong

Ancient Wooden Buddha: Wat Xieng Thong

Detail: gold painted balusters on a square window agains a mosaic wall. Wat Xieng Thong

Window with a mosaic depicting everyday life ~ Wat Xieng Thong

Building: coloured glass mosaic of the Tree of Life on the red wood of Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong's famous "Tree of Life" mosaic was crafted in 1960.

View of a golden stupa from inside a carved doorway: Wat Xieng Thong

Stupa ~ Wat Xieng Thong

Portrait: Novice Buddhist monk

"Little Nen" ~ Novice ~ Wat Xieng Thong

Detail: golden "dok so fa", a decorative element on top of the main roof

Lines and Curves ~ a "dok so fa" on the roof of Wat Xieng Thong

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.

Early morning street scene: Buddhist monks on their morning rounds. Luang Prabang

Morning on the streets of Luang Prabang, in front of Wat Nong Sikhounmuang.

Lao woman seated on the street, waiting to give alms. Luang Prabang

Waiting to give alms in the morning

Buddhist monks walking single file with begging bowls, Luang Prabang.

Monks on their morning rounds

Lao woman seated, giving food to Buddhist monks. Luang Prabang

Making Merit

Detail: Buddhist monk

Begging Bowl

Two Lao women, seated with their containers of rice for offerings

Women waiting to give alms, Luang Prabang

Young buddhist novices sweeping a temple courtyard

After the rounds: morning chores.

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.

Text: Happy Travels

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

  • Signe - March 12, 2012 - 6:36 am

    what a magic place…ReplyCancel

  • Patrick - November 1, 2013 - 4:55 am

    Some lovely photographs here, Ursula. They make me want to visit Luang Prabang soon.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - November 1, 2013 - 2:39 pm

      Well worth the trip, Patrick! Thanks for the visit.:DReplyCancel

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