Thursday, February 26, 2015

Asia Trip - Day 17 - Luang Prabang, Laos

Wed 25
Alms-giving ceremony • A Day in the Life of Tin Keo
Village • Home-Hosted Lunch
Today we rise very early to participate in an ancient Buddhist tradition: alms-giving to local monks. In the quiet of early morning around 5am), we watch as hundreds of monks from the nearby Buddhist temples parade solemnly and single-file through the streets of Luang Prabang, collecting food offerings from the citizens who, in turn, receive prayers for their families and friends from the monks. Dressed in traditional Lao orange robes, the monks provide a sense of calm and solemnity to the inhabitants of the city each morning.
When the procession is over, we'll visit a nearby market and return to the hotel for breakfast. Then we set out to experience A Day in the Life of Tin Keo Village, where we'll get to meet young students a local elementary school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative. We'll then walk to a nearby village of the Hmong hill tribe, an indigenous people of Laos' northern highlands. Here, we'll be welcomed inside the home of a local shaman. After a lively discussion with village leaders, you'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch, which you'll help to prepare. We return to Luang Prabang for some free time to explore, and dinner is on your own.
Wake-up call at 5:15 am, departure by tuk tuk at 5:45.I had mixed feelings about the alms ceremony. I don't want to intrude on their feelings ... the monks and the locals. But it was done very well. The monks go every morning at sunrise and collect food from the people. The people are in front of their houses ready to give. It was stressed to us that it is not begging but the monks give us a chance to do good.Out of respect you can't be higher then the monks. Since we can not sit on the floor like locals little chairs were prepared for us with a container full of sticky rice in front of us and a scarf you had to tie a certain way over your shoulder. Quite a humbling experience. Somehow I have the thought that we don't take our faith seriously enough in the US.
Then we walked to the local market. Incredible all the things you see. But I am jealous of all the fresh veggies. The fish were still flapping and the chickens were still alive. Of the last I am not jealous. Wouldn't want to have to kill it myself.
Every person in our group was given a piece of paper with instructions in the Laos language.Sabaidee is the greeting.Sue means you want to buy ...James was supposed to find Phark Bua (green onions) for 2000 Lao kip.I was supposed to find Khao Khob (rice crackers) for 3000 kip.Kob Chai means thank-you.
There are my rice crackers.
We go back to the hotel by tuk tuk and I got very cold. Have to take a long hot shower. And then we have breakfast.Departed at 9 am by bus because we are not going into the city. We drive for quite a while into the countryside. Teak wood plantations are pointed out to us. Here in Lao the trees are harvested when they are 15 years old.Finally we reach the village. We are greeted by the mayor who seems happy to see us. OAT is part of Grand Circle and they have a Foundation which supports many causes in the areas in which they are traveling. In this village it is clean water, some walkways and the school. You can see the GCF sign on many things. Chear is on the very right and the mayor next to him.
The Mrs with grandchild Jasmin.
Then the mayor takes us on a little tour. This is a leaf from the teak tree. It can be used just like sandpaper.
The teak tree also has something which is excellent for dying yarn for the weaving.
The blacksmith.
His granddaughter is just learning to walk. A stick in the ground with hollow bamboo and an arm over it which rotates. Genius.
Somebody was creative when they put in sidewalks.
At the school we are greeted by the children. We each get some marigolds around our necks. And then a child takes our hand and leads us into the class room and sets us down at a desk.
This is my little friend. She could say my name very well but no chance for me to pronounce hers.
Everything was nicely arranged. Here are some videos:
The school from the outside.
Then we walk to the village next door. These are Hmong people who were relocated from the mountains. This is the Shaman and his wife.
VIDEO 1 (Shaman) 
VIDEO 2 (James)
When the Shaman plays the other instrument he dances at the same time.
Then the Shaman showed us how good he is with a crossbow and arrow. We even had a little competition going (without any practice on our side). James didn't do badly though.
The mayor led us back to his house for lunch. Remember the things we had bought in the morning? We "kind of" cooked them now.
This is it!
From my seat I could see the little boy through the open door. Isn't he cute?
Steamed in banana leaf pouches. One is sticky rice, one is pork.
Some of us wished we hadn't seen the kitchen. With hindsight I can say though that all went well with me.
James and I had brought a hostess gift, a cup with pictures of Richmond.
Next stop: a weaving center. There must have been at least a dozen weaving looms providing for them by the foundation. But everybody was selling for themselves. Not a coop.
The Hmong ladies had a table too. James fancied a water-bottle carrier.
Back at the hotel: free time for the rest of the day. Guess what? I went into the pool too.
We could have gone to town with the hotel shuttle but we really didn't need another big meal. And the hotel grounds are so gorgeous.
They should be since it was once the residence of a prince.
So we just set where we have breakfast overlooking the Mekong having some snacks and libations.
Going back to our room we saw some of these where there were lights. I always liked them.
Last night in this hotel. Better do some packing.

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Two photos shared by fellow traveler Kathy.

1 comment:

  1. I like the alms giving ceremony. I appreciate practical faith in action. The videos are wonderful! Thanks for posting them.