One of the main “Attractions” that Luang Prabang has become famous for is the Tak Bat or Morning Alms giving ceremony. This takes place every morning as the local Laotian people wake up before sunrise to prepare food for the Monks. Around 6am, just as the sun comes up, the saffron-robed monks come out from their temples in single file, from oldest to youngest, to walk along the streets where the locals then give them food (mostly sticky rice) and other gifts, such as incense. This is a sacred and important part of the Buddhist lifestyle and national culture of Theravada Buddhist states such as Laos and Thailand.
By preparing food for the monks, the lay people seek spiritual blessing by way of the monk’s acceptance of their offering. The whole ritual is done in silence as the monks walk in a meditative state and the alms givers respect this by not disturbing the monk’s meditation.
There are 33 temples in and around the old town and nearly 80 altogether in Luang Prabang so this makes for a lot of monks walking around.
Unfortunately, in Luang Prabang this sacred ritual has become a bit a circus!
When looking at the options to get from Chiang Mai in Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos we weren’t keen to spend 2 full days on the Mekong river taking the usual 3 day/2 night option via the busy Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border crossing so when, by chance, we passed a tour operator with a notice of a 2 day/1 night option to get to Luang Prabang which was also slightly cheaper at 1750Bhat (about £30) and only spends one day on the river. This is a new route option which goes through the Thai/Laotian border crossing of Huaikone (or as it’s spelt on Google Maps – Huai Kon) and Muang Nguen (or Nam Ngen on Google). The package included all transfers, private en-suite accommodation and breakfast. OK cool, let’s go!
As with our travel motto from the start we’ve never made plans for where to go next on this journey, we’re still continuing to find new places on the advices from the people we meet on the road. This way of travelling has liberated us from all the pre-planning stress including arranging accommodation/bus/train tickets etc. We just turn up at a bus/train station on the day of travelling and book the next available seats to our next destination. Sure, sometimes this attitude has lead us to not so great transportation/accommodation options due to high season or demand but we have managed OK so far and end up having the most amazing memories regardless. So, the latest of these journeys was our last minute purchase of the train tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which put us on a slow sleeper train that took 18hrs to arrive (instead of 16!). It was a long, exhausting train journey but later we agreed it was well worth the journey for what we experienced in Chiang Mai after our three weeks there…
We took a slight detour from our plans to go to South East Asia and both headed home for a month to spend some time with our families after our South American adventure. This was a both a good and a bad thing; good because we were able to spend some downtime with the folks, get in a lot of home cooked meals and try digest what we had been thorough during those incredible 5 months through the fascinating continent that is South America; bad because you quickly become comfortable in your own bed and forget that soon you’ll be back on the road always alert, always wondering where you’ll be sleeping that night or even when your next meal will be. I think I miss my parent’s fridge more than anything… but then you start packing again and that über excitement comes back and before we knew it we were back in London for a crazy weekend with mates then on a plane to Bangkok for the beginning of the SE Asia leg of our round the world trip!
Feeling fresh, clean shaven and prepared for Bangkok is one thing but without ever visiting this city before one can never be fully prepared for what it’s really like. And I loved it!
While I was back home in Durban, South Africa, to spend some time with my parents after our 5 month trip around South America I spent a lot of time chatting to my mom about the trip and was curious to know how she felt about it and dealt with the anxiety of not always knowing where we were. A few questions turned into this beautifully written story of snippets of our trip as seen from her point of view. Enjoy!
Looking back at Ian and Peryal’s South American trip… By Wendy Brouckaert – Ian’s mom 🙂
By staying in Vilcabamba much longer than we had planned, we had to skip a few places on our agenda to get to Bogota, Colombia in order not to miss our flight to London,UK. Of course, the crazy idea of not catching that plane and stay in South America came to mind several times but unfortunately that wasn’t feasible for us at the time as we had another flight to catch from London to start our adventures in a new continent, Asia, the week after.
We all gave each other a victorious smile when we got off at our final destination after dark, after two exhausting days on the road. Having decided that we would check in the eco-lodge 2km outside the town the next day, we checked in a hostel in the center of the town for the night.
“Yes, we need celebratory drinks and good food!” we all cheered when the lady at the reception recommended a family run pizzeria whose owner is a jolly 89 year old Italian lady. That night, we laughed with our new friends, told more stories about our lives and listened to the secrets of a long healthy life from Mama Silvia.