Sunday, 2nd December

One of the highlights of Luang Prebang is the morning Sai Baat, the ritual arms giving that takes place before dawn each morning. In Luang Prebang itself, 400 monks process from the Wat or temple to collect food from the waiting people. To attend this we were going to have to leave the hotel at 4.30. On hearing there was a mini session of this alms giving taking place around the corner from us, Denise and I decided to go for the smaller, more intimate experience!

We left our room at 5.45 am and headed along the lane to the main road where we had been told the monks would come at round 6.00. What we, of course, had not taken into account was that at 6 o’clock it was pitch dark! 😳 Nevertheless, not to be found wanting, we took up our position at what we thought must be the temple. Sure enough there in the gloom we could just make out the outline of two women, seated on stools waiting for the monks arrival. Well we rather assumed that was what they were doing, given there was not much else going on. Apart from the occasional dog going past and the even more occasional early morning tuk tuk. We stood there in the quiet for several minutes before we heard the rustle of more people joining those already seated. Further along the road another cluster of would be alms givers were gathering. The monks were not going to go hungry this morning!

Just after 6.00 about five monks approached from the right. We were standing, trying to look inconspicuous (why had I taken it into my head to wear white trousers!?!) on the opposite side of the road. The monks silently bent to take the offerings and then, standing to the left of the assembled almsgivers chanted for a short time. It was a lovely moment in the light of the building behind them.

During the lull in proceedings we decided to cross the road to stand in a side street near where the other group of almsgivers were seated. Within a few minutes more monks processed past, each silently bending to take the food and then moving off, taking the turning opposite us and heading off down the road. There was no chanting this time. Just, perhaps, 20 saffron robed figures walking off into the dark.

Amazing. It was not the major event of the town promenade, but we felt we had a private viewing of an age old event. It felt quite special.

Arriving back at the hotel, Denise returned to bed for an hour and I took up my ipad to write, as a dedicated scribbler. It is the best time of the day to do my blog as the Wi-fi, somewhat up and down at best, is more likely to work.

We met our remaining travellers at breakfast. Young Sarah was off to spend a morning with elephants and we were taking Bruce, keen photographer, off to town for a bit of sightseeing.

Luang Prebang used to be the royal capital of Laos. Once again it sits at the confluence of two rivers – the much mentioned Mekong and the Nam Khan which runs passed our hotel. The city was pronounced a World Heritage location in 1995 because of its beautifully preserved colonial buildings. It had a monarchy until this was dissolved in 1975, the last King and Queen being held prisoner in a cave in the north east of the country until they died in the early 1980’s. Like Cambodia it has had to pay homage to both Vietnam and Siam and was later under the authority of the French whose legacy, in addition to the old buildings, would seem to be wonderful French bread!!

It is a very clean and bustling place, without the tension that seemed to be associated with – say – Pnom Penh in Cambodia. It has some wonderful architecture and Buddhist temples.

Our first stop was the local market. Very different from the night market, this is where the locals shop. There were pink eggs…..

There were raw innards……

….and innards cooked

There was local algae……..

Herbs

Spices

Unknown things…..?

……and religious offerings.

There were little old ladies……

And cheeky boys

It was great fun!!

Leaving the market behind we first found the palace, now a museum. The lilies in the pond were beautiful

(Arty shot!)

It had a temple in the grounds of some magnitude.

We then headed up the steps to the Stuppa which can be seen for miles around as it towers over the town. There were a lot of steps up to the top and an equal amount of camaraderie amongst the clamberers as we made slow progress up to the top.

When we got there, there was a stall selling little finches in tiny cages. It is thought to be lucky to set these little birds free. We wanted to free them all! In the end we set four free. They were so pleased to escape their minuscule baskets, not above nipping those trying to set the free!!

Having looked down on views of the city from every angle,

we walked back down the steps and rewarded ourselves with a snack and a beer. After this, the afternoon turned out to be a many templed affair, I can hear Keith groan!

At the day of this road we came to the confluence of the two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Kamh and decided to have a beer and watch the river traffic.

Our thorough investigation of the religious houses of Luang Prebang, culminated in visiting the oldest temple in the city dated 1650.

It was exceptional in its decoration. Unfortunately by this time I was running out of charge, which has saved the world and my blog from a lot of photographs, but I managed one or two of what I thought to be the really special bits. This temple used to be used by the royal family until 1975 and they had endowed some special pieces. I particularly liked the Tree of Life and a collage showing rural life. Of course it had its usual gold trappings too…….

Eventually templed out, we took a tuk tuk back to the hotel, where we had agreed to meet Sarah to go to eat after a bit of retail therapy in the night market. 😳 The previous night had been a sort of reconnaissance mission!

We set out again on the hotel’s courtesy bus around 6.00 and were into the fray by 6.15. It was great fun. It is a big market and it took time. Nevertheless, as agreed, we met up again at 7.30 to decide who was going to be blest with providing our repast. We did not make a good choice. Of all the lovely places to eat, we chose badly. It had all the disaster combinations – poor service, delayed meal, over cooked, further requests for additional food not met. Slightly disappointed, we returned to the hotel. Not an ideal ‘Last Supper’.

Agreeing to meet for a final breakfast the next day, we adjourned to bed.

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