NK monks

In Luang Prabang, the morning alms round (tak bat) for the monks is showtime, although of course it's personal and private too. There are 32 wats left standing today, after the wars; there were 66, and still people in the countryside routinely send their sons to be monks for a period of time. The monks wear brilliant orange robes, and walk the street beginning at 5:45 every morning. Women line the streets with pots of rice, to feed the monks. It's one of the few ways women can earn merit. So everyone wins: the monks get their daily food, the women earn merit, and tourists witness this beautiful ceremony. It's silent except for the motorcycles passing through. If you listen, you can hear the monks' footsteps as they pass by.

In Nong Khiaw, the scale is smaller, obviously -- everything is smaller here. We've seen one wat that was in use, and one that seemed to be abandoned. There may be others, but we've only seen those. We hadn't really seen any monks until we were out this morning for a walk in the gorgeous misty morning. Our mission was to see the market again, and to find breakfast somewhere other than the hotel. We didn't expect to see monks on their alms round, at all.

monks coming, woman kneeling on the road holding up rice
I saw the monks first, such a small contingent, and only saw the woman kneeling when the monks slowed down. Instead of tiny pinches of rice in each monk's bowl, she put a fistful -- perhaps the bulk of the responsibility is on her to feed the monks, since we didn't see anyone else out to feed them. As the first monks passed her, they stopped to wait. I assumed they were just waiting for the last monk to get his rice, but that wasn't it. When they had all received their rice, they started this loud buzzing chant, the assonant kind of sound that seems mysterious to my western-chorded ear. She turned in a kind of mudra, her left hand against her cheek and her right hand down next to her knee, with her body turned slightly toward the monks. The air was chilly and damp. We stopped to listen, with our bodies turned away, and I didn't want them to stop chanting. It felt so much more special than the big spectacle in Luang Prabang.

The market was busier today than yesterday

look at that mountain -- straight up into the sky

we keep trying to catch the beauty here but the photos fail miserably

Lao coffee is wonderful -- thick and gritty and black. This was not that. And that's all I'll say.

The tuktuk picks us up in 30 minutes to take us to the boat dock. The scenery is supposed to be incredible; we'll pass through a gorge with these enormous straight-sided mountains on either side. It's like the rural SEAsia version of New York City -- the only way to see the sky is to look straight up. Post and pictures tonight.

Gosh. How lucky are we. I feel lucky to know the different kinds of tuktuks -- different here than in India, than in Cambodia, than in Vietnam. I feel lucky to understand a tiny bit about tak bat. I feel lucky to know the different rivers of southeast Asia, and now to know the early morning view of these misty mountains and how different it is at 2pm. I feel lucky to know the different kinds of coffee in the different countries. I feel lucky to have favorite markets -- the one in Galle, Sri Lanka, was probably the most beautiful, but this one here in Nong Khiaw is lively and busy and we love it, and the one in Luang Prabang is more leisurely, and the ones in Hanoi, and the crab market in Kep.....how lucky. How lucky to have the desire and curiosity and heart to travel AND the ability to travel. Sad to have one without the other, lucky to have both. Lucky me, lucky us, lucky mud.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're underestimating the ability of your photos to capture the beauty. They're doing a pretty good job...or perhaps it's even more beautiful than it appears here!


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