Luang Prabang, Laos

What a difference a year makes. It’s gone from ‘everyone loves LP’ to ‘oh my god it’s so touristy.’ Or so say all the ‘too cool for school’ traveller types.  Newsflash: You ARE a tourist. Just try to like some places for what they are!

I’m guessing its travel trends that have changed not  Luang Prabang itself. I’m pretty sure they didn’t build all the pretty European architecture overnight. It still has cool trinkets stalls on the night market (silver bracelets, ethnic bags, cute baby bibs.) Basically it’s all about lazing in Starbuck-esq coffee shops & organic delis-come-bookshops. You can buy ingredients like feta and smoked salmon bagels for christ’s sake. I know it’s not typical Laos but come on, what’s not to like.

The famous activity of the day here starts at sunrise. At 6.00am some locals (and mostly voyeurs) gather close to the night market for the daily tradition of Alms; the giving of rice and other food to monks. Locals sit on whisker mats and spoonfuls portions of rice to a line of over 100 novices.

Yes it’s become a clash of sacred good will v’s the ogling lenses of  our tourists cameras. But the sight of glowing orange robed monks processioning along colonial streets at dawn is, too touristy or not, an intriguing sight. Homeless charities would arguably kill for this kind of interest in soup kitchens at xmas, so sorry Luang Prabang, your secret is a good one, and it’s out.

One of the other highlights of my day, and perhaps also of my travels so far, came to me in the form of a random poster for a project called Big Brother Mouse. Not a reality tv show for rodents, but  a charity set up to provide books to remote areas of Laos, and increase literacy levels and English ability for kids and adults.

Here I met Lae. Lae is a Laotian monk, aged 20. I volunteered to teach English so was expecting to be teaching ABCs and playing games with kids perhaps.I magine my surprise when I sit down next to a monk. After my morning at the arms giving it felt like good karma. We sat for 2 hours and had without doubt one of the most interesting and moving conversations of my life. We started with families/food/music and ended up him teaching me Korean, and him talking about his parents divorce. This was all done through an eclectic range of annotated scribbles, mimes, and broken English that would wipe the floor with any Pictionary champion. I have gained, probably my most unexpected pen-friend too, as it turns out even monks have hotmail addresses.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Katie Elaine
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 00:08:52

    Sounds like a great volunteer experience! I’d love to hear more and send you a few questions to answer about it for GoOverseas.com. Email me at katie at gooverseas.com if you’re interested, thanks!

    Reply

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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