From an overnight trip from Vientiane I arrived quite early in Luang Prabang, right after the morning alms ceremony and just in time for coffee at JoMa Bakery or a baguette breakfast at one of the food stalls.
It was a quite and peaceful morning, though I’m not sure if I was just too sleepy to assume that everything was moving in such a slow pace or maybe it was just typical Luang Prabang morning when most of the shops are still closed and the roads are empty.
With no idea where to stay, I headed down to the parallel streets closest to Mekong River and after few minutes spent asking several guesthouses around for a spare bed I finally found one. It was not fancy and not expensive either, but the ambiance of traditional wooden Lao house and the unlimited supply of free coffee and banana the whole day reminds me of a summer school break spent on a province, officially making this one of my favorite guesthouse on the entire Indochina journey so far.
I wanted to soak myself into this morning calmness of Luang Prabang, to feel every beat of this beautiful town while the streets are still bare, and after months of unpacking my backpack, boarding overnight buses and all the hassles associated with travelling, it feels good to finally be at places I once dream about and have a day of nothing but serenity.
Heading to the main road of Sisavangvong, I followed the two kid monks as they climbed a set of stairs leading to the top of Mount Phou Si where a small temple of Wat Chom Si (Chomsey Hill) and stupa are both situated.
The 100m high hill of Mount Phou Si offers a panoramic glimpse of geographical uniquness that makes Luang Prabang even more atmospheric- the confluence of the rivers of Mekong and Nam Khan, the over-grown trees higher than the temple roofs and the distant mountain view.
Apart from the view, the morning prayers and offerings inside the temple as always was a beautiful thing to witness.
I am not a very religious person but I am incline to get back to the habit of starting each morning with prayers.
I climbed back down the hill just in time when the shops are opening up and the hardworking people of Luang Prabang are starting to attend to their daily chores. What could be more welcoming but seeing the friendly smiling Lao faces, ready for another day of school or work and ready to welcome the many tourists that will soon populate these streets.
In Laos, a primarily Buddhist country, it is expected for every man to join the monastery or temple for a short period of time at least once in his life. From that period spent, he should be able to decide onwards whether he wanted to be a monk for the rest of his life.
It is not surprising to see kids at such an early age already entering the monastery, obviously with the blessing and support from their family. One of the kid monk I befriended was in fact talking to his mother on the phone to assured her about his good condition.
Experiencing Laos is not complete without witnessing “Tak Bat” or Morning Alms ceremony.
It is a hundred years old religious ceremony that bonded Lao community and now shared to outsiders who wanted to experience this tradition though there are set of rules that needed to be observed and respected.
The Tak Bat is a daily traditional Lao ceremony were Buddhists monks leaves their monastery early in the morning, walk into a single file led by the oldest monk while carrying a lidded bowl. As early as 4:30 am, the alm givers are waiting on the street sidewalk with their offerings of food usually consisting of sticky rice.
The whole ceremony is done in silence, the monks don’t speak and so does the alm giver. Apart from the tourist who participated on a tour in order to experience the ceremony, majority of the alm givers are locals who either have a monk relative or those whom alm giving has been a constant practice for spiritual redemption.