Luang Prabang again but with a monk twist

Trip Start Jul 08, 2009
Trip End Aug 31, 2009

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, August 22, 2009

After leaving Luang Namtha , I traveled for 9 hours with a motorbike on the roof of the bus and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery.  I made my way back to Luang Prabang just in time for their annual boat racing competition.  Boat racing is a huge event in Laos. Locals from the surrounding towns and villages come to support and see who will win.  It was really interesting because Luang Prabang usually is a sleepy town with many tourists roaming about. I have to say that I did not see many tourist roaming the streets or many it was that there were so many locals that came out it made the tourist almost obsolete.  I made myself comphy next to a Lao family. They brought chairs in from another area for themselves and I sat on a Beerlao crate. Whenever I would get up to go to the bathroom or get food, they would watch my seat to make sure no one would sit there. Sets were definitely the hot commodity.  Every time someone who had a seat got up, a local would try to sit where that person was sitting.  It was very important that you had something on your seat so that no one would sit there. 

During the festival, two girls were dressed in traditional Lao clothing (which is usually only worn on the New Years and during special events) were honored and were able to ride in the front of the boats. Boats raced down the river until they had the winner. Most of the time, one boat killed the other boat and was at least a whole boat in front of the other.  One boat sank during the race. And other boats raced side by side to each other.  Each had different strategies with having on guy in front "pushing" himself forwards and backwards hoping to “push” the boat faster.  Others had 2-4 people standing in the rear as extra paddlers.  It was actually very boring to watch, but the locals love it.  Someone explained it to me that they don't have any formal sports here like baseball teams or other sports teams, so this is huge to them. 

After the boat race I went to the local book store and traded in some books and got some new ones. I started reading one, “The Time Travelers Wife” .I spent most of the following day reading it.  I wanted to find quiet beautiful places around Luang Prabang where I could read it.  I started out at the National Museum, but even in the shade it was too hot. I then went to a Wat.  A local came up and started talking to me which was great, but I was actually planning on going in for a nap.  After my name I went and had some western food, which is something I rarely do.  I usually eat local food, but my stomach has been a bit queezy so I found a place that made pizza and indulged myself.  It wasn’t that bad… or maybe it’s just that I haven’t had NY pizza in awhile I had nothing to compare it to.  

After dinner I went to another Wat which had trees shading a table and chairs.  I went and read some more. While I was there a monk named Duang came up and started talking with me.  He spoke really good English too.  He’s been a monk for 6 months in Thailand and 2 years in Laos.  We talked a lot about being a monk and what he has to do.  He told me that I could give alms but still not to buy the local sticky rice because it was bad quality.  We talked about the places I’ve visited.  After about 2 hours his cousin who is also a monk and his friend came up and joined us.  Next think I know, I was chitchatting with about 8 monks all spoke pretty good English too.  They showed me a game where you have to guess if the spoon should be up or down.  One monk determined this by positioning his feet up or down (I figured it out later on).  I showed them a dot game where you have to connect the dots and create boxes. The person with the most boxes wins. Also I showed Duang saduko. He started to get it, but found it hard. I gave him my saduko book to practice.  As were were talking the electricity in Luang Prabang went out, so they brought out candles and we played and talked next to them.  They taught me many saying in English and were testing me to make sure I used it. Next think I know over 4 hours have passed and it was after 11pm.  The monks wake up at 4am to pray to Buddha so we called it a night.  We made plans to meet up again the following day before I left to say goodbye.  I walk back to my hotel in darkness carrying a candle one monk gave me. I went back to my hotel, packed up, and then the electricity went back on.  I decided to finish the last 75 pages of my book which was soooo good.  By the time I went to bed it was after midnight.

I decided to wake up early and head over to the Wat to see if I could see my friends collecting alms. I was closer to the main road then they started out the other way. I went around and saw other monks collecting alms and took some photos, but not many. 

At 6:30am I went back to their Wat and saw Duang’s cousin, Peng.  We talked for a bit. He said he didn’t feel like walking this morning so he only collected a few alms from people and headed back.   He shared some of his chocolates he collected that morning with me.  Everyone else came back and Duang and some other monks joined us for our last meet up before I would take a tuk-tuk to the airport.  Duang shared some sweet sticky rice with me that he collected that morning and some Lao nuts that his friend’s father brought down when he came for a visit.  They tested me again on my new vocabulary.  And made sure I used it to say “good morning”, “good luck”, “nice to meet you”, and “how are you”.  It was funny, because I was so shy to talk to the monks but once I spoke to one, all seem to come over and join in.  It was so nice to have met them. I only wish I could have stayed longer.  Who knows maybe I’ll be back so I could visit.
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