Ock Pok Tok
Trip Start Feb 20, 2012
126Trip End Oct 22, 2012
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You will definitely be able to find a complete description of the numerous Wats (Buddhist Temples) and of their beauties and secrets on the net. I can just add that the pleasure of seating early in the morning in a Wat courtyard, in complete silence with the smell of the Plumeria in the air is quite close to what I can imagine about Nirvana. Of course the city is an outstanding tourist attraction, but you need just to walk bit a further away from the two main roads and the annexes of touts, internet points, fruit shakes (that are anyhow really good!) and voila! The city is just for you! Sometime I have the feeling that a lot of people just gather around restaurants and bars with few short jumps to couple of the bigger Wats and to the National Museum
Monks are obviously everywhere (so many Wats and so many monks in each Wat). To be precise most of them are novice (those studying at Buddhist schools between 12 and 20 years old). However the threshold of the 20 is somehow difficult to identify for me (Laotian are often looking younger than they are) and the dress code is the same for monks and novices (at least for a non-expert eye). Everywhere orange robes, either walking around with a monk\novice or hanging in Wat courtyards to dry. All these robes line up in the morning for the alms ceremony. Unfortunately the main temples became just a photographic set for the "bite and go" tourists arriving with minivan (isn't the city center close to the cars??) just few seconds before the alms and disappearing few seconds after. But, as i said, just two streets further you can take your time to let the monks come back to the Wat and chat with them without any teleobjective looking at you.
Beside all the pleasure of the leisure (that comprehend also a massage session and cooking course later tonight!) we also headed to the UXO Visitor's Center. I was completely shocked even if not surprised when I got out. Just few data for those interested.
UXO = Unexploded Ordnance
500.000 Bombing missions recorded on Laos during the second Indochina War (Vietnam War)
More than 240.000.000 bombs of which 30% remained unexploded which makes 80.000.000 bombs still on the ground 40 years later. 100 years estimated time to secure all of them. population of Lao approx 6.000.000. 300 people killed each year and many others injured. The map of the more more bombed regions incredibly correspond with the more poor in the present.
Next time that somebody try to convince you that it is for democracy, just think about it twice.