Day 77: Giving Alms and RelaxingAugust 31, 2016 in Laos ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C
Very little accomplished today! The official name of this country is "Laos PDR" (People's Democratic Republic), but the running gag is that PDR actually stands for Please Don't Rush. And I can assure you, rushing is definitely not something that happens here!
We got up very early this morning (5:30) to see a local tradition - monks from all the temples in the town walk along the streets in a procession, and the villagers kneel alongside the footpaths and donate each monk a handful of rice as they walk past. I'm not quite sure how or why the practice originated, but it's still carrying on today. It feels a bit off though, since immediately on walking out of our hotel we were set on by a street vendor selling food that we could donate to the monks, and she was very insistent. Luckily I'm very insistent on not being sold things by people on the street, because they don't tell you how much until afterwards - it was about 30,000 kip or $5; not a huge amount but more than I really wanted to spend.
We just watched the ritual from across the street and chuckled at other tourists who got bullied into buying food. But I found the whole thing slightly off-putting, like it was actually being done for our benefit not the monks'. And since they're all dressed in identical saffron robes and with shaven heads, it's very easy to forget that they're actually humans and may not want to be photographed like zoo animals. Though we've heard rumours as well that the government told the monks that if they stopped doing the ceremony, they'd just find some other locals and dress them up like monks since tourists wouldn't know the difference. All in all, a strange morning.
After the procession we retreated to the hotel and slept a few more hours before taking a late breakfast at 10am. Chilled out in the room for a few hours before heading out for lunch at a bakery cafe where we had sandwiches and salads. There's enough expats here and residual French culture that the western food is very good!
Again we didn't do much in the afternoon, a little wandering and some parental Skyping. Headed out for a riverside beer late in the afternoon, before having dinner from a cart in the night markets. We both ended up having fer, which is a noodle soup essentially the same as Vietnamese pho.Read more