Sunday, January 17, 2010
So continuing the tardy report on our adventures, for Thanksgiving break we travelled to Luang Prabang, Laos, a UNESCO World Heritage site noted for its exceptional temples (wats) for life along the Mekong River, for the brilliant fusion of Asian and French cuisines that inspired Jean George, and for complex, collector quality textiles. The village is north of Vientiane between North Thailand and mid Vietnam. The country is communist with the red hammer and sickle flag flying over almost every building. It has the dubious distinction of having more US bombs dropped on it per capita than any country in history, despite the fact that war was never declared with the USA. Over 30% of the bombs are still unexploded.
As well looked over the Mekong River and the gentle town along its banks, we could only wonder in sadness "WHY?" People in the area refer to the conflict as the American War and always talk about the "boom, boom,boom, boom referring to the B-52 carpet bombing. It is remarkable that we can travel in this area at all but the people are gentle and friendly with a forgiveness that so belies their past.
We stayed at a small guesthouse called the Apsara which overlooked a tributary of the Mekong. It was completely French colonial with very high ceilings, old wood and double French doors to a balcony. Flat wooden boats plied the river across from us and the banks ere lined with vegetable farms cultivated by hand.
A main event of the trip was the alms giving to the monks every morning at 6:30 am. Believer gathered and knelt along the street with sticky rice, eggs, flowers, candy waiting on their knees so that they will never be higher than the monks. The monks then parade by in their saffron robes with metal bowls to receive the offerings. They are attended by a bevy of "monkettes"...small boys who beg from the monks knowing that they are obliged to demonstrate charity by giving away part of what they have been given.
Let me post some pictures and talk further.