Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monk Procession At Dawn

One of the most talked about features of the little Laotian town of Luang Prabang is the procession of monks through the streets at dawn, collecting offerings and their food for the day ahead from the locals. It is certainly a sight worth getting up before the sun for!

I remember setting an alarm, and leaving my guesthouse room when it was still dark, not really sure if this was But it happens everyday, and is easy to find in the central streets. I tiptoed through the front entrance room of the guesthouse where the family who run it were sleeping, and made my way to the area I had been advised would be a good spot to view the procession.

Standing out on the streets with a few other people around here and there, but otherwise deserted streets, there was a slight wave of doubt again about what exactly I was doing out of bed at such an hour.

As the procession appeared and snaked it’s way along the streets, more and more locals appeared and placed something in the monk’s urns. Such a solemn and enchanting process to watch.

The behaviour of other Westerners during this ritual procession of magenta and saffron is the lowlight of this experience. People angling in, impeding the path of the procession, all on the quest for a photo, is embarrassing and shameful. Travellers really need to remember they are visitors to such an area, and that this ritual is part of life here in Laos, not a show put on for tourists’ photos.

My photos, scanned from print 10 years later, are not very good, but are the lasting mementos of that visit nonetheless.

This post is part of a series marking 10 years since I travelled to Cambodia to work as a volunteer. Laos was one of my side trips.

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