What can one say about Laos' wats? There are plenty of them! In Luang Prabang especially. Everywhere you turn there is a young novice walking down the street in their signature orange robes with yellow sash. Usually they carry an umbrella to shield them from the sun. At night you can occasionally find them in the Internet cafes. But you'll never see them too late into the night for their morning begins at 4AM!
We began our morning to coincide with theirs. Only slightly after 4AM, 6:30Am. Every morning the monks process thru the streets of Luang Prabang to receive their alms from the local faithful. I got to participate in this procession after I purchased some sticky rice and banana leaf something or others. It was quite an impressive way to start the morning.
Afterwards we decided to attempt Lonely Planet's walking tour of the important religious sites of Luang Prabang. As it happens, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so there are plenty of important sites to see.
Fortunately the first wat was right next to our hotel so we found it quickly. Most of these wats are seminaries for young novices. And many of the novices were eager to talk to us. Even though they study usually only two subjects, dhama and another religious subject, when they know English they can speak it well. In fact one young novice was reading an English novel but was having a hard time with a certain expression.
Most of the wats were pretty empty as we did our tour. Sometimes we would find a buddhist praying or the occaisonal tourist taking photos. But mostly it was just young monks hanging around. One wat we did come across though was busy with preparations for an ordination of novices the next morning. Inside the Sim, or main temple, were twelve beds filled with everything a monk could ever want or need! There were new robes, sandals, an umbrella, a bucket, glasses, a rice bowl, money, incense, a bath mat, towel, flip flops, water and more. It was amazing. Really there was everything. The locals provided for this gift and we were lucky to see it all before the big day. Again, I had a helpful novice, Yong, with good English explain all this to me.
The other place of note was the Royal Palace Musuem. This museum is in what used to be the Lao royal familie's palace. The King was deposed in 1975 and after internal exile, the Lao royal family is no more. The musuem shows the palace pretty much as it was. You can see the King and Queen's outfits including shoes on display. There are gifts from foreign country's to the King including a piece of the moon given from Nixon to the King. We haven't met many people who speak English and are all enough to remember the king but one man did tell us he is sad that their is no royal family anymore. Maybe its the American obsession with royalty but I think its a bit sad too.
It was a very long day but a well worth it one, spent monkeying around Luang Prabang.