Out of the ghastly big city of Bangkok to the sweet, old river-town of Louang Phrabang where the ‘low’ Lao speak the same tongue as the northern Thai and sits where the Nam Khan river joins the Mekong River, still some 1,500 miles upriver of Saigon.  Even in the February heat, breezes from the two rivers keep it bearable, and a destination for a small army of Western backpackers.

Novice Monks, Louang Phrabang, Laos

The novices in the photo are mostly poor teens testing the waters of a monk’s life while getting an education.  The communist party, in its wisdom, decided back in the early 1990.s ‘opening’ (which it shared with Vietnam) to join the Buddhists rather than fight them.  The monks schools are less expensive than standard ‘public’ schools, and the government gets a rake-off from the top of the donations of the faithful.

 

Novice Washing Out to Dry

The kids wash their own robes and participate in preparing and cleaning up from group meals.
 

The baskets are ‘sticky rice’ drying in the sun, used for sweet treats and little offerings at the temples around town.

Sticky Rice Drying

Tomorrow up the Mekong for a couple of hours — birding, Buddhist theology (Therevada not Mahayana), temple walking — shoes off please!, ethnic history and whatever else comes to our minds to ask… We have both a Lao and a Thai guide for fullest rounding….

All the best,

Will

I’ve started to upload photos to Google +, which I don’t fully understand yet, but here’s a temporary link