A couple of days in Luang Prabang
The morning started early with a walk into the main part of town at 5.30am to watch the alms giving ceremony (or as Paul so unceremoniously put it – feeding the monks!). Monks walk through the town in single file from oldest to youngest, carrying their alms bowls so that the local people may offer alms to gain merit. Offerings are usually comprised of sticky rice, fruit or traditional Lao snacks. Offerings must be prepared especially for the alms giving, they cannot be left overs.
Once we had “fed the monks” it was time to feed ourselves and then head off for our orientation walk with Molly and Tui, the local guide who had stayed with us since Huay Xai. At each location Molly took us on a walk to show us the main sites and point out places we might like to visit in our spare time. There were so many places worth visiting in and around Luang Prabang but there were three that really stood out for us.
The Museum of Traditional Arts and Ethnology
This new and permanent exhibition features 7 different ethnic groups: Akha, Hmong, Khmu, Lanten, Mien Yao, Tai Lue, and Tai Dam.
In the center of the town sits Mount Phousi (which means Hermit Mountain), with the golden stupa of Wat Chom Si at the top of – yes you guessed it – another long flight of steps. 328 to be exact but who’s counting. Despite the arduous climb, it really is worth paying the 20,000 kip entrance fee (about $2.40 Aud) and getting to the top for sunset. The 360 degree views of Luang Prabang are spectacular, we thought better than those from Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Along the climb are several Buddha statues to view and a foot shaped imprint in the rock which the Monks call the Footprint of Buddha.
We came across a group of young monks (about 13 years of age) who seemed to get into a state of excitement and a fit of giggles when Scott said “G’day” to them! They were curious to find out where we had come from. Going back down the stairs towards Phousi Rd we came across another small temple Wat Tham Phou Si, with a small natural grotto that contains the temples primary Buddha statue. A small, unappealing tunnel ran to one side and I, as most tourists seem to, almost dismissed it. However, Scott being Scott, decided we needed to check it out and we followed the tunnel to a second grotto inside the mountain that contained more beautifully lit statues. It was hard work, but Mt Phousi was worth every one of the 328 steps.