Highlights: Alms giving ceremony, fresh food market.
Today was the last day in Laos and marked the second week of my 2016 trip and just like the first Saturday the second one had me up before 5 am. However this time it was to take part in a tradition that started in the 14th century and not be stuck in a plane for hours on end.
Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang involves the novices and monks leaving their monasteries and temples at dawn and the people make offerings. You later say a prayer to look after the ones you care about and I had a specific request in mind this time. You buy sticky rice and food snacks before hand and sit on the ground on a special mat. The monks and novices (monks have both shoulders covered, novices have only one) then walk past you and you provide ever a small ball of sticky rice, which you made earlier, or the snack. You provide the food from your right hand. They walk past very fast so you need to be quick (see video here).
I gave out food for four different monasteries before running out of food. You do keep one sticky rice ball which you later break into three smaller balls and make and offering with a prayer. It probably doesn’t work but it can’t hurt to have a selfless prayer out their in the universe.
From here most of the group headed to the fresh food market which starts at 6 am and had only be going for about 15 minutes on our arrival. They always start the market after the Alms Ceremony as a matter of tradition. We were warned that there might be not pleasant sights of animals in this market but I didn’t see anything particularly bad.
The rest of the day was spend packing, napping (it was a very early start), eating lunch at the ‘best cafe’ in Laos and reading a book before our 3 pm bus taking us to the Luang Prabang airport. At the airport there was really no issues. While I was a little thirsty I only had 1,000 Kip left, down from the 1,000,000 kip I started with. I missed being a millionaire even if it was only worth around $200 AUD.
Laos Airlines had me in the first row which is actually the worst seat, you have a bulkhead in front of you so limited leg space and as you enter and exit from the rear of the plane you are the last of the plane. The meal for this very short one hour flight was fine, a small pastry product with rice and carrots inside.
At Hanoi International Airport it was 36 degrees at 6 pm, and warning that we are now into the hottest part of the trip. Just before we got to the bus an intense rain started from nowhere and kept going form this point onwards. The hotel had a few problems with room assignments, but this didn’t directly impact me.
Our CEO BenG gave us a serious safety discussion about Vietnam, never carry a daypack or other bag, cameras secured at all times, leave as must money as possible at the hotel and never venture too far without others in the group (I immediately broke this rule walking about 100 metres to a convenience store but knew it was safe). Basically we need to be super aware, to press home the point BenG reference a women in her group 2 weeks ago who was robbed and assaulted and how 6 out of a group of 18 had their phones stolen in the street. Something to watch out for over the rest of the tour in Vietnam and Cambodia.