Today was the last day of this short visit to Laos and it marked the second week of my 2016 trip and a 5 am start to partake in an Alms giving ceremony.
The 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.
To participate you buy sticky rice and food snacks beforehand and then 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 a small ball of sticky rice, which you make earlier, or a snack. You must provide the food from your right hand for it to be accepted. The monks and novices walk past you very fast so you need to be quick (see video here).I gave out food to four different monasteries. You are supposed to keep one sticky rice ball which you later break into three smaller balls and make an offering with a prayer. It probably doesn’t work but it can’t hurt to have a selfless prayer out in the universe.
From here most of the group headed to the local fresh food market which starts at 6 am and had only been open for 15 minutes before our arrival. They always start the market after the Alms Ceremony as a matter of tradition. We were warned that there might be unpleasant sights of animals in this market but I didn’t see anything particularly bad.
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.
Laos Airlines had me in the first row which is actually the worst seat, you have a bulkhead in front of you so there is limited leg space and as you enter and exit from the rear of the plane you are the last off the plane. The meal for this short one hour flight was fine, a small pastry product with rice and carrots inside.
At the Hanoi International Airport it was 36 degrees at 6 pm, a warning that we are now into the hottest part of this trip. Just before we got to the bus an intense rain started out of nowhere and kept going from 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 of our surroundings, to press home the point BenG referenced a woman 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.