Yesterday, we visited the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre where we learned about the different ethnic groups of Laos including differences in traditional dress and courtship. Then we had a delicious feast at Coconut Garden Restaurant, then strolled around the night market and practiced our new-found haggling skills.
Today, we woke up at 5:00am in order to stake out a spot on the street to quietly observe the Tak Bat or Alms Giving Ceremony just before sunrise. The Tak Bat is a daily tradition (most famous in Luang Prabang) where the monks walk single file down the streets from their temples with alms around their necks to collect food (and sometimes monetary) donations from the almsgivers (typically Lao people from the city – but some tourists also). This is all part of the Theravada Buddhist tradition of ‘making merit’ – by donating to the monks, the almsgivers receive spiritual redemption; and this practice is considered to sustain the monasteries in the community. As this is a religious ceremony, we tried to be respectful by keeping a fair distance from the monks and avoiding the use of flash on our cameras since tourists are notorious for disturbing this peaceful tradition (which unfortunately we witnessed today – despite the fact that there were Lao volunteers trying to educate interested tourists on how to behave appropriately and respect the Tak Bat).
Afterwards, we got some breakfast and went for a walk along the Mekong River to one of the Ock Pop Tok shops which sells handmade textiles collected from villages all over Laos. From here, we took a tuktuk to the Ock Pop Tok Weaving Centre just outside of town where we got a tour and learned about how the silk is made, dyed, and weaved!
We rented some mountain bikes for the outdoor adventuring we have planned for the next couple days and found a cute hidden gem of a restaurant along the Nam Khan River. We’ve been eating like kings at these amazing Lao restaurants but our meals are still only running about $5 CAD each including fancy drinks! We love Laos!
Amanda & Adam