Laos travel 24: Laung Prabang alms parade and morning market
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Wonder who was responsible for that old chestnut.
I am not early to bed but on Sunday morning I am early to rise because 5am is when I need to leave to see the morning alms parade — Sai Bat. The lines of monks carrying their rather grand and lidded begging bowls down on the street that leads to the night market.
It is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture, I read. it is where “the devoted” offer food to monks when they walk past with their bowls every morning. Sticky rice, often. But other things, too, including candies (sweets).
I have learned from Baht that some of the food is eaten. Some of it is shared with those in the city who don’t have enough. And some of what is given is passed on to these poor folk to sell. So there is a pretty wonderful circle of abundance and
gratitude going on in what has, at one level, become a tourist attraction (with camera-toting visitors jostling for position, despite being given guidelines on how to treat the monks).
I have a lovely time following monks, looking for new processions (the monks come in different “batches” from different wats, and snapping.
Then wander round a corner and come upon an early morning market. To quote from the official Luang Prabang website: “Lao cuisine draws almost exclusively on fresh foods — few homes traditionally have refrigerators and modern supermarkets are rare.
“So many locals shop for daily supplies at the Morning Market http://tourismluangprabang.org/things-to-do/go-shopping/morningmarket/ , which lines a small lane parallel to the main street from the National Museum grounds several blocks south.
“It opens at 6, just after Sai Bat and many vendors leave by 10:30. There, you’ll find every possible type of food regionally available, including an amazing mushroom selection. Everything fresh is seasonal, so you won’t see everything every day. Keep an eye out for the delicate local way of binding everything from meat to herbs with bamboo.”
(And, I might add, chickens feet. I watch as in the live part of the market, at the entrance to a wat that opens from the food alley, as a young boy and an woman in her thirties, hold squawking chickens in pairs by their feet, which they bind, then stash the birds head-down in bags awaiting sale. Chicken karma?)
I also note, as the website does, the piles of veggies, the overflowing buckets of rice, the fresh fish, plastic basins and buckets of frogs and eel-like creatures and apparently bats, and insects. Of course Lao spicy sausage — which they call a specialty — and skewers of river fish with crispy riverweed. And the trade is fast and furious.
My iPad is recording videos and my camera lens catching images as my nose catches the scents and my eyes this spectacle quite unlike anything I have previously seen.
Time afterwards for a croissant and coffee at Joma, which focuses on milkshakes, right near the market. Conversation with a retired Dutch businesswoman volunteer who helps people set up sustainable businesses. She tells me the reason they drive quietly here is because they’re driving slowly and carefully because nobody has a real license. Sounds like a tall story.
On to Utopia to see if the French team had made it for the brek we had arranged. No. Overambitious! Not surprised.
Do I dare another massage later? Ha. I am not the chicken with the tied feet!
© Wanda Hennig 2016, story and photos.