Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The monks of Laos

A monk at Wat Sisaket in Vientiane listening to music on his mobile phone
Orange-robed monks are a common feature of any visitors' selection of photographs from a trip to Laos and Tim's and my own photo album is no different. Here are a selection of photos that we both took during our recent 2-week trip. About 60% of the people of Laos are Theravada Buddhists - compared to 90%+ in Cambodia - and all men are expected to become a khu-ba (monk) for a period of their life, usually for a three-month stint, according to Olay, a monk we chatted to at Wat Xieng Mouane in Luang Prabang. One of the features of daily Lao life is the early-morning processions you see in most towns and villages, where a group of monks will walk the streets and collect alms (food) offered by the residents. It's called tak-bat. In Luang Prabang this has become a tourist attraction but its important that travelers treat the tradition with respect. We found the monks of Laos a very friendly bunch throughout the country and we often stopped at wats en route to chat in English.
The tradition of tak-bat being observed in Pakse
The friendly monks of Wat Nam Kaew Luang in Muang Sing
We met these young monks on the steps leading to Tham Jang cave in Vang Vieng
These monks were repairing their living quarters at Wat Pha Baht Phonsan near Vientiane
The head monk at That Ing Hang, the second holiest religious site in Southern Laos, near Savannakhet
Two novice monks at Wat Pa Phon Phao, the site of the popular Santy Chedi (stupa) just outside Luang Prabang
Most of my knowledge of the monkhood in Laos came from Olay, a monk at Wat Xieng Mouane in Luang Prabang


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