Having lived in Thailand for almost a decade, I am familiar with the tradition of giving alms to Buddhist monks during the early morning hours. However, I was quite unprepared for the large numbers of monks walking through the center of Luang Prabang. There was a seemingly endless stream, mostly along Sakkaline Road near Wat Sensoukharam and large crowds of locals kneeling along the sidewalks were putting rice and other items into the monks’ alms bowls. The serenity of it all was somewhat disrupted by the hoards of tourists jockeying for photography positions, many dressed inappropriately in shorts and revealing tank tops. I found observing the alms-giving much more pleasant closer to the Mekong as there were far fewer tourists. I often wish that there were be “photography police” during times like this so the monks wouldn’t have to endure lenses being shoved into their faces and flashes blinding them while trying to participate in an ages old tradition.
I do love visiting the local markets wherever I travel in Southeast Asia and Laos was no exception. While there was a very nice open-air market each morning near my hostel, the more touristy night market on Sisavangvong Road was a huge draw. It features every kind of souvenir you could imagine, most of it of good quality and the hawkers are amazingly non-pushy by Asian standards. Good-natured bargaining is the rule here but don’t try to completely cheat the seller. I was amazed at the number of children who were manning stalls and enjoyed talking with them more than the senior citizens. The night market runs until 22:00 each evening’ I returned every night during our stay in the city and saw something new and interesting each time.