Just got back from spending a few days in Bangkok and Vientiane, Laos. I took over 1000 pictures, so, that should be good for a post or two in the coming days. The Laos part of the trip went well and I got the all important Education Visa out of the way so that left ample free time to explore the city.
Fortunately, or unfortunately as it were, the bed in our Vientiane hotel was as hard as a rock, even by Thai standards, so I found myself up at the break of dawn each day to watch the city come alive.
One aspect of Buddhism I enjoy is watching the morning ritual of monks filing out of their respective Wats ( temples ) and into the streets to receive alms from the faithful. I’m not sure what draws me to the ritual more, the act of the faithful giving freely to the monks and receiving the monks blessings or the beautiful contrast of orange robes against dirty city streets that appeals to the photographer in me.
When I mentioned to Ying that the monks were coming she hurriedly threw on some clothes, grabbed her bag and me and sped out the door.
Normally the alms given by the waiting faithful is small amounts of food and drink but it can also include household goods, candles and personal items for the monks to use. As we were running decidedly late we had no choice but to give the only gift we had…money. And we were going to have to convert some baht to Lao kip before we could even do that.
When you are in a hurry changing baht to kip is easier said than done, especially when you are doing it at a street vendor at 7am in the morning and only have 1000 baht notes on you. Luckily the vendor had a few large stacks of kip and the exchange was made in time to give alms to the passing Monks. In case you were wondering 1000 baht is roughly $30.00 and converted into Lao kip it becomes a staggering 283,000 kip, all of which is pretty much worthless, and no one wants it.
It was decided over morning tea that we would make a trip to the store and make a proper offering for tomorrows line of monks. When we went to the store it took Ying some time to pick the exact offering she had in mind. When all was said and done we left the store 80,000 kip lighter and had 7 care packages each containing a bottle of milk, a bottle of water and a tin of fish. We were ready!
As the next morning dawned I was at my post on the balcony, smoking a cigarette and patiently waiting for any sign of orange robes. Just as I finished my cigarette I noticed orange robes on the horizon and when I turned to tell Ying that it was time I noticed another group or orange robes coming from the opposite direction. I hadn’t thought about this predicament and wondered how Ying would react to the news. I didn’t tell her till we went downstairs and as we walked out of the hotel lobby there was a line of monks in front of her and another across the street where we gave alms previously.
She looked at each set of monks and then proclaimed that we must cross the street as those are our monks and besides this line had 13 monks and we weren’t prepared for that. So, we crossed the street just in time to give the alms and receive the monks blessing, which is quite beautiful in the wee hours of the morning. Below is a video of Ying handing out her offerings and of the monks singing the blessing. You might have to turn up the sound some as it came out on the low side.