Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A very special experience....and doing it the right way!

Bel gives alms with some local women in the respectful way
Before I had left for Luang Prabang I read a lot about the culture, values and beliefs of the Lao people and one very traditional ceremony I read about was the daily Alms Giving Ceremony. This is a morning precession of monks and novices collecting food offerings from local people. Each temple has their specific route and from what I’d read this had become a big tourist attraction. I had decided that I didn’t think I would take part but I was very keen to experience it so I woke up early a few mornings and went for walks to watch. I had seen the horror of the tourist buses in the centre of town so going outside the main streets to watch was much more rewarding. 

After I had been teaching the intermediate class at Wat PasaViet for a few weeks and had learnt a lot more about the Theravada Buddhism practiced in Luang Prabang, I decided I did want to give alms. I waited till my fourth and final week and organised to get a tuktuk with four other volunteers to take us out nice and early to the route of the Wat PasaViet novices. We arrived and very quickly a few local woman invited us to sit with them on their mats. One older lady kept talking to me in Lao which I really couldn’t understand but she was patient and showed me what I had to do instead.

Once the novices and monks came we kept our heads bowed as you do not make eye contact and my bag of dried meat and rice balls were gone very quickly. The group slowly moved away from us up a hill and then stopped and chanted for us. It was a beautiful, peaceful and very moving experience which I will remember forever as being one of my best moments in Luang Prabang. 

By Bel Ross