Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Alms Race

Not many occurrences would drag me out of bed at 5am.  This did.  The procession of monks through the streets at daybreak.  Villagers lined the street to pop gifts into the monks' bowls.  As we watched, the monks would reject some gifts and give them away to small children or impoverished peasants.  The slap, slap noise of the barefooted, shaven-headed monks was later replaced by the rhythmic sound of the drum, calling the people to the temple.  Here gifts of a more practical nature were  left such as washing powder.  I didn't spot shampoo, but they wouldn't need it, would they?!

If I were a child in Luang Prabang, I would definitely be up with the lark.  One little chap walked away with two carrier bags full of goodies!  I noticed quite a few candy bars in there too.  

Procession over, we strolled through the local market.  Not so many stallholders as it was a Lunar Day so a cause for celebration and drinking of rice wine.  There were some delicious smells of cooking wafting around.  My appetite was well and truly whetted by the time we arrived at the hotel for breakfast.

Our day continued with a river trip.  Like royalty, we had a long boat completely for our own usage.  We set off at great speed.  A piece of grit decided to jump into my eye.  Gritting my teeth (oh dear), I only saw half the downstream journey.  Hubby had a quick glance to see what he could see around my eyeball.  Then he resumed his filming.  I expect he thought I could watch what I missed later.

Forty-five minutes later, the boat pulled over.  Negotiating a gangplank and steep, narrow steps with one eye was a little problematic.  Hubby proceeded to pour half of his water bottle into my eye at great speed.  Enough.  It's fine.  It wasn't really.  It was good enough to read the instructions on how to make the rice wine which was bubbling away in an oil drum still, heated by a smoky wood fire.  Hubby's mouth was also on fire when he tested said wine!!

This village had a very picturesque temple.  I thought I would ask a wish from Buddha.  I should have done this earlier when I gave my alms, but I couldn't think of anything then.  I bet you can't guess what I wished for.  

Still blinking, my good eye focused on a row of bell jars with small taps.  The most bizarre things had been used to create alcoholic drinks.  Bears' paws. cobra and python skins, scorpion and, finally, elephant's penis.  We hurried past these, just in case we were asked to sample them.  

A small toddler swung in a circular bamboo cradle, fast asleep, while her mother worked on a loom.  The men and children were noticeable by their absence.  It seemed they were dragon boat racing.  Ah ha.  The season had not quite finished and we were given the chance to watch after lunch.

Before lunch though, we visited a cave where people have come to worship for hundreds of years.  The most expensive statues have been taken to the temples but still thousands remain.  I said a quiet 'Thank you' here as my wish had been granted and full vision restored,

After a chicken and sticky rice lunch, we floated along to the racing area.  The riversides were crowded,  Shelters with seats and tables protected some from the heat.  Others wandered around or plunged in the river to cool off.  Many were sampling the rice wine.  I wandered off to view a large, silver cup.  This was on the organising committee's table.  In the blink of a now good eye, I had joined the committee.  The gap-toothed chairman took a shine to me. He already had three wives (this being allowed post-war as so many men died in the bombings), so I didn't hold out for a proposal.  He did share his food and drink.  The Bao beer was not too bad but   
the dried squid was somewhat chewy and took some swallowing.  As each race started, we leaped to our feet and cheered.  My new best buddy used sign language and smiles to show I was now the official photographer.  In a knock-out competition, teams of forty men paddled hard to try and win.  It was fabulous to watch.

  We couldn't stay for the final races.  The villagers waved and cheered as we left, pretending to paddle our way upstream.  And my best buddy - he blew me a kiss!!  Time for my shut eye now.  It has been a long day x 
Oh just a final note.  Hubby thinks the blog may be off air for a while.  We fly to Vietnam tomorrow.  I will keep writing.  Just keep checking x

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