Monday, April 25, 2011

Luang Prabang: Rice of Passage

Again I find myself behind on posts, bursting to flow forth with stories, agonising over how to put them in words and trying to recollect thoughts, feelings, experiences before those sensations fade. After four days in Luang Prabang, the gorgeous old-worldly French colonial town of Laos, I feel vigour from new scapes and sights.

Like it's neighbouring cities and other South East Asian countries, Luang Prabang is home to endless wats, or temples. Those that are still in use are home to various orders of monks, disciplined to a life of frugality and meditation. Some join a temple at an early age to get an education, later leaving to lead a "regular" life. Many remain to serve as spiritual guides and maintain ancient traditions.

A monk's education through a temple (at least those in Luang Prabang) is funded mainly by public donations. What do monks then do in turn for their society, whether they remain in the order or not, aside from religious leadership and preservation of culture? I met an ex monk who smiled knowingly at this question and assured me leading by example was still a very  necessary part of life.

Perhaps I understood his assurance better after seeing an age-old custom of monks receiving alms.

Every day at the early, misty hours of 5:00am, ordinary folk rise to make any food they can and offer as alms to monks. Monks queue in orderly silence from their temples, and open their food baskets to receive what looks like modest handfuls of sticky rice. This serves as one of their two meals a day.

We were a meter in distance from each other and worlds apart. I wonder what they would make of a food blogger. I wonder if I could live on two meals a day, just consisting of sticky rice.

The ex monk said that the Lao believe living as a monk is a boy's rite of passage to becoming a man. I am comforted by the expanse of Time. I feel I'm a grain of rice in a field, and my moment will come and pass.

Grow, and be happy in the moment.


Jo said...

Beautifully written Shu. I'm looking forward to visiting Laos one day soon.

Hungry Female said...

Cheers Jo! I really enjoyed the simple and traditional way of life there, amidst lots of natural beauty. If you do make a trip, let me know if you want some tips. Food posts to come:-) xx

chopinandmysaucepan said...

So true. These monks also celebrate the moment by building intricate and beautiful objects from sand which takes days and once finished, they will blow it all away in a flash.

Hungry Female said...

Hello Chopin & Saucepan:-) Yes it was a very humbling sight. One of the few places left in SEA where you can observe quiet and traditional life. HF