Laos

Featured Post Buddha ParkAn Afternoon at Buddha Park

Marry Buddhism, Hinduism and a touch of quirkiness, and the result is Buddha Park – a sprawling green space studded with more than 200 concrete sculptures near the Laotian capital city of Vientiane.

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The Enduring Buddha at War-Ravaged Wat Phia Wat

Wat Phia Wat and the war-scarred Buddha statue once housed within this now-destroyed Laotian Buddhist temple, are only 30 kilometers from Phonsavan, the small town in which we were staying. Given Laos’ often rough and tumble dirt roads, we were not certain we wanted to hop into a tuktuk and endure more bumpiness (during a tour days before, for several hours we’d felt like human kernels of corn being tossed into a hot popper)! Nevertheless, to better understand the so-called American Secret War in Laos.

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From Gong & Drum Awakening to Sunset at Luang Prabang’s Wat Wisunalat

Our home away from home in Luang Prabang sat opposite from the former royal city’s oldest operating temple, Wat Wisunalat (a temple with many variations on its name). The temple was built in the early 1500s. Known for its quiet lanes and thirty temples, Luang Prabang feels authentically Asian. Monks of all ages – clad in saffron-colored robes – pound the pavement in bare feet and sandals, and from time to time, you’ll be able to observe, or in our case, hear Buddhist customs being practiced. 

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Little Ones, Big Smiles

Laos is a land of beautiful smiles, sported by those big and small!

We encountered these little ones at play in their village, just before sunset. The boys played with slingshots; they also engaged in a bocce ball or pétanque-like game. Instead of a silvery ball, the resourceful kids tossed flip flops. 

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A Monkey Tethered to Unexploded Ordnance in Rural Laos

Throughout Asia during these past few months, we had the opportunity to gleefully observe monkeys outside of customary zoo environments. Some monkeys gracefully walked on power lines as if they were tightrope artists; othersstole human goodies from garbage cans at outdoor establishments. The luckiest ones lived in areas that blended nature and an urban environment (such as Ubud, Bali’s Monkey Forest or Elephanta Island, an hour’s boat ride from Mumbai).

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A Morning Almsgiving or Tak Bat Ceremony in Phonsavan, Laos

In Laos, as in other Theravada Buddhist countries, it is customary for monks to go on early morning alms runs, known as Tak Bat. They do so with almsbowls in hand, donning their traditional saffron robes and pounding the pavement or dirt roads with bare feet. Devotees place food – such as balls of sticky rice or bananas – into the monks’ bowls. Afterward, the monks chant a prayer for them. 

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Sculpting Buddha – A Meditative Exercise in Laos

On a shady street on which we regularly strolled during our stay in Luang Prabang, Laos, we watched a sculptor as he gradually turned rustic concrete into the smooth likeness of Buddha. I wonder what the man pondered on those quiet afternoons – as he was overlooked by other Buddhist figures in progress – in a sun-kissed courtyard garden. Perhaps he took lessons from the Buddha himself, whose quotes are featured so prominently on objects for sale in boutiques in the vicinity of the quiet lane. 

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Twinkle, Twinkle Wat Xieng Thong

In the late afternoon sunlight, the small shrine’s mosaic-adorned walls shimmered like precious gems. As I shifted my footing and perspective – moving only mere inches at a time – different vignettes were illuminated by the vibrant rays. The Buddhist shrine – on which the cut glass portrays Buddhist imagery – is one of twenty structures in the Wat Xieng Thong monastery compound in charming Luang Prabang. The temple is not far from the Mekong River. 

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A Tranquil Daydream in Luang Prabang, Laos

Images only.

  

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The Ubiquitous Laotian Sinh, or Skirt 

The Laos People’s Democratic Republic (P.D.R) is a joy to explore. It’s affectionately known as ‘LaosPlease Don’t Rush‘ and when you get there, you see why – almost instantly. The locals  are easygoing and friendly, the environment is mellow, and the Laotian culture has retained enough authenticity that you’ll want to linger longer and appreciate its distinct details. 

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Waiting in the Wings During the Golden Hour

It’s the sort of environment that could hold my attention for hours. In a heavily-carved and gilded structure that’s tucked away on the grounds of the Wat Xieng Thong temple complex, are stored a fleet of Buddha statues, crackling wooden devotional panels, nagas, and the Lao king’s cremation chariot. Adorned with cobwebs and dressed in dust, they are waiting in the wings for a regal parade.

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