The last leg of my journey through Southeast Asia was in Luang Prabang, Laos. Indeed, the rumors are true… a sleepy town along the Mekong, slow-paced and relaxing, with not that much to do… which is part of its charm.
This is a man-made bridge that washes away with the river every rainy season.Luang Prabang is probably most known for the early morning alms-giving from the townspeople to the monks who live in and around the neighborhood. Villagers rise early in the morning and prepare their sticky rice, which is the staple food in Laos, to give to the many monks who walk in complete silence around the town. This occurs every morning at 5AM.
Despite the sacredness and solemn beauty of this ritual, I was a little worried at the thought of taking photos, mainly because I had read so many horror stories of rude tourists being completely oblivious of the proper etiquette… whether it’s people trying to pose or direct the monks, being all up in the monks’ faces to get closeup shots, using flash photography, or just disturbing the whole alms-collecting process.
There are also some areas in the town where busloads of tourists come to take photos of this ritual, and the last thing I wanted to be is one of those tourists. So I was glad to find a spot where there weren’t any other travelers besides me. I had my 85mm lens with me so I wasn’t going to be intrusive and I raised my ISO level to 3200 because I wasn’t going to use a flash (not that I had a choice because my camera doesn’t have a flash). Eye contact and being above their eye-level is also frowned upon, so I was on my ass practically the entire time.
I’m not religious in any sense of the word, but witnessing this ceremony was truly humbling and at the same time, amazing.
Though during the daytime, the weather was amazing, the evening was was quite the contrast. Every night, there were some ridiculously violent thunderstorms. A couple times, we were caught off guard while wandering the night market. We’d be eating some amazing sandwiches one minute, then turn around to see every vendor in the market having already packed up all their wares, ready for the impending storm. It was quite a sight to see the locals scurrying for shelter and then a minute later, thunder, lightning and torrential rains coming down from the sky.
Here’s a photo of some ‘Muricans I was hanging with in Laos during the aforementioned downpour. My sandwich turned into soup as Adam and I were literally holding down the fort, while Rachel and Cat kept eating and drinking without a care in the world.
A couple blackouts later and we were across the street chugging down glasses of wine. I kind of wish I took some video of the locals packing up as well as the viciousness of the storm, but I had my hands full trying to prevent the tent above us from flying away. Priorities, you know what I mean?
Kwang Si FallsLittle girl manning the grill. Totally normal.Little-er girl playing with knives. Even more normal!So the Laos new year was coming up (kind of like Thailand’s Songkron) and there were kids in the streets with buckets of water splashing people as they drove by. It’s the thing to do over there. People in NYC celebrate in the freezing cold to watch a ball drop amongst thousands of strangers. Laotians blast people with water. Good times.Night market. One of the best ones that I came across in all of Southeast Asia (read as: the harassment level and pressure to buy is almost nonexistent here compared to everywhere else).And there you have it. The last images from my month long journey through SE Asia. What a magnificent, enlightening and fulfilling journey it was. Not nearly long enough, but hey, reality beckons and always looms nearby.
I hope you enjoyed the photos along the way.
Cheers to all the beautiful people I met along the way, whether it was for a few minutes, a cup of coffee, a meal, a long bumpy bus ride, an even longer train ride, a tour, a beer or five, or even a few days (imagine that!). Even though I’ll probably never see the vast majority of these people ever again, it’s the reality of having shared these moments with the most random of people from around the globe who happened to have been at the same exact spot as me at the exact same time that make it so captivating.