Tag Archives: Buddha statues

Luang Prabang – Utopia, a Wat and a Bamboo Bridge

3/30 – We are thoroughly enjoying our time in this relaxed and friendly Laotian town, and have decided to stay a few days longer. There are lots of touristy things we could do, like visiting a Hmong village, taking a bus to a waterfall, or learning how to train elephants, but we are content to walk around town, investigate the temples, talk to anyone who speaks English, eat good food, and drink the occasional Beer Lao – the Beer of the Wholehearted People. The local folk are friendly, but not pushy, which is very nice.

Today we walked to the other side of town, along the Nam Than River, where we have not spent much time. Here we found the famous Utopia Bar, where the younger set sits on cushions and stares out at the river while drinking beer and listening to old Bob Marley music. Groovy. We had a beer, then moved on. image

We found another wat, which featured the mirrored mosaics that I like. Here is the Tree of Life, and the little Lao people covering the wall behind the Buddha statues. image


Here are the funerary urns used by the former kings of Laos, now permanently on display, as there are no more kings.image


The hand positions of the Buddhas are important – palms front is an entreaty to stop arguing, and hands at his sides is an entreaty for rain.image


We spoke with two orange-clad 17 year old monks, who explained that they were novices until the age of twenty, at which time they would decide whether to stay at the monastery. One was inclined to stay, the other wanted to go abroad to attend university. Jim asked lots of questions about some of the images we’ve seen in the temples, and they were happy to supply the answers. Very personable young men – they appreciated the chance to work on their English, and we appreciated the chat.

In the afternoon, we came upon a long bamboo bridge, that we had to pay 75 cents to cross. I thought someone should be paying us to cross this bridge! On the other side was nothing at all, just bulldozed land. I’m glad they didn’t charge us to walk back. image


It was a beautiful place to be at sunset.image

Luang Prabang – Whiskey Village and the Pak Ou Caves

3/28 – This morning we had an early breakfast so we would be ready for our tuk-tuk at 8am. We are taking a two hour tourist slow boat up the Mekong River to visit Whiskey Village, and see the Pak Ou Buddha caves. There are seven of us (two young women from Hanoi, a Spanish man from Barcelona, and a couple in the back that we never got to speak to) in the long boat, which is motor driven, so is not really that slow. The morning is overcast and it is actually a little chilly on the water.

We see fishermen and children along the riverside, and deer and water buffalo on the far shore. imageimage
We stop for gas at a floating gas dock. image

An hour and a half into our ride, the driver stops at a set of rickety steps, and we disembark and climb up to a tin-roofed shack containing a metal drum distillery heated by an open fire.image


Whiskey Village produces 100 proof rice whiskey, as well as red and white rice wine. The proprietor offers samples to anyone who wishes to partake. Jim tries some of each, and is drawn to the small bottles containing whiskey-preserved snakes or scorpions – powerful medicine. I remind him that we already have several of these bottle at home, from his previous Asian adventures!image

It’s 10 in the morning, too early for me to drink whiskey, so I walk further to see what else the village has to offer. Women sit at their looms, producing bolts of cloth and scarves in either cotton or silk. They each entreat as I pass, in low voices with eyes downcast, “Beautiful for you madam, lucky scarf, cotton for you, silk for you, discount for you.”

As backpackers, we normally have a “no buy” policy, but the morning is chilly and the thought of a shawl around my shoulders leads me to engage with one of the women. She allows me to take her picture, and we negotiate for a light cotton turquoise shawl, which ends up costing about $2.50.image

“Lucky for you, madam”, she says, and brushes the money over her other wares, transferring the luck in hope of future sales.

In 20 minutes, we are all back on the boat. I see that my fellow female travelers have each bought a scarf. The men are smiling, so they must have enjoyed the whiskey and wine.

Now we continue our journey north to the Pak Ou caves, where a bamboo bridge and a set of steps brings us to the mouth of a cave filled with small Buddha statues, mostly made of wood, that people have been bringing here for over two hundred years.

The lower cave area is illuminated by natural light from the mouth of the cave.image

We emerge and walk up another set of steps to find the upper caves. These are not illuminated, and you need a flashlight to enter. Jim, as always, is prepared, and I am able to capture some pix with my camera’s flash.image

Jim would have been happy spending several hours here, but our boat driver has only allotted us 40 minutes, (one of the reasons we try not to take group tours), so we pull ourselves away and hurry back down the steps.  Sure enough, he is waiting for us – everyone else is already on the boat.

Our return trip is heading south with the current, so it only takes an hour to get back.  The sun is now fully out and the day is hot – don’t need my shawl any more, but am glad that I got to meet the woman who made it. A beautiful day.image imageimage


Luang Prabang – Tak Bat and Mount Phou si

3/27 – This morning we rose at 5am to view the daily ritual of Tak Bat – giving alms to the monks at daybreak.  Every day, the townspeople line the streets near the 33 temples where monks reside, and prepare to feed them sticky rice, crackers and little packets of food.    


The townspeople remove their shoes, and sit so their heads are  lower than the monks’ heads, out of respect.  They dip the food with their hand, and do not make eye contact with the monks, who are meditating as they walk.  The ritual is performed in silence. This is the only food the monks will eat today. Monks eat morning and noon, and then fast until the next morning. image

When the youngest monk at the end of the line has been fed, the ritual is over until tomorrow.IMG_8424


As we were near another wat (temple), we peeked in. Prayer candles are lit in the shrines, and young monks are tending the grounds. A monk is having his photo taken – very unusual.

We spend the day relaxing in town, eating good food and taking in the sights.

In the late afternoon, we walked to Mount Phou si, the highest point in Luang Prabang. There are two set of steps, on opposite sides of the hill. We go up the steps facing the main street – up, up, and up some more!image


You may purchase little birds in reed cages, and set them free at the top of the hill. This will give you merit for your next life. I don’t know what happens to the people who imprisoned the birds in the first place…image

There is a wat at the top of the hill, and a view of both the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River. imageimage


The steps down the back of the hill were rich with Buddha statues.

A peaceful ending to our day.image

Saturday in Dunhuang

2/28 – We met with our new Chinese friends in the hotel lobby at 10am. I wish I could tell you their names, but after we were introduced, the names just leaked right out of my brain. We piled into a van, and headed to the Mogao Grottoes, an ancient collection of over 2000 Buddhist statues and murals as old as the 3rd century, hidden until the early 1900s in caves dug out of the mountains.imageimageimage

As usual, the Brits got there first, and carted most of the best stuff back to London. Visitors must take a guided tour, and ours was only in Chinese, so I can’t tell you much. Photos were not permitted, but after watching the other visitors snapping away with their phones, we did the same.image

The grottoes are kept dark so that light does not degrade the relics. In most of the caves the guide’s flashlight was the only illumination.




There were many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas depicted, in the different styles of the ethnicities who traveled through Dunhuang on the ancient Silk Road. My favorite was a great big Buddha. Here is his enormous foot:image

And way up there is his head:image

A young student heard us speaking English, and asked if we would pose with his family.image

Outside the caves were stupas, tombs of famous monks and other stuff.



One of the tombs contained a statue with its head removed, probably during the Cultural Revolution. The fact that these grottoes were not destroyed during that period is a testament to their importance.image

Here are our new friends.image

We had lunch together at a small restaurant run by a Uyghur couple.image
I made the mistake of ordering a chicken dish. The nice man went back into the kitchen and hacked up some chicken with a hatchet, and served it with pieces of bone in every bite. No horse, no chicken – I’m becoming a picky eater! The specialty in this town is donkey – do you think I will try it?

After lunch we went to the museum and saw more stuff.

Our last stop of the day was the big sand dunes of the Gobi Desert where they have camel races every year. image

This is a poster of the camel races.

We opted not to take a camel ride, but as we turned for home, one came right down the street!imageimage

What a day!