A very full day (again)
We are up at 5 am to see the sunrise and watch the alms giving ceremony to the monks which the local Buddhist people do every day. What should be a moving and spiritually uplifting experience is marred by the behaviour of some disrespectful tourists who stand so close to the monks with iPhones and cameras flashing away. We stand back and watch from the opposite side of the road and take a few photos discreetly. As we respect their customs the locals explain the process to us and are happy for us to take photos. Thin suggests we walk back through the early morning market which is already buzzing at 7 am. I can't resist some retail therapy and buy a pair of slippers, resisting the urge to try deep fried spiders, snake and even barbecued rat! Back to the hotel for breakfast 😀
The National Museum is our next stop. It was formerly the home of Lao royalty until 1975 when the monarchy was overthrown. The throne room is very impressive. It has beautiful mosaics depicting Lao rural life. The private quarters of the Royal family are also interesting. At the entrance the is a huge statue of King Sisavang Vong who had 15 wives. Busy man! The temple of Wat Ho Pha Bang completes the complex.
We make a "happy house" stop at a small paper making business and shop. Some of the designs are stunning. I love the decorated paper lamp shades but logic prevails, where would I use it, and I leave empty handed. Brian buys an card made from elephant dung with a Banyan leaf... Guess the drinking club will be the recipients...
Next we embark on a boat trip down the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves. The scenery is stunning and very mountainous. We see water buffalo and elephants on the banks as we pass. Lunch is the usual soup, rice and noodles and much too much of it. The caves are on 2 levels and both contain a significant number of Buddha statues. The upper cave is quite a steep climb, so not everyone makes it. Rosie, John and I do. There is no artificial light so we share a torch to peer around in the gloom and take a few photos. The rock formations are not particularly interesting and most of the stalactites have eroded. On the way back the boat stops at a small riverside village which makes whiskey. We are given samples to try and its like firewater! The red wine they also make is slightly sweet but palatable, so we buy a small bottle. Meanwhile I help one of our group, Cathy, buy a canvas bag, as she had been carrying around her essentials in a plastic carrier! Out of the blue a dog fight erupted right beside me, colliding with my left leg. I jumped out of my skin in surprise. Lucky for me I didn't get bitten, but Thin did make me check my leg to make sure. Back in the boat for a relaxing return journey.
Baci Sukhuan ceremony and traditional dancing
A Shaman elder and group of local women gave us a blessing and tied baci cotton strings round our wrists. We have to keep them on for 3 days for the blessing to work. It is supposed to revitalise us to approach life with renewed vigour 😃 We are then given a shot glass of the local whiskey which we have to down in one, as there are only 2 glasses to share between 14 of us and the ladies stand over us while we drink it! While we recover from the shock of the local hootch we are entertained by 5 lovely local girls performing traditional Lao dances. At the end of the show we can have photos taken with them. Our men are first in the queue! We are glad that dinner is in the hotel as we are all tired after a very long day.