We were up before dawn to present alms to the monks in the dawn procession. This is what the town is noted for (and of course its French colonial architecture). We had read this this could be a bit of a zoo, but in reality it was most restrained. You sit on a small stool with a bowl of sticky rice as the monks parade past with their rice bowls. As they are not allowed to hunt or cook, they rely on alms from the devout to feed them, in return you get their blessing.
Those dealing out the rice are a mixture of locals (mainly older women), pilgrims and tourists/travellers. The procession goes on for about 30 to 40 minutes as the monks walk from their sleeping quarters down the main street to their temple to enjoy breakfast and then start their learning or devotion (depending on their age).
Then another epiphany: elephant riding. I am not sure whether this was organised to see if we could find and more or less comfortable way to London than our current chosen alternative. The general consensus was that riding in an MG is more comfortable than riding (bare back) on the neck of an elephant. I know many of you will be surprised, but even the Navigator sided with the majority on this one, and it only took her about 30 minutes to reach this conclusion. Further the smell of the MG, oily and hot as it is, was determined to be far less obnoxious than the smell of the clothes after riding bare back on the elephant.
After a dizzying round of temples, stupas and Buddhas in one of their 36 or 54 poses, plus the odd Royal House and car museum we were pretty much done in. I know you will be surprised that we found that there is a limit to the number of temples, Buddhas and stupas that one can visit in a day, and it was far less than then36 that are left in town. At one stage of the high point of its history, there had been 71 temples.
We often compare one place against another as a point of reference, rather than accepting it for what it is. Without going down that route, Luang Prabang is an exceptional place. The UNESCO conservation order in 1995 has preserved it and means that all future development is managed by the UN (supposedly). I think they must have tipped a lot of money in to manage the initial restoration. Today it must be the dollars that tourism brings that helps in its conservation. Busy, bustling and touristy in many respects, but it has this really calm and restrained aura about it. Many be it is the monks that help with this. The surrounding misty mountains help with the atmosphere and combine with the bars, food and old French architecture.
However, if you think this is a place to be discovered, too late. The tourists throng in from all over Asia and Europe. French accents are prevalent, the Chinese numerous and today we were lining up photo opportunities with a large group of old (north) Vietnamese soldiers covered in gold braid and war decorations.
Keep looking for the next unfound hot spot. This place has been well and truly found – about 20 years ago according to Tony.
Our shipping agents have posted a video of the vehicle arrival in Bangkok here: