The morning began at 5:30 when we were picked up by Siphone* to watch and participate in giving alms to the monks. The town of Luang Prabang is known for having many temples and Monasteries. For the name Luang Prabang translates literally into Royal Buddha Image. Siphone took us to the locals spot. He was a monk for 10 years in this area and said the monastery** has 300 monks and when he was there food was often sparse, especially during rainy season (we are in dry season/winter now). Every morning at 6 am the monks walk down the neighborhood streets collecting sticky rice from people. It's a ceremonial affair where a mat is put down and the person giving the alms sits (men can sit or stand). They have to wear a sash a specific way (different for men and women) and when monks walk by they hold their bowls out and we drop a tbsp or so of sticky rice in the bowl. With our bare hands. No gloves. It seems on the pathway to enlightenment monks also develop a pretty impressive immune system. Maybe this also has something to do with Ving being sick all the time when he was a monk.
The weather in the morning is Luang Prabang is cool, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But another homage to our lovely hotel, they gave us blankets and put a hot bucket of coals under the table by our feet during breakfast. (better coals under my feet than in my stocking, am I right?) Oh and last night they put a hot pad in bed and it scared the crap out of me when I nestled in for the night. I thought it was a snake at first. Even Jason jumped a bit.
The morning tour continued to a small village where they make paper and art from the Saa tree, a type of mulberry. They boil the bark for 8-12 hours before using it for paper. They also make paper out of elephant dung, which is probably mostly just grass anyway. Mom bought some pieces for her California house. I picked out a piece myself but told mom to hang onto it because by the time we actually move out of their garage apartment I imagine the paper will have disintegrated. Who wants s*** on the wall anyway?
Continuing on the sightseeing tour we drove through other small villages to a whisky village where we saw how they distilled the alcohol. Obv I didn't taste but dad purchased some (a bottle that had a snake in it). My dad has a thing with snakes. For example, when he places an order at a restaurant or coffee shop and they ask for his name, he always says "snake". A little weird…
In the early afternoon we boarded a wooden longboat and headed down the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves, nestled along the river. There lie several hundred Buddha sculptures and figurines, brought in over many years. It had a nice view and was very touristy.
We boarded the boat again and sailed (didn't actually sail) down to a remote village where two local women prepared lunch in their own home. What a special experience to see how they lived and the kitchen they use. Mom was incredulous at how it could be done, mostly over hot coals on a "stove". We had another tasty fish salad and this green bean with egg that was really delicious. The river bottom soup was served again and I learned how it could possibly taste worse than last night...serve it cold. Siphone obviously liked it as he ate heaps. Everything is eaten with your hands using sticky rice as the vehicle. Dessert was a sweet coconut soup with yams and palm nuts. We saw the women making the coconut milk from scratch using her hands as the cheesecloth. Impressive. Twila Beth was asleep on my chest in the baby carrier when lunch was served and the grandmother offered to hold her while I ate. Grandma put her in one of their local swaddles and took her all over the village. She must have had a calming presence because for an hour TB was silently watching the scenery, taking it all in.
After lunch, Mom wanted to say thank you to our chefs and asked dad, "how do you say thanks in Laos"? Dad said, "cock" and proceeded to spell "C-O-C-K". Before mom could put her foot in her mouth with that one I corrected her. Apparently Dad and Jason were having their own conversation about cockfighting when mom asked him and their old people deaf communication almost ended in catastrophe. Why Dad and Jason were discussing the ins and outs of cockfighting, I am still not sure. There were some real nice looking chooks pecking around the village, imaginably that's why.
Although the food wasn't the best tasting by any stretch, the experience was second to none and one we will never forget. Also mom bought some random homemade bird cage, for reasons unknown, to commemorate the trip. Maybe she's planning on collecting c*** in the future. Guys get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about roosters here.
The day ended having dinner at an Italian restaurant that boasted Napolitana pizza with buffalo mozzarella. Of course they were out of it when we got there. Food was alright but it's probably best to have low expectations so to not be disappointed when eating non native cuisine. Also TB projectile vomited on me right before we left for dinner so perhaps the lingering smell of sour milk and parmesan spoiled the meal.
*Dad had a difficult time pronouncing Siphone and opted to call him Seafood for the majority of the day.
**Dad also asked Siphone if monks live in a monkery. I think he was serious although he could have been making a monkery (mockery) out of Siphone.