Early morning in Luang Prabang and the monks snakes out in different directions to collect their alms. Their devotees line the streets from five. The alms traditionally consists of a handful of freshly cooked sticky rice supplemented by anything from bananas to chocolate bars to packets of crisps.
At the bottom of the street the river flows, muddy & brown. The cafe on the corner is busy and the tables outside on the street & the small terrace overlooking the waters start to fill up. On the menu is fresh coffee, freshly baked baguettes, fresh sausages & noodle soup. Groups gather to chat about the day or last night’s events. At the bottom of the steps the boats drop off women with empty baskets from across the river and takes off the few with full baskets who have already completed their shopping.
In the market jaded stallholders are still yawning behind their neatly displayed goods & produce. Their customers, at this time of day, are mostly tourists, snapping away, capturing images of local life for private consumption back home. Sadly, I have to include myself in this group. I can engage with the locals if there is an opportunity for a laugh & a bit of humour. But it is no fun with so many Canon & Nikon being slung around. The locals lower their gaze from the clicking lenses, just like the little chicks captured beneath the wicker frames & ready for sale, and wait for us to get tired & go back to our hotels & guesthouses for breakfast so they can get on with their day. I capture a couple of images & slide away to a good cup of coffee and feeling slightly embarrassed.
Some factoids about Laos:
Smoking is not permitted in the streets of Luang Prabang.
All towns & city have a curfew. In Luang Prabang this is midnight with bars & clubs closing at 2330.
Westerners are not allowed guests in their rooms.
It is illegal for a Lao woman to have sex with a westerner unless they are married.
Lao is a one party state. Only party members and their families & descendants are able to vote in local & national elections. The rest of the population are unable to vote.
In the jungle bamboo grows at the rate of 3cm a day.
If you serve a jail sentence your family & friends have to provide all your food.