beautiful mountaintop vista
In spite of my having made the horizon bow upwards in this iPhone panorama, this is better than
the other wide shot I took from the top of Phu Si. Make sure you scroll to the right to see the whole thing.

Sunday November 13:
alms-giving and more climbing in Laos,
then waiting to fly to Cambodia

foks waiting around in the wee hours
Waiting for the others before we go do our eleemosynary duties. Left to right: Toby (I think),
behind him is Gwen, then Steve, behind him is Julie; up on the steps, Jack and Judy,
and below them is Audra; at the top of the steps is Mr. Hung, and below him in order are
Barb, Alan, and John, while Sheri is sitting on the abutment. Closest to us,
looking away, is Lyn. There’s also a larger version.
most sit heads down, bowls upraised

Sitting respectfully and waiting (big image, small).

monks walking by

Receiving and giving alms (big image, small).

dog stretches, in foreground

A dog that knows how to pray (bigger image).

Mark, in middle of the road, photographing towards me

Tourist, obstructing the view (big image, small).

younger monks begging

Much younger monks now (bigger image).

many tourists waiting to give alms

Many of the almsgivers were not from our group (big image, small).

here’s an older monk in the line

Not all the monks were young (bigger image).

We got up extremely early this day, and my jour­nal explains why:

«The guides told us we just must see the early-morning procession of monks and novices, going through the town and begging for sticky rice. Those who wished to could give the alms, while the others could stand to the side and photograph. We were to be repectful, however, with proper clothing, and not approach the monks close for pictures.

«To tell the truth, I wasn’t too interested in this, but just about eve­ry­bod­y wanted to go, in particular my darling, so I got up at the same unearthly hour and took lots of pictures.

«We went right to breakfast from there, and then it developed that there were not enough seats on the earlier flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia, so that only seven could go on that flight, the other eleven on a flight leaving at 1340.»

Steve, Barb, Julie, and Audra doling out sticky rice. (21-second clip)

Temple, all in gold (gilt?)

Another picture from early morning: this was the temple that all these monks were associated with, I presume (big image, small).

purple orchids

This picture and the one below were also taken before breakfast (big image, small).

a paler-purple orchid

Big image, small

single file of walkers going up a long stone stair

The very beginning of a long, long climb (big image, small).

here, the stairs are flanked by imposing Nāgas

Towards the top, Nāgas everywhere (big image, small).

another Nāga alongside the path

Yet another Nāga (big image, small).

gilded footprint

What was this, again? (big image, small).

demons, very colorfully arrayed

Demons in highest drag (big image, small).

Since we would be having more time in Luang Prabang, what was there to do but go on another hike. My journal says, «We used the time to do yet one more walk, involving yet more climbing, to a shrine way way at the top of a minimountain [ called Phu Si ]. After yesterday’s exertion, I was huffin’ and puffin’ pretty badly towards the top. I would go a dozen steps or fewer, and stop to catch my breath. But the views and the artwork well merited the effort. It wasn’t possible to take many snapshots as I was climbing, but at least I got some from the top, where there were spectacular views.

«The walk amounted to going up one side of the mountain, and coming down the other. At the bottom was yet another royal shrine, very elaborate of course. [ Note: As you see from one of the pictures below, this was perhaps not a royal shrine, but simply the National Museum for Luang Prabang. ] And of course I took many pictures of the riotous decoration.»

The journal says it all, except that it doesn’t mention the interesting religious sculptures in the shrines on Phu Si. (If you find them repetitive, just scroll down somewhat.)

Just a word on the middle image in the third row, there to the right: I had to look at it for quite a while to realize that it was a Divine Footprint in the stone, gilded to make it plain to the religious visitors. Somewhat reminiscent, to me, of Ásbyrgi in northern Iceland, supposedly the hoof print of Óðin’s horse Sleipnir.

old thin gilded figure

Wisdom of age (big image, small).

sleeping “Tuesday Buddha”

The reclining Tuesday Buddha (big image, small).

kneeling figures, surrounding a bepedestaled Buddha

Buddha and disciples (big image, small).

the group walks up more stairs

More climbing (big image, small).

The Saturday buddha sits, does not sleep

The Saturday Buddha, protected by seven Nāgas (big image, small).

We climbed and we climbed. Phu Si is supposed to be only 100 meters high (330 feet), but those stairways seemed unending. I suppose I should express grat­i­tude that there were stairs: otherwise, a steep climb like that would have totally winded this geezer out.

Tree, with purple vine in

At the bottom of the down-walk, the Luang Prabang National Museum (big image, small).

The devotional statues rather fascinated me; that explains why I took so many pictures of them. But on looking closely at the pictures, I wonder more and more what the statues are made of. Many don’t look at all old, though of course my instinct can be completely off here. When I looked at the old sage in the top right corner of the group to the left here, all I could think of was papier mâché, though that could not last in this rainy climate, even when heavily gilded, as all of these statues were. I just don’t think they look as if they were carved out of something; maybe modeled of clay and fired?

long shot of Wat Haw Pha Bang

Wat Haw Pha Bang seen from a distance (big image, small).

Wat Haw Pha Bang in long shot

Closer (big image, small).

Wat Haw Pha Bang in close-up shot

Big image, small.

mid-long shot of Wat Haw Pha Bang

Big image, small.

a different temply-looking building

Another temple in the precinct (big image, small).

The charming small temple shown to the right in four views is the Wat Haw Pha Bang, a building com­plet­ed only in 2006, for holding the ex­treme­ly im­port­ant stat­ue of the Bud­dha Dis­pel­ling Fear, ap­par­ent­ly con­sid­er­ed the hol­i­est re­lig­i­ous statue in the country. The statue’s proper name is Phra Bang, and has given its name to this royal city that we have been visiting. Although I entered the temple, I have no pictures taken there.

panorama of the plaza at the foot of our walk down
The plaza at the bottom of our hike downwards. An iPhone panorama, which explains the bend in the straight
street down below. Mark is at the extreme left, and that’s Alan looking at his phone.
Don’t forget to scroll all the way to the right.

Lunch at the Villa Maly, and then off to the airport, and a long wait for our plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was the only case of bad planning on Country Walkers’ part that we have experienced, but at the time it was annoying. All of us complained, in various levels of the emphatic.

The effect, however, was that we got in to our destination only in time for supper. Our hotel, the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa is, in the words of my journal, «… a French-era palace of elegance, with fish pools (one containing an impounded crocodile, but a small one) and a superelegant swimming pool. Our room was spacious and the bathroom fine but not the utmost in modernity. All in all, very lush.»

Three photos taken in our hotel, before supper.
swimming pool with a few people in

The hotel swimming pool (big image, small).

folks standing about Mr. Hung

Jack, Hung, Audra, Albert, Terry, Mark. Maybe getting our room assignments (big image, small).

ill-lit photo of three ladies

Audra chats with Barb, while Sheri looks at the photographer quizzically (big image, small).

I wrote in my journal the next day that we had all come in exhausted to Siem Reap, more from the seemingly interminable wait in the Luang Prabang airport than from the morning’s climb and descent of Phu Si. All our group ate together in the hotel that night, and I don’t remember a thing about the meal. But we did get a good sleep in preparation for the next day’s adventure. Read all about it.

Another clip out of the long video I made in the morning
of donations of sticky rice to the monks (22-second clip)