Touring through South East Asia is an amazing chance to explore a smorgasbord of cultures. I had long heard about Laos, a vast heavily-jungled land-locked country between Vietnam and Thailand. Here Hinayana Buddhism is the predominant religion. The country is covered with inspiring temples. When you arrive at Vientiane, if coming from Thailand, you are greeted with the gaudiest golden temple.
Taking a bus through the jungle heading north you ascend massive mountains covered with foliage.
At the town of Vang Vieng, you have the opportunity to take a day trip to a holy cave where there is a resting Buddha statue. Of course in the Buddhist school (especially Hinayana) you are to realize that there is no Buddha outside of yourself. So what you’re really doing is taking a trip to be reminded of your own resting Buddha! Anyway, it is quite a fantastic hike to go up into the cliffs in pursuit of hidden treasure. The voyage must be a metaphor for life, because you have to carefully cross teetering bridges over a coursing river, wander through fields and marsh, then climb up to the mountainside and into darkness before you get to the view of the Buddha image.
Eventually you arrive. And while the resting Buddha is indeed beautiful, the voyage you’ve taken to get here was even more so! Probably part of the point of the voyage.
The capital city of Luang Prabang is one of the most tranquil capitals I’ve ever visited. There are hundreds of temples to visit.
Mendicant monks walk the streets like clockwork to allow the citizens of the town to come out to share the day’s rice with those pursuing the monastic path. It’s a way for all people to share in the pursuit of enlightenment, even as giving cooks!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the trip. Seated in one of the temples, I’d set up to do a time exposure when a monk walked in front of my lens. I’d intended to capture an echo of a past Buddha, but instead captured a contemporary one!
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Album of pictures from Laos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leapingaroundtheworld/albums/72157603250438982/with/2051007459/