giving alms

15 06 2013

Up at 5am to leave at 5:15 in time to feed the monks and gain some more karma points. (Honestly, we’ve done so many auspicious and karma-gaining things in Buddhist areas, that I except to be recognised as a saint soon.)

When we arrived at the appointed place, there was a guy waiting for us with mats to stand on, sashes to wear and woven bamboo containers of sticky rice.

Our instructions were that we should stand on the mats in bare feet, don’t look the monks in the eye, bow, wear the sash over the left shoulder (tied for men, folded for women), don’t take photos (whilst participating), place the rice in the bowls with uncontaminated hands avoiding touching either the bowl or the monk.

So, we stood in line and waited.

And then the torrential rain commenced.

We fled to shelter on the opposite side of the road, where the sticky rice guy collected our mats and sashes. And then we waited some more.

Dedicated locals waited in the rain.

waiting with the nagas

waiting with the nagas

At last

here come the monks

here come the monks

We dashed back, kept on our shoes, and desperately tried to follow all the other precepts.

timeless ritual

timeless ritual

Despite my best efforts I touched a bowl, and I didn’t dole out my sticky rice very evenly. The latter probably doesn’t matter, because we were told that the monks will combine their alms in a communal meal.

there go the monks

there go the monks

It was all over very quickly, once it started.

Afterwards we went to the nearby market for a local breakfast of Lao coffee and sticky rice doughnuts. OMG, doughnuts I can eat!

serious moment

serious moment



Lao coffee is really strong, and yet not at all bitter. We brought home some (organic, fair trade) beans and have been having a wee coffeeLao at the weekends.

It’s mostly drunk with condensed milk, except that the condensed milk there seems to be non-dairy. It’s sweet and tastes like our condensed milk, but it doesn’t readily mix into the coffee and doesn’t change the coffee’s appearance at all. The doughnuts are pleasant enough on their own (not sweet), lovely dipped in coffee, and absolutely heavenly dipped in ‘condensed milk’.

— words & pictures by Elizabeth




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