Hidden between the wondrous mountains of Laos lies a World Heritage site, Luang Prabang. The nature around the city is astonishing. The way the Mekong and the Khan rivers seem to embrace the city as well as the mountains surrounding it is magical. The city itself is warm and enchanting and the people’s pureness is nothing less than soul touching.
The first night I headed off to the city’s night market. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I am a women and women seem to love shopping more than life, or is it the variety of colors and flashy lights that attracts me most. FYI – I find the best thing to do in a city is visiting markets. Whether it’s the food, clothes, spice, hand crafts, or jewelry ones I get the sense that markets give you the best image of what the city is like. You get to know what the people are all about, what the local products are and you might as well hear great stories and meet interesting people because the markets are also gathering events. There was an old couple that really touched me. They were selling spoons and bracelets. But the story behind their products was amazing. There was a sign next to the goods their were selling that said: “These bracelets were bombs. We make bracelets, not war. Our bracelets are made from aluminium which was part of a plane or a bomb dropped on our province during the secret war. After the war someone taught us what to do with the bombs that destroyed our lives. From bombs we made spoons and recently we began to form bombs into beautiful bracelets. We bring new meaning to the bombs and help ourselves escape poverty. Thank you so much for your support.” So people: MAKE BRACELETS, NOT WAR <3 !
The next day I walked around the city. Getting lost in the small streets and randomly discovering things is the best way to get the city’s vibe. Sitting by the powerful Mekong river I met a young women and we started talking. She just had a baby and couldn’t work. Her family was in a far away village and couldn’t help her. Still, she was happy just to sit by the river and meet someone new. She suggested what I should do next. So I headed off to the town’s library. A bunch of kids were running around because they just had a break from their lessons. Since unfortunately most of Laos children don’t even have the possibility of holding a book in their hands due to poverty, donations to the library are more than welcome. I spotted a 6-7 year old boy group whispering and making a plan, so I went to check it out. They had caught a lizard and wanted to throw it at the girls playing behind the fence. Before doing that they posed for me, as if I were a famous photographer. Even though the communication with the locals might be challenging I love the connection you can have with the local kids. Kids in general. You don’t need to know the language to communicate, gestures and laughs say it all. After posing for me, they waved their little hearts out as if we knew each other forever.
At Mount Phousi another amazing thing has happened. After checking out hundreds of golden Buddhas there, I saw a bunch of young men looking at me from a small tree house. I smiled and passed by, but one of them came to the window and shouted out: “Hey, where are you from?”. I came to the window and we started talking. His English was the best I’ve heard since I got here. They were all monks, all coming from different places in Laos and leading a religious life on the top of the mountain. He was 16 and in his free time he would go to the library to learn English. He did not know where Croatia was, and asked how long does it take to get there. “If it’s a direct flight it might take about 13 hours”, I said. He seemed relieved: “Oh, that’s not far at all. It takes us 12 hours to get to Vientiane, the capital”, he said. (FYI – the distance between Luang Prabang and Vientiane is around 300 km, however the road condition requires that amount of time to cross it by bus). He was so honest and pure. He asked me things about my country, my travels and my life and asked me to meet him at the mountain again the next day to talk more. There was no fb, no skype, no whatsapp, or a telephone number. Just a word and a desire that had greater power than any virtual message ever could.
Luang Prabang has completely won me over. With it’s natural treasures, but mostly with the pureness of it’s inhabitants. So in order to see more of it’s magic I had woken up the next day at 5 AM. There is a traditional ceremony preformed each morning, called the “Morning Alms (Tak Bat)”. The Buddhist monks get out of their temples, walking in line (starting with the oldest monk and ending with the youngest one), each having a bowl hanging from their shoulders. People get out on the streets and kneel in front of them, keeping their head low, giving each and every one of them pieces of food (a bit of rice, a fruit or something). There was an old lady kneeling on the street with an empty bowl. Obviously the ceremony was important for her, however she could not afford to give away food. Therefore each monk that passed by her took a bit from his bowl and threw it into hers. At that point Luang Prabang did not only feel beautiful, it felt human. It was the most human feeling I’ve sensed in a long time.