I think the most emotional moment I had on the whole of the Big Trip was the reason I had set my alarm clock for 5.30 am. I had mentioned to our guide that it was on the itinerary we would be taken to the morning alms giving ritual, and, as we were leaving the next morning, when would we see this? It was obvious he wasn’t going to rise at that hour, but told me I could simply walk outside our hotel and see it from there at 5.30.
So there I stood, camera in hand in the dark, shivering. Remember this is Luang Prabang in Laos, which is pretty far north, and we’d brought minimal winter clothes.
As the sun began to lighten the sky there appeared out of the mist three young monks. A few people were sitting at the roadside by now and as the monks passed they accepted offerings into the basket each one carried.
A pile of food had been left outside one house, so they paused, and in unison, chanted for a few minutes before moving on, their orange clad figures disappearing into the early morning mist.
By now I had been joined by another couple from the hotel and I was debating whether to go back and crawl back into a warm bed, but for some reason, decided to stay. I was so glad I did.
A slow procession turned the corner at the end of the road, distant orange figures who walked towards us. There must have been 30 or 40 of them, ranging in age from fairly elderly men to young boys possibly as young as seven. Not a word was spoken, nothing said. I snapped one picture after another and then felt very guilty, as if I was taking a typical tourist advantage of a holy and almost private moment of their daily lives. I felt an intruder. Yet I couldn’t help myself, I had to get a record of this moment – to remind me of what I’d seen.
I wanted to somehow give the message that I was more than a nosy tourist, so as the last monk was approaching, I hesitantly offend him some American dollars. I just hoped he wouldn’t be offended, and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. He looked at me, then opened his basket and held it out. I saw it was full of food and I paused, remembering what we’ve all been told about money and germs. I placed it inside as gently as I could, and then stepped back. He looked up at me and said “Thank you,” and he smiled.
In the cold light of a Spanish evening, this may sound trite, but in that early morning in Laos, I felt my soul move.
Next week i meet elephants.
Have a great week.