Our latest Laos Travelogue sees us sharing lunch with worshipers in a small local temple near our Eco Lodge Hotel 6~8 km from the center of the small (party) town of Vang Vieng. We decided to go for an early morning walk and spent sometime drifting through the village, meeting local kids in a school and stopping for some drinks along the way. We saw the small temple on a hill and decided to visit. When we went inside there were four people sitting on the floor watching two Monks eat lunch. They invited us in to join them. We sat on the floor and watched them chatting (of course we didn't understand anything) and then after a while, when the Monks had finished eating, the shared the food with the worshipers. They invited us to join and so I did!
Devotee & Monk
The Video below shows a lot of what happened (just very abbreviated). We were there for about 40 minutes in total but a lot of that was just sitting around, watching, eating and trying to chat.
As you can see from the video, it was a unique and special experience.
This Lady Provided the Lunch
We were told by the one lady (see picture above) who could speak some English that her and her family actually provided the food for the monks. It was their devotion. She said she took the food their everyday to give to them at around 11:00 am. She would then sit there and watch them eat. The other people in the temple were regulars and were there everyday too. She told us that she would sit there for an hour watching the monks eat and chat with the people around them. As soon as the monks finished eating she helped move the food to the middle of the temple and then she left. She didn't join us for lunch.
The older Monk
She also told us that the monks only ate one meal a day but as you can see in the video (and the picture above) they both looked fairly healthy, especially the older monk. He Seemed to be chatting up a storm. Some of the dishes we ate are shown in the picture below. The food was amazing! There were some other dishes too on a different tray. And as you can see, while the food is simple, it is healthy!
There was one lady that came along with her small daughter and two very old ladies. I could only assume that they didn't have homes or families that could provide for them and so this was their daily bread as it were.
After being graciously invited to join the meal by the devotees (and the monks), I decided it would be rude not to join and I also wanted to taste what locally prepared family food was like. It was a little spicy but it was all super delicious (and as good as anything I tried in a restaurant in Laos) but this being their main meal of the day I decided to eat very little and give them the opportunity to eat more. But still they were insistent that we ate.
Joining the meal
After I ate a small portion and indicated I was full, the older Monk invited me to the front so that we could have our picture taken together. This was a great honor because everyone else had been keeping their distance from him as a sign of respect. He didn't speak English but the lady told us he was in his seventies. Even at that age I am sure you will agree he looked really healthy.
Joining the meal
It seems I learned many lessons in Laos, or some were just reinforced with a sledgehammer (and I hope to share some of them in these journal entries). The lesson learned on the day was the power of generosity. So often in life, when we wander in the back roads of life among those that have so little, we are greeted with warmth and generosity that is humbling. We who have much are invited to share in the meal with those who have little. Wow! It has happened so many times over the years and the many thousands of miles we have traveled: from Uzbekistan to Sri Lanka to Laos to China, generosity and genuine warmth and kindness for the foreign stranger abounds. It is the most powerful lesson of traveling that the world is not as it seems or is presented and that there is kindness and genuine humanity wherever you travel.
More stories from our trip in Laos a.k.a. "The Jewel of the Mekong"