During my stay in Amherst, friend Kate and I drove up to Brattleboro Vermont to take a look. Among other things, we struck out to visit the home of Rudyard Kipling, which is located a few miles north of Brattleboro. It had never occurred to me that Kipling wrote part or all of Kim and other stories about India in a rustic New England location. File that under life is full of small surprises. In any case, the Kipling house is rented out to private parties – one cannot even enter the grounds to look at the house from the outside. Undaunted, we continued down Kipling Road for a ways until we came upon the Scott Farm. We turned into the driveway in search of apples – mid-September is apple season after all. The farm did indeed have apples, and it also was home to something called The Stone Trust – a school that trains and certifies people to build dry stone walls. School was not in session during out visit, but it was interesting to walk around the grounds and see evidence of the students’ efforts.
Nhà Thờ Tân Định is a Roman Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. A well-known local landmark, the church was built about 150 years ago when southern Vietnam was a French colony called Cochinchina, a part of French Indochina. I have no idea what the pink color is about. Da Nang’s Roman Catholic cathedral is also a garish pink.
Luang Prabang is known for the distinctive architecture of its buildings, and from temples to houses, there was much to catch the eye. However, while I found the city visually exciting, I know little about the history of architectural styles I saw. The designs of some buildings resembled the Lanna style that is common in Chiang Mai, about 225 miles to the southwest in Thailand. Others like the structure pictured here are rather different than anything I have seen before. Learning more about how Luang Prabang came to look like it does is a project I hope to undertake before I make a return visit.
The building in this photo, which stands out from its surroundings and caught my eye immediately, is along one of the main streets of the city, not far from the Luang Prabang Royal Palace (now a historical museum) more or less in the center of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site. I went looking for information about this structure, but found nothing except a photo in Google Maps. In that photo the building was opened up – it appears to house a shop selling clothes on the ground level. I am not sure why it was shuttered the day I passed by. Maybe the place was closed for the low tourist season in May.
Not all of the Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang were gilded and affluent looking. The grounds of Wat Siphoutthabath were rather overgrown and some of the buildings were locked and appeared to be not in use. Beauty of a different sort.
This stately temple is located next to the Royal Palace formerly occupied by the king resident in Luang Prabang. Today the palace is a historical museum, part of the UNESCO Town of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. Though I did not see any activity when I was there, I assume the temple is still in use.
There was a group of a couple of dozen young monks visiting Wat Xiengthong when I was there. The monks I have seen in Thailand have not been particularly outgoing, so I did not pay much attention to this group and went about my business taking photos. Eventually, one of the group approached me and said hello. It turned out the monks were students at a university in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. I am not sure if they were at a Buddhist school of some kind or attending a public university. In any case, they were touring several places in Laos to visit well-known holy sites, of which Wat Xiengthong is definitely one.
Once the first guy worked up the nerve to say hello, it was open season and a number of people came up to meet and talk with me. All of them were very friendly and disarmingly charming. Most spoke decent English and one monk spoke very good Chinese. It was fun talking to him for a few minutes, as I rarely use my Chinese these days. Meeting an American was definitely a novelty and there were numerous questions asked. Pictures were taken. I was invited to accompany the group to another site somewhere in Luang Prabang. I was interested, but this was my final day in Laos and I had to make my way back to the guesthouse soon to check out. I could not really figure out how far away the other place was and so had to decline the invitation. Alas.