Vactioning Monks, Luang Prabang

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.

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Railway Cafe, Hanoi

Those tracks running off to the northeast of the nearby Hanoi railway station appear well maintained and in use, though I have to admit I have never seen a train passing on the several occasions I have walked by this location. As I recall, the first time I visited Hanoi in 2015, there were no cafes lining the sides of the tracks. Somebody decided, rightly it seems, that this location would appeal to foreign tourists visiting Hanoi. If you happen to be a train buff, you have probably noticed that Vietnam uses very narrow gauge tracks.

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