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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Wat Xiengthong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is a small city along the banks of the Mekong River in Laos. The city has a long, complicated history, having been a part of the various struggles between Thai, Khmer, Lao and other groups that long vied for control of this part of the world. The city was the capital of an independent kingdom for a period of time. When Laos eventually became a part of French Indochina, Luang Prabang was recognized as the royal seat, and after the French were driven from Laos, the king in Luang Prabang become the head of state of the Kingdom of Laos until the Pathet Lao seized power in 1975 and disbanded the monarchy.

The city is famous today for its Buddhist temples, traditional architecture that resembles the Lanna style one sees in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the spectacular scenery of the mountainous countryside surrounding the city.

This image is of the principal temple at Wat Xiengthong, one of the city’s best known Buddhist sites.

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Buu Dai Son Pagoda, Da Nang

Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn, pictured here, serves as a useful reminder that the swastika is a religious symbol with a long and honorable history. In Buddhism the swastika symbolizes, among other things, the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. It also is an auspicious sign representing good fortune in Hinduism and other Eurasian religions.

The swastika’s modern history is rather less distinguished. It was co-opted by German Nazis in the 1930s and lives on today as an emblem of neo-Nazi vermin in the United States and elsewhere.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail