Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2nd, Luang Prabang


We had breakfast at a river café, and then went to visit some Wats and a cave today.  Almost everything of interest in the town has something to do with Buddha.  Palaces, temples, stuppas, and caves all come down to where people have placed statues of Buddha.  This all started in the third century BC, when some monks carrying a breastbone of Buddha came from India.  They convinced the locals to build a tall, spire funeral temple (Stuppa) around it.  About 15 centuries later, the local King married a princess of the Kymer civilization (which dominated all of Southeast Asia), and she converted him to Budhism.  He built a bigger temple (wat) around the earlier one, and his successors built lots more during the next 500 years. 

Unfortunately, the subsequent leaders of Laos lost many fights to the leaders of Siam in the 1800s.  They sacked the Laotian kingdom in the early 1800’s, taking over 100,000 residents back as slaves to Thailand.  Only a few of the Buddhist wats survived.   Fortunately, one thing France did well for Laos was to undertake a reconstruction of the wats.  The current government is continuing the efforts, and celebrated the 450th anniversary of the unification of Laos (1560) last November with the opening of several and the dedication of a couple of statues to key historical figures.  The celebrations will continue in April when a 13th century Buddha statue from which the town gets its name (Luang means town, Prabang means peace.  The statue’s open, displayed palms express the hope for peace) will be carried from its present location in a procession around the town, placed in the square for three days, and then taken to its new permanent home in a large gold-painted and leafed restored wat.

This evening, we took tuk-tuks out of town to a beautiful resort in the forest, where we attended a cooking class in Lao foods, and then ate what we prepared.  It was wonderful, and I look forward to Pat utilizing the ideas she picked up.

Photos of most of these wats can be seen in the photos taken yesterday and today at: Wednesday, March 2nd, Luang Prabang and Wednesday Evening, March 2nd, Luang Prabang


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