Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Last day in Luang Prabang...

Yesterday, I ran into Steffan, the young German fellow that I had met earlier in the week, and we spent some time together talking to some of the monks at the local wats. These seven young teenage boys (mostly 16 and 17) all became novice monks at around 15, but will not be considered to be actual monks until they are 20 years old. (Evidently, they have to sign up for a five year commitment.) At that time, they can decide if they want to continue in that life style or return to their family. They were all very friendly and seemed extremely happy to practice their English skills with Steffan and I. One of them invited us to come to another wat at the other end of town at 5:30 in the evening to observe the rituals and chanting that they were required to do twice a day. I walked down to the wat at 5:30 and quickly found myself engaged in another spirited conversation with an 18-year old novice monk. He stated that his parents were poor farmers in northern Laos, and that, as a novice monk, he was allowed to see them for only a few days a year. He said that his father earned about US$1.50 a day. Surprisingly, they were allowed to smoke, but they had to avoid all alcohol and drugs and any physical contact with women. (According to him, mothers were OK to touch but hugging sisters was forbidden.) This morning (Friday), I rented a bike (all day for a buck) to pedal around the back streets of the city that I hadn't yet explored. The street running along the Mekong River is mostly shaded and lined with Guest Houses on one side and open-air patios with tables and chairs on the river side of the street. The kitchens are located in the Guest Houses, and they serve excellent food and drink to those who are sitting across the stree on their patio. All of the patios are about thirty feet wide and are perched at the edge of a 70 foot cliff which drops down to the Mekong. Very picturesque. At night, many of them are decorated with colorful lights. Today, (Friday) I'll do a bit more shopping, and then put together a box of stuff to send back to California. Tomorrow, I'm being picked up at 6:40 A.M. in order to catch the slow boat up the Mekong River into Thailand. More later...


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