Our tour of Laos begins after a short flight from Vientianne to Luang Prabang, Laos's ancient royal capitol filled with gilded temples surrounded by mountains and rivers. Early every morning we were here, groups of monks would walk through Luang Prabang and receive offerings from villagers and even tourists, and they in turn would receive merit. Sometimes the monks would pause and give some of the collected rice and other food to some of the poor people they came across in their walks. Each grouping of monks came from a different temple and each procession started with the oldest monk and ended with the youngest.
Our tour director, Max Holland, is leading us off the plane after landing at Luang Prabang.
After a one-hour boat ride up the Mekong River we stop for a visit to the Pak Ou Caves where we saw thousands of Buddha statues.
After a lunch we visited a village that has houses raised on stilts topped with steep thatched roofs. This village has no electricity and the villagers spend their days foraging for game, tree bark and fish.
During the day, the village consists mainly of children, young mothers, and old people since the men are generally out foraging.
Although they lack electricity they do have a classroom which we visited and a central water storage and gathering place where the women also bathe, and wash clothes.
While we visited the village we also saw that they were making various woven items to sell to us and to take to the market in Luang Prabang.
The village is also well known for its rice whiskey also called "rocket fuel" for its high alcohol potency. This sad looking boy is sitting among the stored "rocket fuel" the villagers plan to sell to neighboring villages.
Our hosts at the hotel treated us to a Basi ceremony which includes chanting wishes for a safe journey, food and drink and the tying of white strings around the wrists so that the 32 khwan (spirits) within each of us do not get lost while we are on our long journey. We were treated to a number of traditional Lao dances during our stay as well which I have featured on my Laos Adventures DVD which I sell on Amazon and eBay.
We stayed at the Vila Sante hotel where we dined and watched dance ceremonies. This building is over 130 years old and was once owned by Laos royalty, but turned over for tourism recently.
The Royal Palace grounds were nearby along with the museum.
We visited some of the nearby Wats in Luang Prabang and saw the monks going about their day whether it was worshipping, cleaning, preparing food, or just relaxing.
We made frequent visits to the local street market and craft shops.
Our final visit in Vientiane, Laos was to the gold-spired Phat That Luang, which is a symbol of both Buddhism and Lao sovereignty.