This is not a typical morning for me, mostly because it's 5:30 a.m. and I am not snoozing, but also because I am kneeling on a sidewalk with my head bowed respectfully, holding a pot of sticky rice, waiting for a procession of monks. This is not an activity drawing a lot of tourists this morning, although I am a tourist and I am partaking in this activity. I am told that Tak Bat (morning alms) takes place everyday in Luang Prabang. Local Lao, all grandmothers as far as I can tell, donate sustenance to the monks since monks depend on the lay community for all material needs. In return, Lao believe the act of generosity will benefit someone, perhaps even a departed relative.
My knees are becoming aware of the hardness of the ground below my thin mat and I wonder if the monks are still snoozing when they finally make their way up the sidewalk in single file. Each monk carries a metal pot and lid; he lifts the lid with his left hand and swerves the alms pot to the right as he passes a kneeler who drops a pinch of rice into the pot. I find it difficult to keep my gaze downwards. I keep glancing to the left down the long silent line of bare feet, bald heads, swaying orange robes and swinging black pots. I also find it difficult to keep up with the pots, and some pass by while I'm still gathering the rice, but the faster I try to be, the bigger the pinches become.
After 10 minutes, my pot is empty and after 15 minutes, the procession is over, but I am not headed back to slumber at the guesthouse. Doua, my gentle, timid guide with a big, white smile, has brought his scooter along to take me to the early morning market across town.
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