Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter [Culture] Holiday

You can't travel in Southeast Asia without seeing religion practiced in every sphere of public and private life.  Thailand and Laos are both strongly Buddhist; typical scenes include temples old and new, monks everywhere (especially in Laos), and spirit houses in every yard.

An example of how religious practice and community life are basically the same thing is when we happened upon a village festival.  It was held in the temple yard, with pop music playing and a variety of snack stands and games.  There was a table near the temple where I saw people stop by and do some kind of bowing or offering, and monks were milling around the fringes of the celebration. 

Spirit houses in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Temple with a cool ceiling in Vientiane, Laos

Offerings in Luang Prabang, Laos

A Buddha for every day of the week -- really!  They were labeled "Monday Buddha," "Tuesday Buddha," and so on (in Luang Prabang, Laos)

We couldn't go ten minutes without seeing a monk when out and about in Laos (this photo from Luang Prabang)

Temple/Museum in Luang Prabang, Laos

These are common at temple entrances.  I think Lonely Planet says they are representations of some kind of snake ghost that was feared and worshiped in earlier times.

Sunrise over Wat Phou, ruins of a temple built by Hindu Khmers from Cambodia and later re-purposed as a Buddhist site

Our Lao companions washed their hair in holy water from a spring at this Wat Phou shrine

Champa trees and flowers lined the stairs up to the temple complex

Families gather around to listen to traditional singing at the village festival




Just outside the festival, looking into the village

The airports had helpful posters to keep tourists from being obnoxious.  This one tells you not to use feet for anything but walking.

Explaining proper behavior toward monks

Attention backpackers: "Lao people appreciate clean and neatly dressed visitors."  Haha.

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