Archives for May 2012

Basic advice and requests.

For Luang Prabang.

It was interesting hearing your thoughts on my post about (not) giving alms in Luang Prabang. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one horrified by paparazzi-like tourists.

This little story didn’t seem to fit in that post, but it still makes me chuckle so I’ll share it now.

While at the ceremony we also enjoyed people watching a family with two boys (maybe 5 and 7?). Not only were the boys running around and fighting with each other, they were also going after their guide. The guide was polite but you could tell he was ready for the onslaught to stop. It was not play fighting people. Eventually each parent picked a child to quickly chastise. Then, the monks came. The boys ceremoniously dropped a few bills into the offering bowls while their mother beamed with pride… from behind her camera… that was in the monk’s face. I’m sure traveling with kids is tricky but it was comical to watch the precursor to the photo op that portrays the kids as thoughtful mini-Buddhists.

Sidenote: Guidelines we read about alms giving said that if you want a photo of yourself giving alms, you’re not participating for the right reasons and probably shouldn’t.

So in an effort to do more than just complain I thought I’d post some of the helpful information we found while in Luang Prabang, and highlight the especially interesting bits.

1. “Luang Prabang is not Ibiza! Nor is it Vang Vieng…” – You’d think it would be obvious.

2. “Always dress modestly in the city.” – I’m a pro at modest dress now and it drives me nuts to see people dressed inappropriately. It’s really not difficult to cover your shoulders, thighs, and decolletage.

3. “…this is not Thailand; there is no sex industry and you can only legally have sex with a local if you marry them.” – This line really stood out to me. I sometimes forget that some countries (like the one I’ve been living in) legislate sex to a greater extent than others. Plus, they totally called out Thailand!

4. “Don’t treat the monks like monkeys in a zoo.” – Well said.

This was posted on a Utopia sign but may or may not have been written by them.
1. “Don’t buy drugs. They give you death.” – To the point. I love it.
2. “Don’t think it is safe to rent a motorcycle.” – Apparently this is particularly dangerous in Luang Prabang. Bicycles seem to be the best choice.
3. “Don’t engage in undesirable behaviour with local females.” – Remember, it’s not Thailand. 
4. “Don’t stay less than 3 nights in Luang Prabang.” – 100% agree. We stayed 2 days, 3 nights and it was not enough.
xo, jill
PS Have I mentioned that I’m on Twitter now? It would be so much more fun if you were there with me. Find me here

(Not) giving alms in Luang Prabang.

A mini-rant.Our last morning in Luang Prabang we decided to wake up early to witness the alms giving procession. We both had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, we wanted to see what we expected to be a beautiful and peaceful procession. On the other hand, we didn’t want to be the obnoxious tourists mucking up the atmosphere.

We decided that we would attend the procession but do so from a good distance away. We sat quietly across the street and I took most of my (very blurry) photos from the hip.

But really, the whole experience was just kind of weird.

Guidelines for participating in or observing the alms giving are posted around the city, at guesthouses, and in guidebooks. There’s definitely a right and wrong way to do it. Unfortunately, most of the people we saw did not get the memo. It was embarrassing.

It all started when two buses pulled up to the curb we were sitting on. We had to laugh. Not only did they block our view of the entire street, but we had been told to arrive by foot or bicycle so as not to disrupt the peace. Fortunately, after the buses unloaded their groups of tourists they took off. Next, a mini van loaded with people rolled up to the opposite side of the street. A guide directed the people to their designated offering spot and gave them a quick run down of the procedure.

Then the monks arrived.

I’m not an expert but because I had read the guidelines beforehand I had a pretty good idea that some people were doing it wrong.

Following the monks down the street with your camera two feet from their faces? Wrong!

Posing for a picture while you give alms? Wrong!

Buying food from street vendors as donations? Wrong!

Sharing donations with others in need.

It was almost comical.

I’m definitely not one to ignore my own role in the tourism industry. But I can honestly say I’ve never behaved like some of these tourists did. To be fair, they probably had bad information (or no information) but is that an excuse?

xo, jill

Haw Pha Bang

again and again.

After descending Phousi, I became awestruck by the glow of Haw Pha Bang.

We sat on a bench and enjoyed the last few minutes of golden hour with Haw Pha Bang as the star performer. This temple is really just incredible and probably my favorite in all of Southeast Asia (not that I’ve seen them all!).

Setting up the night market.

Haw Pha Bang was completed in… 2006. Yep, it’s a baby. Thankfully, it was built in the traditional style using traditional materials. The temple stores the standing Buddha (Pha Bang) that gives Luang Prabang its name.


Wat Pahouak is also at the base of Phousi. We stopped in for a glance and then went back out to stare at Haw Pha Bang some more.

Really, I couldn’t stop taking photos. You may have noticed.

xo, jill

Kiva Loan: May/June

3 down, 3 to go!

Photo from Claudia’s Kiva listing.

My Kiva loan for May and June went to Claudia in Peru. Claudia is in the cheese business. She sells it at the market, to stores, and to neighbors. There was no way I was going to pass up this loan. I’m pretty sure my mom referred to me as a “cheese-aholic” growing up. I try not to, but I kind of love it.

Also, Kiva is giving out free trials…RIGHT NOW! You can lend $25 to an enterpreneur in need at no cost to you. Click here before it’s too late. Free trials always go quickly.

Special thanks to Matt, Dana, Shauna, Annie, Alison, Sarah, Elizabeth, Mike, Nikki, and my mom who have all accepted my Kiva invitations in the past. Together you’ve made a total of 33 loans!

xo, jill

From the Hip Friday

Morning market.

Today’s photo from the hip comes from Molly. You’ve seen her here before when she answered 10 Questions and when I wrote her an ode for her birthday. Or when I wrote her a goodbye post that was so touching she didn’t actually leave. (Ok, there might have been other factors…).

Molly submitted this photo that she took while enjoying a morning walk through the market in Hoi An, Vietnam. I love how she managed to capture this sweet old woman on the edge of the photograph.

Thanks, Molly!

xo, jill

From the Hip Friday features photos taken without the use of a viewfinder. If you have a photograph that was taken from the hip you’d like to share here, please contact me!

View from the top.

So many stairs.

As dusk drew near on our second day in Luang Prabang, we decided to climb the 320 steps of Phousi, a small mountain in the middle of the peninsula. Mike had recently read that the view from the top wasn’t spectacular, so we didn’t expect much.

As you make your way up the back side of the mountain there are plenty of small shrines and objects to hold your attention as your climb. I’d like to say I didn’t even notice the exercise, but I totally did. Still, I had some pretty things to look at while I huffed and puffed.

At the top is a large shrine that is visible from below and lit up at night. It definitely helped me navigate a few times after dark.

We were also pleased to find that the view was actually quite impressive. You can see all of Luang Prabang’s charm but in miniature.


While Phousi seemed to be a popular spot to catch the sunset, it was still a peaceful, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere. Definitely worth the climb.

xo, jill

PS This post contains one of my favorite photographs from Laos. Can you guess which one?

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