Sunday, March 6, 2011

The alarm woke us up shortly after 5.00 am so we could get ready to participate in the offering of alms to the monks. Every morning before sunrise hundreds of monks from all the temples in Luang Prabang receive food from the people living in the town. This is their primary source of food each day.

We waited on the side of the road outside Amantaka for the first procession of monks to appear. As the procession came closer, we knelt down and put a small amount of sticky rice in each monk’s alm bowl as   he walked by. We did this for about 70 monks. It was a very surreal and peaceful experience. At the end of it all, we felt a little guilty that we still had some sticky rice left over!

Once the sun was up we headed over to the morning market - a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells. From colourful fruits and vegetables to hideous looking bugs and insects to bats, rats, rice and spices - just about everything imaginable could be found here. We picked up some sticky rice roasted in banana leaves and headed over to the local “Starbucks” to enjoy our snack with a cup of Lao coffee. It was brilliant. Strong Lao coffee mixed with condensed milk was the drink of choice.

With the market winding down, we headed back to Amantaka to get ready for our Lao cooking class just before lunch. We were taken to an organic vegetable farm just outside of town and given a quick tour of the farm. Then the fun began! We were set to make chicken soup, green papaya salad, pork curry, sticky rice and fresh spring rolls under the watchful eye of one of Amantaka’s local chefs. We chopped the various vegetables and spices required and got to cook each dish on open fires in a cooking hut. This was a magical experience - the various tastes and aromas were out of this world.

With the cooking done, we sat down to eat our freshly cooked lunch Amantaka style. We were set up in a beautiful tent overlooking a pond and the food we had cooked earlier was served to us complete with red wine and sparkling water. The meal was delicious and we convinced ourselves that we were actually pretty good cooks.

We headed back to Amantaka after lunch to soak up some sun and have an afternoon nap before going out again to walk through the night market and find our first geocache in Asia. The night market was impressive - lots of local people selling their wares. The colourful fabrics were amazing. Just as the sun was starting to set, we made the 300 stair climb to the top of Phou Si Hill to enjoy the view, then it was back to Amantaka for some snacks and desserts, and to call it a day.

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