The Orange Robes of Laos

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There are some thirty-four active Buddhist Temples or Wats and an estimated 2,000 monks in and around Luang Prabang, Laos. Boys as young a ten years old can enter a temple to receive religious training as well as a general education. A Monk’s day starts very early, usually around 4:00AM, with prayer and meditation in preparation for their alms gathering. Several hundred Monks walk barefooted through the streets of Luang Prabang at first light gathering alms from the faithful, a very solemn ritual that has occurred daily for over seven hundred years. The Monks then return to their Wats for their main meal of the day and then retire to their quarters in the afternoon for meditation and rest.

When one wanders around the temples in the afternoon, they appear deserted. A quiet serenity settles over the temple grounds. This is especially so in the more rural Wats where the only sounds are birds singing and bamboo rustling in the breeze. But there is a subtle indication that the monks are there: the ubiquitous orange robe. One is neatly folded across a window sill, a freshly laundered robe is drying on bamboo, or several are on a makeshift clothesline.

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