Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Surreal Pakse Tales - How the Monks Descended Down their Temples to Join Me

Pakse, Champasak Province, Laos - It's no secret that during my travels in Laos, I have developed the habit of "stalking" the monks during their morning alms ritual. I don't know why, but they draw me like moth to a flame. I have no intentions of disrespecting them, but I do hope they shall pardon my boundless curiosity - my only attempt of explanation regarding this behavior.


On my last morning in Pakse, before crossing the border back to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand, I had my bags packed as early as 6 AM. I went down to the ground floor restaurant and found myself alone in a sea of empty tables. There were stacks of plates on the three buffet tables which I found odd considering that the palace hotel seemed mostly under-occupied. I took my seat on a table for six and place my backpack beside my chair. A couple of fried eggs, a noodle dish and fried rice later, I was back on my seat. While chomping away for sustenance, I was conscious of my day ahead. Crossing the border, no matter how many times I've done it, is never a pleasant experience. I get nervous every time.

In the midst of my reverie, several monks started populating the restaurant - and to my surprise, I found myself surrounded by them. Every where I looked, they were there! Now how does irony play in a guy who makes it his habit to stalk the monk while traveling around Laos? Sing for me, Alanis Morissette.


After all those crazy mornings, I was among them, eating with them in glorious splendor. Now how's that for a farewell surprise? It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had. It turns out that these Thai monks were going on a holiday. From Thailand, they are taking a couple of double-decker buses from Laos to Vietnam, and I was there eating breakfast with them! Why was Champasak Palace Hotel so eerily quiet last night? It didn't feel like people were occupying the hotel. In fact, it almost had full occupancy.

It was such pleasure to say the least. After my meal, I discreetly (without a flash, thus the inferior quality of the photos here) took photos to document the special moment. I was also once again able to check out the backyard. It was a special day to be leaving Pakse.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

I was one of the first at the restaurant. they were still filling up the breakfast trays for the buffet meal.

Why so many plates? I would eventually find out.

Check out my backpack at the empty chair (left). It was a pleasant surprise to partake a meal with the monks. And they ate as heartily as ordinary people.

After his breakfast, a monk checks out the palace hotel's backyard. 

Chamapasak Palace Hotel's backyard. This leads back to the restaurant.

Offerings at the altar.

In Ayutthaya, they used yellow ribbons and garments to tie the trees with. In Pakse, they employ varied colors.

Monks at the lobby as they wait for their departure to Vietnam.

Photo opportunities as well.

Two double-decker buses for the traveling monks.

The beautiful Champasak Palace Hotel on the morning of my departure.


NRIGirl said...

What a send off!

R.Ramakrishnan said...

Modern monks breakfasting at 5 star hotel:) Looks like they are on some kind trip somewhere as they are patiently waiting to board a luxury bus with packed luggage.
Do these months have access to internet and do they Google for religious information ?

eye in the sky said...

From NRIGirl:

What a send off!

eye in the sky said...

@ Ram:

The experience actually gave me such thoughts. Suddenly, they seemed like ordinary people with feet on the ground. :)

eye in the sky said...

@ NRIGirls:

It's weird I have been losing "comments". I accepted all comments together yet I lost yours. Something is happening. :(

eye in the sky said...


Oh there it is. :) It eventually came up. So weird. :)

Twin said...

I'm sure you're so delighted with your surprise guests---your smile ear-to-ear :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Twin:

It was a "weird" moment to be in. This time they all sat beside me. :)