“The monks are coming over”

Traveling from Chaing Mai, Thailand, Brooke and I headed to Luang Prabang, Laos, for about a week. Upon arrival, we found our guesthouse-Vilay Guesthouse-and settled there for three nights.

On our third night, Vilay graciously invited us to a celebration of sorts: “the monks were coming over that night”. Not really sure what was in-store and always with a curious mind, we accepted blindly without asking any questions.

We make our way down to the family room as the time nears. Three monks are already seated. We seat ourselves deep in the back. Six more monks arrive. And  “the monks were coming over that night” has begun. Lacking insight and research, and much ignorance, we listen as the monks chant or hymn or sing in unison for about 40 minutes and attempt to make sense of what is unfolding before us.

It was beautiful.  It was electric. It was confusing. It was baffling. We were clueless.

People in the audience seemed to carry on there own conversations, yell at misbehaving kids, share jokes, etc. while this celebration happened. Sometimes they participated. Sometimes they spoke and the monks were silent. Sometimes they bowed.

The monks rose after an hour, sprayed water on the house and its congregation and departed. The monks dispelled the bad spirits of the house of the previous year. After some more in-house rituals, the formalities finished and the confusion continued.
Now along with everyone else in the crowd, older women began to tie white rope around our wrists. I received six, Brooke nine. These symbolized good luck.

And then the meal came and then the famous “lao lao” whiskey. And then like any other gathering of sorts, we recognized that it was a joyous occasion and now we ‘understood’ (using that term loosely) why ” the monks were coming over.”

It turned out to be a grand ‘party’ (baci is one term I heard used, just not sure which part of the ceremony this referred to). We met some great people and had a fabulous time, all the while being quite intrigued and honored to be a part of this ritual.

Now, if only we could get an interpretation of what happened…or maybe we found out at some point in the evening, but could ‘lao lao’ have hurt our learning curve?!

This entry was posted in Celebrations, Laos, life lessons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “The monks are coming over”

  1. Tracy Buchanan says:

    hahah, sounds like a great experinece. I can imagine monks, chanting, confusion and lao lao, making for a very good times.

  2. Dan T. says:

    Brooke- We missed you at the WVDA meeting in Charleston. Congratulations on being WV Young RD of the year. Have fun on you travels.

  3. Momma Lou says:

    What a great experience. I can just picture the two of you. Hilarious. And you two are incredible writers. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your blogs. Be safe!!!

    • Michael says:

      My knees hurt from sitting monk style for 90 minutes! That contributed to the confusion!

      • simon rackleft says:

        Did you notice the monk on his mobile for a good 5 minutes towards the end ! Not a novice monk but one of the main men.As far as the attitude towards children goes it seems discipline is at a minimum during these occassions.I noticed one of the French mum’s smack her child and remove her from the room much to the absolute horror of the senior men watching.All in all a strange evening I agree but all part of the allure and mystery of Luang Prababg where there isn’t a day without a party or celebration somewhere.

        • Michael says:

          Ha, I totally forgot about that, but Brooke and I got a chuckle reading your response. We both laughed after remembering the cell phone! I think I need to edit the blog!

          It was a spectacle and I am glad we were not the only two that thought we missed a beat!

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