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?!