One of the special things to do in Luang Prabang is to wake up very early to watch the monks receive alms from the local people. This almsround, known as Tak Bat, is a living tradition for the people in this region, and in many parts of Asia. Monks are not allowed to prepare their own food; they can only eat what is freely offered to them in their begging bowls. They walk through the town at dawn, collecting food, eat a very early breakfast and an early lunch and are not allowed any solid food after noon each day. I actually know this from direct experience. I attended a 10-day Buddhist monastic retreat several years ago in California - and our final meal of the day was also an early lunch. Tak Bat is considered a profound act of generosity for the local population. It is the closest ... [Continue Reading]
Our home for the next six days, Luang Prabang, the City of the Holy Buddha, is currently celebrating its 20th year as a UNESCO Heritage Site, something that is both a positive and a negative for the locals. It is a positive because of the tourist dollars it brings into the area and a negative because the UNESCO designation includes rigid rules about the preservation of old buildings and the existing look of the town. And, of course, there always the downside to tourism and its impact on local culture. After a lovely breakfast in our hotel (I tried rice porridge with onions and mushrooms - one of the traditional Lao breakfasts), we met at 8:30 for our walking tour of the city. The mornings and evenings here are cool, but the afternoons get to be 80 degrees, so we were instructed to ... [Continue Reading]
We finally arrived at our hotel in Laos, the Apsara, at 9:30 last night. Judy had us pre-order our dinner so food and beds were waiting for us after the long day of travel. It is a charming lovely hotel. We love our room and dinner was perfect. This town is famous for its food and Judy told us not to wander into any old restaurant, but to check with her for recommendations first. According to the Welcome Book in our room, Apsara is the Khmer word for a dancing girl or heavenly nymph employed to please the gods. These images are carved in most Khmer temples in Cambodia - we will be seeing lots of them in Ankgor Wat next week.
Most of our group opted to take taxis into Hanoi for shopping and lunch, but some of the diehards stayed at the airport. And for the half-dozen who wanted to write, I made up these writing-on-the-go-at-the-airport prompts: Go out on your own (you will get much better results doing these activities alone) and:
This is truly yoga on the go . . . ... [Continue Reading]
The first day of our writing class on this trip, I stressed two attitudes essential to traveling: courage (as in consciously choosing to take a risk every day) and flexibility. Travel is unpredictable, plans change, and you have to roll with those changes. Well, today was the day. We left the Avani resort, headed for the airport and two short airplane flights - the first a hour an hour long hop to Ha Noi, the second, a short flight to Laos, our next country, our next destination.
When we arrived at the Avani resort, there was a green parallelogram-shaped packet in our rooms that held a number of cards (also parallelogram-shaped) describing the various kinds of spa treatments we could receive. There were massages, facials, body scrubs and baths in three categories: Purify, Balance and Boost, ranging in length from 30 to 90 minutes. The treatments had names like "Gentle Rhythms," "Muscle Melt," "Calming Hydration," "Herbal Harmony," "Foot Joy," "Facial Reviver," and the "Vietnamese Body Ritual." These names were pretty enticing and I liked the geometry of the brochure. Plus while we were at Avani, there was a special on: whatever treatment we bought was extended for an extra 30 minutes. There was also a parallelogram describing the beauty salon: where you could ... [Continue Reading]
One of the most important things helping people stay grounded and in their bodies, coping with jet lag and different foods, new means of transportation and new beds every few nights is Yoga on the Go. When my partner Karyn said she wanted to come to Vietnam with me, we integrated yoga into our daily schedule. Only we didn't know exactly where we'd be doing it because yoga studios aren't exactly a staple in Vietnam and there weren't any in our hotels. So we knew we'd have to make do and create opportunities for yoga everywhere we went.
For one of the prompts in writing group today, I used Eleanor Lerman's poem, Starfish. I wanted to share it with you, on this Virtual Vacation, along with the prompt I gave after I read it in case you want to write along at home. I'm also going to share Joanie's response to the prompt (with her permission) because her piece illustrates the value of the very thing I encouraged everyone to do on the first day of this trip: "Go out and have a little adventure on your own. You never know what you will discover." First here's the poem: Starfish Eleanor Lerman This is what life does. It lets you walk up to the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman down beside you at the counter ... [Continue Reading]
This is the breakfast buffet. More eye candy. Hmmm...I wonder what I should have for breakfast? Eliza said, "I haven't tasted goat cheese like this since I was in France." She was practically drooling with pleasure.