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What's With all the Monks in Orange Robes?

Updated on March 26, 2013

Impressions of Laos and Cambodia

Luang Prabang is the only city in the world where the Buddhist monks make the morning walk through the city gathering donations of food for their day. Its an amazing sightseeing a line of hundreds of monks clad in vibrant orange robes solemnly walking through the streets at first light.

Monks receiving alms
Monks receiving alms

Monks Receiving Alms

In Luang Prabang, Laos it is compulsory for the young men to become monks (similar to some countries where they must join the military). Once they have spent their time living as monks they are free to leave or stay. This is also why you will see some of the young monks doing things you might not expect to see from a monk - such as texting on their smart phone. Older men who may be unable to support themselves may also rejoin the monks so you will see a mix of both young and old monks. Each morning they make the rounds around town receiving alms from the locals. Its also become somewhat of a touristy thing to join in handing out food. It's important to respect the culture and not be disruptive or interfere in any way when observing.

Monk Meal Time
Monk Meal Time

After the Alms

Once the morning rounds of gathering alms have been made its back to the temple. Its interesting to note that the Buddhist monks in different areas have different diets, some are vegetarians and in other areas they are allowed to eat meat. Also how many meals a day they can eat may vary. Here they eat twice a day. Once their masters have been fed they gather for the morning meal. In addition to rice, vegetables and other staples, the locals may slip in some treats now and then that they are allowed to keep for later. Photographers note: as a travel photographer its important to not be intrusive and to be respectful. These photos were taken after quietly asking permission and following the local rules, I also make a habit of making donations at the various temples.

Buddhist Temple
Buddhist Temple

Not a Bad Place to Live

Luang Prabang is a jewel of Laos, one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited with the large number of Buddhist temples, statues and orange clad monks. The grounds of many of the temples are freely accessible to visit.

Monks in Angkor Wat
Monks in Angkor Wat

On the Other Side of the Border

Over in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

A trip to Laos wouldn't be complete without hoping across the border to Cambodia to check out the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. And see more monks - in orange robes.

Trees Growing out of Angkor Wat Temple
Trees Growing out of Angkor Wat Temple

To Weed or Not to Weed?

Angkor Wat is now a World Heritage Site and is being preserved in a way that retains its natural look and feel. Which means the trees that have overgrown in and around the structures are being maintained as part of the ancient ruins as opposed to trying restore them to their original condition. You may actually notice new reinforcing supports hidden away within the ruins.

War veterans of the Vietnam war (or American War as its known there).
War veterans of the Vietnam war (or American War as its known there).

Its not all Fun and Games

One thing we learned is that many of the young generation are kids just like anywhere else, on their smart phones texting their friends and doing what all kids do - and many are oblivious to what happened in just the last generation within their own country. A trip through Cambodia wouldn't be complete without visiting one of the Khmer Rouge killing fields and meeting some of the people who were part of some of the worst campaigns of land mining of the Vietnam War (or the American War as they refer to it).

Dragon on the Temple Stairway Bannister

Dragons on a Buddhist Temple
Dragons on a Buddhist Temple

One of the larger Buddhist templates in Luang Prabang, Laos

Hill of Buddha Statues

Gold Budhhist Statues
Gold Budhhist Statues

Also in Luang Prabang, a hike up a small mountainside outside of town features gold Buddha statues at every turn.

The Khmer Rouge Killing Fields

The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields

In the Cambodian killing fields of the Khmer Rouge is an eerie reminder of its recent past. Bits of human bone, teeth and strips of clothing are still scattered across the grounds, continually being unearthed as the rains keep washing away the mud.

Cambodian Landmine Victim

Landmine Victim
Landmine Victim

At a random stop in a small village heading to Angkor Wat we came across a family. They were very appreciative of a Polaroid someone took and gave them as a gift.

Getting Ready for a Party

Angkor Wat Buddhist Temple
Angkor Wat Buddhist Temple

On the outskirts of the Angkor Wat ruins I found this Buddhist temple where they were preparing for a festival.

Angkor Wat - Temple City in Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Now a world heritage site and one of the best places to visit for seeing ancient ruins.

Apsara Dancers in Angkor Wat

Cambodian Apsara Dancers
Cambodian Apsara Dancers

While you can see many images of aspara dancers carved into the ancient ruins, its nice to see a representation of what they look and dress like. These dancers perform various shows you can see around Angkor Wat.

Apsara Dancers

Apsara Dancers
Apsara Dancers

Apsara dancers continue the traditions of traditional dance in costume.

Yea, that's Me.

Apsara Carvings in Angkor Wat
Apsara Carvings in Angkor Wat

Here you can see the ancient carvings in the temple wall depicting the Apsara dancers. And your Scottish kilt wearing host.

Travel Guides for Laos and Cambodia

Ever been to Cambodia or Laos?

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    • hamstring profile image

      hamstring 5 years ago

      great photos! looks like an incredible trip!