Other questions in Vientianne
How can you visit a city and its surroundings when the temperature is higher than 40 degrees Celsius? That was our question when we arrived at our hotel, after walking for almost 2 km from the bus station, carrying all our luggage. We were completely wet, full of dust, thirsty and nervous! But after a cold shower we got energized and went out for lunch and a walk in the neighborhood. Lunch! Good, tasty lunch! Something different than rice!!! I was delighted with a chicken kebab and a melon shake in the “Fruit heaven” restaurant…it was really heaven…happiness… as when you feel tastes you’ve thought forgotten.
But coming back to the initial question, “on a scooter” was the answer and it was the best decision: we still felt the heat, but it was diminished by the wind, we still felt the dust on our skin, but the freedom sensation compensated.
We visited Buddha Park (an outdoor collection of huge concrete sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities and real and religious beasts) nearby, made a tour of the temples and presidential/ government offices, took some pictures at Patuxai (a local rendition of the Parisian Arc de Triumphe) and just rode around the city.
But the most insightful experience was talking with the Buddhist monks. We were on the way back from Buddha Park when we saw a huge golden Buddha sitting near a temple, watching Thailand over the Mekong. We stopped to take pictures when a young men dressed in orange greeted us. I wanted to shake his hand, as I usually do when I meet new people: “Sorry, I am not allowed to touch women…but we can talk, I would like to practice my English”. And so we happily did!
Makatum (if I correctly understood his name) is 24 and he was born in the South of Laos. He started being a monk at the age of 11 as his single mother could not afford his schooling expenses. He moved to Vientianne where he knew an older monk who took him as a novice, he started learning Buddhism and going to school (paid out of people donations). He learnt English by himself, listening to and speaking with tourists in Buddha Park. He does not want to stay a monk for life, but just by the end of his studies when he hopes to find a job somewhere home, near his mother whom he needs to take care of…
As a Christian, I am somehow religious, but I cannot keep asking myself: why are some people obliged to believe, to be religious and to practice religion, in order to get something as simple as education???
However “I love Buddha” was Makatum’s answer to “why are you a monk?” and he was happy to explain the 5 rules a good Buddhist has to respect: do not kill any living being, do not take anything that do not belongs to you, do not lie, do not have sexual relations out of marriage and do not drink alcohol.
Same same…but different again. Later that day we listened to exactly the same rules from other two monks in Wat Sisaket temple. Older than Makatum (maybe in their 40s), they were from Thailand, just visiting Laos for the New Year festival. They explained that for them only today mattered and they didn’t care about yesterday or tomorrow…nice words, inspiring for most of us who try to “live the moment”, but isn’t is too easy to apply this when you are a monk who afford being a tourist using people donations? I am being sarcastic, I know, but I get quite contradictory feelings when I think of the usage of faithful Buddhists donations…