City of good karma

Updated: 2013-12-22 13:38

By Wu Liping (China Daily)

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City of good karma

Temples are constructed across from ordinary houses.

Occupying an area of 20,000 square kilometers, the province has a population of 400,000 from 10 ethnic groups, who live harmoniously in the area.

According to Yiakuanoheuvang, tourism is the pillar of the province, especially in Luang Prabang City.

City of good karma

More photos:  City of good karma

There are 229 scenic spots, including temples, a royal palace, mountains, waterfalls and caves, he says. The number of overseas tourists who arrive are about 300,000, while domestic tourists exceed 1 million.

Before 1975, there were only two hotels in the city. "Now we have 62," Yiakuanoheuvang says, adding that there are more than 300 hostels and nearly 300 restaurants.

We settled in the Phousi Hotel, in the center of the city.

Just outside the hotel along the sidewalk, people can participate in or witness the alms-giving ceremony early every morning - a major tourist attraction. The religious practice is a living Buddhist tradition of the city and has great meaning for local people.

The street is relatively quiet around 5:30 am. Small groups of people linger along the sidewalk, waiting for the ritual.

The vendors of the morning market sell sticky rice, a staple food served in small bamboo baskets or stuffed into bamboo tubes. There are also bananas and other vegetarian food. Several electric motor cars, with a trailer for 6 to 8 passengers, break the quiet. They ferry in tourists who are staying far from the area to watch the ceremony.

At about 10 minutes to 6 am, the first procession of about 15 monks arrives from the east. They are led by a senior monk, who wears a peaceful smile on his face, with the young monks - seemingly ranked by age - following him. The youngest looks to be only about 15 years old.

They each carry a metal container on their shoulders. As they pass the devotees, they open the lids to receive the offerings. Within 20 minutes, another three teams of monks have arrived from different directions, their orange robes ablaze like rays of sunshine casting light on the town before dawn.