Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Steeped in Silent Stupa

The next morning my task was to find a "place." A place where I could plant myself for a day with a book, some paper and pens, a camera and be out from underfoot of the hundreds of tourists tromping through the city in tour groups. The amazing thing about Luang Prabang is the ability of the city to retain with an iron grip a peaceful atmosphere - almost like somebody forcefully holding down a windowshade that keeps wanting to snap back up (or a cone of silence?) - despite the thousands of intruders roaming the streets. Tour groups might clomp through, but any local person will still speak to you in a voice barely above a whisper. Shopkeepers stand in their doorways and tuk-tuk drivers by their vehicles and breathe a request for you to enter their shops or jump in their cars so seductively, so subliminally you almost feel drawn unconsciously towards them. I, however, was not to be taken in by a myriad of requests to visit waterfalls or caves. I was drawn to the mountain. Like any self-respecting holy city, Luang Prabang not only brags of too many Buddhist temples and stupas, but also of a big hill in the center of town with a big stupa right at the top. And a lot of stairs to climb to get there. (The ones I've already climbed) Excellent I paused to admire the golden stupa, which apparently is a fairly new construction at the top of the hill, but replaces several centuries of past monuments. More interesting were the types of offerings people left - the marigold cone with incense is particularly popular in Luang Prabang. Then I wandered down and around yet a few more stairs: Peeked in a few windows: And climbed a few more stairs: Until I found it: I sat on the far side of this little stone stupa and, for the next day and a half, this view was my company.

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