SLIDESHOW: Orange And Other Colors Of Laos
Children sit along the morning almsgiving route to receive handouts from monks. The monks who walk these roads every morning to receive alms often give overflow rice and candy to disadvantaged children, many of whom come in from the countryside to receive their gifts.
Novice monks watch the annual boat racing festival from a designated area, so as to avoid mixing too much with laypeople. Technically, monks are not supposed to attend entertainment or sporting events like this, but exceptions seem to be made when an event overtakes the town.
Novices wrap strips of discarded robes around bamboo pieces to use as glue applicators while making lanterns for the annual lantern festival.
A team of rowers retires after a long day of practice in preparation for the boat racing festival. The race takes place in the Khan River, one of the two rivers in Luang Prabang town. This river swells several meters during the rainy season, which usually lasts from May to October.
A young, but fully ordained, monk holds a katong, a small, candle-lit boat that is sent down the river during Awkphansaa, the end of Buddhist lent. With it are sent wishes for good luck and happiness in life.
A novice monk makes a lantern from colored paper and strips of bamboo during Awkphansaa. People spend up to two weeks preparing very elaborate decorations for the lantern festival, which lasts just one evening.
A young man courts a traditionally dressed young woman during the Hmong New Year celebration. Taking place in December, this three-day festival is a time when young Hmong men and women often hope to find a spouse.
A novice monk prepares bamboo strips to be used in lanterns during Awkphansaa.
This recently ordained novice monk poses in front of a paper lantern during the Awkphansaa celebration. While the whole town is out celebrating in the streets, monks are encouraged to stay in their temples.
A woman sits with her sleeping grandchild. In Laos, a typical family unit consists of several generations living under the same roof.
This house belongs to the family of my friend Phone, and is located just outside of Luang Prabang. Despite working in the city and going to university, Phone lives like most people in the countryside. His house has no electricity and no running water, and he shares the one-room house with his parents and two younger brothers.
Aloun, a novice monk, winces as his head is shaved. Monks shave their heads once a month, on the full moon, as a demonstration of their lack of vanity.
Monks return to their temple after collecting alms. Depending on the time of year, the morning almsgiving ceremony starts between 5:30 and 6:15 a.m., and lasts for about 45 minutes.
On the occasion of a revered and high-ranking abbot’s 77th birthday, a celebration at his temple featured 77 monks chanting good wishes. Here, washed bowls from the late morning meal dry in the sun.
Villagers practice vientien, a ceremony that happens several times a year, to remember the three gems of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The main event of this ceremony involves holding candles and incense, and walking around the pagoda, a Buddhist temple, three times while chanting.
An hour or so outside of Luang Prabang, the mountains are green and lush during the rainy season, which lasts about from about May to October.
A stupa, or Buddhist shrine, at Vat Manorom displays colored lights during an annual temple festival.
On the streets of Luang Prabang, it’s common to see young children entertaining themselves unsupervised while their parents are working or otherwise busy.
Monks parade through the streets with candles and incense at 1:30am, followed by villagers, during Vat Manorom's annual temple festival.
Another novice monk has his head shaved with a straight razor.
Orphans in Luang Prabang wait for a special lunch provided by a group of business-owning ex-pats in the town, who also brought sweaters, books, and snacks. Several of these ex-pats are Lao, having spent their childhoods in the country, then most of their years abroad, and now have returned to their homeland to open hotels, restaurants, and shops, while supporting the community in whatever way they can.
Coffee beans wait to be picked on the Bolaven Plateau in the south of Laos. Coffee is slowly becoming a profitable crop in Laos.
After the shaving process is complete, the novice monks wash away the freshly shorn hair with bathing water collected from an old well.
More from Gabriel Shaya
30 May 2010
It is the crack of dawn in Luang Prabang and hundreds of young monks are filing through the streets. They ... read more