The gardening monks of Laos

As I walked past a temple in Vientiane I was pleased to see that the monks were out doing a bit of topiary and trimming the hedges.

There’s something very homely and unthreatening about Buddhist monks, and I’m pleased to be back in a Buddhist country again – if only for a couple of weeks, as I make the most of the school Christmas holidays to do a bit of travelling in SE Asia.

The children from the school attached to the temple were all outside lining up as I walked past –

each clutching a toothbrush, they waited for their turn at the mass tooth-brushing trough

while the teacher wielded a big stick and blew her whistle unnecessarily aggressively.

Then it was time  for communal handwashing –

The soap is in what appears to be popsox dangling down on strings, which the children squeeze and then  rinse their hands under the water.

The buckets of dirty water were then emptied onto the flower beds by the older boys … all very environmentally sound.

Everywhere you walk there are barbecues set up on the pavement, with hawkers selling –

– grilled bananas

– little fried coconut cakes, which are divine … hot, puffy and crispy

– whole fish coated in salt, and baked over the coals with leaves in their mouths

– and steaming vats of sweet potatoes and yams.

I’m also loving the French influence –

good coffee, good bread.

This is a toasted goats cheese and walnut baguette, which I got far too excited about at lunchtime.

I also loved this sign –

If we were in Malaysia, this sign would say  ‘Drive Don’t Drink’ or, more realistically ‘Sit in a Traffic Jam Don’t Drink’.

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