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Photographer's Note

final picture in my little series about the monks in Luang Prabang

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Luang Prabang is a place of mists and temples in the mountains of central Laos. It was one of the last pristine remnants of traditional culture, a Mecca for Theravada Buddhism, a heaven for monks...

It is 6 in the morning. The monks are doing an alms-round and people in town come out to the street and wait for the monks. The alms processions of Buddhist monks take place every day.

But as the sky grows light, it is no longer the quiet footfalls of Buddhist monks that herald the day but the jostling and chattering of tourists who have come to watch them.

The monks appear, a column of bright orange robes as far as the eye can see. The tourists cluster around them with their cameras.


Luang Prabang has saved itself from modern development by selling itself to tourists. O, preservation's paradox!


But there is hope. Posters and leaflets are increasing tourist awareness. They politely ask them
- NOT the disturb the monks' lines,
- NOT to take photos in the monks' faces,
- NOT to use flashes and
- NOT to stand looking down.

Also the UNESCO has warned Luang Prabang to stop building hotels or they might reconsider its World Heritage status.


So, this picture was taken in full awareness of all this and amidst lots of ambiguity. Even when done as respectfully as possible, I was still another tourist taking pictures.

I post the image on TrekEarth, because I like the result, because I like the ghostlike, yet colourful apparition of the walking monks, but won't images like this only attract even more tourists?

And I realise that, after all, I am a tourist complaining about tourism. O, curiosity's paradox.

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THANKS for reading my unusually long note.

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More information and WS in "Walk in dignity I"

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Additional Photos by Benny Verbercht (BennyV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2805 W: 35 N: 5698] (30376)
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