Yes, the thing that strikes many visitors to Laos, besides the beauty and solitude of the place, is the incredible number of Buddhist monks walking around. Dressed in those trademark saffron robes, you'll easily spot them walking in pairs, usually with an umbrella in hand to ward off either sunrays or raindrops. In the early morning hours, when they make their daily alms rounds through town, it seems as if a wave of orange is flowing down the streets.
Their lifestyle is shaped so as to support their spiritual practice, to live a simple and meditative life. Photo taken at a temple at Ban Thieng. We had to run during our bike ride for a heavy tropical rainshower. Lucky we were passing a local temple where we could shelter. We had a friendly chat with the local people and monks. Lao monks are very friendly and approachable. We donated some money to this Buddhist community. Most people donate food to the monks to gain merit and improve their karma. The temples of Laos were once seen as "Universities" for monks. Lao monks are highly respected and revered in Lao communities. Many of the novice monks come from poor villages throughout Laos and live and study. Many of them are teenagers and not yet full-fledged men of the cloth like this eldery monk.
Lao monks are very friendly and approachable. Pay a visit to any temple in town and it's highly likely that a polite young monk - or group of them - will initiate a conversation with you. Most of these curious, conservational monks are of the novice variety, that is, they are usually teenagers still in school and not yet full-fledged men of the cloth. Many of the novice monks come from poor villages throughout Laos to live and study at one of the twenty-odd temples scattered around Luang Prabang. Obviously, being Buddhist monks, they are focused on learning about the teachings of the Lord Buddha, but novices also study a variety of academic subjects and languages such as Pali, French and English. Many of them can also speak Thai, a language that is quite similar to their native Lao. Those monks that want to pursue their education at a university must relocate to the capital of Vientiane and do so at one of the larger temples located there.