What is the common thread of the Mekong River, monks and markets? Nourishment, the passionate joy of discovery, a shifting of the inner self to allow meditative balance.
The Mother of all rivers is the 2,700 mile long Mekong which begins in China, flows through the Tibetan Plateau and onwards to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the China Sea (*note– SE Asia isn’t happy this sea is named for China!)
The river supports many diverse groups of people. Britannica states that 80% of protein (fish) is harvested from the Mekong River in Cambodia and 1/2 of all crops are irrigated with her waters in Viet Nam. Small hydroelectric dams have been in place since the 1950’s, but current large projects are highly controversial. I cannot imagine flooding of the Buddha cave and other ancient sites and this is only one component of the debate.
Early every morning, orange robed monks walk single file and barefoot down the streets seeking alms of rice. This ancient Buddhist tradition offers residents a way to attain good karma and peace as the sun rises. Monks are a visual reminder to be faithful, to walk with intention, to be mindful of all actions and words. Religion nourishes us from the inside out.
Daily markets are a microcosm of life worldwide. A young mother rests on a bench, feeding her baby before gathering the day’s sustenance for the rest of her family. Women from the countryside harvest fruit, vegetables, and even addictive Betel Nuts. People develop friendships with locales as well as strangers, and these interactions feed their souls.
Some venders cook meals, including grilled rat which is a local delicacy in Asia. (*It tastes like grilled pork)
Other booths carry flowers for spiritual and religious uses. Birds are captured and sold, some to release for good karma and others to grace our dinner table.
One of my favorite markets is the night market in Luang Prabang, Laos. It is certainly set up for tourists, but the items are varied and negotiations brisk. Hand-turned exotic wood bowls, handmade paper made into lanterns, beautiful paper greeting cards with intricate pop-ups (*note to buy in quantity, but keep in mind they are $1US a piece in Vietnam), fabric and embroidered goods.
Please refrain from buying the jewelry made from bomb casings. Do not encourage public collection of these dangerous materials unless they are from a certified and safe removal organization.