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From the Ground: New Luang Prabang Evening Chanting and Meditation Tour

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin,

 Luang Prabang is known for its many beautiful and historic temples, and for the hundreds of monks collecting alms around dawn each morning.  For guests who want to enrich their experience by stepping into Laos’ spiritual world, rising before dawn is no longer the only option.  We now offer a new evening mediation tour!  This tour makes an excellent add-on and can easily combined with any itinerary.   We find that our guests love the chance to learn more about the life of the local monks and participating in this activity will add to feeling of serenity and peace that accompanies spending time in Laos. Participating in this Chanting and Mediation tour also gives travelers the opportunity to help give back to the local community through the temple donation included.

Here’s what the new Evening Chanting and Meditation Tour looks like:

This evening, at approximately 5:30pm you will join your guide at Wat Nong Temple for the monks’ evening chanting and meditation. You will have the opportunity to absorb the sounds of the monks chanting as you take in the splendor of the gold stenciling and woodwork of Wat Nong, located in the heart of Luang Prabang’s old town. After chanting, the abbot of the temple will lead the monks in meditation. Your guide will help translate if needed for your introduction to their meditation practice. At the end of the session, you and your guide will give a donation offering to the temple before departing for dinner at a local Lao restaurant.

Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda

By Courtney Ridgel

Booking Coordinator Courtney Ridgel visited Central Vietnam last May and relflects back on visiting the Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda:  

One of the gilded rooftops of the Pagoda
The Pagoda is tucked into the White Horse Mountains 

During college I studied Zen Buddhism through some of my coursework so I was thrilled to have the chance to visit the Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda.  Zen Buddhism first came to Vietnam centuries ago, and was replaced by other forms of Buddhism in the 15th and 16th century.  This branch of Buddhism is now making a come-back and the Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda was built in 2006.

Pagoda 1
To reach the pagoda, you must first journey across the lake

Located in Central Vietnam, this hidden gem lies nestled into the White Horse (“Bach Ma”) Mountains, so named for the clouds resembling herds of horses.   Like something out of a legend, the temple sits on an island rising from the center of a man-made lake tucked into a valley.

Pagoda 4
Climbing a great number of stairs is believed to help clear the mind

One of the locals took us to the island in his small motorized boat where a group of nuns sat laughing and sharing stories.  The journey across the water and trek up the long steps to the entrance is meant to clear your mind and wash away guilt.  I found myself breathless, both from the views and from the deceptively long stairs.

Pagoda 7
Different halls house bells, drums, statues and other religious items
Pagoda 11
Behind the main pagoda, dedicated to the Buddha, is a second pagoda, dedicated to the founded of Chan or Zen Buddhism, the monk Bodhidharma

Passing through the impressive gate at the top of the island, we passed into the peaceful garden-like setting with various halls and traditional pagodas, complete with temple bells and carved dragons.   Inside, the halls are adorned with murals depicting the life of Buddha and the history of Zen Buddhism.

Pagoda 8
Dragons guard these sacred steps
Pagoda 9
Looking out at the main gate

Taking it all in, I just kept thinking, “I am so grateful to be here.”   This pagoda will definitely remain a magical place in my memory.