Monday, 8 February 2010

Let's Learn Lao!

We’ve made a new friend. Remember the monk ringing the 4pm bell? Well his name is Khamchanh; he’s a novice aged 18 and we have long chats with him each time we pass his monastery towards the tip of the peninsula where we are staying. It’s serene and idyllic here, and we wish we could stay more than five days! Well today we had a 10am appointment with Khamchanh: a language lesson in which he would teach us some basic Lao sitting under a tree in the cool breeze as we observed all the goings-on in the wat around us.

The pillars of the main temple had recently been painted black, and today the task was to decorate them with gold paint with the aid of a large, elaborate stencil. Overseeing the work of the novices restoring the main temple is a much older monk, perhaps in his 80s but still agile. He possessed an aura of calmness and tranquillity, but seeing as we were in the middle of our Lao lesson, we decided to practice on him! “Sabadee!” said Jon, initiating the chat, “Jao Sabadee bor?” The old monk grinned and replied “Huay sabadee!”
“Jao sim nyang?” said Jon, to find out his name.
“Bunpeng” said the monk. So our fluency is developing, isn’t it?

“Sabadee” seems to be very much like the Bengali saying “Balo achi” so maybe when we get back, Simon will write a song in Lao. Meanwhile, here’s what else we learned:

Huay si Jon. Huay ma der Ankit (England). Huay hien khao! (I’m hungry) Based on this, Jon’s devised a little role play which we’ll try out tonight at the night market. It goes like this:

Jon: Sabadee!
Lao cook: Sabadee bor?
Jon: Huay sabadee
Lao cook: Chao der?
Jon: Huay ya dai kao nyo.
Simon: Jao ma kao nyo bor?
Jon: Chab lai!
Lao cook: Namdim?
Jon: Jao huay ma. Tao dai?
Lao cook: Sip pan kip.
Simon: bargain!

We thought it would be a good idea to visit the Wat which lies right outside the courtyard of our little guesthouse. Take a look, it’s called Wat Xieng Thong, and it’s the most magnificent of all Luang Prabang’s temples:
Can you spot the Tree of Life?
Inside the Chapelle Rouge
Blending in to all the Buddhas inside the Funeral Chapel

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