Travelling Lao together with a friend, we were most excited about the Lao culture which is deeply connected to the lives and traditions of the monks and novices.
Traditionally every male Lao is ment to stay at a wat (buddhist temple) once in his life. They do not only join a wat for spiritual reasons or because they want to become a monk for a lifetime. Some only stay for a couple of days or weeks to destress and detache from negative or traumatic experience.
As Lao still is a very poor country, becoming a monk ensures a minimum of food and a place to sleep and stay. Many families send their sons to the wat, since they cannot afford to bring them up at home.
All monks are very shy, calm and attentive. They get up early in the mornings for their meditation and leave the wat around 6 am in the morning to collect the donations from the people living in the town (mostly rice or other food). The people deeply respect the monks and support them in their everyday poor live with their donations.
I saw some very poor kids and elder people, who the monks would even share their donations with.
As monks may not be touched by women, my friend and I were very timid to get in touch with the monks. But after we spend some days in Luang Prabang, we talked times to some monks. Most of them were very young and very shy to talk to us. Yet, after giving it some time, we talked to them a bit and they really enjoyed to practise their English and ask about our lives… which was so strange for them, that they hardly knew, what to ask.