The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

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The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

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I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

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I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

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If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

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We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

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Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

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The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

Wagah Border Ceremony

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan is a daily event attracting crowds of locals and tourists alike. It is a well oiled affair and when following a few basic instructions if very easy to attend.

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From the Indian side, once you reached to the last parking before the border you will have to walk 1 or 2 Km before getting to the venue. You need to carry your passport if you are a foreigner, which will bring you to a separate seating area (more later)

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You cannot carry much apart from cameras and wallet. No bags are allowed, I read that bringing in water is not allowed, but you can buy some inside.

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I carried 2 Leica M bodies with lenses and the 90mm in my pocket, my passport, cell phone and wallet without problem.Note that cell phones are not working in the area.

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The venue looks like a stadium with the actual border being at the center. The crowd can go as high as 2000 people from the Indian side.

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The event starts at 5h30pm and last 30 minutes. You need to arrive well in advance ( we were there by 4h30pm ) to secure a seating;  I was told that some people were sent back on the day we were there.

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The ceremony is a show of rivalry and cooperation between the two countries, It starts with preliminaries of Bollywood style music played full blast, and displays of flags.

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After a moment the guards will enter the arena and do their show.

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The crucial bit is the seating, the area reserved for foreign passport holders in quite close to the border and on the top of the seats, this has the advantage of giving us some shade (the sun sets in the Pakistani side and it became very hot at some point), but the view of the Pakistan side is quite limited.

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Also you are quite far ways form the show; the pictures here are done with the 90mm Elmarit on the M262, they give a good description of the event but are not great. Also keep in mind the light it not great and goes down, I needed higher ISO (400, then 640 then 1000) and also the place is very dusty.

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Can you do better? Well yes: hang around until the top sits are full so you can sit lower and have a closer / better view. But the border guards are trying hard to make you sit at the right place.

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At the end of the show it is possible to go close to the border and have a shot or two with some Indian guards.

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I am not a great fan of demonstrations of national pride, but this was really fun. I was a bit concerned by the security aspect, being so close to the border, but it did some seem to bother the many foreigners that were present and I it did not feel unsafe there.

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All shots done with Leica M262, Elmarit 90mmF2.8

Wagah Border Ceremony

Evening Ceremony at the Golden Temple

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Sri Harmandir Sahib

Every night a ceremony is held in the Golden Temple in Amritsar (also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib), the holiest Sikh temple.

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It is called “sukhasan“, it consists in bringing back the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh, from the Sanctum (golden pavilion) to its resting place (Akal Takht).

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Priest and devotees line the way between the two places and watch the palanquin being brought from the resting place to the pavilion and the Guru Granth Sahib return.

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It starts at 9h45 and last 30 minutes; the place is really packed and it is very difficult to have a clear view of what is going on.

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Communal Kitchen outside the temple

On the way back a blue Hindu temple (“Saturday temple”) can be found, this small place sees many devotees, Sikh and Hindu alike.

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One of the temple priests (Left) and our guide.

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Man selling offerings for Krishna

The area around the Golden Temple is very lively at night, with a lot of food stalls and people walking around.

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(All shots Leica M262 and Summicron 28 or 50)

I will make a summary pape about our travel in Punjab; more information on Sikhism can be found on http://www.sikhiwiki.org/

 

Evening Ceremony at the Golden Temple

Panguni Celebration – Singapore

So what happened since the March Photowalk? No pictures ? Well a bit of the contrary, I have been in a film frenzy and I now average 2 rolls a week, but then this takes  a lot of time to process and there is little time left to put this us in a post. Also of course has there’s been a bit of travelling, but that will be for other posts…

So at the week after the March photowalk, on a Wednesday morning, was the celebration of Panguni.

Panguni is a Hindu celebration similar to Thaipusam (you can see my post for this year here). In Singapore it is held two lunar months after Thaipusam, in the Yishun area, at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple.

Like Thaipusam it involves body piercing, carrying Kavadis, music, friends and family support.

It is always amazing from the outside to see people going through this ritual. But you can also find some laughter there.

Panguni is a lot smmaller celebration that Thaipusam and it is less crowded. A lot less photographers and onlokers as well. Some of the people I spoke to pput the emphasis on the local dimension of the ceremony.

Pictures are done with Leica M4 and M6, with Summaron 35F2.8 and Summilux 50F1.4v2, using Kodak Tri-X. I also shot some colours pics but they did not make it through the selection.

Panguni Celebration – Singapore

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

Someone at the photo lab tipped me that Saturday that the next day, there will be an alms ceremony at Wat Palelai, a Thai Buddhist Temple located in Bedok, in the east of Singapore.

Devotees stood around the yard of the temple and gave their offerings to the monks who made a procession around the yard.

Later the monks gathered at their dining room.

There was 30 to 50 monks for the ceremony but I think only 5 are permanently staying  at the temple. Others are going through a temporary monk-hood.


This day was the fiftieth Singapore National Day, happy birthday Singapore. The ceremony was interrupted by the singing of the national anthem at 9am.

It was very nice to discover this temple and be able to attend this ceremony. I also met two people who always hang around the photo lab, so we could have coffee and chit chat a moment after the ceremony was over.

All black and white pics with Leica M6 and either 35mmF2.8 or 50mmF1.4. Film is Rollei RPX 400ISO. Scanned at home with Epson v500.

Color pics with the old faithful Nikon D700 with either the 85mm F1.8 or the 17-35 F2.8.

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore