so, getting away for a minute from the singapore expat extravaganza, let’s cast out minds back to “the trip” of a couple of months ago…
every morning the monks of laos set out on a procession to collect alms, in the form of sticky rice (khao niaw) and other food. luang prabang is famous for its morning alms procession – the longest in the world.
this attracts a large number of tourists, with cameras – both falang (westerners) and thai / chinese buddhists who come over the border to take part in the ceremony. large posters around town give advice on how to observe and document the ceremony respectfully, but unfortunately this advice is often ignored – which places the photographer in a moral quandry.
do you try to capture some amazing images at the risk of disrupting or "cheapening" the tradition, or do you leave well enough alone and hope others will follow suit? Lonely Planet obviously believes ignorance is bliss, as it fails to mention the ceremony completely. this to me seems a little like those people who believe not teaching teens about sex will stop them having it.
on the other hand, many "ugly" tourists either have not read the posters or choose to ignore them, getting right up into the faces of monks as they receive their alms. sometimes with the flash going off in their eyes. of course you don’t join in on that action, but if someone is standing in your shot, do you move closer to get some of “the action”…?
one thing i did do, to demonstrate how uncomfortable this might make some of the monks feel, was to get up in the faces of other tourists. it’s not much fun having a camera stuck in your face if you didn’t ask for it, is it?