p.s. here are the top 10 posts of 2014
The Festival of Lights, Fire Boat Festival or Bun Lai Heua Fai in Luang Prabang celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent. Individuals make little "boats" out of slices of banana stalk and decorate them with flowers, a candle and incense and send them floating down the river. Talia made one at school so before the crowds showed up we sent hers off down the river. Then we went off to see what else was going on.
All the temples in town, expecially the ones in the historic parts of town, where we live, were decorated with hundreds of candles and hanging lanterns. The site was quite cosy and magical.
The monks were busy lighting hundreds of candles in their temples.
The candlelight on the stupas and temples was beautiful and attracted many photographers professional and amateur alike.
Along the way we met Talia's friends from school who were waiting to watch the parade of fire boats that would be coming down the street.
When the temple percussionists started the playing the parade was underway. They play cymbals, a gong or two, and of course the big drum.
Schools and other groups sponsored fire boats and joined in the parade. The fire boats are boats made with paper over a frame and covered with candles. As you can imagine, candles and paper don't mix well so each boat had a few "fire fighters" who tried to make sure that their boat made the trip to the river without burning up.
Some groups even dressed up in traditional costumes to escort their boat to the river.
We ended up watching most of the parade in front of some friends' house, which was in a convenient spot right before the parade turned into the temple.
All of the boats congregated at Wat Xieng Thong, the oldest and most famous temple in Luang Prabang.
The end of Buddhist lent falls on a full moon, which tonight was sitting right above the temple.
After leaving the temple the boats are carried down some steep stairs to the Mekong River. We walked along the river a ways to sit and watch the boats float by. It's too bad the festival only lasts one evening of the year, because it was so magical.
Every morning at dawn, hundreds of monks in Luang Prabang leave their temples, walk single file down the street in their saffron robes to collect alms. I decided to get the big girls up early at the end of Buddhist Lent, so that we could observe this religious ritual on a day that the streets are particularly full of locals giving alms.
This ceremony has become a huge tourist attraction, so we chose a quieter street in hopes of seeing a more genuine event. As we walked down the street, we watched people set their mats out and arrange their offerings of sticky rice, packaged food, money, flowers, incense etc... Getting up at 5:30 was exciting for the girls, but they also wanted to sit down as soon as we found a good spot to watch. Some nice old lady called the girls over to come get some snacks from her. Others not participating in alms giving, were going about their normal morning routines at their outdoor kitchens. There were still a number of tourists on this quiet street. And a few locals wanting to get some pictures of my girls with theirs. You can see they are nearing the end of their walk as they are now carrying an additional plastic bag full of food. The monks in turn give some of what they've received back to the kids in the neighborhood who are waiting with their own empty basket. We saw our neighbors out giving alms too.and receiving quite a bit in return! We ended our early outing by enjoying breakfast at a cafe and returning home to Daddy and Isla who had just gotten up. And Talia was already ready for a nap!
Another birthday post full of pictures for family and friends to see how we celebrated Talia turning 6 and Elise turning 4.
We happened to be in Thailand for Talia's birthday doing our last trip out to finalize some paperwork, so we thought we could have fun celebrating there.
We went out for a special birthday breakfast and let her choose whatever she wanted from the menu. She chose waffles and a smoothie.We bought a couple gifts and a few balloons. I'm so glad it doesn't take much to make something special for our girls! Trying on her new hat. She requested lemon meringue pie, after hearing it was one of Mommy's frequently requested birthday desserts and we were actually able to find it by googling local bakeries! Instead of parties, we often like to do a birthday outing. So we gave her the choice of going to the zoo or going ice skating. Ice skating it was! They were pretty excited to try it out for the first time... Talia did end up a bit disappointed that she couldn't twirl and spin like a figure skater. Ha! With Pingu's help, Talia was able to make some progress and started moving on her own.In the end the girls got tired of the skates and Ryan ended the hour by pushing them around as they stood on the back of Pingu's skis, until their socks were soaked through.
A couple months later and it was Elise's turn. We had an idea to set up a surprise tea party after the girls went to bed. The girls often come down early in the morning to use the bathroom and Elise has been known to go scavenging for something to eat. So, this time we made it easy. Something the girls had been looking forward to for MONTHS was having a second attempt at a sister sleepover when Elise turned 4 (as it didn't go so well when she was 3 years old). This time... Success! For Elise's birthday outing we decided to take a picnic and go swimming at the waterfalls, but the weather dropped by 10-15 degrees that weekend, so we changed the "swimming" to "hiking." The water ended up being a bit high anyways and may have been tough to swim in. It was pretty cozy to get to wear sweatshirts for the first time this season. The hike ended up being a big adventure and loads of fun. The girls did great! We even hiked straight up one of the waterfalls! We didn't even know this path existed, which made this birthday hike all the more exciting and memorable. We started a new tradition with this colorful "birthday" hat from the night market. Elise loved it! Daddy entertained us with his own version of the Lao candle dance. Elise thoroughly enjoyed the show! We forgot to buy wrapping paper, so made do with some construction paper. Guess which one was from us.
If you missed Isla's 1st birthday, you can see that here.
Here are a few snapshots from October that you may have missed if you aren't on Instagram. You can see these and more by clicking here.
Because tutus make folding laundry so much more fun 👸 A photo posted by Melissa (@thelandinbetween) on
First tree climbing experience for the girls in a really old gnarled plumeria tree. A photo posted by Melissa (@thelandinbetween) on
Our afternoon walks almost always take us to the river. It's a highlight of my day. A photo posted by Melissa (@thelandinbetween) on
Up early to watch the monks collect alms on the end of Buddhist lent. A photo posted by Melissa (@thelandinbetween) on
A photo posted by Melissa (@thelandinbetween) on