LUANG PRABANG, Laos — The monks and novices appear a block away under a streetlight, arranged by age and, roughly, by height. In the early light, their orange robes glow near-fluorescent. The only sound is the padding of their bare feet.
I sit across from a pair of women, sashes over their left shoulders, one pregnant, the other elderly, seated on mats on the sidewalk. The monks chant together, then file in front of the women, each receiving handfuls of sticky rice in their begging bowls as part of a charitable act that is said to feed the spirits of their ancestors and build merit in a future life.