About 2 miles from Luang Prabang, upstream from the Nam Khan river, you can find the Wat Phon Phau on top of a small hill which is looked after by female monks. Male bonzes are dressed in a yellow robe (sometimes orange or light brown) as Buddha recommended, when he said that they should wear 3 odd pieces of clothing. The women wear a sort of white kimono.
The Buddhist religion differentiates the conditions of men and women. Man is supposedly the last stage of reincarnation, the only real one on the road to Nirvana, in other words the end of the cycle.
Boys are obliged to retire to a monastery for a period of at least 3 months during their youth, a retirement (bouat) of a few days (normally a maximum of 3 weeks) … for women, this is unthinkable, they must learn everything by their own means if they’re really interested.
Some monasteries accept women, but mainly only older women, who find in these religious enclosures, a spiritual refuge. At Phon Phao, several women came to escape the turmoil of Luang Prabang and work on everyday chores, including gardening.
The singularity of this temple, starts with its octagonal architecture. Built in the 1950’s, this temple is also exceptional by its interior decoration :
- paintings representing traditional Buddhist scenes, are stunning,
- the second floor with its paintings illustrating the different Buddhist architectures of the countries of S.E. Asia is most interesting
- the last floor, all in gold (like the reception hall of the old royal palace) marks the ultimate preciousness of the high level.
My advice : to be seen and to be followed from ban Phanom, the historical weaving village. Some beautiful showpieces, mostly made from a mixture of cotton and yarns of silk.