We got up at 5am this morning to give the local monks some food. I think they needed it.
Monks here are not allowed to buy their own food food - they have no money anyway - so rely totally on alms from the locals every day to eat. So Stuart and I sat by the side of the road at some Buddha foresaken hour handing out what we thought they might want; sticky rice and some chocolate bars. They seemed happy enough with it. We soon ran out though.
It seems every other boy here is a monk. Why? Well, it seems education isn't free here in Laos so the only way to get schooling is to take Holy Orders and join a temple as the monks do provide basic free education. The upside? You learn your ABCs for free. The downside? You have to shave your head, beg for food every day and wear an orange dress until you are 16.
Later on we saw quite a few of these young monks in groups with mobile phones in their hands. When I asked our guide about this he said, "it's not a problem, they keep them switched to 'silent'" (Boom, tsk!)
Incidentally there is no universal healthcare in Laos either. I also asked our guide how people cope with no medical help. "Large families. Seven kids is usual", he replied. "That way, at least some of us make it to be adults." Gulp!