We got lucky in Don Khon — the island’s annual celebrations were well underway the weekend we were there.
Here in southern Laos, evidently “big celebrations” means “get mad drunk and hit the temples,” cos that’s what everyone did. The Wat laid out a huge spread, with hand-cranked carousels, dart gambling, cover bands, and tons of beer.
Old ladies lay inside the temple, watching the babies and passing massive joints, while 50 kids were mesmerized by brutal kickboxing flicks on a small flickering TV.
Beyond all of this, in a small tent lit by a hundred strings of christmas lights, I found a young monk telling fortunes.
I kneeled down in awkward prayer before him. He forced my hands into a praying position, like I was back in Sunday school, and juggled a cup of chopsticks. I plucked one — a six — and the monk barely glanced at it before reaching into a cubbyhole marked “five.”
“No,” I cried, “Six!” He looked confused. I tried again, in horrid Lao: “Ba ha, hok!”
He had no idea what I said, and shoved the fortune towards me. An old lady reached over, smiled, and pushed it into my hand as the bald monk picked up a microphone, and read my fortune to the whole temple. I heard a roundhouse kick from the TV, and all the kids screamed. I pocketed the fortune, bought a bottle of warm beer, and watched teenagers dance to psychedelic Lao rock.
Of course, I didn’t understand a word of the fortune, but I had the printout translated the next day.
“This mean you will win everything in your life, you know,” the guest-house manager proclaimed with a smile. “Very good! This like a Buddhist game, but is not game. You will have nice wife, she is very nice. You are like Pan, you know Pan? He very old man, he have young wife. You like Pan. You are very proud to do that! You are a very lucky man. If you lost something, you will get it back.” Someone distracted him with a question about their laundry, and he walked away. I picked up my discarded fortune.