Where we travelled, especially in Luang Prabang, there were many temples, and many monks, and despite the circus of the tak bat ceremony, Buddhism is still a vital and important part of Lao life. Many young men spend at least some time as a novice in a temple, partly as a way of getting an education (despite being nominally a Communist country, there isn't any free education or healthcare in Laos).

The monks were, of course, incredibly photogenic and striking in their orange robes.

That last guy there, with his robe up to his face, is a young novice we spent a lot of time chatting with one afternoon. The closest any of us could get to pronouncing his name was "honk", which of course made him "Honk the Monk". But he had given himself an English name, John Jackson, which we also called him, to his great pleasure.

Honk, or John Jackson, is twelve, and has lived as a novice for two years. His plan is to stay for another five or so, and then to become a doctor. He spoke English quite well, and is also studying Spanish and Chinese. In his free time he likes to watch Lao, Chinese, and American movies on his mobile phone. And his favorite food is pizza, of course.