i met a thai monk in the internet cafe in mcleod gange. the first clue was the color of his robes; the Lao and thai wear more yellow/orange colored robes, while tibetens wear red. and then i noticed the thai script on his internet chat. so we talked for a while about the differences between thai and tibeten buddhism (theravada and mahayana.) he could speak Lao. he is from the thai/Lao/cambodian border and could therefore speak all three languages. he is in india to study further and will return to thailand next month. i felt good being able to speak Lao again, almost like a gate opened up and communication could flow. so often the only thing you can talk about is the price of the rickshaw and how hot it is - with some notable exceptions, of course.
but the differences in buddhist practice between the two groups is something i need to learn more about. i am comfortable in my understanding of Lao culture and buddhism, so i don't usually push deeper. one thing that the thai monk pointed out: the tibetens are a lot less strict in their adherence to buddhist rules/laws - something i have observed. for example --
here are a couple pictures that i found on the hard drive of the computer while uploading some of my own. this little tibeten monk proves that our most amazing western influence can reach its sacred tentacles into even the most remote parts of the world. (although i think he is trying to prove that you can still be cool while donning the robes.) i'm wondering if he is on myspace with these photos... and i am actually being nice in posting only these 2; this monk had quite a few more that he'd left there on the hard drive which i did him the favor of deleting.