A Responsible Traveller’s Guide To Alms Giving In Luang Prabang by wanderlust movement

A Brief History of the Alms Giving in Luang Prabang 

For over 600 years, locals of this UNESCO World Heritage City have been waking up before dawn to prepare for “Tak Bat”. As the sun rises, locals will take their spot on the sidewalk and wait for the procession of monks to start.

Hundreds of monks from the 35 temples of Luang Prabang walk in silence, meditating as they collect their daily alms from devotees. This is the Buddhist practice of making merit, a symbiotic relationship between the monks and almsgivers.

By feeding the monks the lay people generate good karma and the monks grant merit to the devotees that counts towards their future lives.

What Time Is Alms Giving in Luang Prabang?

During summer the almsgiving starts at 5:30, while in the winter months the sun doesn’t start rising until 6:30.

I recommend getting there a bit early to find a spot and spend some time watching the locals set up and prepare the food for the monks.

For me, it put in perspective how unproductive I am with my day. Can you imagine getting up before first light every day? I need four alarm clocks to get my ass out of bed for work.

Where Does The Alms Giving Ceremony Take Place?

The alms-giving ceremony takes place all over Luang Prabang. One of the most popular routes to witness the giving of alms is by Wat Mai temple on Sisavangvong Road. But, this means that the location is usually filled with tourists.

If you are looking for a quieter spot and a chance to experience a more authentic side to the ceremony, head to one of the side roads. I’d recommend attending an alms-giving in both locations to see for yourself how the ritual is being affected by tourism.

How to participate in the Alms Giving Ceremony

If you are planning on participating in Alms Giving in Luang Prabang, here are a few things to keep in mind to respect the ritual and the Laos people:

  • Only take part in the ceremony if it is means something to you.

  • Buy your rice in the morning market rather than at the street food vendors on the main road.

  • Remove your shoes during the ceremony.

  • Dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders, chest, and legs.

  • Do not make eye contact with the monks or touch them.

  • Be silent.

  • Keep your phone on silent

  • Women must keep their heads lower than the monks at all times.

  • Bow your head to show respect to the monks.

How to take photos respectfully at Alms Giving in Luang Prabang

Here is what you need to know about observing the procession and taking photos:

  • Turn off your camera’s flash

  • Take photos from across the road. Keep a respectful distance.

  • Dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders, chest and legs.

  • Don’t follow the procession. Plan your shots beforehand and pick a spot.

  • Keep your phone on silent.

  • Don’t try to talk to the alms givers or monks.

  • Don’t touch the monks or get in their way.

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