Best Place to Join Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang

Alms Giving Ceremony is one of the most attractive events in Laos. Many tourists came to Laos wanted to observe this sacred ceremony as a symbol of Laos Buddhism culturral values. But where’s the best place for this activity? If that’s what worrying you then please don’t worry, here we are: Best Place to Join Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang!

What is Alms Giving Ceremony?

Alms Giving Ceremony, or also known as Tak Bat or Morning Alms giving ceremony, is one of Laos sacred ceremony. It is said that this ceremony first began at the very first arrival of Buddhism in Laos, some estimated the time around 14th century.

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This ceremony, or ritual, is about the alms giving activity in which Buddhism faithful gives the food for the monks walking throughout the street of Luang Prabang. Since this practice has began for a very long time since the first establishment of Buddhism, it is considered to be sacred in Laos tradition. The ritual takes place every early morning (around 5:30 – 6:00 AM), the devotees will prepare the food beforehand, then they get to the street early. Prepared foods are mainly sticky rice, others can be fruits, biscuits or gifts such as incense. Hundred of monks in orange robe from all temples throughout Luang Prabang will start walking around Luang Prabang silently, each monk carries a metal vessal. When the monks come by, devotees will put the food onto the metal vessal. Received food will be used for that day.

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As mentioned, the entire event takes place in a silent and peaceful atmosphere, which gives out a solemn feeling to all attendees, and even to the observers. For that reason, it is quite an interesting event to watch and also it is one of the most anticipated events in Luang Prabang from the perspective of tourists.

Best Place to Join?

As the ritual is conducted in every morning throughout Luang Prabang, you can easily watch in at any town’s spots, ideally the streets where temples reside.

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That being said, one of the best ideal spot is at Wat Mai temple on Sisavangvong road. The temple, considered to be the most popular temple, along with the spacious street which is also a historic centre, makes it as the nice spot to watch Alms Giving Ceremony.

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Another suitable spot would be the Th Kamal and Th Sakkarin’s main routes, where many main temples situated. However, since there are lots of tourists interested in this ceremony, some may want to observe it in quieter atmosphere. In that case, side streets between Th Kamal and Th Sakkarin is another optimal option as they are less crowded.

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What should we do?

Before we get to things we can do, there are things we have to take note before joining Alms Giving Ceremony.
First and foremost, this activity is an daily activity for Luang Prabang citizens, mainly Buddhism faithful and local monks. It is an ancient practice that has existed for many centuries and by any mean, it’s purpose is not for tourists’ entertainment. Despite all that, lots of… unhappy cases happened as many tourists behaved in a disruptive and rude behaviour. They kept getting near the monks and the devotees, photographing regardless of how these monks and devotees felt. As the results, these behaviours ruined the silent and solemn atmosphere, leaving awkward, and sometimes, embarrasing moments.

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So based on the core concept and what happened, we would like to share some suggestions of what we should do if we decide to take part in Alms Giving Ceremony:

  • Research about the ceremony and related cultural values: though this might be troublesome, but this is probably the best way to understand the ceremony, and also what an outsiders should do and can do. There is no rule stated that forbid foreigners or outsiders from participating in the event, but an overall understanding can atleast help us respect the custom.
  • Observe the ritual in a distance: this is vital, by all mean if we decide just to watch then it is necessary to watch the ritual silently, and in a distance as a way to respect the locals’ custom, and also make them feel comfortable. Most of the cases bring annoyance because visitors stand too close to the monks and devotees.
  • Do not use flash camera.
  • Wear appropriate clothes with body and legs covered.
  • Consider carefully whether you should taking part in the ceremony directly or not: this is where the first suggestion comes in. According to the custom, this practice is for Buddhism faithful, so it is essential to consider whether we should directly take part in or not. Also, there are other rules while participating directly in the ceremony, so a small research about the custom is always recommended.

 

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