Luang Prabang's alms giving ceremony is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture. It takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to all the side streets. Around 200 Buddhist monks depart from temples in this UNESCO-listed town to gather their daily meal.
The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century – locals wake early to prepare the food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts.
While the main purpose is for locals to give alms to the monks, you might also notice small children kneeling with baskets. Monks often share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their family.
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This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and gives you a wonderful opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition. You should buy your offerings (usually food) in advance and arrive with plenty of time to spare as it’s considered very offensive to disrupt the ceremony once it has commenced.
Follow the guidance of the locals by kneeling down to present your offering to the monks. Some of the common gifts you can offer include rice, fresh fruit, and traditional snacks.
The procession is quite lengthy and therefore not suitable for very young children or those who cannot sit quietly for more than a few minutes. There are many unspoken rules regarding etiquette when attending an alms giving ceremony. If you’re not making an offering, maintain an appropriate distance so that you won’t get in the way of those participating in alms giving.
Shoulders, chests and legs must be covered in modest clothing as a mark of respect. You should also remain at a suitable distance from the monk. You can take photos, but do so from a distance and never use a camera flash.
When seated, shoes and socks must be removed with your feet tucked underneath as you observe the ceremony in absolute silence. Female attendees must keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms. Don’t talk to or touch the monks at any time, even when making an offering.
- Location: Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, Laos