Of the numerous Laos tour packages offering by various tour operators, witnessing thealms giving ceremony is a must if you are visiting Luang Prabang. You will be in complete awe, wholly captivated with delight and excitement in participating or watching this event starting with the first light of the sun, sitting on the footpaths.
It is one of the most sacred ritual ceremony of Buddhism, recognized by UNESCO World Heritage. The auspicious ceremony is being conducting every morning and during the course, the Buddhist monks will be dressed in their traditional saffron attire line up in silence and collect alms, food, offerings, rice from devotees along the road. The Alms Giving Ceremonyor Tak Bat started during the 14th century andsince then has been regarded as a sacred tradition continued till date. It starts from morning 6 am and has become a spectacle for tourists who witness this holy ceremony with full dignity and reverence. It is a must see list of things to do in Luang Prabang.
A glimpse on the ritual
Approximately 200 Buddhist monks from 35 temples accept the offerings for their sustenance of the day. The practice constitutes aharmonious relationship between the monks and donor. The concept being that feeding the monks, donors brings good karma to their lives and in turn, the monks grant merit that will benefit their next lives. You need to follow some rules strictly for participating in this commemoration. Pamphlets are available from holiday homes and hotels telling you the purity of the event and ways to honor it. Even though the locals and monks conduct the ritual, tourists can participate in the ceremony as long as absolute dignity can maintain.
The event starts with the rising sun on the main road of Luang Prabang and later spreads on to the other streets. Remember to purchase the sticky rice available in the nearby shops and morning markets in advance,for participating before starting the event. Make sure there is no disturbance once the ceremony has begun. Kneel down when giving the offerings that include sweets, traditional snacks, dry fruits, fruits, and rice. Do not take part in it for fun and just photography. Take out your shoes during the offerings and dress conservatively. Make sure to cover your legs, shoulder, and chest. Be sure to make no eye contact and do not touch the monks.
The ancient Lao practice will give you a feel of peace and unity. The procession is interminable, and you need to have the patience for it. Photography is permitted but make sure that it does not hamper the ritual. Once your turn is over, step out of the line and maintain distance, for others tocomplete their offerings. It is courteous to be present before the arrival of the monks, keep silence during the event and leave the place once complete. Do not follow the monks pestering for photography and inquest.
What are the other things to do in Laos?
The other things to see in Laos include the underground River Caves, Viewpoint Nong Khiaw or the Ban Sop Houn, Lung Prabang Night Market, Gibbon Experience, Mount Phousi, Tubing in Vang Vieng, monasteries and temples at Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfall and bear rescue center. A tourist who is planning to participate in the Alms Giving Ceremony can book their program through travel agents, who will take care of their transit and the program can club along with other Laos tour packages.