Luang Prabang, Laos at 5:30AM – Locals and curious tourists gather on the streets. It’s Tak Bat in Luang Prabang. Fellow tourists read about it online and line up there with camera. After all, you haven’t experienced the core of the Laos and Luang Prabang culture if you haven’t witness this scene.
Tak Bat Luang Prabang
Read on to learn about the Dos and don’ts when watching this Buddhist ceremony in Luang Prabang in Laos.
What is Tak Bat or Alms Giving Ceremony ?
Tak Bak is the practice of offering food to monks in Theravada Buddhist countries like Laos and Thailand, where the locals help sustain the local monasteries.
In Luang Prabang, Tak Bat or Alms giving ceremony happens every morning where monks silently line up in the streets while locals and tourists give food into the bowls carried by the monks.
Where to see Tak Bat in Luang Prabang ?
With over 80 temples in Luang Prabang, the Tak bat happens throughout the town. Each temple has it’s own route that the monks take.
However, I saw the line up very near my hostel at the intersection of Th Sakkarin and Th Kamal. Ask your hotel or hostel guide about the best viewing street near to you.
What really happens during Tak Bat in Luang Prabang ?
Between 6 and 7 AM, calm, collected and undisturbed saffron-robed monks line up and walk down the streets to collect food that they would eat for the rest of the day.
So, they really rely on the locals and tourists for their sustenance for the day.
Locals wake up early in the morning and cook fresh sticky rice and other food items that they offer to the monks. Every monk gets a scoop from each person. Tourists are also welcome to sit down for offering food.
What is expected from tourists at Tak bat in Luang Prabang ?
If you are a tourist like myself with a camera, understand the fact that the only sounds tolerated are birds chirping and cameras clicking without flash.
Tak Bat Dos and Don’ts:
- Dress appropriately
- Don’t intrude the monks for selfie with the line up
- Be absolutely quiet and put your cellphones on vibrate
- Don’t use flash on your camera. You wouldn’t need flash anyway. It’s bright in the early morning
- Be respectful and mindful of this age old ceremony
- Never get closer to them. Stay at a distance and quietly observe
If you are participating in the Tak Bat ceremony as an almsgiver:
- Make the rice yourself in the morning if possible. Or have your hotel staff make it for you.
- Do not make eye contact with the monks.
- No physical contact is allowed with the monks. Don’t touch them.
- Bend your knees and keep the bow position before the monks to show your respect, even if they are young boys.
If you are not a morning person or if you missed the Tak bat ceremony, don’t worry. As you go about your day in Luang Prabang, the town of thriving monasteries, you are bound to meet groups of monks. There is really no way to miss them.
Lot of these young monks are approachable and would strike a conversation with you with a welcoming smile. The ones I met were really interested in practicing English with me and wanted to learn everything about my life. After all, these are growing young minds with curiosity. I took a nice walk with them from outside the town into the town as they were going back to the monastery and I was on my way to the hostel.
Couple of them even asked me to friend them on facebook. Their English was basic and I couldn’t fully get a sense of what goes on in their day to day lives and in their minds as they lead the life of monks. Nevertheless, I had a great walk with them.
After an early morning of Tak Bat, it’s time to immerse yourself in this french influenced town that has so much to offer that you would never feel you had enough.
From spas to amazing local food, temples, mountains, waterfall, night market, there is really a quite thriving local and tourist culture that will make you want to stay that one more day.
Love you Luang Prabang!
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