One of the holiest Buddhist traditions of Laos is the alms-walk of the monks. For more than 600 years, the locals of the UNESCO World Heritage city Luang Prabang have been waking up before sunrise to prepare for “Tak Bat.” When the sun rises, the locals will take their place on the sidewalk and wait for the beginning of the monk procession. This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual, providing a fantastic opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition.
Hundreds of monks from the 35 temples of Luang Prabang walk silently and meditatively as they collect their daily alms. This is the Buddhist practice of merit, a symbiotic relationship between monks and almsgiving. The most common gifts are rice, fresh fruit, and traditional sweet snacks.
The alms-walk is a highly revered ritual for locals, which unfortunately is massively disturbed by the increasing tourism. In general, neither the monks nor the inhabitants have anything against being observed in this ritual. The emphasis is on watching! Unfortunately, many tourists today believe that this ritual act can be misused as a tourist attraction. To respectfully attend this sacred ceremony as a guest, it is essential to follow a few rules. When taking pictures, it is best to step back from the front of the line so as not to offend. If you do not make a sacrifice, keep an appropriate distance and under no circumstances stand in the way of those offering a sacrifice. Visitors should also remember to be there before the monks arrive and never follow the procession. If you want to give alms, buy them the day before and take no pictures while you hand the monks their donations.