How to do it right: Alms giving in Luang Prabang

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Being inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List in 1995, Luang Prabang is a city famous for deep Buddhist roots and the preservation of its traditional practices. Although I emphasize its beauty of old-time local culture in my itinerary post, Alms giving in Luang Prabang is the item that you must not miss. 

Why? Because everyone visiting Luang Prabang would at least need to experience once or you may as well not going there !

Yes it is one of the city’s most famous traditions, also called Tak Bat in Laos. However, it is also an important religious practice in Buddhism. Tourists like us can also participate, but make sure you DO IT RIGHT !

What is Alms Giving?

Alms giving ceremony, or named Tak Bat in Laos, is a ritual where devout Buddhists offer food and other necessities to the monks. By doing so not only you upport the monastic community, you will also be blessed by the positive karma.

Alms giving in Luang Prabang usually takes place in the early morning (just about sun-rise).

During Tak Bat, the monks walk in a single file procession through the streets with their alms bowls. Devotees, both locals and visitors, line up along the route to offer food and other items. It is customary for the participants to kneel or sit in a humble position as the monks pass by. The devotees would place their offerings into the alms bowls without making physical contact with the monks. 

the monks receiving the alms
the monks receiving the alms

Alms giving’s religious meaning

Believers attach great spiritual significance to Tak Bat. They view it as an opportunity to practice generosity, cultivate merit, and show respect to the monks. Thus giving alms is considered an essential aspect of Buddhist teachings and it represents selflessness. By doing so it brings blessings and spiritual benefits to the giver. It signifies the connection between the people, the monks and the karma.

The monks along the street
The monks along the street

What to expect for Alms giving in Luang Prabang?

In the early morning before the sun rises, the monks wearing orange robes come out from the temples. They carry bowls and bags to collect the offerings. 

As a participant when you make you offering, you should kneel or sit humbly as the monks pass by. You can place sticky rice inside their bowls while puting other packed snacks in their bags. Once you have presented all your offerings, you can devoutly join your palms together as a sign of respect towards the monks. 

When the monks’ bowls or bags are full, they place the offerings into a large baskets along the street. Don’t be confused, it is not a rubbish bin ! The collected offerings will the be distributed to the locals in need.

After completing the alms giving route, the monks return to respective temples.

Where is the best place to see/ participate in the alms giving in Luang Prabang?

The alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang primarily occurs on Sakkaline Road and Sisavangvong Road. Along these streets, you will notice street vendors setting up small seats for the monks as they pass by. Also, there are stop signs and poster banners placed at the end of the streets so you can easily identify the route of the ceremony . If you prefer to a quieter spot less crowded with tourists, I would suggest staying closer to the beginning of Sakkaline Road.

No entry sign at the end of the street
No entry sign at the end of the street

When will the Tak Bat Luang Prabang take place?

The alms giving ceremony Luang Prabang time is approximately 5:30 am during the summer months (March to October) and around 6:30 am during the winter months (November to February). There are other websites suggesting 5:00 am. I personally went there at 5 :00 am in January and find no one except vendors selling me offering package….

So, dont’s arrive too early !

If you are staying on Sisavangvong Road during winter, you can even arrive at 7 am since it takes time for the monks to walk from Sakkaline Road to Sisavangvong Road.

The alms giving process lasts for about an hour. You can participate and witness the ceremony at any time during the Tak Bat. If you are not providing the offerings, just to be reminded to avoid causing disruptions and not get in the way of the monks’ procession or the believers’ offerings. 

empty street before the alms giving ceremony
No one is there except the street vendors as we arrive too early.

Proper alms offering to monks

Different monastic communities may have specific preferences and dietary restrictions that vary. Thus, when offering alms to monks, it is customary to select food items that suit their monastic lifestyle. As proper alms offering to monks, I suggest providing sticky rice, fresh fruits, whole grains, or traditional sweets like biscuits or chocolates. These food options are easier for the monks to consume and seem to be more hygienic as offerings.

Products we bought from street vendors
Sticky rice and biscuits we bought from street vendors

How much do the products for morning alms cost?

It is advisable to prepare your offerings in advance. If you have enough time, I recommend purchasing sticky rice from the morning market rather than from the street vendors on the main road. 

If you choose to buy from the street vendors, please be aware that there is a standard price list displaying the cost of the products for the morning alms. The standard prices for the products are as follows:

2 kg of steamed sticky rice: 50,000 kip 

1.5kg of steamed sticky rice: 38,000 kip 

1kg of steamed sticky rice: 25,000 kip 

Although there is notice board stating the standard price, you may still be over-charged. Remember you can always negotiate and there are a lot of vendors every morning. I ultimately ended up buying a package of a bowl of sticky rice plus some packed cakes for 50,000 Kip ( ~ 2.5 USD).

Price list to purchase the products for morning alms

What should you wear when participating in the alms giving ceremony? 

When participating in the alms giving ceremony, you have to dress modestly with your shoulders, chests and legs covered. Also, you have to remove your shoes and sit or kneel down as a sign of respect to the monks.  If you buy offerings from the street vendors, they will provide you with a scarf as a cover.

My wife and I waiting for the alms giving ceremony early in the morning.
My wife and I waiting for the alms giving ceremony early in the morning.

Proper behavior in the alms giving ceremony Luang Prabang

When participating in the alms giving ceremony, it is crucial to show respect and adhere to the rules. Here are some guidelines for being a respectful traveler: 

  1. Dress modestly, ensuring that your shoulders, chest, and legs are covered. 
  2. Remove your shoes and sit or kneel down humbly. Keep your head lower than the monks when offering alms. 
  3. Avoid causing disruptions and do not obstruct the monks’ procession or the offerings made by believers. 
  4. Refrain from making physical contact with the monks. 
  5. Maintain a distance of at least 3 meters when taking photos of the monks, without using flash. 
  6. Observe the ritual in silence. If necessary to speak, use a low and quiet voice. 
  7. Set your phone to silent mode. 
  8. Place sticky rice inside the monks’ bowls and other food items like biscuits and chocolates in their bags. 
  9. Bow your head or join your palms together as a sign of respect towards the monks. 
  10. Do not stand above the monks or attempt to follow the procession on a bus. 

Observe the ritual in silence and make an offering only if it holds personal meaning to you. If you choose not to offer anything, maintain an appropriate distance and behave respectfully.

Dos and Don'ts during the alms giving ceremony
Dos and Don’ts during the alms giving ceremony

Preserve the Tradition of Tak Bat in Luang Prabang

While The alms giving ceremony has become more popular with tourists in recent years, you will find news about tourists disturbing the ritual. Remember it is a religious ritual rather than theme park attractions. So as a visitor, you should help to preserve the tradition by obeying the rules above and be respectful. If you are not joining the offering, it is also okay to take photos but remeber to keep an approrpriate distance.

What can you do after the ceremony?

After participating in the morning alms, which usually ends at 6:30 in summer and 7:30 in winter, you may visit the morning market nearby. Unlike the night market, the morning market is mainly for local people to buy groceries, food, and live animals. However, you can find lots of Laos snacks and have a local breakfast there.

There are also a lot of wats along the way of Sakkaline Road to Sisavangvong Road. For more details, check out our Luang Prabang itinerary here !

Alms giving is a signature activity in Luang Prabang that you should not miss. As usual please leave me a comment for any inquiry or tell me about your visit.

Regulus K

A budget travel blogger passionate about exploring different destinations worldwide, while balancing a regular 9-to-5 job.

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