Experience early morning alms giving in Luang Prabang
Destination Expert Venetia recently spent three days exploring the sleepy temple town of Luang Prabang in Laos. One moment that really stood out on her trip was taking part in the traditional ceremony of Alms giving. Here she explains why the sunrise ritual is not to be missed.
"Early this morning I was collected by my excellent guide Chanh at 4.30am, to go and witness the extraordinary age-old tradition of Alms giving in central Luang Prabang. It is a quiet, simple, and moving experience and feels as though you are have travelled back in time.
With Chanh’s knowledge and expertise, we were able to navigate the central roads carefully, avoiding all other visitors and having time and space to enjoy the quiet hour before daybreak. Chanh gave a great insight into the tradition, the process of becoming a young monk, and how the locals of Luang Prabang embrace this tradition into their culture and daily life.
Then it was time for the alms-giving to commence. After purchasing a pot of sticky rice, we then found a quiet spot to sit next to some locals. Silently, the monks filed past and we placed small handfuls of rice into their pots. All dressed in orange robes, the age range of the monks was vast, with some not much older than 8 and others who had lived at the temples for over 30 years. The vast majority of boys in Laos will at some point in their life do a stint at as a monk. Whether it be for a few weeks or a few years, it is seen as an essential part of adolescence.
When alms-giving was over, we then continued to visit some temples in the early light of the day, learning about the significance and historical importance of each. Wat Pa Pai, which has a large fresco depicting rural life in Laos in the 19th Century was particularly striking. After wandering through the historic quarter of Luang Prabang, we strolled to the market with its array of vibrant fruit, vegetables, and crafts before finishing with a short walk along the mighty Mekong river before breakfast.
When visiting Laos, pretty Luang Prabang with its French-influenced shuttered buildings, café culture and spiritual vibe is sure to be a highlight. Taking part in alms allows you connect more deeply with this very special town."
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