In Luang Prabang you can witness a centuries old sacred Lao tradition: the monk’s alms giving ceremony. In the morning, when the sun rises, the monks will come out from their temples and walk through Luang Prabang collecting alms. Visitors are welcome to participate as long as they respect the rules, see below. I’m not a person that usually gets up early but I managed. At 05:00 I got a wake-up call from the front desk of the Angsana Maison Souvannahphoum Hotel which was my home for that night. I don’t regret getting up that early; it’s an interesting ceremony to see which I like to share with you.
The alms giving ceremony
The monks in Luang Prabang have one meal a day. This meal they receive as a gift during the alms giving ceremony in the early morning. It’s a century old sacred tradition which started as early as the 14th century. Today, it’s maintained and carried out by the monks and the locals. The sunrise marks the start of the ceremony which was around 05:30 AM at the time I visited. I arrived at the area around the primary school in the main street of Luang Prabang at about 05:15. This is the best place, with the most monks, to see the procession. It was deserted compared to the day except the locals preparing meals and tourists who were going to give alms.
Along the road the locals will put lots of small chairs. The idea is that you will sit there and when the monks pass you give them the gifts. These gifts are mainly food for example rice, fruit or small snacks. The whole ceremony takes about an hour and you should stay at your place until all monks have passed by. To be honest I didn’t wait till all monks passed as I wanted to make photos. I just did the first group of monks and after that I walked up and down the street for photography. It’s an experience to see the monk’s alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang. A cultural heritage in a UNESCO World Heritage town. A must do in Luang Prabang.
Respect the ceremony – some rules
If you watch the alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang or participate in it then there are a few rules to keep in mind. Follow these rules and have respect for the monks. This way, this Buddhist tradition will keep its traditional sacred and peaceful nature.
- Arrive in time before the ceremony starts.
- Buy food from your hotel or on the street; make sure it’s fresh.
- If you give alms make sure you are dressed appropriate. Remove your shoes while seated.
- Do not talk to the monks while giving alms.
- Do not stand in the way of the procession and do not interrupt the monks in any way.
- Photos are allowed but no flash and keep a 5 meter distance.
- You can use a telephoto lens for close up photos.
To be part of the alms giving ceremony of the monks in Luang Prabang was a real privilege. If you watch the procession you understand that to do this every morning when the sun rises is something you need to have discipline for. For me it was a great moment to see this century old Lao tradition being continued still today. Even the early morning time did not stop me to go. If you are in Luang Prabang then I suggest you to join the alms giving ceremony of the monks. It’s a sacred Buddhist ritual that for sure will enrich your life.
Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.
Did you visit Luang Prabang too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery alms giving ceremony
Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.