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“A solemn event, as long as it is respected”

Alms Giving Ceremony
Reviewed 12 February 2017

The choice to become a monk in Laos can be either spiritual or educational (or both). Many boys join a temple as young as 10. This gives them opportunities to study and learn that they otherwise may not have. When they reach the age of twenty or so, they can decide to stay with this path, or to leave the temple and go to work or further their education at a university. Whatever their motivation, the calling is rigorous and demanding. They wake around 5am to collect donated food to eat for their breakfast and lunch meals (their only meals of the day). The day is then filled with chores and studies. The process of feeding the monks serves both the monk and the devotee. The monk receives nourishment, and the devotee is given an opportunity to show their respect and gain karma. It is a solemn ritual done in silence and with no outward expression from either participant. The monks, wearing their saffron colored robes walk single file out of their temples down prescribed roads where the faithful are waiting with food items (mostly glutinous rice). The monks open their metal containers (which are usually fastened with a strap to carry around their shoulder), and the devotees silently place a handful of food inside. It is not a personal transaction, but a practical way for the community to sustain the symbiotic relationship between the faithful and the monks who work and pray for the greater good.

This would be a completely spiritual process, were it not for the third element: the tourists. Face it, we travel to experience culture (hopefully). And this is a significant event that we wouldn’t want to miss if we have traveled this far. But it should be an event we watch from a respectful distance. I saw one tourist walking backwards directly in front of a monk, taking pictures. I expect this tourist would not jump up in front of a Christian priest giving out communion at a Catholic church. I think it is acceptable to experience the giving of alms as long as you respect the participants.

Note: Other reviewers mention vendors. I watched the ceremony from the street in front of the Victoria Xiengthong Palace hotel, and there were no vendors (at least on the day I was there). If you want to avoid the vendors (an element not necessary for the ceremony), you might want to check with your guide/hotel before selecting a place to watch it.

3  Thank Davis F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"sticky rice"
in 354 reviews
"respectful distance"
in 65 reviews
"early start"
in 49 reviews
"daily ritual"
in 41 reviews
"monks walk"
in 69 reviews
"single file"
in 37 reviews
"the main street"
in 161 reviews
"every morning"
in 80 reviews
"giving food"
in 32 reviews
"street vendors"
in 65 reviews
"humbling experience"
in 55 reviews
"tak bat"
in 30 reviews
"from afar"
in 24 reviews
"orange robes"
in 28 reviews
"taking photos"
in 61 reviews
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Reviewed 12 February 2017 via mobile

We went with a local guide to see the alms giving ceremony and chose to go a little away from the centre of town where there were less tourists and more local people. Around a couple of hundred monks and young novices in their orange robes came and filed along the side of the road collecting the days food from the locals who sat on mats by the road side to receive blessings. Once the procession starts it only takes a few minutes but is well worth seeing and getting up early in the morning.

Thank Segaria226
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 February 2017

We got up in the morning early and went out. We watched from a side street. We were appropriately dressed and didn't take our cameras ! We read many reviews and wanted to be respectful! Go for the memory! But don't go ruining this for the monks and run around taking selfies and yelling ! This is their life !!!

1  Thank Steph P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 February 2017

Tourists have turned the traditional alms-giving ceremony into a gauntlet that the monks must run before going to temple. I felt sorry for them and for what we have done to them. People are up in their faces with cameras trying to get "that one really authentic shot" and it is not respectful. If you are curious to see it, stay at a distance and have a look.

1  Thank Claudia R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 10 February 2017 via mobile

This was something we were keen to do despite the early start at 6am. It is humbling to see the monks walk down the streets collecting alms to enable them to exist and eat. The local people provide food and money to help the monks and to make a sacrifice which is part of the Buddhist culture. Any extra that the monks collect but don't need is given out and shared with the poor of the town. We were privileged to take part and give them rice and cookies. Definitely a unique experience

Thank Christine A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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