Where We Be
Sisavangvong Street is one of the best places to
watch -- or participate in -- the alms ceremony
Alms Ceremony -- Luang Prabang, Laos
Early each morning hundreds of monks from
some thirty different temples in Luang Prabang
walk around the streets collecting alms from
devout residents primarily in the form of
cooked rice. We got up at 5 am to watch this
daily alms-giving ceremony, called “tak bat.”

It was still dark and we had barely crept out our
front door, being as quiet as possible, when
we happened upon a group of monks in their
distinctive saffron robes walking silently
across the street. They paused, gathered in a
circle, and started chanting softly together.
Then they continued walking past us, turned at
the next corner, and paused to collect alms
from several local ladies kneeling on mats and
waiting with a scoopful of sticky rice in hand.

The moment was special because we were on
an untouristed street and the monks were
chanting for their own reason, without any
regard for us. It felt like we had caught a little
glimpse into their world.
If the monks come across the needy, like these two children
kneeling in a praying position, they put rice into their bowls
The monks walk silently, in a straight line, with
the oldest first and the youngest at the back
Each barefoot monk holds his alms bowl in front
of him, attached to a strap worn over his shoulder
The giving goes both ways
The monks take different routes through town depending on the
location of their temple, so there is no single route all of them travel
The ritual has become a popular tourist attraction, and the meditative nature of the monks’ walk is sometimes interrupted by overly zealous tourists
taking closeups and getting in the way. We stayed across the street and tried to remain as unobtrusive as possible while watching the ceremony.
The tak bat ceremony has been going on for hundreds of years. It’s a way of giving the monks what they
need -- basic sustenance -- while allowing alms givers to “make merit,” or garner spiritual brownie points.
Alms givers kneel on mats to keep their heads lower than the
monks as a sign of respect, placing sticky rice into each bowl
Many boys from poor upbringings receive their education through the monasteries