Luang Prabang is the perfect place to see one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Morning Alms-Giving (tak bat). It's one of the most vivid images of Laos - from 5:30 in the morning onward, hundreds of barefoot monks in orange robes leave the monasteries, walk in single line through the streets to collect food from the local people. The devotees await the start of the ceremony on their knees either sitting on the floor; most common gifts include rice, fresh fruit
The tak bat, or the Buddhist Lao monks' morning collection of food in Luang Prabang, has become a must-see for travelers to Luang Prabang in Laos. And yet the tak bat's growing popularity among tourists may also be turning this serene ritual into an endangered one.
The practice of offering food to monks is most visible in Theravada Buddhist countries like Laos and Thailand, where the practice sustains large monastic communities.
"The monks leave the monasteries early in the morning," writesBuddhism guide Barbara O'Brien. "They walk single file, oldest first, carrying their alms bowls in front of them. Laypeople wait for them, sometimes kneeling, and place food, flowers or incense sticks in the bowls."
In Luang Prabang, this tradition manifests as a morning ritual where monks silently line the streets while locals (and interested tourists) put gifts of food into the bowls carried by the monks.
It's one of the most vivid images of Laos - from 5:30 in the morning onward, silent lines of saffron-clad Lao monks walk down the streets of Luang Prabang to collect alms. The locals are there ahead of them, ready with bowls full of the Lao staple sticky rice; every monk gets a scoopful in their bowl.
With almost eighty temples in Luang Prabang alone, this adds up to hundreds of monks, who take different routes depending on where in town their temple stands.
The routes that walk through Th Sakkarin and Th Kamal are among the most viewed by tourists, although the ritual occurs all around Luang Prabang.
Each monk carries a large lidded bowl, which is attached to a strap hanging from the monk's shoulder. As monks file past the line of almsgivers - who are usually sitting or kneeling on the street - these containers are reverently filled with handfuls of sticky rice or bananas.