Alms Giving Ceremony
The Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Luang Prabang is one of the most sacred Lao traditions, so if you are looking for a peaceful and spirital experience in your Laos travel, then partaking of this event is a must.
Around 200 Buddhist monks leave various temples while meditating and in silence every morning in Luang Prabang, they then assemble in the main street of the city to gather their daily alms. This tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century and is still alive and well-respected today as locals and even tourists prepare food in the early morning for the monks. This whole tradition coincides with the Buddhist practice of merit.
The Alms Giving Ceremony takes place all throughout the city of Luang Prabang, and a popular route to witness this is near the Wat Mai temple on Sisavangvong Road.
Opening Days and Hours
The Alms Giving Ceremony takes place upon sunrise, so this is around 5:30 during the summer, and around 6:30 during the winter months.
Entry Fee and Bookings
Observing the Alms Giving Ceremony is free. You can also opt to participate in the ceremony by preparing rice or simple food arranged or bought from your hotel or the market as offering to the monks. Please see our Good to Know section below for more tips on how to remain respectful throughout this ceremony.
Participation in the Alms Giving Ceremony is not made for tourists as it is a highly solemn and authentic ritual. If you do decide to participate and offer alms, ensure first what your motivations are and do your research on rules and customs for the ceremony.
At the same time, observing the ceremony also entails some rules such as maintaing a respectful distance, and ensuring that the sanctity of the ceremony is maintained.
Please see our Good to Know section below for more tips.
Time to Spend
The whole ceremony takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
Popularity and Best Time to Go
The best time for participants and even observers to go is a few minutes before sunrise, in order to secure a spot on the street.
There are a number of street vendors and food stalls in Luang Prabang, however, it must be noted that this is for your consumption and not for alms giving.
- Kuang Si Waterfall
- Mount Phousi
- Any of Luang Prabang’s numerous temples
- Night Market
Accommodations near the Luang Prabang city center range from bed and breakfasts to hotels, with prices that range from USD 35 to USD 420 per night.
Good to Know
Participants and observers in the Alms Giving Ceremony are encouraged to observe certain rules to maintain the sanctity of the ritual. Here are a few of them:
- Maintain your distance.
- Ensure that you are properly dressed – shoulders, torso, and legs should be covered.
- Do not touch the monks.
- Do not disrupt the participants.
- Maintain silence throughout the ceremony. Your devices should also be turned off or in silent mode.
- Do not use the flash when taking photos, and refrain from treating the ritual as a photo opportunity.
- Ensure that you are participating for the right reasons, and give honestly and humbly. Again, do not regard the ritual as a photo opportunity and do not use your camera’s flash.
- Ensure that you are properly dressed – keep your shoulders, torso, and legs covered, and remove your shoes when giving alms.
- Keep your head lower than the monks’ heads, and do not make eye contact with the monks.
- Refrain from touching the monks, and withdraw your hands as soon as you have placed your offering in the bowl.
- Do not buy food from the street vendors. If you do opt to buy from them, do not haggle as this is also considered disrespectful. Either prepare your own food offering or ask your hotel to prepare it for you.