Just the Facts: Morning Alms

Alms Giving; Sai Bat; Luang Prabang; Laos; Monks; Saffron Monks; Out Adventures; Gay Travel; Gay Lao; Gay Adventure
Luang Prabang is a highlight of our upcoming Laos and Cambodia Buddhist Sites & City Nights tour. While the city’s Indochina villas, ancient wats and unique cuisine will enchant and mesmerize, it’s the daily ritual of Sai Bat (Morning Alms) you won’t soon forget. Hundreds of saffron-clad monks calmly file through the streets at sunrise, collecting small offerings of sticky rice, snacks or candies and the odd personal hygiene product. The food collected is all the monks will eat that day.

Below are five fast facts about Morning Alms.

Alms Giving; Sai Bat; Luang Prabang; Laos; Monks; Saffron Monks; Out Adventures; Gay Travel; Gay Lao; Gay Adventure
Morning Alms begins at either 5:30am or 6:00am depending on the season. Inquire with your hotel for details.

It’s endemic to Laos

Morning Alms has long been associated with Buddhism. It is a way for the devout to give thanks, pay respect and earn merit or karma. While the ritual is broadly associated with Buddhism, most sects have long-ended the tradition. In fact, Laos is one of the only countries where it still exists.

The saffron robes are regional

A monk’s robe and shaved head represent a detachment from materialism. Historically, orange was a readily available dye in the region, resulting in the saffron colour. Today, the colour identifies the monk as a Theravada Buddhist versus, for example, Tibetan  Buddhist monks who wear maroon.

Alms Giving; Sai Bat; Luang Prabang; Laos; Monks; Saffron Monks; Out Adventures; Gay Travel; Gay Lao; Gay Adventure
A young monk clad in a saffron robe reflects in front of a statue of Buddha.

Tourists can participate

There are two ways visitors can experience the tradition. First, they are welcome to stand respectfully back and watch. Pictures are tolerated, so long as discretion is practised; stand a fair distance, no flashes and refrain from treating monks like entertainers. Second, tourists are welcome to participate by pre-purchasing cooked sticky rice or a small snack to selflessly offer. Inquire with your hotel or local guide for more info.

Alms Giving; Sai Bat; Luang Prabang; Laos; Monks; Saffron Monks; Out Adventures; Gay Travel; Gay Lao; Gay Adventure
A woman kneels at sunrise, paying respect by offering small amounts of sticky rice to the procession of passing monks.

There are rules

Dress conservatively; no exposed shoulders, chest, legs. Remain lower than the monks, whether kneeling or sitting. Refrain from touching the monks or personally handing them your offering; it should be placed gently into the buckets they carry.

Alms Giving; Sai Bat; Luang Prabang; Laos; Monks; Saffron Monks; Out Adventures; Gay Travel; Gay Lao; Gay Adventure
As a visitor, either head to the main street where most tourists observe the procession. Or get a more intimate experience on a side street where the crowds are thinner.

It’s done in silence

The procession of monks happens single file, down the main street and through a number of smaller streets. It takes between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the route. The monks and those giving alms remain silent throughout. As either an observer or participant, you should remain silent as well.

Luang Prabang and Morning Alms are featured on Out Adventures’ Laos and Cambodia Buddhist Sites & City Nights tour. Visit the trip page for more info including departure dates, cost and a day-to-day itinerary.

 

 

 

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