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An update from Evaneos

The Tak Bat ritual in Laos

During your trip in Laos, especially in the sumptuous city of Luang Prabang, you will have to get up very early to attend the ritual of the Tak Bat.

A description of the ritual

You will have to get up very early if you want to witness one of the most fascinating rituals of Buddhism. Each and every day, the monks go out to seek alms in the streets of Luang Prabang. This rite, called the rera or the Tak Bat,dates back to the origins of Buddhism. Monks in their hundreds reproduce today what the Buddha did during his time. He also roamed the streets barefoot each morning seeking alms. As of dawn, the monks of the monasteries of Luang Prabang, dressed only in their saffron robes, form long queues to beg their food. The faithful offer them fruit and glutinous rice. During your trip to Laos you will need to be there by 5:30 to avoid missing part of this beautiful and fascinating ceremony. Take advantage of your visit to Luang Prabang to attend the ritual while it is still observed.

Monks seeking alms

An endangered tradition

There is a rumour running in the streets of Luang Prabang. It is said that soon the monks will no longer go out every day into the Sisavang Vong or any other street. This ancestral tradition has unfortunately become a spectacle which many tourists show little respect for. Today, there are more tourists than monks, snapping away with their latest hi-tech cameras, each wanting to get the most beautiful or the most original picture. They do not hesitate to disrupt the ritual by coming up as close as possible to the endless queue of silent monks. Please be discreet and show as much respect as possible. You will see everything just as well from the other side of the street. There is nothing to prevent you from taking photos, but maybe you should first invest in a zoom.

Another practice that tourists seem to love is mingling among the faithful to give alms to the monks. Let's be clear, this is not your role and you just should not be part of it. You should also know that unless you have yourself cooked the glutinous rice that you plan to offer, the rice that you previously purchased from a street vendor is of poor quality, often a few days old, and may make the monks ill. Do not be a part of this and respect the tradition before this fascinating ritual disappears. 

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 28 August 2015
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