Anyone making it to Luang Prabang should permit an early morning wake-up call to bear witness and be blessed by giving alms to monks. A ritual so engulfed with spirituality, grace and devotion to Buddhism, nothing short of making it a Laos’ highlight.
Often compared with an outdoor museum, the isolated location of Laos’ most attractive destination has proudly been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites since 1995. The town once was the capital of the mighty Lan Xang Kingdom from the 14th century until the capital was moved to Vientiane in the 16th century. Still, visitors praise Luang Prabang for its laid-back atmosphere, its ongoing efforts to keep it a jewel in the central mountains and above all, the ‘capital’ of Buddhism with hundreds of monks and novices residing within the town borders. The seat of Lao culture is blessed with monasteries, monuments and with its dramatic landscape, aligned with the Mekong River; an early morning rise to see the saffron-clad purveyors of Buddhism performing the Tak Bat is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.If you want to catch the town’s most extraordinary sight, we advise you to book this experience dawn. Scores of saffron-robed monks file out of the monasteries and make their way barefoot through the streets, bearing gold-topped wooden alms bowls at the crack of dawn. Along the route, locals wait to present sticky rice and other food to the monks - thereby earning merit by performing this good deed. Theravada Buddhism dictates that women cannot stand higher than monks, so women kneel on bamboo mats to present food, while local men stand; as a mark of respect, women wear a traditional shawl, while men drape one shoulder with a white scarf.A long line of monks creates a swirl of orange, accentuated by the soft morning light; the scene is framed by russet monastery roofs, tall palm trees, and whitewashed colonial housing. Within an hour, the monks complete their rounds, and melt back into the monasteries-and the streets become quite ordinary again. Although this ritual can be seen in numerous parts of Southeast Asia, it’s particularly striking in Luang Prabang because of the density of temples and the concentration of monks. After this ceremony, visit the morning wet market of Luang Prabang before returning back to your hotelGuided by a local, English-speaking guide, you will be able to partake in this spiritual moment as he / she will explain the story behind this and observing the utmost respect towards its residents and the monks themselves. A mystical ritual and an integral part of the Buddhist philosophy, visitors may earn merit, or 'bun', towards their next life, enhancing their chances of improving their existence next time around. A truly blessed experience for anyone calling upon Luang Prabang during their Laos travels.