Early Morning Alms

I am not a morning person and waking up early can be such an effort.  Laos somehow has managed to get me up at the crack of dawn, and for good reasons.  When we snuck out of our hotel’s gate fence one early January morning, the streets were still quiet with only street lamps lighting our way to Old Town, as Luang Prabang’s historic district is called. Here, the day seemed to have started already.

Villagers found their spot, kneeling on mats, waiting with a basket of sticky rice, fruits or sweets.

Vendors likewise positioned themselves near tourists, waiting for an opportunity to sell.

We sat at a corner with our camera watching the day progress.

Every morning, between 5 & 6AM, the monks of Luang Prabang’s 30 or so temples collect alms from the kneeling pilgrims and some early rising tourists.

Barefoot, they parade through the picturesque streets single file from oldest to youngest in their burnt sienna robes carrying alms bowls over their shoulder.

Alms giving have been practiced here every morning as townsfolk provide the monk’s daily sustenance for hundreds of years now.  They say that the monks are only allowed to eat food given to them in the morning of each day hence the daily ritual.

Those that give, they also say, earn merits for the good deed.

Cultural aside, this century old tradition is a spectacle on its own – waves of mandarin clad monks flood the streets contrasting the green trees and traditional white structures.  And as soon as it has started, it is over, and people start going their way.  We head for breakfast.

Café Ban Vat Sene.  We had coffee and dessert here last night and were instantly drawn to the place – the atmosphere relaxed with a Parisian café vibe.  But you see a lot of those as Luang Prabang has a natural laid-back atmosphere with a large French influence from architecture to restaurants and bakeries.  The cool January air summons us to sit outside for breakfast and watch the last of the procession.

They make wonderful French breads– baguettes, croissants, pain de campagne… with homemade jams

and a freshly brewed pot of coffee – my day has officially started.

Useful Info:

This religious ceremony is one of Luang Prabang’s major attraction, tourists must learn to be courteous and respectful of this tradition.  Please click here to know what and what not to do.

Cafe Ban Vat Sene
Open daily from 6am – 10pm
For reservations, call: +856 71 252 482

7 thoughts on “Early Morning Alms

  1. that practice has been shown in every single travel show that goes to visit laos, and i’m so so envious. i think this is very unique. were there praying too while waiting for the monks?


    1. I’m sure there were some meditating but really didn’t notice. It was just such a solemn practice (except for the tourist… truth be told). There were some that were so close, I think they ruin the occasion.


  2. I can see that it was definitely worth it to rise early 🙂 Marvellous photos with, as you say, the mandarin contrasting with green and white. Also just love the shot of the juice and freshly brewed coffee.


  3. Such a beautiful tradition indeed and one that our world certainly needs to continue! Terrific, colorful captures for the day! The food, juice and coffee look delicious!! Hope your week is going well, Jenn!



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