Laos, Luang Prabang
The first thing you have to do in Luang Prabang is to wake up early, before the sunrise, when the silence of the small city is still surrounded by haze and you can admire the fascinating procession of monks; the Tak Bat.
The Tak Bat is the Buddhist monks collection of food and is a must see for travellers in Buddhist Asian countries: the practice of offering food to monks is most visible in Theravada Buddhist countries, where the practice sustains large monastic communities. This is a special moment that any person in Luang Prabang must live and enjoy because it will give big emotions.
Every morning around 5:30 o’clock, the monks come down from the hill to the city till the main road, (Sakkaline Road), and some of its adjacent alleys, dressing their traditional sakaya to receive offers by many worshipers who kneel on the roadside waiting for the ritual: every monk has a bowl hung on the shoulder through a rope where people put rice, bananas, flowers and incense. This is the best way to start your day in Laung Prabang! It is a unique experience in an amazing place and although you can see the Tak Bat everywhere in Laos or other Buddhist countries, here it is so special for different reasons: besides the fact that there are many monks, the place is magic, located on the Mekong riverside among the nature and the traditional wood Laotian buildings.
In the last years, the increment of tourism in Luang Prabang has endangered the ceremony, this because so many tourists approach the ritual not as a religious ceremony to be respected, but more like a folk show. So, right now, very few locals are inclined to take part to it since they refuse to be part of something which lose the religious aspect. It’s easy to see street vendors who take advantage of the large quantity of people selling rice and different kind of food to tourists (if you want to buy some food for the monks you can get it for some cents).
As a result of the flows of people coming to visit, outside of the temples there are posted basic recommendations as do not approach the monks, breaking the meditation, don’t take flash pics, don’t disrupt the ritual with inappropriate noises, actions or dress. Something very basic that often people forget. If people respect these common sense rules, the Tak Bat can still move many people in Luang Prabang, because this is one of those cities that must visit and it will find a special place in the heart of the visitor.