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The Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang - Good Tourist Etiquette

Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos

In destinations like Luang Prabang, the rise in tourism is a mixed blessing.  On one hand, it brings much-needed economic opportunities and new livelihoods for the people of Luang Prabang.  On the other hand, it can be disruptive to the deeply rooted religious cultural heritage that attracts visitors in the first place.

A perfect example of this dilemma is the Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang.  Each morning, hundreds of Buddhist monks line up in their deep orange robes and walk along the road to receive alms from the people of Luang Prabang, who wake up early to cook the rice and prepare their offerings. This ritual has been a part of the area’sreligious heritage ever since Buddhism was introduced to Laos in the 14th century -- far longer than modern tourism has existed.

As tourism rises, local authorities in Luang Prabang are concerned that tourists are interrupting the Alms Giving Ceremony. Some of the major concerns are the inappropriate attire that travellers wear for the ceremony, and the many vendors that are chasing a quick profit by selling low quality rice offerings to the visiting almsgivers.

Below is a list of tips and advice for observing the Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang with courtesy and respect for the rich local heritage it exhibits:

1) Dress respectfully.  Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not appropriate to wear while giving alms during the ceremony.  Cover yourself in the same way that you see local people covering themselves, and this will draw less negative attention from local participants. Shoulders, chests, and legs should not be exposed.

Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos

2) Keep a respectful distance.  Do not get too close to the procession or obstruct the path of the monks. If you can make physical contact with the monks, you are too close.

3) Observe the ceremony in silence, in keeping with local tradition

4) Be mindful about taking photos.  Use zoom for close-ups rather than getting to close to the procession, and remember that flashes can be very distracting.

Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos

5) Contribute, but carefully. It is acceptable to make an offering as long as you can approach the monks respectfully and meaningfully.  DO NOT buy a rice offering from street vendors.  Buy it beforehand at a local market. Remember this is a local tradition and not a tourism activity – only participate if it is meaningful to do so.

If you have any questions or doubts about appropriate behaviour and etiquette, ask your tour guide or look for the guidelines that are published locally and posted very publicly. Alternatively feel free to ask us, we are glad to be able to help.

Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos

To maintain the dignity and sanctity of this religious tradition for believers and local people, it is always a good idea to inform yourself as much as possible.  Find articles and literature about the Alms Giving Ceremony of Luang Prabang.  Ask questions of your local guides or Luang Prabang accommodation staff.  Many will have rich stories to share about the daily custom of making offerings and how it has been a constant in their daily routine for generations.

If you are looking for accommodation close to the alms ceremony, click here