Sai Bat (Morning Alms) is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture. In observing it, the devoted offer food to monks throughout the Luang Prabang every morning. This is sustenance for the monks, so great care is taken in preparation (and visitors wishing to take part should follow guidelines to ensure that they make appropriate offerings).
Each morning, starting at around 05:30, saffron-robed monks and novices emerge onto the streets with their alms bowls (‘bat’). Awaiting them are Lao people who have already taken the time to prepare sticky rice and other foods; they will place a portion in the bowl of each monk who passes by. The ceremony is undertaken in complete silence.
The bureau of tourism and OFFROAD LAOS ADVENTURES have worked at a brochure dedicated to inform people about the right way to behave while attending to this ceremony. We would like to draw your attention on this religious custom which is sacred to the people of Luang Prabang and has to be kept respected.
How to respect the Alms Giving Procession ?
Observe the ritual in silence and contribute an offering only if it is meaning for you and can do so respectfully. If you do not wish to make an offering, please keep an appropriate distance and take care not get in the way of the monk procession or those making offerings:
1). For offerings, buy sticky rice at the local market earlier that morning and the vendors who prepare to sell the rice at points along the monks’ route
2). Do not stand too close to the monks when taking photographs; also, camera flashes are very disturbing for both monks and the lay people
3). Dress appropriately: shoulders, chests and legs should be covered
4). Do not make physical contact with the monks and try to stay at least 5 meters away from monks if you are observing the ceremony
5). Remember that large buses are forbidden within the Luang Prabang World Heritage site and are extremely disturbing in this context
6). Never follow the procession on a bus, as this will put you above the monks, which in Laos is disrespectful
7). Take part in the alms giving ceremony by protecting its dignity and its beautiful.
Cf. Department of Information, Culture and Tourism of Luang Prabang.