Tak Bat, the Buddhist Laos monks’ morning collection of food in Luang Prabang, is a living Buddhist tradition. It is a key way for monks to maintain their vows and for Buddhist laypeople to practice their faith and gain merit for the afterlife. Luang Prabang became a popular stop on the Southeast Asian tourist trail because of the Tak Bat. The guidebook, blog and brochure descriptions of columns of saffron-robed monks walking photogenically through mist-filled streets next to gold-leaf covered pagodas are too enticing to miss.
From 5:30 in the morning onward, silent lines of Laos monks walk down the streets of Luang Prabang to collect alms. The locals are there in front of them, ready with bowls full of the Laos staple sticky rice. Every monk gets a scoopful in their bowl. With almost eighty temples in Luang Prabang alone, this adds up to hundreds of monks, who take different routes depending on where in town their temple stands. The routes that walk through Th Sakkarin and Th Kamal are among the most viewed by tourists, although the ritual occurs all around Luang Prabang.
The simplest way to remember how to observe the Tak Bat is to think about what would be acceptable in your local church or temple. Bikini tops, loud talking, taking photographs of participants with a distracting flash, and jostling other worshippers – if this happened in your hometown, you would be shocked. The same holds true for the Tak Bat, even though this religious practice takes place in the street. Enjoy the sight in silence then browse the morning market afterward to see how the town wakes up.