Upon first arriving to Luang Prabang all I wanted to do was crash and get some sleep, but I stayed awake to see the tak bat. In Laos, and throughout most of Asia, the monks are thought to be higher spiritual beings. It is believed that they are monks because in prior lives they earned enough karma. Starting at 5:30 there is a single file line of monks that enter the city (oldest monk first first) to collect alms.
From what I was told, the tak bat is an honored tradition from the 16th century and is the only meal the monks eat all day. For those giving alms it is a chance to give respect to the monks. This will hopefully help the giver out in their next life since giving charitably can elevate you to a higher position.
Now this is clearly an amazing event I encourage all tourists to check out, and I was very excited to see. However, I am always very frustrated with at least a few visitors during events like this. It reminds me a bit of the mass at the end of the Camino de Santiago. When I attended mass it was all flash photography and people talking through the sermon.
I asked some locals what I should keep in mind when participating and was given the following advice (which I pass onto to you
1. Please remember that this is not designed as a tourist event. This is a spiritual event.
2. The monks are walking and meditating, they will not talk. If you are giving alms you should not talk either. If you are not giving alms, it is still rude to talk loudly.
3. No flash photography as it can disrupt the meditations.
4. If you are giving alms take off your shoes and be sure to be dressed appropriately (ladies cover your shoulders and knees)
5. Be sure your head is never above the monks heads
6. Most people are against buying food from the nearby vendors. Your hotel should make you rice if you request it, or you can make some on your own (most hostels have a small kitchen area you can use).
7. Remember not to hand the food to them, you are putting the rice into the container
I promise you that abiding by these rules won’t make it any less amazing. You will still feel like you were a part of something old and spiritual…at least I know I did.