Giving Alms Respectfully While in Laos
It’s a picture postcard sight: a long line of orange-clad monks proceeding down main street collecting alms from the town’s Buddhist faithful. Increasingly, tourists are flocking to witness the spectacle in Luang Prabang. And, as is common almost everywhere in tourism, the tourists are degrading the very sights they are drawn to see. They, more often than not, are unwittingly showing disrespect for the monks, the Lao people and other tourists.
Follow these simple guidelines to help keep your experience as unobtrusive to others as possible. This will help keep the alms ritual a beautiful sight for fellow travellers to see as well:
1. Participate only if it is truly meaningful for you. Don’t just go through the motions.
2. If you are not participating, keep your distance and stay out of the way of the locals and the monks.
3. Don’t use a camera flash and don’t get close to the line of monks. This is distracting to the monks, who are performing a walking meditation.
4. If you are giving alms, don’t position yourself higher than the monks. It’s a sign of diminished respect.
5. Don’t touch the monks or make eye contact.
6. Do remain silent.
7. Street vendors, sadly, contribute to an inappropriate marketplace atmosphere. Don’t buy anything from them. If you need to give alms, our guide will assist you with preparations beforehand.
8. Most importantly, this is a living tradition that you are lucky to witness. If you treat it only as a photo-op, it will decline into being nothing more than a dog and pony show for future generations.
So if you don’t mind rising early, please do come and witness this moving scene typical of old Laos – but do so by following the eight Khiri Laos guidelines above.
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