Morning Alms (Sai Bat)

Morning Alms
(Sai Bat)

Overview

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.

Time

Starting from early morning around 05:30 to 06:30 am in March to October and 06:00 to 07:00 am in November to Febuary.

Access

Held on the main street in every morning, there are many places through the town and inside every temples. Here just give the main procession: in front of Xiengthong temple, Luang Prabang Primary School and Natonal Museum.

Description

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 metres 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.

History

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 cultural significance and austere beauty of Sai Bat has made it a very popular tourist attraction in Luang Prabang. Most visitors witness the ceremony in the old city centre, along Sakkaline Road in particular. However, these places may sometimes be crowded with tourists; for a more authentic perspective, you may wish to consider another part of town.

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