Sai Bat (Morning Alms) is a long standing tradition in Laos Buddhist culture.
All over the country, faithful Buddhists rise before dawn to prepare dishes (often sticky rice). At around 05:30, the ceremony is undertaken in complete silence; saffron-robed monks and novices emerge onto the streets with their alms bowls (“bat”). Villagers sit on a mat on the ground, and place a portion of rice and home-cooked food in the bowl. These morning alms form the food that the monks will eat for the day, and is also shared by the monks with the poor.
Morning alms are not unique to Luang Prabang, they are held all around the country as well as in Thailand, but Luang Prabang’s ceremony is maybe the most beautiful, thanks to the magical aura of this historical and cultural masterpiece.
Morning alms is a simple but generousand meaningful act between villagers and their monks. And it is a privilege to witness this ceremony in Luang Prabang. That is why direct flights by Lao Airlines link Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).
An oasis of tranquility amidst the urban deserts of the region, Luang Prabang is seemingly untouched by the hustle and bustle of modern-day metropolises in Southeast Asia. Immortalized by images of beautiful temples as well as scented flowers, serene riversides and crumbling French architecture, this former royal bastion is teeming with visitors. And there are just so many things to do in Luang Prabang. Being the first UNESCO site listed in the country of Laos, the town offers a spectacular array of culture, nature, and of course, mouthwatering food. Even wandering the streets will give you an idea of what is true happiness and slow life pleasures.
There are dozens of temples around town and visitors are welcome to wander around as long as they are respectful and cover up inside the buildings themselves. Make sure you visit Wat Xieng Thong at the northern end of the old town peninsula as this is where royal coronations traditionally took place. One of the more opulent temples in Luang Prabang, it is covered in gold and intricate mosaics.
Take a boat trip on the famous Mekong river up to the Pak Ou Caves, to the waterfalls, or to visit local villages. Admire the verdant countryside of northern Laos zipping by as you sip a cold beer and munch on fried river weed, and watch fishermen hauling their nets whilst herds of buffalo graze along the shoreline. The Mekong is the life blood of Laos, especially for the rural villages along its banks which rely on it for both transportation and fishing. A boat trip is the perfect way to experience the heart of this magical land.
Make sure you take a trip to the Kuang Si Waterfalls (except if you are traveling during the rainy season). You can get there by tuk tuk, bicycle or as part of a tour; it’s best to go in the morning before it becomes too busy. The falls are in several stages beginning with a hidden jungle plunge pool at the top (which you can climb up to), and ending with a staggering series of emerald pools at the bottom to swim in.
You can also chill out at Utopia. This sightseeing is thirsty work and there’s no better place to unwind than the aptly named Utopia Bar overlooking the Nam Khan River. Practice morning yoga or grab a chilled beverage and bowl of olives before settling down on your chosen colourful pile of cushions to enjoy the view. And relax. The friendly staff even encourage you to have an afternoon nap if you want!
Ready for a Laotian adventure? It’s time to contact Lao Airlines.
LAO AIRLINES - CHIANG MAI OFFICE :
Ground Floor. Nakornping Condo. Huay Kaew Road. Chiang Mai.
Tel. 053-223 401
MORNING ALMS - DOs & DON’T
If you’re planning on heading to Luang Prabang and would like to watch or participate in Sai Bat ceremony, here are some helpful tips:
- Dress respectfully by covering your arms and legs. Singlet tops and short-shorts are not respectful.
- Remember that it’s a silent ceremony. If you need to talk to someone, do it quietly. Please turn your phone on “silent”.
- Keep an appropriate distance from the monks. Do not break their line-up by standing in the way to take a photo during the ceremony.
- If you would like to make an offering, buy some sticky rice at the local market and watch what the local people do in terms of gifted the rice to the monks. Never hand any gift directly to a monk – always place it in his bowl.
- Try to keep your body and head lower than the monks by crouching down or sitting during the procession. Avoid all physical contact with the monks.