Monks and Markets
The last thing most people want to do on vacation is get up at the crack of dawn. I’m not one of those people, but I’m also just plain strange. Getting up at dark-thirty in Luang Prabang is actually worth it, not only do you get to see the city come alive, but you also get to take part in a truly unique event, when the local monks take to the streets to collect daily offerings of rice and other food, also known as morning alms. Okay, okay, it’s 5 am, but there will be coffee waiting for you when you get back.
During this ceremony, monks can be seen on most of the streets in old Luang Prabang, but the majority are assembled on a few major avenues. Sakkaline Rd has the biggest concentration, but we won’t take you there. Just a short block north is a parallel street that has fewer monks, but it also has fewer crowds. This is generally where many of the older locals gather to make their offerings. On a lucky day, you can even spot some of the former Royal Family making offerings as well. The difference in crowds between these two streets is striking. No tour buses, no big groups, and just a whole lot of saffron robes.
In addition to observing morning alms, which is a truly special event, you can also check out the local market, which usually wraps up by the time you would normally still be bleary eyed in bed. The market is always a personal favourite of mine. And if you manage to get to both, you’ll have yourself a double whammy morning, all before you would normally even be awake. Next up, nap time.
Note: If you’re planning to observe morning alms, be respectful. You can take photos, but try not to do so from close up, and once you have your shot, put your camera away. Or better yet, don’t take any photos, as it’s terribly difficult to really capture the moment. We’re personally in the “just sit back and enjoy” camp. Oh, and dress like you would be visiting a temple, even though you will just be on the street.