LP has become one of the must see destinations in Laos for its ancient traditions, beautiful riverside location and UNESCO protected old colonial style housing in and around some glittering temples. This together with the colourful markets and beautiful natural countryside makes the critics absolutely right!
One of the main “Attractions” that Luang Prabang has become famous for is the Tak Bat or Morning Alms giving ceremony. This takes place every morning as the local Laotian people wake up before sunrise to prepare food for the Monks. Around 6am, just as the sun comes up, the saffron-robed monks come out from their temples in single file, from oldest to youngest, to walk along the streets where the locals then give them food (mostly sticky rice) and other gifts, such as incense. This is a sacred and important part of the Buddhist lifestyle and national culture of Theravada Buddhist states such as Laos and Thailand.
By preparing food for the monks, the lay people seek spiritual blessing by way of the monk’s acceptance of their offering. The whole ritual is done in silence as the monks walk in a meditative state and the alms givers respect this by not disturbing the monk’s meditation.
There are 33 temples in and around the old town and nearly 80 altogether in Luang Prabang so this makes for a lot of monks walking around.
Unfortunately, in Luang Prabang this sacred ritual has become a bit a circus!
When looking at the options to get from Chiang Mai in Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos we weren’t keen to spend 2 full days on the Mekong river taking the usual 3 day/2 night option via the busy Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border crossing so when, by chance, we passed a tour operator with a notice of a 2 day/1 night option to get to Luang Prabang which was also slightly cheaper at 1750Bhat (about £30) and only spends one day on the river. This is a new route option which goes through the Thai/Laotian border crossing of Huaikone (or as it’s spelt on Google Maps – Huai Kon) and Muang Nguen (or Nam Ngen on Google). The package included all transfers, private en-suite accommodation and breakfast. OK cool, let’s go!