Each morning at around 06:00, hundreds of resident monks leave their wat and walk silently down the streets in single-file to collect food offerings from the local people.
The near endless parade of monks, each barefoot and saffron-robed, is truly a spectacular sight and this dawn ceremony has become an iconic image of Luang Prabang.
However, many tourists seem to forget that this is a genuine religious ceremony, not a cultural show for their enjoyment. Despite the vendors eager to sell you a basket of sticky rice so you too can feed the monks, only participate if it's meaningful to you. If you choose to participate, buy sticky rice at the local market earlier that morning or make arrangements with your hotel/guesthouse to provide it. Ask staff to show you how it should be done as there is special etiquette. Alternatively, you can make a donation in private by dropping off food or packaged snacks to the temple later in the morning.
Otherwise, show respect and observe the ceremony in silence and from a distance.
Never put yourself into the column of monks to take a photo. Do not interrupt the procession or touch them. Turn off your flash.
Both men and women should dress and behave appropriately (for heaven's sake, no kissing). Shoulders and knees should be covered.
By Cindy Fan.
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