A Morning Almsgiving or Tak Bat Ceremony in Phonsavan, Laos

In Laos, as in other countries that practice Theravada Buddhism, it is customary for monks to go on early morning alms runs, known as tak bat. They do so with alms-bowls in hand, donning their traditional saffron robes and pounding the pavement or dirt roads with bare feet. Devotees place food — such as balls of sticky rice or bananas — into the monks’ bowls. Afterward, the monks chant a prayer for them.

Buddhism maintains that the more one gives — and the more one gives without seeking something in return — the wealthier he or she will become. The almsgiving ritual then, allows Buddhist followers to take one of the requisite steps towards achieving Nirvana.

I took these pictures in the northeastern Laotian town of Phonsavan, which is located in a somewhat remote corner of Laos. Though this tak bat’s setting is less picturesque than the tak bat in Luang Prabang, Phonsavan’s scene is more authentic.

In the tourist mecca of Luang Prabang, visitors flock in droves to witness the morning almsgiving run. Unfortunately, the spiritual component of Luang Praban’s tak bat has been overshadowed by commercial ventures and aggressive tourists.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

5 thoughts on “A Morning Almsgiving or Tak Bat Ceremony in Phonsavan, Laos

    1. Glad you learned something new, Mona! I’ll be sharing images from another Tak Bat Ceremony in pageantry-filled Luang Prabang very soon. Travel days have been (pleasantly) busy, so I’m behind in sharing tales… Hope you’re enjoying the weekend!

    1. Poker, your message inadvertently ended up in my spam box, thus my slow reply!

      Do you live in Bangkok? We didn’t get a chance to see any organized almsgiving processions during our visit there, but we did see a few elder monks out and about in a bustling Bangkok neighborhood. In such an urban environment, it’s hard to imagine going barefoot as they do!

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