The awkward monk procession in Luang Prabang

Even when you are on vacation you sometimes have to push yourself to do things you’d never do willingly. Like getting up at 5am. Well, traveling can be hard work sometimes, too. But when in Luang Prabang you have to get up early to see the monks’ daily ceremony of receiving alms. I don’t know what was more fascinating, the procession itself or the fact, that it turned out to be a very touristy event – which was kind of irritating.

Monk procession, Giving alms.  in Luang Prabang, Lao

A part of Sisavangvong Road is blocked for the whole procession and so the street was filled more with tourists taking pictures of the scenery than with the main characters of this event, namely the monks and buddhist people giving alms.

Monks walking, alms procession

Peace and quiet

But in the end, as a tourist myself watching the procession I became a part of the bizarre monk-watching event, too, and I decided to go with the flow. It was kind of strange, as the whole thing has still a religious meaning and should be respected as such. So, no music, no loud yelling, no noise at all – despite of all the people in the street it was really calm and quiet. Small chairs were put on one side of the street, so people could sit and give their alms like money, sweets or sticky rice to the monks passing by. Monks are not allowed to have any possessions, so they really live on what people share with them every day.

Monk procession, Giving alms.  in Luang Prabang, Lao

Thoughts – how was it?

All in all, it was an interesting thing to see, but I left with mixed emotions. Is it really necessary to watch such an intimate ceremony of a religion I barely know? Of which I don’t know the rules and habits? Should a religious event become a tourist sight? I didn’t come to a clear conclusion. I just know that I was impressed once more how peaceful buddhism can be and with how much dedication people are sharing. I was glad for that insight, but somehow – it had its awkward moments and I had the very strong feeling I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Baskets with offerings for monks, Luang Prabang, Lao

“Should I go see the monk procession?”

After reading this, you might ask yourself that – and the answer is simple: Just go. See for yourself. Maybe you won’t find it that awkward at all. Maybe you will. But that’s the purpose of traveling:

See and feel everything by yourself.

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