Friday, February 12, 2010

Alms at sunrise

We woke up at 6am today to witness the ritual of the giving of alms to Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang. Around sunrise each day, the hundreds of monks line up with their alms bowls along the main streets of LP to receive food alms from the townspeople. They only eat the food (primarily sticky rice) they receive during this ceremony and from their families each morning and only drink water after midday.

For Buddhists, almsgiving is an important element of their religious practice and is a way of honoring their ancestors, but unfortunately this sacred ritual has become somewhat of a tourist circus these days. We saw signs at some of the restaurants in town which read “Please respect our sacred customs” with pictures of tourists getting up close to the monks, even blocking their paths to get the perfect photo. Though we kept our distance to try to be respectful, obviously others hadn’t read the same signs. It was a very sad sight and a reminder of how tourism can ruin something that was once beautiful and sacred.

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