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Luang Prabang - The Ancient City in Laos
Luang Prabang is a tiny town located in the north of Laos, enclosed by mountainous area at 700 meters above sea level and at the meeting of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. The city was designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and was the former ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until the King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1545. Nevertheless, Luang Prabang never loses its back charm and still remains the centre of Buddhist learning and the place for spiritual contemplation. Being Laos’ most beautiful spot and the center of Laotian culture, Luang Prabang is the premier tourist destination. The immaculately preserved temples are scattered around the city. It is not hard to soak up yourself in the surroundings and observe the way of life of Lao people will give you a lasting impression. This ancient and gentle town is one that maintains its unique character where the local people are asleep by 10:00 pm
Most of tourist attractions can be easily reached on foot. You can make your way through Luang Prabang to many temples, or climb to see the waterfalls and sail in the Mekong river.
Alms Giving Ceremony
One of the main attractions that lure many tourists to the laidback ancient town is the most sacred Lao tradition, the Buddhist Alms giving Ceremony or Tak Bat as it is called, goes on daily at dawn on the streets of Luang Prabang. When the sun rises around 200 Buddhist monks leave their various temples to collect their daily meal from the people. This religious tradition of alms giving started in the 14th century but today the local people still prepare the food for the monks early in the morning.
The ceremony is serene and peaceful. People are kneeling down waiting silently by the roadside to give their offerings to the monks – no traffic or noise of any kind is allowed which can disturb the procession.
Despite being a highly ritual for the local people, the tradition of giving alms to monks has been extended to visitors as long as the respect is maintained throughout the ceremony. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to experience ancient Lao tradition. If you would like to participate in this ceremony, you should prepare your offerings in advance; usually tourists buy some foods like rice, fruits or traditional sweet snacks. If you buy alms on the street do not bargain as it is considered disrespectful. Try to arrive early before the ceremony started so you will not be considered offensive. Follow the rituals as guided by the locals; kneeling down quietly ready to give your offering to the monks. The ritual is not suitable for young children or those who is unable to sit quietly for a long time. Please respect the rules when attending this ceremony; wear simple clothes with your shoulders, chests and legs covered. Shoes and socks must be removed and put your feet underneath as you watch the ceremony in silence. Women must keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms and they are not allowed to talk to or touch the monks, even when they are making an offering.
If you want to take some photographs, it is best to stay at the distance and do not use a flash camera to avoid any unpleasant disturbance. If you are not involved in this ceremony keep your distance and do not get in the way of those making the offering.
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