8.- Participate in the Tak Bat alms ritual
You have to get up early, but it's worth it. Every morning between 6 and 7 am, in the central streets of Luang Prabang, a moving procession of monks begging for alms at the first light of day has been held for 600 years. It is the Tak Bat, which fulfils one of the precepts of Buddhism that calls for the elimination of attachment to material objects, thus leaving more space in the mind for meditation and prayer. It is a unique and moving moment.
For Laotians it is extremely sacred. Buddha teaches that all material possessions are useless to one who truly seeks Nirvana, a monk possesses only his clothes, a razor, a needle and a bowl.
And it is in this bowl called "patta" that the monks, who come from one of the 300 Buddhist temples in the city, hang over their shoulders where the people of the city - an estimated 90% of the population - who have risen before dawn to prepare meals, deposit the inevitable glutinous rice, fruit and biscuits, never money. In return, the monks bless them and recite a prayer, although silence is the norm, with only the sound of feet on the ground and the ever-present crowing of roosters.
The hundreds of monks, barefoot, shaven-headed and in saffron robes, file past the donors, first the oldest and then the youngest and children, who remain seated or kneeling before them - alms-giving is forbidden to tourists. This offered meal is the only food the monks eat during the day, the rest of their time being devoted to spiritual duties such as meditation, blessing and prayer.
But since visitors don't fast, a good idea is to head to the Morning Market, which opens at 5am for a bowl of noodle soup or a coconut rice pancake. At the market you'll find some live animals, such as caged fish and birds, for shoppers to release out of compassion. Another way to make merit.