Giving food to the monks each morning is an incredibly important activity for Theravada Buddhists across Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. This alms-giving ceremony can be quite beautiful to see as the devoted rise early in the morning to give what they can. It’s also become something of a tourist spectacle in a number of cities, particularly in Luang Prabang, Laos. For anyone looking for an alternative to that slightly inauthentic scene, the Chiang Khan alms ceremony is a good alternative.
To say that the Chiang Khan alms ceremony is not touristic isn’t quite accurate. It’s actually quite touristy, only the tourists are nearly all Thai. In a typical morning merit-making ceremony like this, people will have already arranged the food they will give, and they give it to the monks outside of their own homes. In Chiang Khan, Thai tourists buy prepackaged merit baskets and find a scenic spot along the road. They wait for monks to come along, and give their donation while receiving a blessing. They’ll typically have a friend standing by to capture the moment on camera.
Chiang Khan alms ceremony starting time
The Chiang Khan alms giving ceremony begins before first light and continues for around half an hour afterward. The main area for this is along Chiang Khan Walking Street. If you are hoping for great photos, this is the most photogenic street in town, and in the early morning light with the mist that is typically there, you can get some great shots. We also saw monks accepting donations one road over on the main street through town about an hour after sunrise.
Is it okay to take photos of alms giving?
This ceremony is quite beautiful, especially set in the photogenic town of Chiang Khan. It can feel a bit voyeuristic though taking photos. Our recommendation is that it’s okay to do if you keep a respectful distance and aren’t getting your camera in too close. Thais are prolific photographers and as most tourists here are Thais, the monks are pretty used to people lined up with their cameras.
Once you’ve seen enough here, and since you’re already up at the crack of dawn, you should check out the sunrise and sea of fog at Phu Thok just a ten-minute drive away. Check out our guide to it at the link. For more activities in the area check out our guide to Chiang Khan and our guide to Loei Province.