The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

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The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

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I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

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I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

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If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

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We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

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Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

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The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

Someone at the photo lab tipped me that Saturday that the next day, there will be an alms ceremony at Wat Palelai, a Thai Buddhist Temple located in Bedok, in the east of Singapore.

Devotees stood around the yard of the temple and gave their offerings to the monks who made a procession around the yard.

Later the monks gathered at their dining room.

There was 30 to 50 monks for the ceremony but I think only 5 are permanently staying  at the temple. Others are going through a temporary monk-hood.


This day was the fiftieth Singapore National Day, happy birthday Singapore. The ceremony was interrupted by the singing of the national anthem at 9am.

It was very nice to discover this temple and be able to attend this ceremony. I also met two people who always hang around the photo lab, so we could have coffee and chit chat a moment after the ceremony was over.

All black and white pics with Leica M6 and either 35mmF2.8 or 50mmF1.4. Film is Rollei RPX 400ISO. Scanned at home with Epson v500.

Color pics with the old faithful Nikon D700 with either the 85mm F1.8 or the 17-35 F2.8.

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore