My first morning wondering around the second largest city in Cambodia, Battambang was filled with French colonial architecture, friendly Khmer people, and the morning alms. My itinerary quickly changed from 4 to 7 days in this town that fortunately was not as harshly treated by the Khmer Rouge regime as so many other places in the country.
The morning alms, the ritual performed everyday by Buddhist monks all over Southeast Asia is a chance for a lay person, a non-monk or nun, to connect to someone of a higher spiritual awareness and to earn merit by giving. This is not begging as it could be viewed by Westerners and money is not exchanged, in fact it is forbidden.
In some towns such as Luang Prabang, Laos it has become a tourist attraction with eager travellers almost getting in the way of the procession in order to snap a picture, worst yet a selfie. Some tour operators have even organized alms giving experiences. A package price gets you a cushion, sticky rice, a little instruction and a place on the street for your chance to earn merit. This I think is a big mistake and I’ve seen many foreigners not following proper etiquette which can potentially embarrass the monk and disrespect the ritual.
To enjoy the ceremony of the morning alms especially if you are not a practising Buddhist, doesn’t necessarily require participation. If you are truly in the moment you will be overcome with joy at the sight of this beautiful morning ritual like I was in Battambang, or anywhere else in Southeast Asia.
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