Sunday 3 March 2013

Morning alms in Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake

I decided not to watch the morning alms in Luang Prabang. Many people I met on my way said it is not as genuine as it used to be. So, instead I decided to go and see it somewhere else. I didn't plan it to see it in Inle Lake, but one morning I got up very early for one of my trips and saw this amazing procession of monks.

Monks are allowed to eat once or twice a day and only the food they collect in the morning. Every day they gather together and walk through towns and villages with bowls, in which the people put their food.
Alms in Buddhism is a respect given to the monks or nuns (people spiritually developed) by lay people. It symbolises the special connection between the two.

To return the favour monks (or nuns) bless the people by chanting and praying for them.

You can witness the morning alms in every village, town and city, which has a monastery near by. You really don't need to go to Luang Prabang to witness it.

Myanmar is a country, where the tourism industry hasn't taken over the religious side of life, at least not entirly yet. So, if you are keen to see it, get up early (around 6) and stand outside one of the temples, or monasteries. You can also ask the locals, where is the best place to go.

I got up at 6 and waited around an hour for the monks to come out. It was freezing cold. I almost gave up and started walking back to my hostel, when suddenly they appeared from behind a corner.

No one really paid any attention to them. The locals were busy with starting their day, and tourists were more interested in catching a boat to the Lake. Only a few owners of the shops and hotels were waiting with food.

I was trying not to disturb, but this was the first time I had witnessed the morning alms, and I was too excited and think I must have distracted them a little.

The light and the fact that I was the only tourist trying to capture the moment made it even more special.

My advice is: you can always see the morning alms anywhere in a Buddhist country. Don't go to Luang Prabang to do it. If there is a temple, there are monks and they will definetly be up at 6 am.

Oh, and there is also one more reason why you should get up so early in Nyaungshwe: the light in the morning i wonderful and mysterious. Go to the market and stand in the corner to see how the locals prepare for the day.

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