Almsgiving to the monks Chiang Khan

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There is one vivid memory that has stayed with me since my return from the small Northern village of Chiang Khan in Thailand.

It’s of the morning when I had to get up around 5 to prepare myself for the ceremonial offerings to the monks. Chiang Khan is not a particularly bustling place, especially during the early spring nor is it hot in temperature. In fact, the morning air was chilly – or rather, comfortable for me, chilly for the locals, and the streets were quiet.

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravelChiang Khan in the early morning.

As I walked out of my hotel, I could see small groups gathering with their offerings. Some vendors lined up to sell them, though many locals simply cook their own.

Thailand_GirlGoneTravel Thailand_GirlGoneTravelThis is a daily ritual, one that takes place at dawn. The food or alms are giving as the monks make their way to the temple. Residents line up along the path and wait for the monks to receive their offerings and in exchange, give them blessings.

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel

They walk in order with the eldest monk, or he with more years in service, in the lead. They carry with them tins often wrapped in the same cloth and color as their robes. The monks don’t cook or shop, as their commitment is to prayer, community service, and learning. So it is the role of the community to provide for them in this way.


Though offerings often consist of rice or fruit, there are times when they will receive something more unique; an offering that speaks more to the tastes of a departed beloved in exchange for a prayer and a blessing from the monk in that person’s honor and memory.

There’s a lot of waiting around at first.

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel

But when you hear the bells and chants, something in the air shifts and the energy changes.

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel

I thought it an honor to be invited to take part in this ceremony. I couldn’t understand the blessings that the monks bestowed on me, but it felt rewarding to give back a little something to a community that opened itself up to my experiencing their culture to the fullest.

Thailand_GirlGoneTravelI highly recommend taking part in this experience when visiting Thailand. It might also help to ask a local guide to explain and maybe teach you what to say during the offering, as well as after, and to give you a translation of what the blessings are. But, even if you don’t have access to a guide, do take the time to take part. One other thing I noticed was how grateful the locals present were with the gesture. And there’s nothing more rewarding than that.

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel

Monks in Thailand_GirlGoneTravel


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Disclosure: My first trip to Asia was sponsored by Thailand Tourism and their partners, and I was invited to experience what they have in store for those planning to attend this year’s TBEX Asia conference in October of 2015. All opinions are my own.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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2 Responses to Almsgiving to the monks Chiang Khan

  1. Lovely photos Carol and how lucky that you were able to see it.
    The art of giving and sharing with monks is taken very seriously in Thailand. We went to Chiang Mai and even though we weren’t able to take part in this particular ceremony, we did go to various temples and were shown how to pray and participate in some of the rituals.

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