“Tak Bat” means giving alms to monks. It’s a way for Thai people to give back by offering free food to Buddhist followers who help teach others to be good and virtuous. It’s not charity in the Western sense. Thais see it as a virtue and for monks it’s a chance to give people the means to show goodness and do good deeds. By now, I had already developed an immense appreciation for this part of Thai culture – Dan and I just spent two days at a Buddhist meditation retreat where we learned the philosophy behind Buddhism, being good, and giving back.
Our local guide Pai Boon was so kind to share with us the tradition of giving alms to monks in Chiang Mai. He took us to a city’s local quarter where we could participate in tak bat.
Monks go out for alms at dawn around 5am or 6am, usually around the streets by a Thai monastery. They walk in a straight line, one behind the other with the most senior monk ahead, and always barefoot. I’m not sure why they don’t wear shoes? (Although Tricia’s reasons to go barefoot are pretty interesting).
Usually it’s food that Thais will place into the alms bowls that monks carry with them. Since rice is a staple in Thai culture, families cook it fresh from home and put a portion in plastic bags to give, or you can buy a full dish from local street vendors.
Thais also believe in sharing alms with the deceased in a ritual callled “kruat nam”. After giving alms to monks, it’s customary to pour a small amount of water into a cup then pour the water into soil. It’s like sharing goodness with the Earth and everyone around it!
In Chiang Mai, one of the things that stuck with me most is the Buddhist belief that it is better to give –
the more we give to others the better people we become
#ThailandInsider Tip: I recommend going with a local. They can show you the customary way to present your alms to monks and even teach you some of the culture behind it. If you contact me, I can connect you with Pai boon who was an amazing local guide.
When to go:
Monks begin walking the streets at dawn around 5am for 1-2 hours.
What to bring:
They like rice! Or anything fresh and flavourful
You will usually find them around Buddhist temples but we were grateful to have Pai Boon know where to go!
More in this series:
Thank you Pai Boon for sharing your culture with us.
I was a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand – Canada while in Chiang Mai as part of their #ThailandInsider campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.