“Tak Bat” means giving alms to monks. It’s a way for Thai people to give back by offering food to Buddhist monks who help teach others to be good and virtuous. It’s not charity in the Western sense. Thai people see it as a virtue. Giving alms to monks is about showing goodness to others and doing 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, focused on the philosophy behind Buddhism, being good, and giving back.
Our local guide Pai Boon was so kind to share with us the tradition of alms in Chiang Mai. He took us to a city’s local quarter where we could participate in tak bat and learn how to give alms to monks.
How to Give Alms to Monks in Thailand
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. With their barefeet connected to the ground it is the Buddhist way of keeping close to nature and earth, since wearing shoes disconnects ourselves from our impact on nature. Tricia’s reasons to go barefoot are also pretty interesting.
The Buddhist ritual is to place fresh food 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 prepared 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!
the more we give to others the better people we become
#ThailandInsider Tip: I highly recommend spending a morning giving alms – you absolutely have to experience this at least once if you’re coming to Thailand. I suggest going with a local because they can show you how to properly and respectfully present your alms to monks. If you contact me, I can connect you with Pai boon who was our amazing local guide in Chiang Mai.
Where and When to go:
In the early morning hours, usually between 5.30am and 8am. It usually takes place around their Wat or temple.
What to bring:
Fresh food like rice, fruit, juice or milk. They take it back to the Wat to share and eat what is donated.
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.