We had a full day planned for our second day in Chiang Mai. I researched many tour companies and found one that would combine two tours into one day so we could see as much as possible during our free day. I contacted the Chiang Mai Tour Center and expressed my interest in participating in an Alms Offering and seeing the Doi Suthep Temple, Long Neck Village, and an afternoon with the elephants.
They replied right away with a price and full itinerary. It all sounded great and we were all set. Since we had a long day ahead of us, we woke up nice and early to get ready for the first part of our tour, the alms offering to the monks and young novices. Our awesome guide, Ji, came by our hotel around 5:30am, showed us to the car, and introduced us to our nice driver. We then made our way towards Pui National Park near Doi Suthep.
Alms involves giving to others as an act of virtue. It’s one of the most common practices among Thai Buddhists. It’s a way to support the monks, who study and practice the Buddha’s teachings, by offering them food.
With the monastery nearby, the monks walked bare foot down the road carrying their alms bowls. The most senior monks walk in the front of the line, while the juniors follow behind. Thais highly respect monks for their devotion to the Buddha’s teachings.
Monks don’t prepare their own meals and depend on the generosity of the community.
There was a table with a variety of soup and rice dishes. We picked our offering and waited for the monks and young novices to pass by. We were told that you must gesture or invite them to take your offering. We also had incense and a Lotus flower to offer for putting in front of the Buddha image at the temple. Our guide explained the process and demonstrated by offering first.
To indicate that you would like to offer food, lower your upper body and put your palms together in front of your chest. Many remove their shoes as well. If the bowl is not full, the monks open the lid for you. If the bowl is full, the offerings can be placed on the lid instead.
After giving the food, I kneeled down and received a short blessing.
After a bit, my sister offered her food to a young novice and recieved a blessing.
More monks and novices continued to make their way down the street. Many locals were waiting and ready with their offeirngs.
This was such a nice experience. If you’re in Chiang Mai, I strongly suggest participating in an alms offering. You can head up to the Pui National Park foothill near Doi Suthep temple around 6am, purchase the food, and participate in this lovely and spritual Thai Buddhist tradition.
Off to the side of the road, we spotted the very lifelike wax figure of Kruba Srivichai, one of the most famous monks of Northern Thailand. The Buddhist saint was born in 1878. He was ordained as a novice at 18 and became a monk at 20 at Wat Phrathat Doi Tae in Lamphun Province.
He was the spiritual leader of over 5,000 believers and disciples, inspiring them to build an 11 kilometer road up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The road, now known as Kru Ba Srivichai Road, was completed in 5 months and 25 days. It was said that as many as 3,000 to 4,000 people a day came to build the road, which was originally paved in stone.
Kruba Srivichai passed away in 1938 at the age of 60 and was given the title Nak Bun Haeng Lanna, which may be translated as “The Lanna Saint”.
The morning was off to a fantastic start and it was time to go to Doi Suthep!
Chiang Mai Tour Center
Morning Alms Offering and Doi Suthep Temple
Pui National Park, Chiang Mai foothill