It's A Monk's Life

Monks with friends

What is a Buddhist monk's daily routine? What does their day look like?

Travel for any amount of time in Southeast Asia and you'll eventually run into a monk or two. Probably many more. Shaven-headed and dressed in saffron robes (maroon if you're in Myanmar), of all ages from school kids to wizened old men, they're a strikingly traditional sight in the modern world. But what is being a monk actually like?

The life of a monk is strictly regimented in some ways; surprisingly "normal" and free in others. There are as many different ways of living as there are temples, so there's no straightforward answer. That said, most Buddhist temples will follow a routine — and it'll probably be something like this:

A day in the life of a monk

4.00am — The temple wakes up. The monks meditate for one hour, followed by one hour of chanting.

6.00am — The monks walk barefoot around the neighbourhood while the local people "make merit" by offering them food.


Monks receiving offerings of food

8.00am — Returning to the temple, they sit together to eat breakfast.

Before 12.00 noon — Light lunch. This is the last solid food the monks are allowed to consume until sunrise the following morning.


Monks eating lunch

1.00pm — Classes in Buddhist teaching begin. Some monks may attend school outside the temple. Aside from Buddhist philosophy, English, maths and the sciences, other topics covered might depend on what knowledge is available from the elders.

6.00pm — A two-hour session of meditation and prayer.

8.00pm — The monks retire to do homework.

Depending on the individual duties of each monk, the rest of the day might be spent on temple maintenance, lessons or free time.

What do monks do in their free time?

You can be a monk, but it doesn't mean you're not still a son, a friend, a neighbour, a football player, a young man or just a kid. Monks can get up to all the same things as anybody else in their free time. Such as...



Dropping by the pharmacy for their mum's medication



Checking their messages at the local tea shop, temple...


Hanging out with friends


Watching television


Taking the ferry home


And plenty more!





Get a sense of daily life and immerse yourself in ancient traditions on our Thailand & Laos Explorer itinerary. Get in touch with our team of Southeast Asia travel experts for more information.

You may also like