Southeast Asia has its share of travel scams, but there’s one in particular that seems to pop up in almost all the countries in the region: the fake monk. Dressed in the same richly saffron-coloured robes as their legitimate counterparts, these fake monks hit up tourist hot spots looking to collect alms.
This is an easy scam to spot and even easier to avoid as long as you’re aware of Buddhist monks’ practices.
It’s a shame that there are those willing to exploit the practices of a religion and prey on tourists who don’t fully understand them. The capital city of Nepal is Kathmandu, where you can find numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples, thousands of years old. Kathmandu itself has a number of places of tourist attractions; durbar square complex is one of them.
Pashupatinath temple is the most famous Hindu temple of Nepal built during the reign of King Bhupendra Malla. One of Nepal’s most important attractions is the Royal Chitwan national park, earlier a hunting reserve used by King George V and his son. Other tourist spots in Nepal include Bhaktapur, Gorkha, Janakpur, Patan, Pokhara, Seti Gandaki, Jiri, Everest National Park, etc.
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Temple stays in South Korea are experienced by thousands of tourists and students annually, eager to learn more about the history of Korean Buddhism, which spans more than 1600 years.
From early morning chanting to the dignified tea ceremony, the reverential approach to eating and the humble evening meal, a monk’s life is far more than robes and meditation. There are around 800 monasteries, with histories dating back centuries, which combined represent a treasure trove of sweeping, tile-roofed temples, halls, shrines, classic oriental gardens, paintings, literature, music, myth, food and tea, all celebrating the life of Buddha.
On a nearby hill, the benevolent eyes of a 16m-high stone Buddha, the largest of its kind in the orient, stare pensively out to sea.
A flock of ducks, black against the rising light, flew across the red bruise of the sunrise as the grey wisps of cloud on the horizon glowed golden, then blood red, as the sun rose over the Sea of Japan. The sunrise was a fitting reward for the strict 9pm curfew of the night before, following a welcome to temple life by our host, the Buddhist nun BupGwang.
The brightly coloured wooden fish represents water creatures and the cloud-shaped gong, airborne creatures. A monk beat the drum and then visitors took turns at gonging the bell, its heavy reverberations setting eardrums humming as it vibrated the air around us.

Clouds of incense and candle smoke wafted in the humid air, blending with the monks’ monotonous chanting as they made their 108 prostrations to the divine one.
The next morning, while being instructed by the nun BupGwang in the basics of Zen meditation, it became even more painfully obvious that Buddhism is physically demanding. After fifteen minutes of focused meditation sitting in an attempted lotus position that looked something like a snapped pretzel, the leg joints were creaking and the muscles aching.
Buddhist clergy live a life of humble devotion, following a demanding and sometimes lonely discipline epitomized by the formalities of the meal ceremony. The food ritual, Balwoo Gongyang, means eating only that which is required, wasting nothing, not even the water used to clean the bowls, or Balwoo. A simple meal of rice, kimchi (pickled vegetable), a thin soup and seaweed, becomes a study in the appreciation of the fundamentals of life as each is served into three bowls, with a fourth bowl filled with a measure of water.
Sitting cross-legged and straight-backed, there is no talking, a piece of kimchi or radish is kept at the side of the rice bowl to use to wipe out the bowls at the end of the meal. The water, which should remain clean throughout the meal, is used to clean the bowls, and then drunk. During the tea ceremony, the nun BupGwang relaxed from her duties to smile and laugh as the foreigners juggled cups, lids and teapot in an attempt to serve the brew just right.
Vincent RossVincent Ross has been a journalist for more than 34 years, working in newspapers and public relations, and over the past fourteen years as a freelance travel writer and photojournalist.
Collecting alms is customary for practicing monks, who usually go out daily to collect food.
As travellers, it’s important to be respectful toward other cultures and religions and to be aware of some of the practices and traditions—so that your kindness and generosity aren’t exploited.
It is also the largest city of Nepal which is surrounded by four major mountains namely the Shivapuri mountain, the Chandragiri mountain, the Nagarjuna mountain and the Phulchoki mountain. From Nagarkot you can have a clear view of the eastern Himalayas that include the Sagarmatha (popularly known as the Mount Everest), Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Langan, Choba Bhamre and Gaurisankar.
This temple lies at the banks of the River Bagmati, which is a popular place for cremation and is presided over by a head priest and several other priests. This world heritage site is also known as Khasti and has almost about 50 buddhist monasteries. This national park, which is also a world heritage site, contains sal forests, grasslands (including 50 species of grasses) and marshlands. The air was warm and resin-scented, the still pines and gardens the epitome of peace on the 5am sunrise walk down the mountainside from the temple to the pavilion.

Before bed there was a visit to the bell pavilion, set amid carefully tended temple gardens alive with the buzz of cicadas. The Dharma drum, covered on opposite sides with the hide of a bull and a cow to symbolise the harmony of Yin and Yang, represents earth-bound beings. The massive bronze bell, rung 28 times every morning and 33 times in the evening, is said to sound like the voice of Buddha, with its deep-throated boom giving relief to tormented beings in hell. Greed is abhorrent – food is looked upon as merely the fuel to drive the body to support the discipline of faith. While the meal ceremony honours simple food, the Korean Da-do, or tea ceremony, is about enjoying life’s subtleties.
Tea is one of the six offerings to Buddha, along with incense, flowers, lanterns, fruit and rice.
You can also subscribe without commenting.Yes, please add me to your mailing list for your weekly digest! But these fake monks aren’t interested in edible alms; they’re looking for money, either directly or through a “donation” in exchange for a bracelet, prayer beads or a Buddha image. You can find one-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys, wild boars, hyenas, crocodiles and over 450 species of bird. A stroll through the grounds before bed revealed a shrine where monks prayed before a golden Buddha. It is brewed and drunk three times, with the ritual designed to bring out five distinct flavours – the tongue first tastes bitterness, followed by astringence, sourness, saltiness and sweetness. The Himalayan range extends to Nepal enriching its natural beauty with eight of the ten highest mountain peaks of the world.
It has five statues of Dhyani Buddhas that represent the five elements namely earth, water, air, fire and ether. Other animals also find here are leopards, wild elephants, pangolin, monitor lizards, pythons and the Royal Bengal Tigers.
You can see the belongings of the former kings, extensive gold paintings, chandeliers and tiger skin rugs in the palace museum.

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