Friday, September 3, 2010


Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique , remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two cultural traditions. 

The Royal Palace Museum is set back off the main street of Sisavangvong. It is located right at the center of the Heritage town.  It is directly across the Phu Si Hill. Its tall, swaying palm trees and elegant rooftop dominate the skyline. It is a beautiful museum to visit if you are trying to avoid the heat.

It is also known as the GOLDEN HALL or HAW KHAM. It was built in 1904. The Royal Palace was built in a combination of Lao and French styles. I really enjoyed wandering around the whole place although I was not allowed to take any photos inside the museum itself. I was intrigued to learn that the palace was specifically built on this site to allow tourists to gain entry to the palace. The palace museum contains royal religious artifacts and prized artwork.

The living quarters remain as they were when it was occupied by the royal family.  It is surprising how humble the royal family's quarters are. Although many locals believe that the palace is haunted by the spirits of the royal family.

In the compound of the Royal Palace is a large ornate pavillion ( which is under renovation at the moment ). The pavillion will house the Prabang standing Buddha image, which will be placed on a high throne within the hall. Currently, the Prabang Buddha along with many religious artifacts, is housed in the front wing of the Royal Palace Museum.

Also in the compound is a theater where performances are held four times a week at 6:30 pm. In front of the theater is a statue of King Sisavangvong.

Admission to the museum is 20,000 Kip. No photography is allowed inside the museum. You must leave your bag in lockers provided near the entrance and must also remove your shoes before entering the museum. Be sure to dress properly because when I was there ---- some tourists dressed in shorts and t-shirts were not allowed to enter the palace museum.

** WAT MAI **

Wat Mai is the biggest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang. The name Wat Mai stands for The New Monastery of the Golden Land.  It is located next door to the Royal Palace Museum.

 Every year during the Laotian New Year, the Pha Bang Buddha image is brought over from the Royal Palace Museum next door. Over a period of 3 days, the image is given ceremonial cleansing. It is an opportunity for the locals to pay homage to it.

An outstanding feature of Wat Mai is the walls of the front verandah. These recounts the scene of the Ramayana and the Buddha's incarnation. This verandah is supported by lacquered coloumns that are elaborately stenciled. Within the compound you can see the houses where the monks stay.

There is an entrance fee of 20,000 kip for foreigners to enter Wat Mai. Somehow they missed collecting this from me. Nobody was around to take it from me when I visited at that time and I wasn't aware of the entrance fee.


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