Sunday, September 5, 2010

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS- ( Part 8 ) Temples of Luang Prabang

Visitors to Luang Prabang are usually struck by the serene, tranquil nature of this idyllic Laos town. Luang Prabang is so small and compact in fact, it is almost absurd to call it a city. The town is a lovely place to take a leisurely walk and soak up the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds you. No cough-inducing fumes, traffic jams or the unsightly presence of fast food franchises to ruin the landscape, just lots of French style architecture and tons of monks.

The wat is a photographer's dream, there is so much that beckons the eye, and one has to be quick to take advantage when a monk goes walking by. For me there is a timeless quality that is reinforced by not being able to see the monk's face. I think a photo leaves a lot to the imagination....

The temple structure in Luang Prabang contrasts to the southern Lao and Thai styles. The sweeping tiers of the multiple overlapping " saddle " roofs spread nearly to the ground. The most impressive example is the Wat Xieng Thong. The building is lavishly decorated with mosaics of tiny red, green and blue mirrors on a gilded background. 

There are a few customs to consider when visiting the temples or wats of Luang Prabang. First, always remove your shoes upon entering the temple. There will usually be a sign, but it general, take them off before going up the last few steps. Monks are not permitted to touch women, so female travelers should NEVER TRY TO SHAKE HANDS or pass something directly to the monk. The feet are considered the lowliest part of the body, so take care not to point your foot at any Buddha image. Finally, dress modestly on your visits to the temple. Short shorts or skirts will cause stares or possibly offense to the monks.

Since this is my last day in Luang Prabang --- Oskie and I decided to go and see the temples... I chose 3 of the oldest temples found in Luang Prabang .. which are:


This temple is one of the magnificent temples in Luang Prabang. It was constructed in 1560, and is one of the oldest temples in the area.

As I entered the dimly lit temple --- I found an elaborately designed interiors. The Golden Buddha looked so elegant as it was framed by two wooden columns heading up into the ceiling where you can see several stencil designs in gold.

At the back of the temple was a beautiful ceramic mosaic illustration of the tree of life. This ceramic masterpiece was done in 1950 to celebrate the 2500th Celebration of Buddha's Nirvana. The tree of life is very unique since it illustrates a story of a local hero from the novel, SIAW SAWAT.

Just beside the main temple of Xieng Thong was the RED CHAPEL -- which had an elaborate facade. This chapel was said to hold a rare reclining Buddha that dates back to when the main temple was built. Unfortunately that day I went there-- the chapel was closed and I was not able to see it.

Opposite the temple was the FUNERARY CARRIAGE HOUSE. Inside I saw a large carriage like a boat which was said to have been  designed by local artisans.

On one side of the house -- it had urns which holds the ashes of the royal family except for King Sisavanvong , the Queen and his brother. There were a lot of old Buddha statues , glass cabinets and other images inside the house.


This temple was originally built in 1513 and is said to be the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang. It has been witness to historical events like the invasion of the Black Flag Raiders.

Just behind the temple stands That Makmo ( otherwise known as the Watermelon Stupa ) because of its shape. The construction of this stupa started in 1503 and was finished in 19 months. The last reconstruction done to the stupa was in 1932. It used to house important Haw Buddha images and other sacred items. These images are not on display at the Royal Palace Museum.

A few meters away was WAT AHAM...  which houses the town's most important spirit shrines. This temple is also known as the former residence of the Sangkharat, the supreme patriarch of Lao Buddhism.


This temple was called on to honour a ceremony which took place in 1548. It was constructed at the beginning of the 17th century. It was destroyed in 1900 during a violent storm and was reconstructed in the colonial period. The simple style of this monastery is no different from the numerous temples in Luang Prabang.

There are " NAGAS " ( or water snakes ) which protects the entrance to the temple.

The People's Democratic Republic of Laos ( PDR ) had already impressed me. The sense of community, the warmness of the people, and their loyalty. I could observe friends and family members helping each other out, caring for each other and socializing everywhere. It seemed to me that the people of laos really took time to enjoy small and simple things in life... like relaxing under a crimson sunset or watching the consistent calm flow of the Mekong River.

There are more things to do in Luang Prabang which I was not able to do.... these are:

** Attend a Lao cooking and stencil class.

** Climb up the Phou Si Mountain to get a panoramic view of Luang Prabang and maybe the most beautiful sunrise and sunset. When I heard it was 320 steps just going up one way---- I decided not to even try it!!

** and white water rafting.

On to our next adventure in Changmai........

SOK DEE DER LUANG PRABANG..... Till we meet again !!!

1 comment:

  1. beautiful wat... what i will never forget is the chanting at dusk. so soothing, after a warm, hectic day...