ROYAL PALACE MUSEUM LUANG PRABANG
The former Royal Palace Museum (official name “Haw Kham”) located in Luang Prabang, Laos. It was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family, the name Haw Kham means “Golden Palace”. Now it turns into a museum, facing the sacred Mount Phousi on the banks of the Mekong river. The royal apartments have been faithfully preserved, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyle of the king and his family.
The palace compounds several buildings including the Royal Barge Shelter, a conference hall, and Haw Pha Bang (an ornate pavilion) that houses the standing Buddha statue called Prabang (or “Pra Bang”, “Prabang”, “Phabang”, “Phra Bang”, and “Pha Bang”).
The statue is an 83 cm-high standing Buddha with palms facing forward, cast using thong a mixture of bronze, gold, and silver. A local lore suggests that it was cast in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) sometime between the 1st and 9th century. Nevertheless, the story shown in the picture suggest a much later Khmer origin.
Also in the compound is a building that houses the royal car collection. Despite being a small collection, it is still valuable. Most of them are American cars from the 1950s to 1970s. The five-piece Royal Palace Car Collection includes two 1960s Lincoln Continentals, a rare wing-edged 1958 Edsel Citation and a dilapidated Citroën DS. Plus a wooden speedboat the king used to take upriver to visit his vegetable garden.
The palace building has three main parts: The front wing, consisting of reception areas; the throne hall (in the middle); and the back wing that was once residential area of the royal family. Nowadays it is a museum with exhibit stretching back several centuries to trace the turbulent past of the Lane Xang kingdom and the colonial era.
The front wing
At the right of the entrance, King’s hall appears displaying busts and paintings of the Lao monarchy. Next to that, there are two large gilded and lacquered Ramayana screens.
Visitors can walk through an airy path lined with many palm trees to the main entrance of the exhibition rooms. The entrance hall features a number of Buddha images, and a golden throne used by the Supreme Patriarch of Lao Buddhism.
The throne hall
The throne hall connects the reception wing with the residential wing where the royal family’s bedrooms and living quarter were. The walls of the room displays extraodinary design skills with cut mirrored tile mosaics similar to those in the oldest temple in town, Wat Xieng Thong.
Throne Room is a red-walled building decorated with glass mosaics and a carved howdah, a kind of seat on the back of an elephant.
The Back Wing (residential area)
The back wing was was the place where the royal family lived and includes bedrooms, a dining room, a library and a music and dance exhibits area displaying Lao classical instruments and masks.
The Palace, especially residential area, has been preserved well as it was in 1975 before the royal family departed.
Opening hours and entry charge:
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 08:00 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 16:00 (except Tuesday).
Admission fee: 30,000 Kip (about US$3.75, see Lao currency Kip).
How to go to Royal Palace Museum
It is easy to walk to the museum from anywhere in downtown Luang Prabang. Another option is to go by rented bicycle, motorcycle or in a taxi or tuk-tuk.
Recommendations for the Royal Palace Museum
– Taking photos is forbiden inside the palace.
– No bags allowed. You should be leaving your bags in entrance lockers.
– Take off shoes before entering the museum.
– Women should wear Lao skirts instead of shorts or skirts before entering. Lao skirts are available for hire on spot. Men should dress conservatively.
– The best time to visit to avoid tourist trap is early in the morning. There are drama or dance performances several evenings a week at the National Theatre next door.