LUANG PRABANG PAGODAS & MUSEUMS
With the strong influence of Buddhism in lifestyle and culture, Laos is the country with thousands of temples (wat). Coming to Luang Prabang, tourists will have a city tour to visit temples and museums which are unique and remarked with Lao styles and architecture.
It is a river port on the Mekong River and 210 kilometers upstream of Vientiane. Luang Prabang was the ancient royal capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1545. In 1995, UNESCO listed this ancient the World Heritage sites. Currently, Luang Prabang has become Lao most attractive tourist destination. This town is the heart of Lao culture and tourism with a lot of temples such as Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Mai, Wat That and Wat Tchoum Khong. We will provide the general information about these culture heritages for you in order not to miss the interesting destinations in this beautiful ancient city.
1. Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang (also known as “Haw Kham” or “Golden Hall”) was once Laos’ Royal Palace. It was built in 1904 for King Sisavang Vong and his family. Situated on Thanon Sisavangvong in the city centre and just opposite the steps leading up to Mount Phousi, 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. Also in the compound is a building that houses the royal car collection. It’s a small collection, mostly American cars from the 1950s to 1970s. Behind the garages is another building which has a gallery for rotating exhibitions.
The palace building can be visualised in 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. 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.
Opening hours and entrance fee to the Royal Palace Museum
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 08:00 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 16:00 (except Tuesday).
Admission fee: 10,000 Kip (about US$1.25).
How to go to Royal Palace Museum
It is easy to walk to the museum from anywhere in downtown Luang Prabang, or you can go by rented bicycle or motorcycle or in a taxi or tuk-tuk.
Recommendations for the Royal Palace Museum
– No photography is allowed inside the museum.
– No bags allowed, so you must leave yours in lockers provided near the entrance.
– Shoes must be removed before entering the museum.
– Dress conservatively. Women with short shorts or skirts are required to put on a Lao skirt before entering (Lao skirts are available for hire on spot).
– The best time to visit to avoid tourist trap is early in the morning. Drama or dance performances are usually held several evenings a week at the National Theatre next door.
2. Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang is famous for Buddhist temples of outstanding beauty, especially with Wat Xieng Thong. It is a perfect example of Laos’ iconic religious architecture with its low swooping, double-tiered roof, and the impressive interior of its monastery. This magnificent masterpiece is characteristic of the Luang Prabang style and features an elaborate tree of life mosaic, intricately carved walls, rare Buddhist deities and a 12-metre high funeral carriage.
The original temple was created in 1560 under the royal instruction of King Setthathirath and narrowly missed invasion on several occasions, nevertheless time took hold and much-needed remodelling took place during the 1960s. The temple remains in its original form with repairs undertaken to the roof, and gold leaf gilding and gold lacquering restoration added to the walls and entrance.
Nestled along the banks of Nam Khan River, Wat Xieng Thong was once an importance gateway to Luang Prabang, and often served as the entry point for royalty and even the location of kingly coronations in days’ past. Not only a home to the majestic rulers of Laos, this site is known as the location for the coronation of Lao kings and as an important gathering place for significant annual festivities and celebrations.
Opening Hours: Daily from 08:00-17:00
Recommendations for the Wat Xieng Thong
– Sunglasses should be removed and bare shoulders and legs should be covered.
– There is a small entrance fee.
– There is traditional sarong to hire if they need to.
– Souvenirs can be found in the area close to the temple entrance.
3. Wat Mai
Wat Mai is one of the most attractive and revered wats in Laos. It is located next to the night market and the Royal Palace puts it right along the trail for visitors, but its popularity is well-earned.
Called the New Monastery, it is important to Laotians. Although, Chinese invaders destroyed it many centuries ago, Wat Mai was eventually restored to become the residence of the highest Buddhist dignitary in Laos. Today, Wat Mai is the central location for pious pilgrims who travel to the wat for the Lao New Year. Visitors will have a chance to see the Pha Bang, an ancient Buddha statue after which Luang Prabang is named during the celebration.
4. Wat That
Wat That is a central point for Laotian religious culture. A beautifully ornate and distinguished temple surrounded by a garden, Wat That is now home to many yearly festivities to honour Buddha. During Pimay, or Laotian New Year, venerable monks descend upon Wat That for religious and cultural ceremonies as well.
There are two large stupas on the grounds. The golden funerary stupa in front of the sim contains the ashes of the popular and last crowned Laotian king, Sisivang Vong (1904 -1959). It is the site of annual memorial commemorations. The Grand Stupa, which towers over the rear of the sim, dates from 1818 and is said to contain relics of the Buddha.
The Wat also contains many smaller stupas that contain ashes of kings, other members of the royal family and a variety of other dignitaries. The wat has one of the city’s larger communities of monks and novices, and there are a lot of traditionally styled living quarters on the grounds.
5. Wat Tchoum Khong
Wat Tchoum Khong which means ’Temple with the heart of a Gong was founded by Phakhu Keo in 1843, during the reign of King Sukaseum (1836-1851). It was restored in 1933 and 1951, and its decoration was entirely remade in 1962.
Located in the middle of the Luang Prabang peninsula, Wat Tchoum Khong is close to the cultural centre of the city, and around its exterior is most commercial and tourism activities in town. Despite its urban surroundings, Wat Tchoum Khong is remarkably peaceful, and is a popular stop for travellers relax.
The wat shares a common wall with Wat Xieng Mouane, and the two monasteries share a similar pattern of pillars and facades. There is a double-sectioned roof divided at the point of the tallest front columns; the roof lacks the common ornamental dok so fa on the ridgepole.
There is a single stairway in the centre of the veranda and one on each of its lateral sides. The facade has an elaborately carved wooden lambrequin beneath the finely designed and carved central tympanum; two additional carved lambrequins on the facade frame the entry doors on either side of the main door.
The grounds of the wat are quite attractive with considerable flora in both container and in-ground plantings. There is a fine well-delineated garden area with gilded statues, stupas, a drum tower, and chapel.
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