Gems of Luang Prabang: Wat Xieng Thong and Royal Palace
Luang Prabang offers laid back sightseeing and it is impossible to miss the Royal Palace, as it is just in the centre of the city, but with an abundance of beautiful Wats, make sure not to skip the oldest and most magnificent temples, Wat Xieng Thong.
Wat Xieng Thong means temple of the golden city and although it is not nearly as gold coloured as Vientiane’s stunning stupa, it compensates and shines in detail. It is part of a complex which includes the main temple in typical Lao architecture, surrounded by a few small shrines and a royal barge building to store ceremonial boats, built in 1580 by King Setthathirath.
As we went in the evening (at around 6pm) there was no admission fee to be paid (although during the day there is) but the best happening was our chance to attend a monks’ mass, to see Lao monks drumming and chanting. My most memorable experience in Luang Prabang (which I recorded and will share here)!
I got to admit that unforgettable to me was not only the captivating Buddhist proceedings but two dogs that came at the exact time of the gathering – as if to spend time close to friendly people, the monks. One dog in particular reminded me of our beagle Bella who had the adorable habit of informing us about unusual things going on, with particular beagle style howling-singing. So sweet!
The most beautiful Wat in Laos and very distinguishable from all other Buddhist temples I have seen all over Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam.
The temple is located at the end of the narrow peninsula, across the Mekong river.
The temple stands out due to the use of shiny coloured tiles.
Particularly poetic is the blue eyed elephant head coming out from the side of the temple.
Fantastic mirror mosaic decoration!
Tomek and Dasza.
Tomek and Dasza and Monk.
Temple back side. A feast for the eyes.
I did marvel at the paintings on the outside walls created with lots of gold and classic decorations on a unique black background.
Impressive sweeping roofs.
A graceful tree of life.
The smaller temples were decorated with glass tiled pictures, portraying ancient lifestyle.
I had to look carefully to depict the stories made of the glass mosaic on purple walls.
Locals leave offerings in order to keep spirits of the deceased satisfied. The rice balls almost blend into the temple facade.
At first, I didn’t notice the tiny rice clumps at all.
But once I spotted them, they appeared everywhere.
Don’t eat the rice away or the spirits will engage in mischief and haunt locals.
Tomek gave me a golden crown – if only temporary.
Dear tourists, if you only have time for one temple, make it this one!
The temple dogs. There are many loveable stray dogs in Luang Prabang. Make sure to buy some food for those frisky creatures in need. These two came just right on time as the monks started their prayers.
I am just here for the chanting!
I so wanted to take that fluffy being with me!
Apart from the dogs, I was awed by the architecture and lush ornamentation of the prayer hall.
Watch the monks (and dogs!) in action.
The dominating sight in Luang Prabang is the Royal Palace right in the centre of the city. The former king’s palace is the National Museum today.
The museum is build with features of European and Asian temple architecture and houses a collection of royal and religious artefacts. The main attraction is the 14th century ‘Pha Bang’ Buddha statue, from which the city derives its name. Be sure to find it, as it is located not inside the museum but to the right, along the palace’s veranda in a small room, before you actually enter the building with the main exhibition.
The museum has strict regulations regarding dress and photography.
Admission: 30.000 kip.
You have to leave your bag and camera in the locker room.
Do not play knight on temple grounds, (Ross!).
Imposing museum entrance.
Impressive temple next to the palace.
My umbrella shields off the sun and a corner of the picture.
Red and gold decor inside.
Tomek: “Do sit up straight!” Dasza: “Like how?”
There is the dance theatre right next to the palace pond. We were going to see a show but performances were being cancelled every time we went – although every time they announced there would be one the next day. Rainy season brings an unpredictable amount of an audience, I guess.
Royal Palace complex from outside.
Luang Prabang’s shopping highlight is right there, too. Every night, the colourful night market with local handicrafts opens at the street in front of the palace.
No way to get bored in this small but charming city of Laos!