Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang Wats

Luang Prabang   |   wats   |   waterfall

Laos photo.

August, 2004

Laos photo.
1. Buon Khao Phan Saa
Laos photo.
2. Wat Xieng Thong
Laos photo.
3. That Makmo
Laos photo.
4. Wat Aham

— Index —

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We arrived in Luang Prabang just in time for the Bhuddist festival of Boun Khao Phan Saa on the 1st of August. This is the beginning of the Bhuddist period of Lent, which lasts for 3 months. The day begins early with people preparing rice and other foods to give to the monks. Even though it was raining, the people came out onto the streets by 5:45 in the morning to give alms to the monks (see photo #1, at left). We went out to watch the proceedings, and saw over 200 monks and novices collecting alms from the people along the streets. The process was complicated, with the monks returning some food offerings even as they received food. There were young boys and girls who accompanied the monks to help carry all the food they gathered.

Luang Prabang is home to 32 traditional wats. Most of them were rebuilt after being destroyed by the Black Flag Haw in 1887. Wat Xieng Thong escaped the destruction and is the most magnificent of the city's wats. The major building (sim) was built in 1560, with other structures added over the years (photo #2). The temple is built on a bluff overlooking the Mekong River. The rear of the sim is decorted with a tree-of-life mosaic. There is also a funerary carriage house where the royal funeral carriage is stored.

Wat Wisunalat, like nearly all of the wats in Luang Prabang, was destroyed by the Black Flag Haw in 1887. It was originally made of wood, but was rebuilt with brick and stucco in the 1890s. It is perhaps best known for That Makmo (the watermelon stupa), located in front of the temple (photo #3). We found the rear of the main temple building being used as storage for a variety of Bhuddist artifacts in various states of disrepair, waiting to be renovated. This groups of teak Buddhas was particularly interesting.

There are many more wats in Luang Prabang, and one could spend days visiting them all. We saw other visitors who were very interested in the architecural and historic details of the wats, but we mostly just visited those we found particularly attractive. One such temple is Wat Aham which is small and seems largely deserted (photo #4). Many of the temples seem to be in need of maintenance. For example, we saw these novices gathered on the steps of Wat Pha Phutthabaht, whose brick walls are twisting and sagging. With 32 wats in a city of only 16,000 population, it is not surprising that some of them do not have the funds for needed repairs. On the other hand, we did see repair work being done at several temples.

Here are some more photos from the wats of Luang Prabang:

waiting  | monks  | giving alms  | stupa  | haw
Buddha  | That Makmo  | door  | bell


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
Website designed and created by Lois Richter, expanded by Jim.
Created 8/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.