“It’s brave to ask ‘what if’, but it’s braver to embrace ‘what is’. You, and only you, are my ‘what is’.” — Popoy
When in Luang Prabang, there are no what ifs, no what is nor what will be…just brace yourself for a lot of Wats.
The Wats or sometimes spelled as Vats are located close to each other that it’s easy enough to explore Luang Prabang’s temples in a span of two days.
Just a reminder, when visiting temples, men and women should dress conservatively, in respect of Laotian traditions. Footwear should also be taken off before entering the temples. Hence, shoes that can easily be removed are recommended as you will be doing this each time you enter a temple.
This temple at Chao Fa Ngum Road is the closest to our guesthouse, and hence, is our first stop in our temple run. The temple’s outside walls are covered with murals depicting scenes from Ramayana.
The tiled tables and chairs are characteristic of Luang Prabang monasteries
Wat May Souvannapoumaram
Just next to the Royal Garden Palace is Wat May Souvannapoumaram (looks like a close contender to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious). Don’t worry remembering the name, you can call her Wat May for short. The compound where the temple sits is large. Other structures inside are a small stupa, chapels, a manuscript preservation center, and monks’ quarters.
The walls of the temple are decorated with carvings covered with gold leaf, depicting images of Buddha.
The principal Buddha image
An eye-catching small emerald Buddha statue at the center of the “subordinate” Buddhas
Some Buddhism quotes to ponder on
Haw Pha Bang
The Haw Pha Bang is inside the Royal Palace compound. It houses the Pha Bang Buddha, which is said to have been the image, offered by Cambodia, used to spread Theravada Buddhism in Luang Prabang. I have posted more photos of the Haw Pha Bang in my previous blog.
Wat Xieng Thong Ratsavoravihanh
Wat Xieng Thong is definitely the most ornate of the temples I’ve visited in Luang Prabang.
We need some space, sometimes
Long boat used during boat racing festival
The colorful mirror mosaics covering the top of the stupa glitters as light hits through it…not in this photo, but in real life, it does, promise!
Intricate gold stencils against the black wall of Wat Xieng Thong
OMB!!! (Oh my Buddha!)
And look at those wall of art!
The temple’s back wall is adorned with colorful mosaic of the tree of life. A mosaic image of Buddha can be seen on the top of the tree, as I stand in awe in front of this amazing work of art.
Next to the temple’s sim are two other chapels with similarly decorated colorful mirror mosaics.
Mosaics depicting people in their daily activities. You have to see these mosaics in person. The photos do not give justice as to how fascinating they really are.
Peeking through a key hole from outside a closed temple at the back of Wat May
Wat Xiengleck can be reached by crossing the bamboo bridge near the point of confluence between Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.
This temple is near the tip of the peninsula on Sakkaline Road. We saw students sitting in a row outside the temple when we passed by. They seem to be engrossed in doing sketches.
The right building is the monks’ quarters, one example of colonial-style buildings in Luang Prabang
Wat Si Boun Heuang
Wat Si Boun Heuang is one of the many temples located close to each other along Sakkhaline Road. As I walked through the temple grounds, I found books and scribbles (photo below) left by a monk on the blue-tiled table at the side of the entrance. I was surprised to find markings of algebra equations as I looked closer. Being a monk is much tougher than I thought.
After taking a look at the Buddha inside, I saw the young monk return to his table, gave me a smile, signaled him if I can take a photo, he nodded and then I snapped.
Wat Sirimoungkoun Sayaram
Also along the Sakkaline Road, the temple has a number of adjacent quarters (or is it a school?) for the monks.
Spying the young monks
Wat Sop Sickharam
The friendliest of all the temples….wat sop?!
Honestly, it took me a while identifying which is which and verifying each of the temples along this road because these are clustered together that we parked our bicycles somewhere close to one end and then walked our way to the temples. I snapped the signs with their names for each temple, but as I went back to where I parked, I also took shots along the way as I saw the bright orange-cloaked monks outside and other areas I haven’t noticed the first time. Add to that the long names of the temples which look to me as jumbled letters in a game of What’s the Word.
Okay, going back, also along Sakkhaline Road is Wat Sensoukharam or Temple of a Thousand Treasures. I find the red roof and walls of this temple and the monasteries around it very remarkable.
The gold stencils on the red wall made me stop and stare
Vat Nong Sikhounmuang
Vat Nong Sikhounmuang is on Khounxoa Road, the street parallel to the road along the Mekong River. The temple has a touch of Thai temple design because restoration of the temple was carried out by the Thais after it has been burnt.
Also called Wat Pa Phai, this temple located between Sakkhaline and Khounxoa Roads, means Monastery of the Bamboo Forest.
Real dogs guarding the temple entrance
Vat Choum Khong Sourintharame
The temple’s name is translated as the Monastery of the Core of the Gong. The distinct feature of this temple is the two Chinese figurines serving as guards at the entrance. Unfortunately, the temple door was closed due to some restoration. Likewise, unlike other temples, there are “un-housed” Buddha statues around the temple grounds.
Wat Xieng Mouane Vajiramangalaram
Adjacent to Wat Choum Khong is Wat Xieng Mouane. The compound where both temples are found is one street apart from the Royal Palace compound. What I love about this temple is that it is surrounded by thick canopies in its background, giving this area shade and fresh air. The exterior walls are richly painted with scenes depicting the life of Buddha.
With financial support from UNESCO, and the Department of Information, Culture and Tourism being supported by the Stavro Niachos Foundation of Greece, the monks’ quarters had been developed into a training center for novice monks with the intention of reviving traditional Lao artistic skills, particularly on mural painting, woodcarving and bronze casting.
Photos of novice monks while honing their artistic skills
Wat Pahouak is at the right after going up the first level of stairs from the entrance to Phousi Hill, opposite the Royal Palace. A sign beside the temple indicates that the painting on the wall inside this temple was built in 1860. Despite its deserted-feel, I find that the murals gave this temple a spot in my memory after two days of Laotian temple overload.
That Chomsi is located at the top of Phousi Hill. It’s a small stupa and not like the ornately decorated temples on the ground, but the locals definitely give this temple reverence. Most foreign visitors would just take a quick peek of this temple and would be more absorbed taking in the views at the top of the hill. Well, as Miley Cyrus sang, “It’s the climb!”
Templed-out already? Hehe. Let’s continue with Wat Thammothayaram. It’s located a few steps uphill at the Nam Khan side of the climb to Phou Si Hill. What makes this temple interesting are the rock formations intersecting the temple’s roof. Beneath is also a small dark cave with smaller Buddha statues and a statue of what looks like an ermitanyo (hermit) to me.
Finally, a temple with an unforgettable name! Aham lang talaga ha? The temple is small but the colorful paintings depicting scenes from Jataka, stories about the previous lives of the Buddha, are remarkable.
Metal crafts for souvenirs
Wat Wisunalat or Visounnarath
I remember just crossing a gateway while still within the compound of Wat Aham, and I found another temple called Wat Wisunalat or Visounnarath or call him by his nickname, Visoun.
Wat Visoun is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple. The roof was under restoration when we visited, but I managed to get a glimpse of the large Buddha inside. One more step and they’ll charge me with 20,000 kips entrance fee.
That’s it! Nineteen (19) wats out of 34 in two days. Have you been to Luang Prabang temples? How many temples have you gone to?
Traveled December 2015