Also known as the National Museum or Haw Kham (Golden Hall), this ornate residence was built between 1904 and 1909 as a new home for King Sisavangvong after the previous royal digs were destroyed during the Black Flag attack.
Construction took place during Laos' French period and the architecture reflects a fusion of the two countries' very distinctive styles.
When the Lao monarchy was overthrown in 1975 by the Communist party, the residence became a museum and has remained in that role since. Rooms that once functioned as royal reception areas now form the main galleries and are filled with royal portraits and busts, religious artifacts, gifts from foreign states, and the palace's most prized piece, the Phra Bang. This 50-kilogram golden Buddha is the city's namesake and is believed to have been constructed in 1st century AD in Sri Lanka. It changed hands between Cambodia and Thailand before settling in Laos. Continuing past the front galleries leads to the Throne Room, site of the Lao Crown Jewels and other interesting items like the King's elephant saddle. Past the throne room are the royal bedrooms, dining room, and music room, with many rooms in the exact same state as when the royals were forced to flee in 1975.
In addition to the palace, one or two special exhibits are usually on display. Recent ones include an exhibition of the royal family's car collection and work by young Lao photographers.
Even if you don't enter the museum, the palace grounds are deserving of a stroll and feature a lotus pond, statue of King Sisavangvong, and an under-construction temple that is ultimately planned to house the Phra Bang. Entry to the museum grounds is free, but admission is collected when entering the palace building. All bags and cameras must be stored in lockers while touring the palace buildings and respectable dress is required, meaning knees and shoulders must be covered.
Also on palace grounds, the Royal Ballet Theatre presents occasional performances of the epic Ramayana story and traditional Lao dance. During our high season visit shows were performed at 18:00 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with ticket prices ranging from $8 to $20 (also payable in kip or baht). Stop by for the latest schedules and details on the story being performed. Entry is at the main gate, then turn left.
Last updated on 9th April, 2010.