Wat Ho Phra Kaew

Beautiful temple and Buddhist art



Photo of Wat Ho Phra Kaew, , Vientiane

What we say: 4 stars

This 1565-built temple is named after the sacred image it once housed, the Phra Kaew or Emerald Buddha, a 66 centimetre statue carved from a single jade stone. Along with the Pra Bang (Luang Prabang’s namesake Buddha statue), the two images were believed to be inhabited by spirits and very powerful.

When King Setthathirat moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, he built Wat Ho Phra Kaew as a personal place of worship for the royal family and to enshrine the Emerald Buddha. Alas, it was looted by Siam in 1778 and taken to Bangkok where it remains to this day, at the Grand Palace in a temple of the same name. It’s a potent political symbol and a religious symbol of protection for Thailand -- and it’s still a sore spot for Laos, who want it returned. As explained to us very passionately by a local, the Phra Keo is the reason Laos could only ever consider Thailand a friend, not a brother.

So the Emerald Buddha is gone but the temple-museum is definitely worth the visit for its beautiful collection of Buddhist artefacts, the most extensive collection in the country. When Hillary Clinton made her historic visit in 2012 as the first US Secretary of State to visit Laos in over five decades, the widely circulated photo of her making an offering to a Buddha was taken at Wat Ho Phra Kaew.

Like all religious and cultural sights in Laos, modest attire is required. No bare shoulders or thighs.

Note: As of July 2015, the building is undergoing badly needed restoration work (the last restoration took place from 1936 to 1942). Visitors can enter the grounds but the inside is closed. Officially, repairs are scheduled to be completed at the end of 2015.

More details
Setthathilath Rd (beside the Presidential Palace), Vientiane
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-12:00, 13:00-16:00
Last updated: 26th July, 2015

About the author:
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer & photographer living in Laos since 2011. She's the author of So Many Miles, her blog about diving in, discovering and creating a narrative about the world, one story and adventure at a time.
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Wat Ho Phra Kaew
Setthathilath Rd (beside the Presidential Palace), Vientiane
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Sights in Vientiane