Photo: Marigolds for offerings.

The temples of Luang Prabang

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Life in Laos revolves around the temple and Luang Prabang is especially renowned for its spiritual aura, no doubt partly due to the 34 UNESCO-protected wats, all located within a compact town centre.





What makes these sacred structures so remarkable is that they are not relics or museums, but rather living, working institutions. They remain home to more than 1,000 novices and monks continuing ancient Buddhist studies and monastic rule.

Mosaic detail at Wat Xieng Thong. Photo taken in or around The temples of Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Mosaic detail at Wat Xieng Thong. Photo: Cindy Fan

For many young boys in Laos, the temple is their only opportunity to receive an education when their family can’t afford the costs associated even with public school. Often coming from poor rural villages throughout the north, boys as young as seven can receive acceptance to a temple and free education (usually sponsored by the temple). The life of a novice is not an easy one. They leave their home and families knowing it could be years before being reunited, and travel a long way to live in a big modern town. The shared accommodation is very basic, to be endured during Luang Prabang’s extreme temperatures — brutally hot some months, bitterly cold in others. The day begins before dawn, temple drums heralding the start of morning meditation and chanting. Once completed, they walk through the street collecting morning alms (usually sticky rice) from villagers — and busloads of photo-snapping tourists. The day is spent in studies and chores. Lunch is their final meal of the day. At 16:00, the drums sound once more to call all to evening prayers. There is no day off or summer holiday from ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Luang Prabang? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.


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