One of Luang Prabang’s most photographed temples
Centrally located on Sisavangvong Road and an important site during the annual Pimai Lao festival, Wat Mai is one of Luang Prabang’s most photographed temples.
Founded at the end of the 18th century, construction, additions and expansions of this temple beside the Royal Palace meant it wasn’t finished until the late 1890s (the temple was spared during the Black Flag attack).
Further structures were added to the compound through the 20th century, with the latest renovations completed in the early 1960s. The sim is the highlight, with its five-tiered roof extending protection over the spectacular gilded bas relief depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the life story of the Buddha.
Wat Mai once housed Luang Prabang’s most valuable artefact, the Phra Bang: an 83-centimetre tall, 50-kilogram, mostly golden Buddha statue. In 1947 it was shifted to the Royal Palace Museum (or duplicated, with the original shifted to a vault in Vientiane or Moscow, depending on your penchant for conspiracies).
Every year during the Pimai Lao festival, the Phra Bang is carried from the museum to Wat Mai, ceremonially washed and displayed out front for three days. Otherwise, a different large golden Buddha sits on an altar inside the sim.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Luang Prabang