Photo: The eaves of Wat Visounnarath.

Wat Visounnarath and Wat Aham

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Wat Aham and Wat Visounnarath (Visoun) occupy a spacious corner at the intersection of Phommathat and Visounnarath Road, but the complex is probably best known for Wat That Makmo, literally the “watermelon stupa” because of its distinctive rounded shape.





Wat Visounnarath was named after King Visounnarath—it was under his reign that the temple was constructed in 1503-4. Records suggest that the original was ornate and spectacular, and legend has it some 4,000 trees were used to complete its construction. The dozen pillars that supported the interior were each 30 metres tall and the building’s exterior was made entirely of wood. The golden Pra Bang Buddha statue, Laos’ most important sacred relic, was kept here from 1513 to 1707.

Peering inside Wat Visounnarath. Photo taken in or around Wat Visounnarath and Wat Aham, Luang Prabang, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Peering inside Wat Visounnarath. Photo: Cindy Fan

The impressive scale of the temple didn’t sway the Black Flag Army, Chinese invaders who raided and razed it to the ground in 1887. The temple was rebuilt in 1898.

Neighbouring That Pathum (Stupa of the Great Lotus) has a similar story. The stupa, better known as That Makmo for its watermelon shaped top, was also built in 1503-4, this time by Queen Visounnarath. Then those pesky Chinese marauders came, stole the Buddha images that were inside and destroyed it. The 1898 rebuild didn’t last long as it was struck by lightning in 1914, revealing a treasure trove of Buddha images which are now at the Royal Palace museum. What you see is a result of restoration done in 1932.

Now that is a watermelon. Photo taken in or around Wat Visounnarath and Wat Aham, Luang Prabang, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Now that is a watermelon. Photo: Cindy Fan

Today, That Makmo stands 35 metres high and has a lovely patina but the whole thing is crumbling and in dire need of the repairs that were approved in 2017. Reconstruction and preservation will be done with the help of experts. Hopefully that will include the archway that connects Wat Visounnarath with Wat Aham, one of the oldest archways in ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Wat Visounnarath and Wat Aham
Intersection of Phommathat and Visounnarath Road, Luang Prabang

Location map for Wat Visounnarath and Wat Aham

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