Beautiful temple and Buddhist art
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.
Address: Setthathilath Rd (beside the Presidential Palace), Vientiane
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º36'40.2" E, 17º57'44.03" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 5,000 kip
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.
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