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Luang Prabang city 360° virtual tour

Luang Prabang is a city located in north central Laos, on the Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane, the present capital Laos. Name of the city means literally: Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra). Luang Prabang used to be the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos before 1975. This culturally rich city has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995.

1. What to see

Although it has got natural sites, but the real attraction are the numerous monasteries (wats) and the French colonial buildings lining the streets.

 

1.1. Royal Palace

The Royal Palace was built in 1904 during the early French colonial era as a residence for King Sisavang Vong (1885-1959) and his family. Its site was chosen so that official visitors to Luang Prabang could disembark from their river voyages directly below the palace and be received there. Architecture of the palace is a mixture of  traditional Lao motifs and French Beaux Arts styles. After the death of King Sisavang Vong, the crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family were the last to occupy the grounds. With the end of the monarchy in 1975, the palace was converted into a museum.

Above the entrance of the building is a three-headed elephant sheltered by the sacred white parasol, the symbol of the Lao monarchy. The steps to the entrance are made of Italian marble.

1.2. Wat Ho Pha Bang

Wat Ho Pha Bang is a hall built in 1993 following pre-1975 plans to house the famous Pha Bang Buddha statue, cast around the 1st century AD in Sri Lanka according to the legend. This highly revered 83cm tall Buddha statue is a cast of a gold, silver and bronze alloy, and is said to weigh 53.4kg. Legend says that it was presented to Khmer King Phaya Sirichantha, who in turn gave it to King Fa Ngum in 1359 as a legitimization of Lao sovereignty.

1.3. Wat Pa Huak

Wat Pa Huak, meaning “the Monastery of the Bamboo Forest“ was founded during the reign of King Chantharath (1850-1872) , in 1861.

It is worth having a look at the ordination hall of the decaying monastery when following the way from Royal Palace up to Mount Phu Si. The neglected carved wood and mosaic facade shows Buddha riding Airavata, the three-headed elephant, carrier of Indra in Hindu mythology. Inside there are 19th century murals depicting historic scenes like visits of Chinese, European, Persian diplomats and warriors arriving by river and horse caravans.

1.4. Mount Phu Si

There is an excellent panoramic view of the entire city from the top of the 100m high Mount Phu Si. Present temple was recently constructed, but it is possible that and old also temple stood here.

1.5. Wat Sene

Wat Sene built in 1714 is one of the most beautiful monasteries of Luang Prabang with its fine gold stencilling applied to the outer walls. Legend has it that cash for building it came from a lucky find in the waters of the nearby Khan River. It was restored 1957 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's death and achievement of nirvana.

1.6. Wat Sop

Wat Sop belongs to a chain of small wats and is located along the main road, just next to Wat Sene. It was King Theng Kham (1479-86) to build Wat Sop in order to commemorate the death of his father. The 15th century monastery has been rebuilt a few times since then, the last major extension of the ordination hall (sim) was in the 1950s. Sights include a colorful turquoise, green and gold stupa in front of the sim.

1.7. Wat Si Boun Houang

Compared to most monasteries of Luang Prabang that were rebuilt in the 1950s, the 18th century monastery of Wat Si Boun Houang was last renovated only at the beginning of the 20th century. It features a rather small ordination hall (sim) with 4 columns topped with lotus petal capitals supporting a low sweeping roof. The gable is decorated with dharma wheel images.

1.8. Wat Khili

The recently restored Wat Khili (Wat Souvanna Khili) was built in 1779 by Chao Kham Sattha, a prince from Xieng Khouang.  Its style reminds us of temples found in the mountains close to the Plain of Jars in Xieng Kouang province where he came from. The ordination hall (sim), featuring a single nave and a porch, is located behind the white-colored building. Exterior of the hall is painted in red and decorated with large gold dharma wheel symbols.

1.9. Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries, definitely the most significant temple in Luang Prabang, a monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional style of a fascinating city. It consists of more than twenty structures on the grounds including shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.

Click here to read more about this monastery!

2. Location
3. Where to stay

There are plenty of hotels to select from in Luang Prabang. Just to name a few of the renovated mansions that were converted into hotels: Villa Santi Hotel, Mekong River View Hotel, Sayo River Guest House and finally our selection, Phousi Guesthouse. Each of them has numerous reasons why to stay there: Villa Santi is just on the major road connecting Wat Xieng Thong  with the royal palace, Mekong River View and Sayo River Guest House face river Mekong, Phousi Guesthouse is very close to the royal palace in a side street.


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