Wat Xieng Thong - Asia Travel & Leisure

Asia Travel & Leisure

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong is the most historic and enchanting Buddhist monastery in the entire country. It is also called “Temple of the Golden City” - a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture from the sixteen century, impressing visitors with its golden facades and mural paintings. The temple is one of the most important temples in Laos and was used for the highest royal ceremonies and to temporarily house the bodies of deceased kings.

Located near the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the temple compound alone is a delight to wander through, especially early in the morning before the tourist crowds descend on it.
Built in 1560 by King Setthathirat (who then promptly moved the capital of the Kingdom of a Million Elephants downriver to Vientiane), it remained in royal benefaction until 1975. Unlike most of temples in Luang Prabang, it was not razed by Chinese invader in the nineteenth century.
The sim (main building) is a wonderfully graceful building that dominates the monastery. It is thought to represent classic Luang Prabang architecture with its sweeping roofs. You need to stand at a distance to get a view of the roof, the temple’s most outstanding feature. Elegant lines curve and overlap, sweeping nearly to the ground, and evoke a bird with outstretched wings or, as the locals say, a mother hen sheltering her brood. The walls of the sim are decorated inside and out with stenciled gold motifs on a black or maroon background. As you enter the dimly lit temple and your eyes adjust to the lack of light, the gold-leaf patterns seem to float on the blackened walls.
A smaller adjoining building, houses a reclining Buddha created in classic Lao style - a rarity. Be sure to visit the chapel that has funeral hearses in it, you will also see the 10 meter high royal carriage, truly impressive.
During Lao New Year, lustral water is poured into a receptacle in the serpent’s tail and spouts from its mouth, bathing a Buddha image housed in a wooden pagoda-like structure situated near the altar. A drain in the floor of the pagoda channels the water through pipes under the floor of the sim and the water then pours from the mouth of a mirror-spangled elephant’s head located on the exterior wall.

Notes:
Open daily from 8AM - 5PM, all year around
Location: Northernmost tip of the peninsula, you can freely walk to there.
Entrance fee: Adult: 20,000 Kips = 2.5 dollars.

Highlights:
The best visiting time is in the early morning, especially you can take a great shot of a long queue of saffron-clad monks with their black Alms-giving bowls being given offerings from the local people.