Picture of the week (No.33): Tourist attractions of Luang Prabang (Laos). Share
Each week (actually currently 1 or 2 times a month), Willgoto selects here a nice picture. The tourist attractions of Luang Prabang (Laos) and, among others, Wat Xieng Thong are the theme of the thirty-third picture of this series. Wat Xieng Thong is indeed representative of the religious architectural style of Luang Prabang.
Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang in Laos.
The country. Laos is a Southeast Asian country located between Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east. With each of these two countries, it shares a border of about 1900 km. Its neighbors are Myanmar and China to the north and Cambodia to the south. Laos has no access to the sea. The country is crossed from north to south by the Mekong river which is often the border between Laos and Thailand. However, the Mekong is not navigable in the south of the country where, a few kilometers before the Cambodian border, the river turns into rapids and waterfalls.
After being a French Protectorate from 1893 to 1954, Laos is now a socialist republic that has opened up in recent decades to tourism and partly to the market economy. It relies heavily on China, Vietnam and Thailand for the development of its infrastructure. The country's population is made up of several ethnic groups (the largest of which is the Lao Loum, "lowland people") and is predominantly Buddhist. The country consists mainly of mountains (particularly in Xieng Khouang province), high plateaus (notably the Bolaven Plateau) and plains (mainly in the Mekong Basin).
In addition to Vientiane (the capital and the most populous city of the country), Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Vang Vieng, Savannakhet, Plain of Jars, Si Phan Don (“Four Thousand Islands” in the south of the country) and the Bolaven Plateau are among the main tourist destinations in Laos. Beautiful nature and a rich cultural heritage are the main tourist attractions of Laos. The city of Luang Prabang, the temples of Wat Phu (Laotian ""Angkor") and the Plain of Jars are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Holidays in Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is located in the north of the country. The city became the capital of the first Kingdom of Laos (known as Lan Xang, "Kingdom of a Million Elephants") in 1353. The capital was transferred in 1565 further south to Vientiane for fears of Burmese invasions to the north. Luang Prabang, which had received a precious buddha statue - the Phra Bang - from Angkor, remained nevertheless the cultural and religious capital of Laos.
Luang Prabang is a popular tourist destination for Western tourists. It is indeed a nice small town with an abundant cultural heritage and an architecture that fits well into its mountainous environment. For tourists, visiting the morning (food) and evening (handicraft) markets is an additional amusement.
Wat Xieng Thong, which means Temple of the Golden City, is probably the most beautiful Buddhist temple in Laos. It is famous among other things for its pretty and high roof that descends very low in successive tiers, what characterizes the style of the religious architecture of Luang Prabang. It dates from the end of the 16th century and has been restored in the 20th century. Several kings of Laos were crowned in Wat Xieng Thong until 1975.
Wat Xieng Thong is located near the mouth of the Nam Khan river and the Mekong. Several smaller and more recent structures are also found in the Wat Xieng Thong compound, including the "Red Chapel" (which houses a bronze statue of Reclining Buddha), the Hall of the funerary chariot of King Sisavang Vong, and Ho Trai (the library where the Buddhist Tripitaka scriptures are kept).
Every morning at dawn, young or older monks from local monasteries march silently down the main street from Wat Xieng Thong to collect alms (mainly sticky rice) from devotees. This longstanding tradition, called Tak Bat (Morning Alms), has become a tourist attraction. However, any physical contact with monks is prohibited. It is requested to take part in the offerings only if the participation has really a personal religious meaning and, if you come as a spectator, to stand at a distance without disturbing the procession by taking pictures in flash. The procession returns to a more traditional appearance when, by side roads away from tourists, monks returns to their monasteries.
Luang Prabang is home to many other Buddhist temples worth a visit, including:
-- The Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, more simply called Wat Mai, dates from the early 19th century. It is located within walking distance from the Royal Palace. It is the residence of the highest Buddhist dignitary in Laos. At New Year, the sacred Phra Bang statue is here on display for three days. Many Laotians flock there to worship it.
-- Wat Visoun is the oldest temple still in operation in Luang Prabang. Built around 1512 and ransacked at the end of the 19th century by Chinese invaders, it was rebuilt in 1932.
-- The Wat That Chomsi is a stupa that was built in 1804 at the top of Mount Phousi, a 100-meter high hill situated in the center of the city. It is well known to tourists because its terrace provides them with panoramic views of the city and allows them to admire beautiful sunsets.
-- Wat Xieng Mouane is a beautiful Buddhist temple located near Wat Xieng Thong. Its precincts host a project to teach and develop traditional crafts.
-- Wat Phraphonphao is a golden stupa located on a wooded hill to the southeast of the city. Its location with beautiful views of the city and its forest environment attract visitors. At the end of the 20th century, this temple was headed by a famous Buddhist teacher whose funeral was among the most important of those known in Laos.
The cultural heritage of Luang Prabang also includes the former Royal Palace (whose official name is Haw Kham) and the Center for Traditional Arts & Ethnology. The Royal Palace has been converted into a National Museum. The building located in a beautiful park dates back to 1904, era of the French Protectorate. It is not allowed to take pictures in the National Museum. In the precincts of the former Royal Palace, a new temple, the Haw Pha Bang ("Flower Pavilion"), has been built to house the sacred Phra Bang statue. The Center for Traditional Arts & Ethnology is a social enterprise in Luang Prabang that aims to promote the heritage of Lao's ethnic communities and their traditional craft skills.
Luang Prabang’s popularity owes much to the surrounding natural attractions. In particular, Kuang Si Waterfalls, located in a forest about 30 kilometers south of Luang Prabang, are probably among the most beautiful waterfalls in Southeast Asia. These waterfalls are spread over several levels, the highest of which is a fall of 60 m. Tad Sae Waterfalls, located 18 km southeast of Luang Prabang, are another natural attraction in the city's surroundings. As for the Pak Ou Caves, they are located on the banks of the Mekong 25 km north of Luang Prabang. They are two caves where, over time, devotees have brought thousands of small Buddha statues as a sign of devotion. In the past, on the occasion of the New Year, the Laotian royal family, followed by many monks and devotees, came here to worship them.
How to get there. In August 2019, Laos implemented an electronic visa system.
You arrive in Luang Prabang mainly by plane or by road. Luang Prabang International Airport is connected by direct flights to several cities in Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Singapore and others), as well as to other cities of the country, including the capital Vientiane, which also has direct flights from Chinese, Korean and Japanese cities.
By road (bus or private car), Luang Prabang is accessible mainly by National Highway 13 which runs from China to Cambodia through Laos. There are 400 km between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The bus journey takes 10 hours.
The author of the pictures. The above pictures belong to Willgoto.
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Picture of the week 2: Pagoda of the Golden Rock in Myanmar. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world.
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Picture of the week 4: Lemur of Madagascar (Coquerel's sifaka), an endangered species of primates, which, like all other species of lemurs, is endemic to Madagascar.
Picture of the week 5: World heritage in Cambodia. The temple of Banteay Srei, better known as 'Citadel of the women', in Cambodia is a jewel of Khmer art and a world heritage site.
Picture of the week 6: Bull shark and tiger shark. Both sharks are unfortunately known for fatal attacks on humans. However, experienced divers can approach them and swim with them.
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Picture of the week 25: The tourist attractions of Aachen. The Aachen Cathedral is one of the first sites that have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
Picture of the week 26: Beaches in Cape Verde. Cape Verde is a popular holiday destination throughout the twelve months of the year.
Picture of the week 27: Outdoor activities in Reunion Island, France. Reunion island is indeed an ideal destination for leisure and outdoor activities.
Picture of the week 28: Beach of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a dream destination for sunny beach holidays particularly after a long safari in East Africa.
Picture of the week 29: Fauna of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is an ideal destination for all enthusiasts of wildlife.
Picture of the week 30: The red crab of Christmas Island (Australia). The annual migration of Christmas Island red crabs is the main tourist attraction of the island.
Picture of the week 31: Cultural attractions of Bangkok (Thailand). Wat Pho - the Temple of the Reclining Buddha - is one of the most popular cultural attractions of the Thai capital.
Picture of the week 32: Tourist attractions of Belgium. The Atomium is remarkable building which, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has become the emblem of the city.
See all our "Pictures of the week".