A photowalk through the National Symbol of Laos: Pha That Luang, Vientiane


To me, Vientiane is one of the most interesting capital cities of South East Asia. On one hand, I could feel a deep sense of history, as this was once the administrative capital of the Kingdom of Lan Sang and was subjected to the Siamese occupation. On the other hand, there were traces everywhere of the French occupation that followed, with street names in French, and Baguettes with tuna or chicken being sold on every street or by the side of the mighty river Mekong.

 

Hmm… Baguettes. Ok, I digress. Let’s put the Baguettes away and focus on how Vientiane is also home to a structure that is considered the national symbol of Laos.

 

Pha That Luang is Laotian for ‘Great Stupa’. And that is exactly what it is. A gold covered large Buddhist stupa in the center of Vientiane. I thought about writing a blogpost about it, but since its been nearly 4 years since I visited this place (and the memories are a little bit hazy), let me settle for a photo-story.



Further Reading: Also worth checking out in Laos, are the beautiful night markets, like the one in Sisavangvong.



The Great Stupa – A national Symbol


Dating as old as the 3rd century, the Pha That Luang has obviously undergone multiple changes and restructuring, under various kingdoms and foreign invasions. But as it stands now, it was a sight of pure gold.

Pha that luang entrance

The entrance to Pha That Luang

Pha That luang gates

And some impressive gates ensured that I could admire it only from the outside.

Pha that luang vientiane laos

And that is a wider shot of the majestic Great stupa.

pha that luang hallway

The hallways are interesting, with multiple Buddha statues lined up all along the way.

Apart from the grandeur of the Pha That Luang, it is also worthwhile to spend some time in the temple surroundings. There are sellers for everything from lucky Buddha charms to meat-sticks on skewers.

buddha charms

There are lucky Buddhas for every occasion, apparently.

Laos street food vientiane

And some gorgeous street food is never far away anywhere in Laos.



Exploring the Wat That Luang Grounds


Beyond the Wat That Luang, there are also a multitude of other interesting sights in the temple grounds. There are 2 other well-preserved temples, namely Wat That Luang Neua (North) and Wat That Luang Tai (South).

 

Another interesting building in the temple grounds is the Hor Dhammasabha Buddhist convention hall. Opened during the 450th anniversary of the city of Vientiane, this building is primarily used for Buddhist ceremonies and meetings.

wat that luang neua

Statues outside the Wat that luang neua

Buddha statue laos

Buddha statues overlooked the Pha That Luang

hor dhammasabha buddhist hall vientiane

The hor dhammasabha buddhist convention hall, for ceremonies and meetings.

Hor dhammasabha buddhist hall

Inside the Buddhist hall.

view of pha that luang ground

Looking out into the grounds of the pha that luang, from the buddhist hall.



Capping it off with a Reclining Buddha


While Bangkok is the first name most people remember when they hear of a ‘reclining buddha’, Vientiane has a local version too. On the grounds of the Pha That Luang, I ran into one of the biggest reclining Buddha statues that I have seen, surrounded by some lush, green vegetation.

 

While taking pictures of the Buddha, I came across a solitary foreigner who was using a broomstick to keep the Buddha clean. We spent a little time talking about the statue, and he explained to me that there is a different Buddha pose for each day of the week, and the reclining Buddha is supposed to be the Tuesday pose. Surprisingly, it was a Tuesday when I visited here.

 

I just joined the few other monks in the vicinity, and set myself upon the green grass. There, I found my own reclining pose.

reclining buddha statue vientiane

The massive Reclining buddha statue of Vientiane

Reclining buddha laos

And that was the guy who was cleaning away the statue.



Practical Details for visiting Pha That Luang


  • Location: Pha That Luang is located in the Ban That Luang area, and is about 2KM from the Patuxai gate.
  • Timings: Open everyday between 8 am to 12 noon, and 1 pm to 4 pm.
  • Entrance fee: 5000 Laotian kip for foreigners.
  • To see: Apart from the main stupa (Pha That Luang), also visit the smaller temples like Pha That Luang Neua and Pha That Luang Tai. The Dhammasabha Buddhist hall is worth spending some time. Cap it off with a visit to the reclining Buddha statue.


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Pha that luang vientiane

Pha That Luang Vientiane




This post is part of my stories about Laos. Click here to check out other amazing stories from Laos. 



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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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