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Published: January 5th 2008
Wat Xieng Throng
Wat Xieng Thong, built by King Settathitat in 1560.
Luang Prabang is small, small enough to see by meandering around on foot. Strolling along the Mekong towards Wat Xieng Thong, I am diverted by a riverside cafe selling banana fruit shakes. Been having a lot of these lately😊 Located in the north of the historical area, where the River Khan enters the Mekong,is Wat Xieng Thong, built by King Settathirat in 1560. It can be entered from the banks of the Mekong. Directly in front is the Sim(main temple). Lower than its Thai counterpart it has a low sweeping three tiered roof. At its back is a glass mosaic encrusted into a red background depicting a Bodi tree. Inside a huge Golden Budda is seated in Earth Witness pose. The ceiling decorated with dharma wheels is supported by golden stenciled wooden columns. Near the sim are three small chapels, the library, the white and red chapels. The red housing a bronze budda has on the outside glass inlay mosaics depicting village life. These were added in the 1950s. Walking towards the City Gate on the left hand side is a highly ornate building richly decorated with carvings. Inside this building, the Chapel of the Funeral Chariots, is a 12 meter
Main Budda Xieng Throng
Inside is a Budda in Earth Witness Pose. Note the gold-stencil pillars which support the ceiling.
high wooden hearse enclosing a 12 sided royal funerary urn. Up front is a seven-headed naga prow, the whole assembly being mounted on a chassis of a six -wheeled truck.
Across Thanon Phothisarat is Wat Pak Khan and Wat Khill. At Wat Khill I notice a book of Loatian tales. But what catches my eye is that it is written in English. It belongs to a novice monk, who said he had come from a village in the north. He is hoping to study English and computing at the university in Vientiane. Books, Books!! In the guest houses there are calls for book donations. Any type of book, novels, text books, old computer books with a preference for books written in English. Meandering on, I come to Wat Sene. Its main temple has a high roof, more in the Thai style. In the grounds is an enclosed standing Budda and two large long boats which I suppose are/were used for ceremonies.
Now the time is starting to approach 11AM. Best time to explore Luang Prabang is in the morning starting just before dawn when the monks are out receiving alms. Advice was given for tourist NOT to give
Mosaic of Village Life
On the wall of the red chapel on the grounds of Wat Xieng Thong as these scenes depicting village life.
alms unless they were Buddist because of the feeling that to do so would debase it. During the morning the area is covered in a mist which protects from the sun. Around 11AM the mist lifts and the sun can be very fierce. Fierce enough to force me into a cafe for yet another banana fruit shake and some lunch in one of the cafe located on Thanon Phothisarat. This road, the main road in the historical section is noted for its French style buildings in addition to its Wats.
Visiting Wat Mai, near the Palace Museum. It is undergoing restoration. Scaffolding has been constructed at the rear, which oddly faces out to the street. Inside craftmen are painting wooden cavings with gold paint. In between the gold paint is red reflective glass embedded in a mosaic fashion. In the grounds are a couple of exhibitions. One is called the Floating Budda which is a series of square formatted black and white photographs of monks meditating in the forest. In another room there is a film about the Plan of Jars. The Jars were supposely built by people who were 8 meters tall. The area is prone to lightning
Chapel of the Funeral Chariots at Wat Xieng Thong.
strikes and is therefore considered holy by the indigeous people. A more plausible explaination is magnetite in the vicinity. By now I actually have a throbbing headache. Suspecting it is a combination of heat, lack of head covering and not drinking enough I retire to my hotel room, drink plenty of water and have a rest.
Nearing evening I feel well enough to tackle that well known tourist pilgramige, sunset at the top of Mt Phousi. Getting there after an invigorating climb I am greeted by the setting sun and perhaps every tourist in Luang Prabang. There are so many of us up there its a wonder some of us don't fall off. Sun down, photographs snapped, we pilgrims make our way down in time for the opening of the Thanon Phothisarant Night market. In the late afternoon the street is closed to traffic, wares are laid out at the side and in the middle which creates two paths. Lighting is supplied by a simple globe supported by a stick. I kinda like that and hope they keep the custom. Most of the traders are women, many of them quite nice looking. Items on sale include handicrafts, textiles, scarfs,
Wat Sene on Phothisarat Street. Note, the girls on the bicycle, the umbrella and the sideway mount at the back. This style of mounting in common whether on cycle or step through motor-cycle.
hill tribe dolls, silver ware, wooden carvings and bags of various sizes and designs. I bought a scarf to protect the back of my neck from the sun. Like the cafes, the night market didn't seem to have any Loation customers.
Today I have hired a bicycle, for 10,000kip, to go and met the 'real' Luang Prabang. But first I need to buy a hat to complement my scarf. First shop I went to wants to charge 75,000kip. Seriously that is $10 Australian which is as much or more than what I could buy the same hat for at home. I dont expect to get things as cheaply as the locals but I don't expect to be ripped of either. Went to another shop which is charging 20,000kip for a very similar hat so I buy it.
Rest of the day I spend cycling around looking at 'street life'. One doesn't go too far out of town before the bitumen is gone. A lot of people are playing a game called Petanque. Similar to bowls the object is to throw, rather the bowl, an iron ball as close as possible to a wooden jack. It is played on
Luang Prabang has 100's of monks.
a rectangular field which appears to be scratched on the hard ground.
Luang Prabang, is quiet religious center, and the ancient capitial of Laos. It is also a tourist enclave and a center of adventure tourism eg trekking, bicycling, climbing, visiting hill tribe villages and elephant camps etc.
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