Quietly situated on the northern end of the temple filled town, Wat Xieng Thong stands out from the rest. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and green trees with the Mekong and Nam Khan River junction flowing along nearby, it is certainly one of the UNESCO town’s most beautiful and scenic.
A visit to Luang Prabnag is certainly incomplete if you manage to miss out on this gem of a temple. The glittering and graceful architecture certainly merits your eyes’ and your imagination’s attention. And what you’re seeing here is the classic Luang Prabang temple design style. Characteristics include the gold designs that are embedded onto a dark and burnished background as well as columns featuring a rich lacquer-like black with gold stenciling.
Why was the temple built at its current spot? Perhaps three legends can bring some light to this question. One legend told of two hermits who set boundary stones near a notable flaming tree (which is depicted in the rear façade of the ordination hall). Another legend depicted a betel merchant who built a palace on this site, eventually becoming the first king of Luang Prabang. Finally, a third legend indicated that the juncture where the two rivers meet is home to two notable snake like deities (otherwise known as a naga), protectors and guardians of the rivers.
Legends aside, the monastery was built in 1560 to accommodate those mentioned myths. About 300 years after it was constructed, Luang Prabang came under attack by the Black Flags during the Haw Wars. By chance, the temple was spared any damage because their leader, Deo Van Tri had emotional ties to the temple. He studied there when he was younger and decided to use it as a headquarters instead.
The scenes inside the temple are just as marvelous. Dark yet impressive, the ordination hall contains more of the designs and architecture you saw earlier from the exterior. To add to the dark atmosphere, a smiling Buddha seems to be watching your every move, along with smaller ones that seem to do the same thing. A rare and black reclining statue comfortably lies within the monastery. This is believed to be as old as the temple itself and is quite revered by the locals.
The temple sure is eye-opening! The royal family sure thought so as well, using its structures and location as an official crowning ceremony until 1975, when the monarchy was dissolved. You too can be a part of this magnificent temple as you tour Luang Prabang in Style.
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