I traveled to Luang Prabang in Laos for the third time in eighteen months. I have become enamored. I have also been helping Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden with a number of things. I have friends there.
I had time to wander around town,and to look at the many temples that are of great importance to the Lao people.
Near my hotel, the Cold River Inn – a fine and affordable small place – is Wat Wisunarat , the oldest temple in the town.
“Dating back to 1513 and the reign of King Wisunarat (Visoun), Wat Wisunarat is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple and was once home to the Prabang Buddhas. The history of the temple is colourful with it being originally crafted from wood before being burned by Black Haw riders in 1887. The Black Haw riders were part of the Black Flag military rebel group led by a Chinese commander at the end of the 1880s. Post invasion, it was rebuilt using stucco and brick and retains some original pieces including a stupa that was created in 1503 along with some other small Buddha icons although many were stolen during the Haw raid. Over the years the temple has also acted as a Museum of Religious Arts and as such now homes an array of religious artefacts and precious items relating to both Buddhism and the royal family. The temple is a celebration of early Lao architecture with wooden windows reflecting the Wat Phou Temple in the South of the country coupled with stucco work that is classic Luang. Restoration work was carried out in 1895 and then again in 1932.”
“The main attraction of the Wat Vison is the Stupa of Great Lotus built in 16th century. The 34.5 meters high stupa features Sinhalese style, the only one of its kind in Laos. The stupa is also referred by locals as Watermelon Stupa for its dome resembling a watermelon. Its interior was once filled with small Buddha images made of precious materials and other sacred items, many of which were stolen or destroyed during the Black Haw raid. Some of the remaining Buddha images are preserved in the Royal Palace Museum and others are housed displayed in the sim of the temple.”
It had rained for a couple of hours before my early morning visit. The air was fragrant with petrichor, that wonderful smell when rain falls on the earth. In the air also, the smell of smoke from the many small kitchens. Breakfast was coming.
At the entrance of the temple are two banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis – although banyan covers a number of species) home to the spirits of Luang Prabang. Animism still lingers in Laos, despite being displaced by Buddhism and then Marxism.
From Wat Wisunarat, I walked to Mount Phoussy, its golden stupa prominent.
From the top, you look down upon the center of town and the mother of rivers, the Mekong.
The garden, Pha Tad Ke, is round the bend, hidden from sight.
Walking down from the Mount, you come to the newest temple, built in 2006, Haw Pha Bang.
Walking into the center of town, I came upon a food market.
Then to another temple -Wat Mahathat. It was built in 1548 and restored in 1910.
I like this temple complex very much, partly because of the paintings of hell painted on either side of a temple door.
And I thought hell was the 16 hour plane ride home.